Annotated Bibliographies for Fall 1994

* * * * *

[The format is irregular--this page is still being worked on as of 11/05--but I just discovered three past classes' research preparation and wanted to make it available to the class of '05.]

Hawisher, Gail E. and Charles Moran. "Electronic Mail and the Writing Instructor." College       English.  55 (October 1993):  627-643.PRIVATE

 

            In this article Hawisher and Moran attempt to remedy  what they perceive as a disturbing lack of analysis in "mainstream journals" of the effects of electronic mail on the writing and teaching processes.  The authors begin by pointing out the necessity of familiarity with e-mail.  An explosion of e-mail use on college campuses and within other institutions around the world forces the conclusion that "we cannot afford to ignore this medium," even though computer technology tends to be a more dominant force in the sciences than in English. The establishment of e-mail as a major form of language exchange also makes it "a proper subject for study in the field of composition theory."

            The article highlights the intriguing differences between e-mail and more traditional forms of writing.  The correspondence aspect of the medium does not follow in the footsteps of paper- mail, for the standard "salutations and closings are almost never seen in the new medium."  The authors go so far as to attempt to define the new "rules" which govern e-mail's approach to concepts such as audience, grammar, and style.  The screen-text, according to the analysis, proves more difficult to read than paper-text and seems to hinder the reader's attempt to grasp the central meaning of a piece.  The relationship to the audience changes dramatically (as is evidenced by the emergence of insulting practices such as "flaming") for the writer tends to have fewer inhibitions when writing e-mail than when composing on paper.  This apparent breakdown in self-censorship stems at least in part from the medium's rapid-response, impermanent nature.  E-mail seems to fall somewhere between written composition and spoken dialogue in the wide range of communications options; although messages are typed, the proliferation of conventions such as "emoticons" convey what would be "intonation and rhythm in a spoken message." 

            This strange blend of speaking and writing seems to contradict the assertions by Barritt and Kroll that the two modes of communication are distinctly separated.  They note that a speaker has a more immediate audience than a writer does, but in the case of e-mail feedback is rapid and often spiced with emoticons and other indications of the reader's reaction to the information (Barritt and Kroll 51).  Barritt and Kroll also assert that in writing the flow of ideas is hindered by the physical act of writing, but e-mail writing tends to be a rapid, uncensored, and unstructured method of communication in which the writer does not lose his or her meaning in the process of worrying over grammar (52).  The act of translating thoughts is more direct than in the traditional mode of writing, because the text is usually not subject to revision or great pondering.

            The effects of e-mail on teaching are exciting, for the article notes that use of this technology will facilitate learning which is "inevitably collaborative" and cross-disciplinary.  Well-defined tasks can be accomplished efficiently through e-mail,  with the input of a variety of students and teachers and rapid interaction between members of project groups.  The use of electronic mail also seems to promote equality within diverse groups, for those students who are uncomfortable with face-to-face discussions or are of lower status tend to voice their opinions more frequently.  E-mail is also invaluable for writers who are brainstorming or revising drafts, because the exchange of ideas over the computer is rapid and convenient.

 Kirkley Greenwell 9/13/94

 

Beason, Larry.  "Feedback and Revision in Writing across the Curriculum Classes."  Research in the Teaching of English.  27.4 (1993) 394-422.

 

     Beason's article attempts to bridge a gap found in the extent of research which investigates the feedback and revision portions of the writing process, by including in his study not only strict composition courses, but writing across the curriculum (WAC) courses.  His hypothesis was that, while composition students and WAC students are one and the same, students don't necessarily use the same writing process for both classes.  Beason felt that it would be beneficial for teachers to better understand the feedback that student writers receive and the revisions that they make.

     In order to accomplish this, he organized a pool of college-level educators who agreed to teach "Writing Enriched Courses" in psychology, business law, journalism, and dental hygiene, in addition to composition.  Based on the students' papers from the classes, a team of student and faculty readers attempted to answer the following questions:

    

          1.  What aims underlie the feedback that students receive on drafts?

          2.  What are the criteria guiding this feedback?

          3.  In revising, do writers address this feedback?

          4.  What criteria are most often reflected in students' revisions?

          5.  At what level of discourse do the revisions operate?

 

     This was accomplished by describing the types of comments made on the working drafts and the types of between-draft revisions, and later analyzing the students' responses to the feedback in their revisions.  The readers used three rubrics for the analysis of the comments, or feedback, from the professors:

          1.  Aim:  attempts to determine the purpose of each comment and can be subdivided into comments  which:

               a.  help student correct a problem

               b.  praise student

               c.  provide "reader response" feedback without judging student

          2.  Criterion Reflected:  identifies the criterion that the comment seemed to reflect the most, of the following:

               Focus, Development/Support, Organization, Mechanics, Expression, Validity, and Other.    

          3.  Revision Outcome:  indicates whether or not the comment is addressed in the final draft. 

 

     The results of the survey can best be described in terms of answers to the original five questions.  In answer to the question "What aims underlie the feedback students receive on drafts?", Advising surfaced as the most prominent category, including about 46% of all the comments.  To answer the question "What criteria guide the feedback?", Development/Support and Expression where the most frequent types of guiding criteria, while Mechanics surprisingly rated least frequent.  The next question,"Do writers address this feedback?", was simply determined by categorizing comments based on whether or not it was the basis for revision.  Overall, the students were responsive to the feedback, and revised as a result of 89.3% of the comments.  The majority of the unaddressed comments were restricted to a few individual students rather than the result of an overall trend.  Further analysis of the students' revisions and the criteria which are most reflected  revealed that students were most guided by Expression and Development/Support criteria, in accordance with the feedback which was also most guided by those criteria.  In answer to the final question, "At what level of discourse do the revisions operate?", Beason discovered that writers divided their time fairly equally between revisions that did not change meaning (mechanics, etc.) and those that did (focus,development).  Global meaning revising, in which the entire paper was revised, was relatively scarce.

     While the study offers a wider profile of writing activities in which students engage than most studies, it does not "account for human motivations underlying the emerging patterns and frequencies"(416) and does not establish whether or nor it is the WAC context that inspires the process.  However, it does open our eyes to a broader perspective of the writing process, and shows us how much research is yet undeveloped in the area of curriculum-wide writing processes.   (Liz Alex 94)

 

King, Mary.  "What Can Students Say about Poems?  Reader Response in a Conference Setting."  Dynamics of the Writing Conference.  Ed. Thomas Flynn and Mary King.  Urlana,  Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English, 1993.  69-79.

 

I found this chapter of particular interest because I am currently taking a poetry class and my poetry analysis skills need some brushing up.  The article actually touched on a problem that I have throughout my writing and not just when I am responding to a poem.  All too often I find myself writing what I believe the teacher wants to hear instead of using my own skills to analyze a work and draw conclusions based on my own knowledge and experience.  King points out that in many instances students lack the skills to break down a poem because teachers fail to teach them these skills.  Instead, they attempt to teach by example, giving their own analysis of the poem.  I am reminded of the "Teach a man to fish..." proverb.  As a tutor, it will be important to remember to teach the skills of analysis and synthesis instead of simply handing them my own analysis.  This article also reminded me of the importance of my voice in my writing. 

Shannon Coombs

 

Dale, Helen.  "Collaborative Writing Interactions in One Ninth-Grade Classroom."         Journal of Educational Research July/August 1994: 334-44.

 

            During the field work which led up to this article, Helen Dale observed and recorded the interactions of three coauthoring triads.  Citing a dearth in relevant research, her main intent was to determine the factors which lead to successful collaborative writing.  Her rationale for those choosing to coauthor is grounded in a social view of writing.  Drawing upon Vygotsky's assertion that "speaking and writing are fundamentally social acts" (qtd in Dale 335), Dale explains that coauthoring encourages students to value "multiple voices" (334) and to question one's own ideas (335).  Among other things, participants in coauthoring can permit students to learn more than they could have learned by writing alone, and past studies have found that students write better after a collaborative experience (ibid.).

            Of particular relevancy was Dale's description of how she formed the coauthoring groups for her study.  She stresses the importance of "establishing heterogeneous groups" (336) before students form "strong notions of who [is] smart" (ibid.).  In addition to this, she points out that people in such a group will have different strengths into which they may tap.  I think this is a suggestion to keep in mind as our class begins coauthoring projects, as people may likely to choose their friends as partners.

            Dale's findings can also serve to indicate what to expect while coauthoring.  Foremost, she mentions that the most successful groups were the ones which had a high percentage of "cognitive conflict" (336).  This type of conflict consists mainly of challenges regarding content and concept, forcing one to "legitimize [one's] arguments" (ibid.).  She stressed the difference between this type of conflict and personal conflict, as well as conflict over the mechanics of writing.  In addition to cognitive conflict, Dale underscores the importance of approaching coauthoring as a dialogic process; the most successful group had a high level of conversational turns.  Her groups coauthored by composing while all members were present.  This is significantly different from either writing separately and forming a synthesis or dividing the authoring process into writing and editorial tasks.

Dale also found that the most successful groups did not always have equal contributions from all group members.  However, they did not assume permanent roles of leader, editor and so on, but moved from one to another, and without defining these roles.  Dale found that one particularly unsuccessful role is that of "Teacher," because students did not understand it well enough, and because it destroyed the peer relationship which facilitated a productive exchange of ideas.

            Although Dale's study does not broach the topic of  academic ethics, it should provide detractors of coauthoring with a better understanding of its basis in past theory and research, as well as its potential benefits.  I think that if collaboration is used in preapproved situations and is acknowledged on the coauthored work, then most ethical questions can be answered with forthrightness.    Mika Sam    9/13/94

 

Michael Pemberton, "Writing Center Ethics:The ethics of intervention; Part 2." The Writing Lab Newsletter, Jan.1994.

 

                        This article was a continuance of a previous article that Michael Pemberton wrote.  The question he addresses is  how much should we intervene in a students' writing when we disagree with their paper's ethics.  The arguments are: do tutors have the right to tell a child that the opinion that they have taken in their paper is wrong, or should tutors accept the fact that it is a students freedom of speech and not intervene at all?  His conclusion is that there "are no right or wrong answers."

                        Pemberton gives four scenarios. He asks the reader to read them and respond on how they would go about helping this student with his/her paper.  In each scenario students are asked to "write a paper about a controversial topic of interest to them."  Each of the four students take different sides of the affirmative action debate. 

                        The students are of different races and have some strong views about affirmative action.  All except one has been influenced by the opinion of the teacher.  Three of the students struggle with arguing the view point of their instructor. The fourth student doesn't care how the teacher reacts and if the teacher counts off on his paper because of his view point he will take further action.

                        Pemberton has brought up a very important issue.  How do you advise a student who argues against your own beliefs, or the beliefs of the teacher?  Should you as the tutor try and transform the students opinions?  Or could we just explain that anybody who takes a side of a debate needs to have strong points that they can back up.  The tutors should know that a student can not write a successful paper on something with which the student disagrees.  We should encourage student to write about what they believe in, and to back it up with legitimate reasons.  This might force the students to think about their own opinions, and beliefs.

                        In my personal writing background,  I can't remember a time when I was encouraged to take one specific side to an argument.  I can , however, remember times when I have felt like my papers  have been graded and counted off because my opinion was different from the instructor.  I think that the decision of intervention is a hard one to make.  How far shall we step into a students' work. I think that if the tutors make the student show their specific points and their proof to their  argument then we should leave it alone.  We can express the fact that we do not feel that their opinion is correct, and maybe even have your own little debate.  That might prove to the especially ignorant student that they may have to rethink their argument.  Besides from those suggestions I think that the tutor should not intervene.  Elizabeth Turner, 9/12/94

 

Fine, Ellen S.  "The Absent Memory: The Act of Writing in Post-Holocaust French Literature."  Writing and the Holocaust.  Berel Lang, ed.  Holmes and Meier:  New York, 1988.

 

            Fine discusses how second generation Jews, children of survivors of the Holocaust, face the "Shoah" (catastrophe) in their writing. Examining the works of Claude Lanzmann and Henry Raczymow, Fine uses the metaphor of the blank page.  Just as a writer may be intimidated by the empty whiteness in front of her, so is the Jewish writer who must create something from nothing, who must reinvent memory.  "The task of organizing this nothingness into images gave him [Lanzmann] the same kind of vertigo that the writer experiences in front of the blank page" (Lang 45).  Distance and absence become the themes and metaphors second generation writers and survivor-writers use to illustrate the tension and guilt they experience when writing about the Holocaust.  "Survivors of the Holocaust are torn between the mission to bear witness and an equally compelling fear of betraying the sanctity of the subject" (Lang 42).  Writing the memory as fiction, for writers such as Elie Wiesel and Anna Langfus, has given authors the distance they need to uncover their memories. 

            Second generation writers of Holocaust memory feel a similar tension, but it is intensified by their "absence" of memory.  They were not there, and this is further compounded by the silence that hid the memory for so long after the war.  "For those born in the shadow of genocide, apprehensions about the right to speak are often linked to the guilt of nonparticipation ... They are haunted by the world that has vanished; a large gap exists in their history, and they desire to bridge the gap, to be informed about what occurred, to know something about members of their family who perished" (Lang 43) This is an extreme version of Reither's argument that writer's cannot write out of nothingness, out of ignorance; a knowledgeable discourse, even if it is one's personal history, is critical to the writing process.  The idea of an unfillable void persists in Holocaust literature, coupled with an unhinging desire to know, to understand, what is incomprehensible. Fine traces Raczymow's path of writing about nothingness in La Saisie, in which the reader is exposed to the narrator's "endless groping for nouns, verbs and images as the writing process reveals itself" (Lang 47).  Later, "[Raczymow] changed his focus from the void he suffered as a writer to a more personal sense of void--the immense gap in his own memory.  He suddenly realized that the emptiness he felt within came from a lack of knowledge due to the nontransmission of collective and family memory" (Lang 47). How do writer's recall their memory, how do they write a history they did not experience, or rather, a history they experienced as a void, a lack?  This is the question Fine explores as she writes on her blank page.  (-Debbie Swartz 9/18/94)

 

Friend, Christy.  "Ethics in the Writing Classroom:  A Nondistributive Approach.:  College         English.  56:5 (September 1994): 548-567.

 

            Friend argues that it is nessesary to use a nondistributive approach in the classroom to successfully and ethically teach students how to write in the academic community.  A nondistributive approach is to affirm diversity in the classroom and in the world around us, see people as "doers," and understand that conflict and disagreement can be beneficial.  Friend sees teachers of writing as "agents of social change" whose classrooms are largely affected by the opinions of the teacher and the assignments that are given out.  Teachers have different views about whether it is better to assign multicultural readings so the students develop an appreciation for it, or to reward accurate citing and representation of others' viewpoints, or to commend those students who can persuasively argue their personal opinions in their academic writing.  Friend claims that both consensus and conflict are healthy and beneficial in the classroom; students must learn to present their own points, even in the face of opposition.  Friend believes that this diversity in the classroom will help bring a better understanding of the variety of people to her students.

            Friend has taken the writing process farther than Flower and Hayes in their article.  From a writing teacher's viewpoint, it is important and ethical to carefully choose the types of assignments that are given to the students so that they may be challenged and become better prepared to enter the academic writing community.  In the article by Flower and Hayes, they are more concerned with the negative effects of teaching the writing method in stages than with the assignment.  Reither and Friend are on the same basic track, as Reither dispells the writing process and sees content as the learning experience.  Friend's arguments have helped me realize that the product, and the knowledge gained while producing it, are more important than the particular method used to achieve the end result.  Stacey Brukiewa 9/16/94

 

Peterson, Linda H.  "Gender and the Autobiographical Essay:    Research Perspectives, Pedagogical Practices."  College             Composition and Communication, Vol. 42, No. 2, May 1991.

 

            Peterson explains how gender affects the content of an autobiographical essay.  She compares the essays of men and women at Yale University and at Utah State who were asked to write an autobiographical essay.  Two readers, one male and one female, evaluated the essays.  The essays were first comprehensively assigned ratings on a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high).  Next they were evaluated on the basis of significance, clarity, and richness of detail.

            In this test group, the female students scored on average .5 points higher than male students.  When studied more closely, Peterson determined that the female students excelled in generalization, abstraction, and analysis.  The female students tended to chose "relational topics," focusing on the relationship between the writer and another person or group.  In contrast, the male students tended to focus upon the self alone.

            The implications of this study guide both the teacher creating assignments and the student choosing a topic for an autobiographical essay.  Peterson explains the considerations both the teacher and student should evaluate. 

            The teacher must be sure not to assign a paper which would favor either the male or female perspective.  Autobiographical essay topics should be rather open ended.  When providing model autobiographical essays for the students to read, the teacher should include essays by both male and female authors.  If the teacher is aware of the common differences between male and female responses, he or she will be better able to objectively evaluate the essays.  The teacher should pay special attention to the difference in personal significance of certain events in the life of men and women. 

            Peterson's paper also provides advice for students composing an autobiographical essay.  She suggests that students "explore- perhaps even challenge- the assumptions about men's and women's experience that underlie [a gender- specific topic]" (177).  Additionally, Peterson advocates searching for the universal qualities of an experience or "cross-dressing," trying to view the situation from a different person's perspective.  Peterson cites several examples of strong autobiographical essays which utilize these techniques. 

            When developing an autobiographical essay, Peterson's article could serve as a convenient tool.  She illustrates the obvious responses to a prompt by a person of a certain gender, and challenges the writer to explore his or her ideas at another level or with a different perspective.  Her work also aids the instructor in evaluating personal essays objectively. 

                                                                                                     Sara Benjamin  September 12, 1994

Ha Lam

9/11/94

Eng 221: Sanders

Week 3: ann. bib.#1

 

Campbell, JoAnn.  "Writing to Heal: Using Meditiation in the Writing Process."  College Composition and Communication.  May 1994: 246-50

 

            This article is one of four interchanges between Beth Daniell, JoAnn Campbell, C. Jan Swearingen, and James Moffett  titled "Spiritual Sites of Composing".  Campbell chooses to "review  the scholarship on the connections between meditation and writing" (246).  She states that she will "analyze objections to the use of meditation in a writing classroom" and supports the use of meditation with appprehensive or blocked writers (Campbell 246).  She defines healing as "being from the holy, the spiritual, an interplay of forces with which I am a participant rather than creator" (Campbell 247).  Campbell cites different books which support the physical and psychological benefits of writing:

1) Courage to Heal which suggests people who have been sexually abused to narrate their experiences,

2) Life's Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest which uses  meditation to expand the reader's awareness of issues explored through journaling,

3) Writing from the Inner Self which contains a collection of guided visualization exercises designed to help writers tap into deeper topics,

4) Pain and Possibility which contains participants testifying to the power of meditation and writing combined.

Campbell also cites a psychological study which reported that 'those subjects who had written about their thoughts and feelings about traumatic experiences evidenced significant improvement in immune functin compared with controls' (247).

            Though Campbell cites several books which support meditation in writing, she fails to adequately show how meditation affects one's writing.  She quotes D. Gordon Rohman who "maintained that once students had experieneced their subject 'the urge to get it down usually increases to the point that the will directs the actual writing of words to begin'" (Campbell 248).  Campbell also quotes James Moffett who "proposes inner speech as the 'bridge' between meditation and writing" where meditation allows a writer to perceive the "deeper self that abides at least somewhat independently of the outside" (Campbell 248).

 

HernŠndez, Josť Salvador.  "Bilingual Metacognitive Development."  The Educational    Forum Summer 1993.

            One of HernŠndez's first observations is that ESL students often only receive "mechanical. . .low-level remedial instruction" (350-51) of which the main goal is to help them reach a higher degree of fluency or proficiency in English.  However, he states that ESL students have a "need for richer language experiences that foster more advanced cognitive processes" (350).  He notes that even though an ESL student may have problems speaking English, it does not mean that that student has no ability to think.  He states, "This simplistic notion ignores the fact that these students are already proficient in a language they understand and use, have some experiences with literacy and mathematics, identify with previous school experiences, and have a sociocultural knowledge just as valid as school-based knowledge" (351).  This suggests that while language in general may serve as a tool for thought (Vygotsky quoted in HernŠndez 353), there is not only one language which can do this, or which can do this best.

            With these arguments in mind, HernŠndez proposes changes to the current teaching methodology for ESL students.  First, one must show the ESL student how to take charge of his own learning and thought processes.  To do this, the student must think about thinking, or in the author's words, operate on a "metacognitive" (352) level.  Therefore, the student must also complete activities in which she or he must be a decision-maker.  Such activities include planning science experiments and editing and redrafting their own writing (352).  As with Wendy Bishop's article about writing apprehension, the emphasis is upon process rather than product, though here it is also a case of process before product.  Teaching metacognition is especially beneficial in a class with both ESL students and native speakers, for this is a skill which will help both groups in their future studies.

            The obvious problem with teaching metacognition before honing language skills is the already-present problem with English proficiency.  HernŠndez proposes several solutions to alleviate and work around this problem.  The first is to teach in the child's primary language, rather than in English.  When this is not possible, due to lack of multi-lingual faculty (or, I imagine, political unfeasibility), he suggests that ESL students who are more proficient at English act as translators or aides.  HernŠndez justifies this by citing Vygotsky's findings that children need social interaction and language to develop higher levels of cognition (353).  Thus, students who could not interact with others by speaking English need to do so by speaking their native tongue.  However, I think that he too easily assigns the role of translator to children.  This is placing a great deal of educational responsibility upon children who have not taken any courses in education.  And  while cooperative learning seems to be beneficial in most instances, teachers must make sure that these "translators" are getting ample time to further their own cognitive development.

            HernŠndez also suggests working around differences in language abilities by using non-verbal teaching aids, such as "visuals and manipulatives" (354).  This practice could also be beneficial in a heterogeneous classroom, for (I remember reading about this in the newspaper once) there is a relatively new theory out that there are nine types of learners, who learn best through the use of different senses and sensibilities, such as kinesthesia, vision, music, and touch.  Thus learners who are not aural learners will benefit from such teaching aids.

            Using nonverbal teaching aids may also prove helpful in a tutoring session (with an ESL or non-ESL tutee) in which explanation in language just is not working.  As we discussed in class, cognitive maps are just one way of doing this.  They and other non-verbal methods may help show the tutee what he or she knows in a way that provides different mental connections, and hopefully, epiphany.

            HernŠndez's suggestions toward fostering metacognition can also be helpful to the writing tutor.  A tutor who helps the tutee direct his or her own thoughts will have not only helped the tutee at that moment, but also given him or her a reservoir from which to draw in future writing tasks.  Again, as HernŠndez says, to encourage metacognition, one can stress problem solving skills (355), especially by encouraging the tutee to look for problems in his or her own writing, and then to decide how to fix them.

            However, with tutees who have extreme or moderate problems with English proficiency, the tutor is confronted with a decision.  What is the job of the tutor in this case?  Does one try to remedy "low-level" mechanics or does one, as per HernŠndez, try to teach metacognition?  Though HernŠndez proposes reforms to teach metacognition first, this could prove extremely frustrating and time-consuming when there is truly some sort of "language barrier."  Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in between: teach mechanical skills by and while explaining the underlying reasons for them and definitely by encouraging the tutee to take charge of his learning.  Obviously, one cannot make someone take charge of their learning, but it is worthwhile to try to make someone interested in learning.  This is also in line with the ethical duty of the tutor to enable learning for the tutee, rather than to do the work for the tutee.

            But how does one teach mechanical skills in a metacognitive way?  Perhaps the tutor should give examples of the skill to be taught and ask the tutee to observe patterns or a rule which seems to apply.  Then the tutor should ask the tutee to apply this pattern to their own writing, or to find the trouble spots in their own writing where they might now apply this new pattern. 

            While teaching skills in this way, the tutor should  probably also encourage metacognition when dealing with content.  After listening to an English 103 professor conference with some students, I was struck by how many times she asked her students, "But what do you really think about this?"  Proceeding metacognitively, the tutor should encourage the tutee to make a habit of asking themselves that question.  If the tutee cannot answer that question, perhaps they should get into the habit of asking themselves why they cannot, and thus try to pin down their problems by themselves.  This, of course, does not mean that the tutee should be made to operate in a vacuum, for the tutor can offer reflections on the tutee's self-answered questions.  However, this method of self-questioning is potentially useful outside of the tutoring session, when there is no tutor present to ask the tutee, "What don't you understand?  Why?"  Self-questioning outside of a tutoring environment can also be helpful in that when a student realize he or she still has confusions, then maybe they need to have a tutoring session to help clarify their thought.

            Ultimately, perhaps this is the aim of tutoring, to help guide the student (ESL or not) in learning to think for him or herself, and to help the student in the clarification of his or her own thoughts.--Mika Sam, 10/10/94

 

Rich, Adrienne.  On Lies, Secrets, and Silence.  "When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision (1971)."   W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 1979.  pp. 33-49.

            What does it mean to be a woman who writes?   For Rich the answer lies in using writing as a tool of "re-vision."  Women can re-write language, redefine the "canon" and reinvent our selves through writing.  The women's movement has forced open the locked and heavy doors of academia and scholarship to change, for the better, "the availability of knowledge, of vital texts, the visible effects on women's lives of seeing, hearing our wordless or negated experience affirmed and pursued further in language" (Rich 34).  A woman now has a greater opportunity to earn "a room of her own" in which to carry out the act of re-vision.  More specifically, re-vision is: "the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new critical direction...[re-vision] is for women more than a chapter in cultural history; it is an act of survival.  Until we can understand the assumptions in which we are drenched we cannot know ourselves" (Rich 35). 

            It is useful to consider Peter Elbow's essay "Closing My Eyes as I Speak" (Graves 247) to illuminate one of Rich's finer points and to connect it to the writing process for students at Goucher.  Implicit in Rich's discussion is the question of the role of audience for women writers.   Can women, according to Rich's view, write in Elbow's "desert island," without considering the gendered social expectations of a male dominated "audience?"  (Assuming the audience is society and culture, which is patriarchal).  Furthermore, what are the implications for women of the role of audience if Elbow encourages writers to revise with the audience in mind, after a period of "invisible" writing, or free-writing.  Elbow's concept of revision and the aim of free or invisible writing beforehand (on the desert island) is in direct contradiction with Rich's perspective of "re-vision" discussed above.  In fact, Rich would reject Elbow's "desert island" proposition, based on her comment that writing well does not necessitate making one's self unavailable to others, or disconnecting one's self from external distractions.  That, furthermore, "this has been the myth of the masculine artist and thinker; and I do not accept it" (Rich 43). 

            Rich discusses Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, relating her surprise at "the sense of effort, of pains taken, of dogged tentativeness, in the tone of that essay" (Rich 37). Rich recognizes this ambiguous tone in her writing and in the writing of other women.  "It is the tone of a woman almost in touch with her anger, who is determined not to appear angry, who is willing herself to be calm, detached, and even charming in a roomful of men where things have been said which are attacks on her very integrity" (Rich 37).  How can a tutor empower a female student who is inhibited by an intimidating male professor?  What kind of intervention is ethically possible in such a situation?  (Are there male professors at Goucher who are particularly intimidating?  Is this something that happens very specifically, or is gender discrimination by male professors due to the "invisible hand" of gender politics?) 

            What is the value, to a woman, of the "audience of self," if that self is co-opted by a male dominated culture?  How can women write freely if it is always in the context of patriarchy?  Rich resolves this by asserting that the "creative energy of patriarchy is fast running out; what remains is its self-generating energy for destruction.  As women, we have our work cut out for us" (Rich 49). I enjoy Rich's feminist critique, but that is quite a burden for women writers to take on. Debbie Swartz 10/07/94

 

Flower, Linda.  "Writer-Based Prose:  A Cognitive Basis for Problems in Writing."  College       English.  41 (September 1979):  19-37.

            Linda Flower addresses the problem of "undertransformed" expression found in the final drafts of people who use mainly Writer-Based prose--a form of writing which she calls "the source of some of the most common and pervasive problems in academic and professional writing" (19).  Because the problems caused by a lack of or faulty translation of Writer-Based prose are so prevalent and often frustrating for teachers and writing tutors, I think that it is important to understand the nature of this private form of expression so that we might be better prepared to aid in transforming it into more public communication. 

            Flower defines Writer-Based prose as "a verbal expression written by a writer to himself and for himself" (19).  She continues by saying that it is often narrative or list-like in structure and reflects the mental processes of the writer without being edited for the comprehension of the reader (20).  Reader-Based prose, on the other hand, is "issue-centered rhetorical structure" designed with the audience in mind, and is the final goal of any composition project (20).  Many experienced and successful writers, especially those who are multi-drafters, tend to begin their composition process by writing in Writer-Based prose and transforming the initial draft into a more readable form with extensive revision.  The problem appears when not-so-successful writers use Writer-Based text for their final drafts and are criticized for a "missing referent," "an underdeveloped idea," or "unfocused and apparently pointless discussion" within the paper (19).  Flower also relates her concepts to the work of Vygotsky and Piaget on inner and egocentric speech.  Relying on this cognitive basis she expresses what is most important in this article:  that Writer-Based prose is a natural and often functional stage of the writing process, and teachers and tutors who recognize that a student's writing problems stem from "undertransformed" prose can be more effective aids in producing a polished piece of communication.

            A very common problem which Flower addresses hampers writers whose "organizing principle is dictated by their information, not by their intention" (26).  The author describes writers who are "lured by the fascination of facts" and by listing or organizing these facts into a paper they deceive themselves into thinking that they are creating a rhetorical structure (26).  I have encountered this problem in many English classes where teachers have referred to it as "retelling the story."  Many students (and I have to check myself for this, too) think that they are creating a thesis or making an original observation about a literary work but, in reality, are summarizing the plot of a story in a new organization with little if any original thoughts.  I had an English teacher in high school who would call these "so what?" papers.  The value of Flower's article lies in her recognition of this problem as a failure to transform these facts into connected concepts, and she presents such restating of the facts as a useful tool in the planning or rough draft stage.  The task of teachers and writing tutors is also to recognize a paper in which the writer has merely regurgitated facts in the hopes of slipping by unnoticed.  Flower offers a helpful technique for tutoring these students who are often mired in vague words and purposeless writing:  she suggests that we ask students to analyze the personal meaning behind "loaded" conventional words and phrases to prompt students to expand on their own thoughts (32).  As an example, Flower shows how writers alter such meaningless phrases as "different perspective" and "relevant and diverse areas" to truly explain the "difference" or the "relevance" and "diversity" (32).  Such use of introspection can transform an ambiguous piece of writing into a composition with something to say.--Kirkely Greenwell, 10/7/94

 

Klonoski, Edward.  "Using the Eyes of the PC to Teach Revision."  Computers and Composition 11 (1994):  71-78.

 

            Klonoski suggests methods in which the use of a word processing program can aid beginning writers in revising for fluency.  First, Klonoski defines revision for fluency as a level of modification beyond simple changes in punctuation or exchanges of synonyms.  According to Klonoski, students must learn to "approach revision as ...continued thinking about the ideas, order, and voice of their work" (73).

            Klonoski explains that traditional grammar check programs just present surface mistakes, the kind of errors students feel comfortable fixing.  An alternate method of using the word processing program to teach revision skills involves the use of the "Search" function.  In Klonoski's classes, Klonoski will first discuss a weak construction upon which beginning writers frequently rely.  For example, he notes the use of the modifier "very" on a weak adjective.  Klonoski will instruct the class to use the "Search" command to find all instances of the word "very" in their paper.  The students will grapple with possible alterations to their papers which would strengthen the adjectives or introduce a metaphor in order to reduce reliance on the modifier "very."  By making the modification process part of the class period, students assist each other in revising their work, and the professor may also offer aid. The students learn to use the computer as a tool, "always emphasizing that the computer suggests, but the writer decides" (77).

            Klonoski also emphasizes the importance of composition teachers playing an active role in the development of computer tools for composition.  Technological process reaches all disciplines, so responsibility for its direction must be shared by composition teachers and computer scientists alike.  By stressing the role of computers directly in the classroom, Klonoski provides a unique framework from which contemporary, innovative classrooms should function.  Klonoski moves the revision process from an uncertain, independent venture into a supportive, collaborative environment, taking advantage of the computer as a composition tool.

            The same techniques Klonoski uses in his classroom could be taught in the writing center, if the students bring their papers saved on compatible disks.  Writing tutors could teach students to critically edit their own work by understanding and searching weak constructions. 

Sara Benjamin October 4, 1994

 

Reither, James A. and  Douglas Vipond.  "Writing as Collaboration".  College English.

               51.8  (1989)  855-867.

     In "Writing as Collaboration", Reither and Vipond attempt to broaden the accepted view of writing as a process by including more long-range activities including "knowledge-making", a process not generally a part of traditional collaboration techniques.  To demonstrate long-range collaboration techniques, they use a case study written by Vipond and Russel Hunt, following its development from its original draft through several "trusted assessors", to its final version.,  In discussing the study, Reither and Vipond break the collaboration into three basic forms, or realms:  coauthoring, workshopping, and knowledge making. 

     In choosing to be coauthors, the two  authors enjoyed the advantage of "synergy":  "Vipond, with a background in cognitive psychology, and Hunt with a background in literary studies, were able to accomplish things together that neither could have accomplished alone" (Reither and Vipond 858).  Reither and Vipond then go on to give specific examples of their coauthorship, such as :"  "the two met in final editing sessions in which they huddled over the same keyboard, reading (often aloud), discussing options, taking turns adding and deleting, each occasionally even grabbing the keyboard out of the other's hands" (858). 

     Besides working with each other, Hunt and Vipond entered into collaborative relationships with colleagues within their own institution in the process of worksh\opping.  "The asked trusted colleagues to comment on drafts of the article, and used this feedback to guide revisions of  the piece" (858), the most drastic of which was a change in the field of knowledge in which the article fit.  In reference to both coauthoring and workshopping, Reither and Vipond relate the primary benefit of the collaborative process to be the establishment and maintenance of "communities which function within the larger, 'disciplinary' communities, where their knowledge claims might find a fit.  Developing claims cooperatively, collectively, collaboratively, the members of such a community-within-a -community learn from one another; they support and sustain one another"  (859).

      Next Reither and Vipond, having proclaimed the glories of collaboration, proceed to claim that while " as valuable as they clearly are, neither literal coauthorship nor workshopping is necessary to writing" (860), and that the essential, more abstract realm of collaboration is knowledge making.  This process consists of a collaboration with past and present writers in the specific field, through research; collectively their statements make up the pool of knowledge that is the file in which the authors hope to fit their work.  In the case of Hunt and Vipond, their anti le was first directed toward one field, but after being workshoped, was discovered to be more appropriate for another field.

     After having described these three realms of collaboration, Reither and Vipond suggest methods of teaching collaborative writing, with the ultimate goal of  "establishing -through authoring, coauthoring, and workshopping-immediate, local communities of writer-knowers" (862).

     While Reither and Vipond have a valid argument in their claim that "All of us who make meaning through writing and reading .... do so in community with others who share our nterests in the knowing and the knowledge making processes that constitute our fields of inquiry" (866), a more theoretical approach, including a definition of the "community" within which and for which the collaboration process exists and its role in the writing process would add a further dimension to the article.  (Liz Alex '94)

 

Shannon Coombs

Cosgrove, Ccrnelius.  "Conferencing for the 'Learning-Disabled': How We Might Really Help."  Dynamics of the Writing Conference.  Ed. Thomas Flynn and Mary King.  Urlana, Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English, 1993. 95-101.

            This article was short, but I chose it because of our recent readings on tutoring students with dyslexia and because of my personal interest in learning disabilities since I am studying to be a special education teacher.  Cosgrove focuses on a problem that has both special education and regular education teachers at a loss.  Learning disabilities have become so encompassing and the identification of students with learning disabilities has become so vague and uncertain it is difficult to know how to teach students differently, or if to teach them differently at all.  There are so many subcategories and fuzzy categories under the term "learning disabilities" and school system constantly try to shove students into these categories to increase funding to their system.  (In many systems, the bigger the special education program the better the overall funding.)  This high rate of misidentification places uncertainties in the minds of regular education writing teachers such as Cosgrove.  How should he deal with these learning disabled students, who may not have learning disabilities at all?

            I think Cosgrove's approach to this frustrating dilemma is a practical one.  Though a little research, Cosgrove discovered that many of the methods used by special education teachers with learning disabled students are methods that can be just as effective when working with a struggling student who doesn't have a learning disability (ie. group learning, role play, peer tutoring).  By applying these techniques to help improve the writing of all students, we are still supplying students with disabilities with the extra push that they need.  In a classroom setting, this type of set-up is ideal because neither the child with the learning disability nor the other children feel left out or different.  Some of Cosgrove's important statements to me as a future special education teacher are made at the end of the article when he states that "...conferencing and process-oriented writing instruction offer what writers need, regardless of evaluative distinctions" (101).   He also encourages writing centers to consider students with learning disabilities as writing tutors, in order to increase their own writing skills.  I am highly in favor of Cosgrove's opinion that writers with learning disabilities should be regarded with the same impartiality as writers without learning disabilities.  Both need many of the same kinds of reinforcement and instructions, instead of differentiated drills and categories.

 

Ha Lam

10/5/94

Eng 221: Sanders

week 6: ann. bib. #2

Peyton, Joy; Staton, Jana; Richardson, Gina andWolfram, Walt.  "The Influence of Writing Task on ESL Students' Written Production."  Research in the Teaching of English.  Vol.24, No. 2, May 1990.

            This article reveals an in-depth study of 12 sixth grade ESL students' writing.  The study compared the students' dialogue journal writing with a selection of three teacher-assigned tasks produced during the same time period by the same student writers.

For the journal writing, the only stipulation was that the students write in their journals a minimum of three sentences each day during the school year.  They decided what to write, when to write, and how much to write.  For the three teacher-assigned tasks, the students had to write: 1) a letter to a teacher thanking him for donating a set of Wildlife Encyclopedias to the class, 2) an essay comparing and contrasting the grasslands and desert using information from the unit the students had been studying, and 3) a letter to a friend suggesting that they watch a particular television show.  All these writing samples were true classroom assignments; none was assigned specifically for the research.

            In the journals, the students covered a whole range of topics: questions about school procedures, course material, and U.S. culture, wrote about experiences at home and school, and even wrote poems.  The teacher was a familiar audience and responded to each entry, writing the same length as the students' entries.  The journals were not graded or corrected in any way.

            The purpose of the letter to a teacher involved functional communication with a genuine audience about a topic the students knew something about.  The teacher assigned the topic and outlined some of the points to be covered and some possible wording.  These letters were written to be evaluated; they were graded and corrected with no other feedback. 

            In the essay, the purpose was for a grade with no specific audience apart form the teacher as evaluator.  The teacher assigned the topic which required knowledge beyond the students' personal experience.  The class had been studying this unit and the teacher discussed some ways to write the essay.

            In the letter to a friend, the purpose was entirely for evaluation and was a part of a test that all sixth grade students had to take at the end of the year.  The topic and genre were assigned, but the students chose who they wanted to write to and what program they would recommend.

            This study focused specifically on the following factors of the writing task: the purpose for the writing, topic choice, student knowledge, the audience, and the type of response received.  Research found that "the quantity and maturity of the students' dialogue journal writing was at least equivalent to the assigned writing on all measures, and in some cases showed more complex linguistic expression" (Peyton et al. 142).  Results suggest that "unassigned writing" helps ESL students to explore and demonstrate a more complete range of their writing abilities in contrast to the commonly held view that structured, formal writing "is syntactically more complex, with a greater number of clause embeddings and a greater variety of clause connectors" (Peyton et al. 152).

            This study also supports that "when give the opportunity to write for authentic purposes, for a familiar or known audience who responds with interest and involvement, ESL students tend to express themselves in more creative and sophisticated ways than they do in more restrictive environments" (Peyton et al. 143).

            I found this article to raise some very interesting points regarding how to best help ESL students (and all writers in general) learn how to write better.  Harris, in "The Idea of Community in the Study of Writing," argues that good writers write in their private journals which helps to improve their writing.  The results of this study support Harris and suggests that journal writing is important to the development of ESL students.  This "unassigned writing" allow students to practice writing while exploring subjects which interest them; it allows for higher thinking and "contains features that are valued in more formal writing" (Peyton et al. 167).  Journal writing, one form of "unassigned writing," gives students an opportunity to reflect on what they are learning and gives time to explore how school learning affects their lives directly while helping them to develop their writing.  I know for me that this is true; journal writing helps me to see things in a different light and helps me to relate what I learn in class to the "real world". 

 

Bishop, Wendy.  "Writing from the Tips of our Tongues:  Writers, Tutors, and Talk."  The          Writing Center Journal.  12:  (Fall 1993):  30-43.

            In this essay, Bishop focuses on the importance of talking and conversing about writing with others, specifically, the tutors in the writing center.   Bishop states that writing is a collaborative process, not an act of "solitary genesis," to use Valerie Miner's term.   Bishop points out that there are very few books that are created from a single person's composition.  To prove this point, she recommends looking at the list of references and acknowledgements at the end of nearly every book.  All writers have the ". . . need to explore, examine, and articulate ideas" which can be acheived through ". . . collaborative conversations which enrich our writing and our teaching lives" (37, 38).  Every writer needs this conversation to create a text of quality, including students and also those who write for a living.  Vygotsky would agree on the importance of speech for composing, although he focused only on inner speech while Bishop highlights the importance of the verbalization of ideas.

            Writing can be an activity that creates apprehension in the writer, as Bishop points out in another article, but here she claims that conversations can actually be a source of "encouragement" and "a reason for many of our writers to continue in an otherwise discouraging climate" (33).  Verbalizing ideas about a paper can also help the writer sort out and clarify for an audience his or her own thoughts and ideas.  Through informal talking, writers can develop a deeper and broader sense of the community for which they are writing and make better literary connections within the community.  Informal talking may also give the writer a better understanding of the audience for whom he or she is writing.  These revelations about organization of ideas, community, and audience can help the writer create an excellent, well-balanced writer- and reader-based piece of writing.  Stacey Brukiewa  10/5/94

 

Michael A. Pemberton. "Writing Center Ethics."  The Writing Lab Newslatter. vol 18. Feb. 1994:  10.

                        Michael Pemberton has written yet another article which questions the intervention of tutors and teachers in a students writing. This time he picks four fictitious students which have written letters to different influential people in their life, such as their congressman, English instructor, roommate, and parents. All four of the students attack the reader using bad language, name calling etc. The student asks the teacher/tutor to help them make the letter even more influential. The  question that Pemberton asks is how do tutors and teachers go about doing so?

                        Pemberton addresses an important issue. To what degree do we intervene in their writing process and if we do is it taking away from their personal expression. I think that these four students are not going about influencing their reader effectively. It all goes back to what Bartholomae and McCarthy wrote about writing for the reader. These students need to realize that they need to appeal to the reader to get any sort of positive reaction from them. Positive reaction is what these students want. They want their congressman to vote against destroying the environment, their English instructor to be fair, their roommate to be considerate, and they want their parents to be reasonable.

                        The tutor or teacher might just explain to the student that readers are usually turned off by attacks. The tutor should suggest that the student start their letter by creating common ground on which to lure the reader into agreeing with their points. The student should exemplify their similarities on the issues then turn around and question the congressman, parent,etc. on their actions. These students need to be told that by attacking the reader you are alienating yourself from them. In order to change their mind, or influence them in any way the writer must get so close to the reader that they can smell what kind of gum they are chewing. That involves trying to understand and appeal to the reader, not attacking them.   Elizabeth Turner, 10/18/94

 

 


 

Harvey, Gordon.  "Presence in the Essay."  College English October 1994.  642-653.

            Harvey assesses current arguments that freshman composition course assignments should focus more upon the personal voice than upon straight literary textural analysis.  The advocates of personal essay assignments include both feminists and "the friends of the familiar essay" (643). According to Harvey, feminists favor projecting traditionally suppressed perspectives toward literature.  Others, like G. Douglas Atkins,  also support the inclusion of the personal voice as a mode of freeing developing writers from "hyperacademic language" (643).  They feel that students should not feign a scholarly voice that they do not yet possess.  Scholarly discourse comes from experience in academia, so students should begin learning the skills of essay  organization with subjects with which they are familiar. 

            Harvey describes the problems he finds in personal/ textural assignments in which the writer applies his personal experience to the situations described in the literature.  Usually these type of essays lead to a gross oversimplification of the concept or situation described in the text.  A student may directly compare am elderly relative of his who lives in the South to a Faulkner character.  In searching for a common thread between the literature and personal experience, beginning writers often overlook the uniqueness of the text, or the possibility that the text could transcend the students's experience.  Harvey emphasizes the lack of perspective a young person may have compared to an older author who has had more time to evaluate life experiences.

            The type of weaving of the personal voice with literary  analysis that Harvey advocates uses the student's unique background to interpret the text.  For example, an American woman could state that "she finds D. H. Lawrence sexist and repulsive"(646).  The student would then justify her perspective based upon the textural support of the novel she is assessing.  Harvey also supports the inclusion of the personal voice when debating an issue.  A student from a rural community could add insight to library research on current farming practices.

            Harvey identifies many common problems beginning college writers face when writing a strictly textural essay which lacks "personal information or self-reflection" (650).  Most of these problems derive from a lack of judgement inherent in inexperience, such as understanding what is cliche and controlling the use of quotations.  Harvey struggles with identifying the types of assignments most helpful for freshman composition students, providing the balance between familiarity for the students and preparation for future college work.  His thorough analysis encourages teachers to consider the development and progression of assignments for beginning writers.           Sara Benjamin, October 21, 1994

 

Enslin, Elizabeth.  "Beyond Writing:  Feminist Practice and the Limitations of Ethnography."  Cultural Anthropology.  55 (November 1994):  537-68.

            Enslin tackles the difficult question of how writing for the purpose of studying culture (feminist culture, for example) relates to practice, as in political engagement with the subjects of study.  She questions the effectiveness of strictly ethnographic writing and advocates instead the use of written material such as novels, life stories, and poems, which "appear more 'authentic' than third-person accounts" (538).  Although the article places a heavy emphasis on the nature of political involvement in the communities studied by anthropologists, Enslin brings up some issues which are more universal in relation to writing dealing with the inequalities of class, race, and gender.

            The author is most concerned with developing the nature of ethnograpy to produce writing which uses "collaboration" with subjects for "a democratization of knowledge" (539).  She speaks against the practice of creating a false atmosphere of intimacy with people who are being studied just for the sake of ethnography, and urges the creation of texts which are not only meaningful to privileged white Americans but also helpful, in the case of feminism, to women in general, especially those not familiar with the jargon of anthropology.  After all, a dissertation which successfully conveys the inequities in the Nepalese community which Enslin studied will be of little use to the subjects if not accompanied by an attempt to make that knowledge accessible along with a plan for political action.  Enslin calls this "the struggle to make such research more than a marginalized excursion into 'herstory'" (544).  In fact, studying feminist culture--or any culture, for that matter--becomes nothing more than the research of an "outsider" studying "insiders,"  exploiting the semblance of a relationship to transform the human reality of lives into "data-grist for the ethnographic mill" (545).  It is the manipulative effect of these research methods, preying on the disadvantaged, which is most disturbing.

            Enslin's work relates to the difficulties all writers face in dealing with subject matter such as race and class differences--difficulties magnified if the writer is a middle-class white American.  This tension between the "outsider" and the underprivileged subject can clearly be seen in Brodkey's "On the Subject of Class and Gender in 'The Literacy Letters,'" for the middle-teachers who were corresponding with working class women for the purpose of learning about the needs of Adult Basic Education students were terribly ill-equipped to deal with harsh realities caused by class differences.  The teachers were truly outside the sphere in which the women existed, and, although they did not write in technical terms which would be meaningless to the students, the teachers were not engaged in their world, as Enslin urges.  Though not required to become politically involved like anthropologists often are, the teachers did in some sense exploit the accounts of the women's hardships by failing to respond appropriately to the descriptions of violence in lower-class neighborhoods and financial difficulties.  As an alternative Enslin describes a middle ground called the "borderlands" which enables one to bridge differences and connect with people who inhabit a different universe.  One way in which she bridged the gap between her and the Nepalese women was by talking about the common bond they shared, that of bearing and raising children (547).  While her anthropological questions were essentially rejected as unimportant, the issues involved in childbirth provided a medium for the communication of cultural differences.  Similarly, Brodkey describes a situation in which a female teacher was able to connect with the working-class woman she was corresponding with by discussing issues involved in motherhood.  The class differences are temporarily set aside for a real exchange of knowledge in this case.

            The message for writers in general is one of respect for the subjects of one's writing and an attempt to find a sincere connection without exploitation.  Especially in socially-sensitive writing such as that produced in the context of anthropology, writers should strive for common ground and accessibility of knowledge to the disadvantaged.  This is an important lesson, since a continuation of the insider/outsider model of research does little to smooth out differences and only succeeds in making the well-to-do wealthier in knowledge while leaving the oppressed with no hope in the midst of their hardships.  Kirkley Greenwell 10/21/94

 

Andrasick, Kathleen D.  "Independent Repatterning: Developing Self-Editing Competence." English Journal Feb., 1993: vol. 2, no. 2, 29-31.Madraso, Jan.  "Editing: The Skill We've Neglected To Teach."   English Journal Feb., 1993: vol. 2, no. 2, 32-41.

       These articles complement each other because both are concerned with the teaching of editing and proofreading skills to high school and college students.  Kathleen Andrasick states that "mechanical correctness counts because, fairly or not, it is often the basis on which the world outside of school judges a writer's competence" (28).  Jan Madraso concludes her informative article with the statement that students become "better writers as a result of becoming better proofreaders" (41).  Many of the strategies discussed in these articles are taught in freshman composition classes at Goucher, but perhaps not in time to be useful in the first CIE papers.

       Jan Madraso claims that most teachers regularly remind students to check their writing before submitting it, but few ever explain or teach the proofreading process to them.  She states that most students know that proofreading should be the last step of the revision process, "but that is the extent of their proofreading knowledge.  They simply read their writing as they would read anything else -- and think that they have proof-read."  Madraso claims that simple reading is not an effective proof-reading strategy" (32).

       Andrasick states that although her first concerns when reading student papers are content, form and readerly engagement, she then re-reads their papers for mechanical problems.  She uses a color coded system of correcting papers which although effective for her, does not seem practical for writing center revising.  Madraso also presents a method for signaling mechanical problems to students; she places a small check in the margin next to the line in which an error appears.  She says that "these are unquestionable errors in spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar . . . Each of these mistakes is indicated with only a check in the margin by the line in which it occurs" (37).  This seems like an excellent way to indicate to tutees that there is a mechanical mistake, yet the tutor doesn't need to spell it out.  The tutor would then be able to concentrate on content and form and it would be the students' responsibility to correct their errors.

      Madraso also recommends the editing strategy of reading a composition orally.  She states that "oral reading forces readers to slow their normal reading speed, enabling them to spot errors they would miss by reading silently" (33).  If a tutor is doing the oral reading, the student should be listening and noting the sections that give the reader difficulty.  Madraso allows that students "find the oral step of proofreading most successful if they are able to let some time elapse between writing the paper and reading it" (34).

       In addition to teaching proofreading for mechanical errors, Madraso also teaches proofreading for style, often focusing on two common problems: passive voice and nominalizations.  She's found Strunk and White's Elements of Style to be particularly helpful.         Madraso states that once her students understand their own error patterns, she introduces computers, which she finds to be "helpful tools for making proofreading more efficient" (39).  It is important that inexperienced (both in writing and computing) students learn to use the programs properly.  Tutors may have to patiently explain how to use them.  Madraso points out that spell check may work effectively for some types of errors, but for others it is useless.  To avoid frustration, students must also be aware of what spell-check cannot do.

       Both of these authors suggest that students make use of one of the many guides that are available for writers.  A Writer's Reference by Diana Hacker, Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and Joseph M Wiliams, and the Harbrace College Handbook are some of the titles they recommend.   --Judy Cook, 10/24/94

 

Appleman, Deborah, and Douglas E. Green.  "Mapping the Elusive Boundary between High      School and Colloege Writing."  College Composition and Communication.  44:2        (May) 1993.

            Appleman and Green describe the ambiguity concerning the boundary between high school and college writing.  The authors describe Carleton's Summer Writing Program, an intensive three week writing course for college bound students.  The summer program was designed to help these students become competent college writers before they are thrust into the college setting.  Some of the students in the program were even granted writing proficiency for Carleton, if their writing reached the standards expected by the staff.  Appleman and Green discuss the difficulties faced by the facilitators of the program in deciding who qualified for writing proficiency.  Since the boundary between high school writers and college writers is not clearly defined, the staff found it difficult to evaluate the students on the basis of the process used to create a paper.  Instead, they focused mainly on the product.  Basing the evaluation of the student on the product contradicted the nature of the program which was designed to help students in the process and revision aspects of writing a paper.

            The summer program followed a specific set of six principles in its approach to ushering high school writers over the boundary and into the realm of college writing.  Some of these principles are obvious to those of us writing in the discourse of a college currently.  The program focused on the improvement reading literature and secondary sources can bring to a person's writing.  Practice and experience also were used to enhance the students' writing capabilities and comments on the papers were used to direct the students writing.  The program thoroughly supported Flower and Hayes in the importance of process in order to further develop writing skills.  Revision was seen as essential to a good piece of writing, not merely editing.  And, lastly, the program encouraged talking about writing writing which Wendy Bishop also sees as an integral part of the writing process.

            The staff of this summer writing program experienced diffficulty in evaluating these students based on the process they used, because it is often easy to get caught up in the product.  Unfortunately, in the "real world" of college, the process is not always evident (past CIE, that is); the professor will only see the product of the student.  And, while the summer writing program focused on the content rather than the syntax and grammar of the students' work, this is not the case in the college classroom.  The summer writing program should require practice in all areas of writing, including grammar and syntax.  The number of errors in a paper that is acceptable is an issue that Brodkey also discussed in her article about the literacy letters.  As Appleman and Green point out, there is an "irreconcilable tension between theory and practice" (198).  This tension may never be resolved because of the subjective nature of evaluating written material, but there should at least be consistency within each university or college. --Stacey Brukiewa, 10/27/94

 

Bishop, Wendy.  "Writing From the Tips of Our Tongues:   Writers, Tutors, and Talk".  The Writing Center Journal. 14.1  (1993)  30-43.

     In this article, Wendy Bishop discusses the often suppressed components of the composition process which involve talk or spoken discourse.  Because "writers compose through inner speech while walking, by speaking aloud at the word processor, when discussing a work-in-progress and drinking coffee with friends. or as they share ideas during conferences in writing centers and classrooms" (130), talk is a collaborative activity that underlies most individual acts of composing , in addition to actual collaborative work.

     Because a writing center is an optimum setting for this collaborative pre-text talk to occur, Bishop focuses on her experience as director of a writing center at the University of Alaska - Fairbanks, and explains that "during tutorials we talk about choices, ideas, hopes, conspiring together to capture the always elusive "differences in discourse" that make up a writing life" (31).  If students are to learn to identify themselves as writers, they must first understand that "all university students have voices, discourses, and stories to tell" (30), a realization that the writer "will never known until she talks to another writer, until she shares in the community of writing talk which often takes place best in a writing center" (32).

     Talk is also important in that writing is essentially social.  Since it is generally recognized that social or contextualized understanding of writing gives it its meaning, it is beneficial for the writer to investigate and discuss those contexts and the community in which they exist.  However, if the give-and-take social atmosphere grows too equal, we now have collaborative writing, which "becomes submissive when it challenges, as it must, the "most hidden and commonsensical assumptions of our culture:  that writing and thinking are inherently individual, solitary activities" (34).  Thus, Bishop takes the position that collaboration is the most natural, most effective approach to writing, and refers to the often lengthy acknowledgements that preface many "single author" texts as proof of this theory (34).

     After discussing these aspects of writing as inherently social, Bishop refers to her won writing career, and notes that "certainly I have memories of class texts and organized discussions, but I know that it was through informal talk and by sharing stories that I was able to enter my community" (36).  In her example of collaborative creative writing, Bishop describes a "conversation" between herself and one of her colleagues which consists of poetry, and explains the result to be a "collaborative conversation [which] has enriched our writing and our teaching lives" (38) by "entering new discourse, talking at, to with each other within our poems, and balancing internal voices that try to wallop out ideas as they play with language" (39).

     Bishop's general comparison of this collaborative creative writing project with the conversational process which occurs in a writing center concludes that both are based on a foundation of discussions, confidences, and questioning, processes can only occur with the "support and help of writing peers allowing us to value the story that is on the tip of every writer's tongue" (40). 

     Although her point concerning the social nature of writing and composition is well taken, Bishop raises some very difficult ethical questions concerning the exact location of the line between tutoring and collaboration.  As a writing center tutor, it is my job to listen and respond to students "talk", but exactly how much and in what ways can I "talk" back without the product being a collaborative product?   (alex 94)

 

Harvey, Gordon.  "Presence in the Essay."  College English October 1994: 642-654.

            While nowhere referring to the Formalist and Reader-Response camps of literary criticism, Harvey begins by pointing out that there is a conflict in textual analysis and academic writing between treating a topic closely and letting one's personal experience in.  He calls for an intermingling of personal experience and academic thought in writing, mentioning a precedent in the work of feminists and in recent academic papers.  However, he is quick to note that this bridging must be done thoughtfully; otherwise, overgeneralized writing may result.

            One way to avoid this problem is to not employ personal experience anecdotally, but instead, to use it as a tool while dealing directly with the writing topic.  For instance, a writer with views differing from those in a text to be analyzed has a foundation for writing.  My problem with this approach is that it requires the writer to take an adversarial  view of the text at hand.  While this position can demonstrate that the writer is thinking, I imagine that it may also present the danger of he or she not being able to see both sides of this battle, thus, presenting an incomplete case.  (Of course, in my differing with Harvey's suggested approach, I have illustrated his point.)

            He also points out that personal experience employed in writing can be implicit as well as, or instead of being explicit, in that an essay can be "informed by personal experience without injecting personal information" (649).  To make the distinction between implicit and explicit, he suggests the use of the term "presence."  He explains that "presence" should act on the entire written work, in its motive, development, quotations, details, tacit understandings and applications.  Namely, "presence" should manifest itself through the choices the writer makes in all these areas.

            Harvey mentions that presence manifests as "a willingness to pursue a topic through twists and turns" (650), while shedding new light on it.  He makes an important point when he says that the standard format of an essay, thesis-examples-conclusion, does not easily allow this.  Thus, it is important for teachers to show that giving examples is not the only way to illustrate a thesis.  He notes that it is also effective to "propose a counterargument. . .to define a term, to qualify, to compare, to fill in background, to pose new difficulty, to reveal an assumption, to question one's own categories or method" (650).

            Perhaps choosing whether to use these alternatives depends upon the desired end product.  For instance, if writing heuristically, the writer may choose to use these options, but if doing the "maintenance writing" of which Muriel Harris speaks, these tools may not be called into action as much.  The question Harvey might pose to Harris  is, "Should any writing be 'maintenance writing' ?"  Maybe presence should be allowed to intrude, for it demonstrates that the writer is thinking attentively.  The intruded writing would then show an investment of thought meriting a reader's attention.

            Harvey's closing statement finds a lack of nomenclature similar to that which Alice Brand found concerning emotion in the cognitive process model of writing.  He says, "It won't be easy to teach freshmen to write with presence.  It will be impossible, however, as long as our language for discussing essays splits apart personal experience from intellectual" (653).  Finding that nomenclature, then, is the first job of the writing teacher or tutor.  Mika Sam     10-19-94

 

Schickedanz, Judith K., Karen Hansen and Peggy Forsyth.  "Language Development in Adolescents."  Understanding Children Mountainview, California: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1990.

            So far this semester we have done a lot of reading about how students write, according to the experts.  These experts include writing teachers, writing tutors and students.  With such a wealth of writing instruction data (and at times, such controversial data), how is it being used to teach our teachers to teach writing?  To begin to answer this question I went to a simple resource, the textbook for a child development class.  Even though in 221 we tend to concentrate on the college writer, the college writer had to learn many writing habits from grade school to high school.

            I concentrated on a section of this chapter that was titled "Written Language Development" since, as a writing tutor, this is what I found to be most important.  Most of the material in this section compares the improvement in the complexity of the adolescent's writing to that of younger children.  It features a story written by a thirteen year old that shows high levels of organization and insight.  I don't know that some of my peers could organize a story as well as this student does!  Despite this encouraging progress that adolescents make, the chapter also focuses on studies that show that the writing of American students is plagued with serious problems.  It says that students aren't allowed adequate time to practice the skills involved in writing.  (Hmmmm.  I don't think Hartwell could stand much more time allotted for grammar practice.)

            This concern for the condition of student writing in America is exemplified in the research focus on pages 620-622.  Though the writing topics sound suspiciously like those that I was forced to write on in order to pass the fifth, eighth and twelfth grades, I found it rewarding to read that "the focus was on composition skills, such as the development of and argument and coherence, so spelling and other mechanical errors were disregarded" (620).  (Unfortunately, even this doesn't account for those learning disabled writers who have the meaning straight in their head but can't translate it to paper.  But then that would lead to a whole different discussion.)  The study concludes that students' "writing doesn't match their intellectual potential" (620).

            I was glad to see that the chapter included a study such as this one and that it encouraged more writing in the curriculum.  Even in an introductory textbook such as this one, I think it is important to emphasize the importance of writing, even in the youngest and least experienced writers. 

 

Moore, Robert B.  "Racism in the English Language."  Race, Class and Gender in the United States.  St. Martin's Press: New York.  1992.

            Moore's piece discusses racism in our language: its sources its manifestations and its implications.  There are so many ways in which English promotes racism - sublty and ver obviously and many ways in between. The words "black" and "white" have certain connotations and their uses may communicate racist attitudes that even the writer is not aware of.  Moore also considers compund words and idioms that contain "black" and "white" and their connotations.  Besides that, there are words in the English language that are obviously bigoted: nigger, spook, chink, etc.  Moore goes on to discuss color symbolism, "loaded" words in relation to specific minority groups and politics and terminology.

            The most relevant parts of his piece for us are those in which he discusses ethnocentrism and the use of passive voice, the use of qualifying adjectives, and language and culture.  It is impossible to rewrite the language to be "not racist," but it is important for writers to be aware of the racism inherent in our language.  This consciousness in itself will help to negate much of its influence. In Moore's words, "It is important for educators to provide students with opportunities to explore racism in language and to increase their awareness of it, as well as learning terminology that is positive and does not perpetuate negative human values."  As writing tutors, we are educators, and as educators and educated people this should be a goal of ours.--Elizabeth Wall, 14 September 1994

 

Johnson, Cheryl L. "Participatory Rhetoric and the Teacher as Racial/Gendered Subject."  College English.  Vol 56; 4. April 1994.  pp409-419.

            Johnson discusses her personal experiences teaching literature to white students as an African-American female.  She discusses specific examples of her students' discomforts as well as her own in certain situations in the classroom.  She refers to specific texts and discussions to illustrate how "the teacher" can influence "the students" (their thoughts, words and actions) just by being black and female.

            This article doesn't seem to apply very much to our course directly: it deals with reading rather than writing, and reads as though it is not meant for students to hear, but for teachers only. But its theories examine a number of the themes we have discussed already, including audience, race and class, and discourse community.  If you look beyond the concreteness of what Johnson writes, the ideas concerning student-teacher, student-student and student-teacher-text relationships, are very useful to consider.  Elizabeth Wall, 3 October 1994

 

Harvey, Gordon. "Presence in the Essay." College English. Vol 56; 6. October 1994. pp642-654.

            Harvey discusses the pros and cons of the traditional, impersonal textual analysis as well as the idea of person textual essay writing.  He cites evidence for and against asking students to write about texts bringing personal experience into their analyses.  Many feel that educators should stop forcing students to write assuming "objectivity and mastery," what some term playing "the confidence game."  Harvey, ironically, cites personal experience to the contrary - that "assignments asking students to write about a text by narrating something that heppened in their own lives seemed to generate unusually bad papers."  But he also says that using personal experiences in brainstorming or pre-writing exercises are beneficial for students as therapeutic exercises, better enabling students to make lucid and useful connections between the text and their experiences.

            As tutors we try to help students produce good writing.  To do this, students need to feel comfortable writing in "academic discourse" to feel capable of doing so on a regular basis.  Student come from so many different backgrounds that might make certain topics or styles of writing uncomfortable, so it is important that students learn how to draw connections, find common ground, "to build bridges between [their] personal experience[s] and standards of analyses." 

            Harvey gives us a number of strategies to employ in getting students to use personal analysis effectively.  I imagine that these would be extremely helpful for potential writing tutors to be aware of, and especially so when they are working with first year students who have yet to become familiar and comfortbale with writing in college.--Elizabeth Wall, 20 October 1994

 

Hurlow, Marcia L.  "Experts With Life, Novices With Writing." Dynamics of the Writing Conference.  Eds. Thomas Flynn & Mary King.

       During a study of syntactic development among freshman composition students, Ms. Hurlow found two major writing problems among students over thirty: choppy, syntactically oversimplified sentences, and rambling, inappropriately embedded sentences.  She states that both problems seem to arise from the writer's insecurity.  Considering whether students' insecurity stems from fear of being evaluated or from fear of being rejected as a person makes it possible to design appropriate approaches for particular students.

       More importantly, is to know whether students' problems with writing stem from a lack of competence with language or from an inability to tap into their competence because of insecurity.  She offers several techniques which are tailored to suit particular needs.

       These methods for developing writing skills in non-traditional age students are more appropriate for an introductory level writing class than for use in a writing center.--Judy Cook, 10/1/94

 

Larkin, Joseph M.  "Rethinking Basic Skills Instruction with Urban Students."  The Educational Forum  Summer, 1993, vol.  57, no. 4.  Kappa Delta Pi.

       In this article, Joseph Larkin relates that for many years our country systematically and deliberately thwarted the educational needs of children from poor and racial minority families.  However, with pressure from numerous civil rights groups beginning in the 1960s, this established practice began changing.

       The strongest attack on this "legacy of underachievement" (413) has been to improve the quality and quantity of instruction provided to these students.  The thrust has been dominated by programs that can be identified as remedial or compensatory education.  These programs assume that mastery of basic skills must precede the more complex knowledge contained in a regular school curriculum and they are presented with little or no contextual relationship.  Larkin claims that the mastery of basic skills has been the focus of these programs and this has diminished any expectations for these students to develop "higher levels of skills and understanding not measured by standardized tests" (414). 

       "It is time to acknowledge that this approach to the task has not worked," says Larkin.  He then offers two "lines of inquiry" as possible alternatives.  The first is "recent research on learning from the field of cognitive psychology, and the other concerns new understandings about the relationship of student culture and classroom performance."  Larkin suggests a "new vision of learning" which would replace the traditional classroom teaching system where the learning process is a "transmitter-receiver" model.  This new view involves a highly active process where the teacher's role changes from that of a transmitter to that of a helper or facilitator of students (414).  Patrick Hartwell said the same thing in 1985 when he advocated taking power from the teacher and giving it to the student.

       Larkin also advocates a method of employing complex learning activities which would require students to develop and use higher level cognitive skills.  Theoretically, this would be an alternative to remedial and compensatory basic skills instruction.

       A 1992 review by Brophie of recent research on teaching fundamentals like reading, writing and math is cited by Larkin.  Its conclusion is significant because Brophie maintains that "basic skills need not precede, but rather can be developed within the context of, more holistic and collaborative projects that relate to the lives and prior knowledge of students and have an authentic connection to the applications for which such skills are intended" (416). 

       Larkin concludes that changing the system to a more "active and culturally responsive model will require time, effort and significant experimentation" (418). --Judy Cook, 10/27/94

 

Trousdale, Ann.  "A Submission Theology for Black Americans: Religion and Social Sction in Prize-Winning Children's Books About the Black Experience in America."  Research in the Teaching of English.  Vol.24, No.2, May 1990.

            This study is based on Ann Trousdale's analysis of four children's books about the black experience in the history of the United States.  This article addresses the differences in how blacks are portrayed in Elizabeth Yates' Amos Fortune, William Armstrong's Sounder, and Ouida Sebestyen's Words by Heart which were written by white authors as compared with Mildred Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, who is a black author.  Trousdale uses Taylor's book "as a touchstone of [black] authenticity" in comparison with the three other works (119).

            Trousdale refers to Sims who asserts that "white authors who attempt to write about the black experience are limited by their own cultural heritage; they do not possess the sensibility, perspective, or frame of reference necessary to portray the experiences of black people in America without some distortion, to tell the story of black people as it is 'from the inside'" (119).  In this article, Trousdale analyzes the treatment of religious beliefs and social values about the black experience.

            After analyzing these four works, Trousdale found that the three books written by the white authors significantly differed in comparison to Taylor in how blacks were portrayed.  Trousdale concludes that Amos Fortune, Sounder, and Words by Heart are written in the "perspective of the class of society that has perpetrated the oppression" (138).  Trousdale cites specific examples from the books to further illustrate her point: in Amos Fortune, slavery is viewed as beneficial to Africans; in Sounder and Words by Heart, racial oppression is accepted, where white oppression of blacks is the natural order of society.  Trousdale further argues that the three books written by white authors tells readers that "a submissive attitude on the part of black people is evidence of a godly life" (137).  In Taylor's book, religious belief gives the black characters a spirit of resistance to the oppression around them and a heritage of racial pride which is not seen in the other works.

            Trousdale does not believe that these white writers are consciously portraying blacks in a negative light, but in fact they are trying to place blacks in a positive light.  The problem is that on a deeper level, these three books written by white authors "portray a white supremacist view of their black characters in emphasizing the benefits of white American civilization for society, and in applauding behavior for their black characters that is docile, submissive toward whites, and accepting of injustice and oppression" (137).  

            Trousdale concludes that children should read books about black characters, but that it is important to read with a critical perspective.  Teachers should be aware about the cultural bias from which a writer writes so as not to perpetrate negative or false stereotypes.

            I found this article very interesting and enlighting because I read two of these books in high school and had not questioned whether it was written truly from an "authentic" black perspective.  This gives me much food for thought for future readings of minority writings and for how I teach in the future.  I think Asante would agree with Trousdale that children should not only read literature about black characters, but that children should read about the "authentic" black experience written by black authors.   --Ha Lam, 10/15/94

 

Swearingen, C. and James Moffett.  "Women`s Ways of Writing, or Images, Self-Images, and Graven Images."  College Composition and Communication.  1994: 250-163.

            This an. bib. is a summary of C. Swearingen's article, "Women's Ways of Writing," and James Moffett's response.  This is a part of the four interchanges titled "spiritual Sites of Composing."  Swearingen addresses the fact that "our most firmly held beliefs, some of them hard won, are not often what we are asked to put into writing in academia...spiritual and belief-centered elements in creativity, writing, and scholarship are shunned" (252).

            Swearingen bases her arguments on her five summers of experience as a teacher at a week-long workshop on spirituality and creativity, "Women's space: Exploring Our Creative and Spiritual Selves."  Her workshop tries to answer the question of how to draw on "the power of spiritual conviction and invoke it in the tasks of making meaning, in creating images of self and images of the world for ourselves and our communities--images of the worlds as it is, and as we hope it may come to be"? (252).  Swearingen's workshop tries to do this by studying the lives of past and present women who have made contributions as students, artists, and writers while having to deal with "the tensions created by cultural views of women, and by those corollary tensions that many women feel divide their loyalties to family and professional work" (253).

            Swearingen cites Mary Belenky's study of working class women to describe one aspect of the tension women experience results from the conflict between "telling the truth" and "being good" (253).  Swearingen concludes that women often want to "tell the truth," but they are torn by what society and their own values them is "being good".  The workshops help women to improve their self-image of self-worth, motivation, and conviction which help to combat the "deep fear and self-doubt that women, like other marginalized groups, must overcome in order to write the first sentence..." (253).

            Swearingen also talks about a journal exercise where each writer "furnishes a special room in a special place that is holy, full of mementos and meanings that help her to create and to take her creations seriously" (254).  This sounds very reminiscent of Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own."  Swearingen adds that, "We write dialogues with adversaries and with treasured friends as a way of getting the inner voices of discussion going," (254).  This idea of journal writing to a receptive audience so a writer may further develop and explore ideas is a familiar one.  Peter Elbow addresses students' lack of skill in journal writing, not because they have nothing to write about, but because they lack practice (Graves 254).  Harris believes that journals are important because a writer may "toy with the idea of audience and the paper's purpose without being slapped down by hostile reaction" (Sanders).  Peyton et al. discusses how "unassigned" ("self-assigned") writing helps ESL students.

            Swearingen concludes that by looking deep within and perhaps with the help of meditation, women will be able to find their true voices.  To Swearingen spirituality does not necessarily entail religion, but more a sense of inner peace and knowing who you are.

            James Moffett's in his response to these three articles about "Spiritual Sites of Composing," says that "students need badly to use writing to do their own moral inventory," though "writing to heal and to grow is alien to universities" (259).  Moffett also supports meditation in writing.  He claims that "many students have reported that fragments and unfinished thought or writing came together during or because of meditation...most testified that meditation freed them from ephemera and petty concerns to get deep into themselves for more interesting and important writing material" (259). 

            This interchange about how spirituality and meditation can help writers to be more in tune with themselves; and thus, they become better writers is an interesting one.  I think it needs to be more researched before educators can advocate for universal meditation in classes and schools.  Advocaters for this will have a tough fight.  I believe that students should be aware of it as an option and if it works for you, go for it.  Ha Lam, 10-30-94

 

Williams, Patricia.  The Alchemy of Race and Rights.  "The Death of the Profane." Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991.  p. 44-51.          

 

            Law professor Patricia Williams was Christmas shopping for her mother when she saw a sweater in Benetton in New York City.  Williams "pressed [her] round brown face to the window and [her] finger to the buzzer" to gain entrance to the store; many shops in the city now had buzzers to prevent robberies.  The clerk would not allow her into the store, even though there were several other people--white people--doing their Christmas shopping. Outraged, Williams first recorded the incident in her journal.  Second, she told her story on a poster which she placed on the store window.  Finally, she was invited to write for a law review symposium on "Excluded Voices."  She told her Benetton story, using it to discuss "how the rhetoric of increased privatization, in response to racial issues, functions as the rationalizing agent of public unaccountability and, ultimately, irresponsibility." 

            Rather than being able to continue a legal debate about racism and rights, Williams had to devote her time fighting with the editors of the law review because the first edit of her essay came back with her anger cleanly and purely edited out of her writing.  "My rushing, run-on-rage had been reduced to simple declarative sentences.  The active personal had been inverted in favor of the passive impersonal.  My words were different; they spoke to me upsidedown...meanings rose up at me oddly, stolen and strange."   The second edit had deleted all reference to Benetton because of liability and defamation.  Williams writes, "I called them and offered to supply a footnote attesting to this as my personal experience at one particular location and of a buzzer system not limited to Benetton's; the editor's told me that they were not in the habit of publishing things that were unverifiable."  After her piece went to press, she discovered in the final page proofs sent to her that any reference to her race had been omitted from the essay.  Readers, the editors reasoned, would be able to figure out she was black without it being explicitly stated. Though the editors so kindly conceded that the fact of her race was "nice and poetic," the fact that Williams is black didn't matter in their eyes because that didn't advance any legal principle.  "This is a law review, after all," they told her.  When she accused them of censorship they said the omissions were simply a "matter of style."

            Interweaved with Williams' story is an attack on the "ideology of style rooted in a social text of neutrality."  The editors compounded the original act of racism with their own blindly applied standards of neutrality which reinforce a racist status quo by omitting difference altogether from legal discourse. Williams writes, "Race neutrality in law has become the presumed antidote for race bias in real life."  If we simply edit out any references to race (or gender), that means racism will go away, and in fact that racism has gone away.  Why does race matter?  What drives the societal mentality that race doesn't matter, and that applying neutral standards eradicates racism?  Williams reveals these neutral standards as feigned liberal ideals because they reinforce racist stereotypes and behavior. A law review cannot presume to be a forum for "excluded voices" when it edits out the personal and political tenor of the voices, therefore conveniently giving a situation the appearance of not being racist. Williams sums up the consequences of false neutrality when she writes that "What was most interesting to me in this experience was how the blind application of principles of neutrality, through the device of omission, acted either to make me look crazy or to make the reader participate in old habits of cultural bias."  Enforcing a "neutral" standard acts to silence the extent to which race does matter and maintain the power of the red pen (or the electronic delete). Debbie Swartz 10/28/94    

 

 

Rubin, Donald L and Katheryn Greene.  "Gender-Typical Style in  Written Language."  Research In The Teaching Of English.   February, 1992, vol. 26, no. 4.

 

       This study was designed to test the supposition that male and female writing styles differ.  College students' writing was analyzed to determine whether gender differences were more pronounced in spontaneous expressive writing relative to revised instrumental/argumentative writing.  Overall, the results determined that the writing of men and women is more similar to each other than different.  Differences due to the mode of discourse were more prevalent than differences due to gender.

       In particular instances, differences were noted.  For example, women used more exclamation points than men, and they were also more likely to acknowledge the legitimacy of opposing points of view.  On Nov. 1st, in the Baltimore Morning Sun, Ellen Goodman commented on male/female styles of speech during the election campaigns.  This year the rhetoric is what would usually be described as male style -- the year of the attack ad.  A point she makes that's worth repeating is that governing may work best with people who can accommodate, take the other point of view into account, think of "us," not just me.  She states that "the real stylistic clash may be between the successful candidate and the effective legislator."

        The study conducted by Rubin and Greene suggests that if gender differences do exist in writing, they are suppressed in some genres and accentuated in others.  Those genres of writing that are most conventionalized and most schooled are the least likely to accommodate expressions of gender identity.  Are women oppressed by the demands of standard editing?  This study concludes that they are not, that women do not make any more taxing adaptations than men.

       The authors suggest several follow-up research topics, one of which would analyze data to determine the degree to which gender-typical features affect raters' judgements.  Do writers who produce a higher than average frequency of female -typical markers like exclamation points suffer from negative reader evaluations?  A study referred to by the authors asserts that females tend to produce fewer mechanical errors in spelling and usage than males.  Would this be an advantage for women in reader evaluations?  Would it be a disadvantage for men?  Judy Cook 

 Tisseron, Serge.  "All Writing is Drawing: the Spacial Development of the Manuscript."  Yale French Studies.  Vol 84: 29-42.

 

            Tisseron discusses the developmental and psychological implications of the physical act of writing.  Expanding Freudian theory to writing, Tisseron explains the "manual pleasures" of writing as an extension of a child's desire to cling to his mother's body.  By outlining the development of writing in children, Tisseron defends his perspective.  Between six and twelve months of age, a child will begin the physical gesture of scribbling, although the marks are made without visual control.  At around eighteen months, the eye will follow the hand, while at around twenty-four months the eye can begin to lead the hand, as visual control sharpens.  Tisseron concludes that the earliest drawings, the earliest urges to put a pen to paper, are "guided by muscular, tonic, and plastic sensations,"  "...rather than a visual exploration of space"(33). 

            Tisseron then analyzes the development of inscribing, where the right arm extends away from the body's axis and progresses from left to right and the left arm reaches from right to left.  He compares this standard motion of writing to "the very gestures by which the baby is separated from the mother's body...," which alert the baby to his mother's absence (33).  In this way, Tisseron sees a child "demonstrating an active control over separation anxiety and opening the way to [his] independence" (33).  Drawing allows the child to "settle his relation to the mother into a psychic, rather than physical space" (35).  He "trusts the page with the internalized mother which inhabits him, ...and secures her echoing answer that is the processes involved in the mother's primary introjection and the internalized mother- child relationship" (35).  Thus, on a primary level, the desire to write comes from a psychological and physical need of an individual to create his own comfort.      

            Tisseron explores other justifications for writing, explaining the linking of different sensory centers to a central act.  He also describes the writer's initial anticipation of "the imaginary whole of his text, created after the image of his body as a whole" (40).  Tisseron echoes the classic single draft writer's mentality and relates it to the needs of the multi draft writer when he states "the outline of the [writer's] work... fulfill, even if they remain incomplete, the function of anticipating fantasmatically the projected totality" (40). 

            Tisseron's emphasis on the psychological needs of a person to complete the physical act of writing unveils a frequently unexplored aspect of writing.  In every discipline, some scholar always seems to need to explore the field with a Freudian perspective.  Often, the scholar just wants to cause a stir to bring attention to himself.  This may be a case here.  Isn't everyone sick of Freud by now?  Haven't mainstream scholars severely discounted the blanketing use of his theories?  Based upon my studies in anthropology, I believe Freud may only be applied in the context in which he lived, late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Austria.  Writing is a global endeavor which existed for many years before Freud, and I hope will exist for many years after Freud's death.  A person who embraces Freud's theories would probably love Tisseron's analysis.  Freud created neat theories about human needs, and Tisseron neatly applies the act of writing to these theories.  I think Westerners like Freud because he made psychology so convenient and so easy to apply.

            I used the library periodical search computer's humanities index to select this article.  From the title, I did not expect Freudian psychology to be its focal point and I expected some sort of content which I could apply directly to Goucher.  Since I do not see validity in Tisseron's thesis, I suggest no applications of Tisseron's model.--Sara Benjamin

 

Foley, Teresa and Stephen P. Safran.  "Gender-Biased Language in Learning Disability Textbooks."  Journal of Learning Disabilities.  27:5  (May) 1994.

            A scientific study was conducted to evaluate introductory learning disability textbooks and their gender biases.  The two issues being studied were the effect of author gender on the amount of gender bias in LD textbooks and the change, if any, of gender bias over time.  Only two textbooks were used in this study, one by a female author and one by a male author, so the results may or may not be transferrable to all LD textbooks.  Only pronouns and actual proper names were used to measure the amount of gender bias as well. 

The study concluded that "author gender has a significant relationship to the frequency of gender specific pronouns" (Foley & Safran 312).  The male author used seven times more male references than female, while masculine and feminine pronoun usage was more balanced in the female authored textbook (Foley & Safran 311).  There was also no marked change in the amount of gender biased pronoun usage from the old version of the textbooks to the revised editions (311).

            Foley and Safran argued that gender biases in LD textbooks can influence educators' opinion of male and female students with difficulty in schools.  They point out that there are a considerable larger number of male students diagnosed with LD than female students.  This argument is brought up a number of times in the article; it is not until the last paragraph that other alternatives are suggested for this imbalance.  There are a myriad of reasons for the disproportionate amount of male students labelled LD; gender biases in textbooks play a very small role in the diagnosis.  Overt aggression, personality, cognitive functions, and mental structures are equally, if not more important, in the diagnosis of LD. 

            The American Psychological Association (APA) already has a policy against sexist language (Foley & Safran 309).  Gender bias in LD textbooks could diminish if this policy is enforced and gender biases are measured as frequently as possible in all revised editions.  With enough effort, gender bias could be diminished.   Stacey Brukiewa 10/94

 

Barbaro, Fred; Corcas Christman; Ellen Rosenberg and Sandra M. Holzinger.  "Support Services for the Learning-Disabled College Student."  Social Work.  January/February 1985. 12-18.

 

            When I first saw this article, the title grabbed me but the year turned me off.  Even though the 80's seem very familiar to me, I must come to the realization that many of the articles written then are outdated.  Articles on topics such as learning disabilities and special education seem to age especially quickly because the definitions and terms seem to change daily.   I became curious however about what services were used for college students almost ten years ago.  Were they forming some of the same ideas and philosophy that present day professors use?

            Skimming over the article, I was impressed that much of the information was not as outdated as I anticipated.  The authors focus on an "ecological perspective" which "recognizes the evolving interrelationships and mutual shaping between individuals and their environments."  Or how about the individual and the community, more specifically the discouse community?  Some of the article is spent on both Erikson's and Piaget's models of maturation and how a failure to mature in any one of the stages could result in a learning disability.  Though theories on where learning disabilities "come from" is constantly changing, it is important to remember that the student had been dealing with the disability for many years and we as teachers and tutors aren't going to be able to offer a quick fix.

            So what can we do?  The article suggests that the Western culture's emphasis on literacy makes those who have problems with reading and writing feel extremely inadaquate (14).  This is where the writing center in all its glory steps in.  Not only does the writing center deal with a key problem for those students with learning disablilities, writing, but it also uses peers to assist students.  The article points out that many students with learning disabilities were also deprived of "self-esteem as a result of positive feedback from peers" (15).  Peer tutoring conquers these two serious problems at once for students with learning disabilities.

            There was also a very interesting case study done in this article on a student with a learning disability.  One of the things that this student's counselor's did for him was to help him identify his strengths as well as his weaknesses.   Not suprisingly, his strengths included a fluent writing style, but he had weaknesses in the "mechanics of written English," vocabulary and auditory attention.  Hmmm.  Somehow I think I've read stuff like this somewhere else.  English 221 maybe?

            Despite the age of this article, I think it does a good job of illustrating how the philosophy of the writing center can be applied to all writers, even to those who are challenged with learning disabilities. ---Judy Cook

Eng 221: Sanders

week 10 an bib. #5

 

Ferris, Dana.  "Rhetorical Strategies in Student Persuasive Writing: Differences between Native and Non-Native English Speakers."  Research in the Teaching of English.  February 1994: 45-65.

 

            This study analyzed 60 persuasive essays written by college freshmen, half of whom are native speakers and half of whom are non-native speakers of English.  From the 60 persuasive essays, the study reflected 4 different groups of students:

group 1: non-native speakers enrolled in a second-semester course specifically for non-native speakers

group 2: non-native speakers enrolled in a basic writing course required of students who received low scores on a placement test, taken before beginning the regular two-semester freshman composition series

group 3: native speakers enrolled in a second-semester course taken primarily by native speakers

group 4: native speakers enrolled in the basic writing course.

The students' ages, genders, and first languages were unknown.   All of the ESL students in the composition program were at advanced levels of English proficiency and about 99% of the ESL students were international students (not immigrants) who had been in the U.S. for less than two years.

            All four groups had two things in common: 1. they were allotted two hours to write their essays and 2. they prepared for the final exam question through class readings and discussions for two weeks.  Groups 1 and 3 answered the question, "Can society reasonably prevent or control the harmful effects of a new technology?" and groups 2 and 4 answered the question, "To what extent has consumer culture harmfully influenced the behavior and values of the individual in society?"  The students were not given an audience to write towards, but they knew that several composition teachers (not their own) would read and grade their essays.

            The results:

quantitative--native speakers wrote longer compositions.  Since "length influences the overall persuasive quality of the essays," a native speaker's ability to produce longer essays under time pressure gives the student an advantage over a non-native speaker (Ferris cited Crowhurst, 1991). 

rhetorical--native speakers used more counterarguments.  Native speakers have more exposure to both oral and written English persuasive style, while non-native speakers may have limited experience with "English forms of persuasion, and the persuasive conventions of their own first language may be quite different form those used in English" (Ferris cited Hinds, 1987).

topical structure--native speakers had a lower subtopics to sentences ratio.  This may indicate a lack of focus on the part of the non-native speaker.  The results of this study indicate a significant difference exists between native and non-native speakers.

            I particularly found two conclusions in this article to be thought-provoking:

1. "native speakers were most likely to use strategies that positively influenced the teacher-raters than were the non-native speakers,"

2. "ineffective writing by advanced ESL students is more likely to be caused by poor composing ability than by inadequate proficiency in the second language" (Ferris 54, Ferris cited Johns 56).  I find that the first conclusion has some validity.  Cultural contexts may influence how a student reasons and argrues his/her case.  For instance if students did not know that a "normal" college paper should consist of an introduction, thesis, supporting ideas and evidence, and a conclusion, they would be at a distinct disadvantage.  I disagree with the second conclusion.  I wonder if Ferris has ever tried to write a persuasive essay in another language, perhaps Chinese?  Would she be as eloquent as when she writes in English?  In a persuasive essay, would Chinese professors find fault with her reasoning?

            I think more research needs to be done to prove whether "ineffective writing" can be attributed to poor composing skills or cultural differences in reasoning and logic.  I also think that Ferris does not take into account a student's enormous burden of writing academically in a second language.  Tutors should be aware of the problems native English speakers have with writing persuasive essays and know that for most ESL students (even advanced), some of these problems are magnified.  Ha Lam, 10-30-94

           

Kirsch, Gesa.  "Writing Up and Down the Social Ladder:  A Study of Experienced Writers Composing for Contrasting Audiences".  Research in the Teaching of English.  25.1  (Feb 1991)  33-53.

 

     In order to investigate the composition process from a social-constructionist perspective, Kirsch explores the writer's sense of audience in different rhetorical situations, in other words, "how writers represent audiences which contrast along the dimension of authority, that is, audiences which occupy a different socio-political status within a given community" (34).  In this study, a university community was chosen, in which graduate students were asked to write, on the same topic, both up the ladder to tenured professors, and down the ladder to freshman undergraduates.

     In their task of persuading the audience of the merits of their particular writing program, the graduate students were implicitly asked to address the different audiences with varying degrees of authority, to serve the purpose of "allowing writers to speak with confidence, to contrast two clearly defined audiences, and to present a discourse type which invites writers to analyze their readers frequently" (36).

     In analyzing the writer's response to the two audiences, Kirsch, besides analyzing the texts produced, used protocols to provide a blend of quantitative and qualitative analysis, "examining patterns across the writers' composing activities,with the help of a coding scheme, but also reading each protocol as a text which chronicles how individual writers construct the writing task and rhetorical situation" (37).  Using four of Berkenkatter's coding categories:  goal setting (textual goals and rhetorical goals), analyzing the audience (anticipating the audience's reactions, analyzing shared or mutual knowledge, comparing the present audience to past audiences), reviewing content and style, and evaluating content and style, and adding several more:  meta comments, reading instructions, rereading text produced so far, and writing text, Kirsch was able to analyze his three subject categories of text:  word choice, tone, and format. (36) 

     In analyzing the five writers, Kirsch discovered that each "brings interpretive frameworks to writing, unique ways in which they interpret audiences and writing tasks, foregrounding quite different elements of rhetorical situations" (39).  In defining "interpretive frameworks", Kirsch refers to writers' task representation as well as to their previous experiences with audiences, which can be seen as an aspect of the long term memory of Flower and Hayes' cognitive process theory model.   In addition, the "interpretive framework" entails the writers' concern for the "social context in which  writing is produced, read, and understood" (39), in this case the university community.  This community gives both writer and audience a "sense of  shared purposes and effort to ... dealings with the various discourses" (Harris 270).  Perhaps because both the freshmen and the professors were a part of this community, Kirsch found that "writers showed similar concerns in both writing tasks despite the audiences' different social positions as determined by the university structure, suggesting a more stable nature of their interpretive framework" (39).

     However, several basic dissimilarities in the writers' approach to the different audiences were revealed.  For example, four out of the five writers evaluated their writing more often while writing to the faculty, reflecting the notion that writing to an authoritative audience instigates greater criticism of his text by the writer.  However, four out of five writers also analyzed the freshmen audience more often than the faculty, perhaps a reason for the increased usage of the personal pronoun "you" in text writer down the social ladder, showing that "by accepting a position of authority, writers assume a more informal structure with their audience and judge them to be less knowledgeable (42).

     Kirsch then goes on to analyze each of the five writers individually, reflecting upon their own personal writing styles - specifically, whether they were one or multi draft writers - and the consequent reflection in the written product.  In his study of the differing senses of audience awareness with respect to differing levels of authority, Kirsch's study adds to previous research in the filed in that it "describes another dimension in writers; composing processes:  It emphasizes writers' sensitivity to the rhetorical context and points to important variation among writers of similar expertise" (47).  While it is obviously only a limited experiment in terms of size, complexity and research methods, Kirsch's study does present us with a broader range of social contexts for writing within the same community.  (Alex 94)

 

Ritchie, Joy S.  "Beginning Writers:  Diverse Voices and Individual Identity".  College composition andCommunication.  40.2  (1989)  152-174.

 

     In this article Ms. Ritchie explores the process of developing an individual voice through writing, as well as the personal and social realizations that the process incurs.  She begins by reiterating Bartholomae's notion of "Inventing the University", in which a student must conform to the standards of each academic discipline community, for "in order to function as a member of the community, students must learn the forms of that language[of the particular community] and accommodate themselves to the role those forms demand" (152).

     In a study of writing workshops, Ms. Ritchie explores this concept, as well as the social context of the academic community and its impact on the student.  Based on participant-observation, she suggests that writing workshops are, like any social situation, multi-faceted, shifting scenes full of conflicting and contending values and purposes, played out by a cast of unique actor" (153).  In writing situations such as those observed, students are not only becoming socialized into the academic discourse community of the particular discipline, they are also discovering and developing their own role, their own voice within the community.  Ms. Ritchie discovered that this developmental process was facilitated by situations which "provide multiple academic responses to writing ... allowing her [the beginning writer] to try on new identities through the writing process" (153).  Thus, the writing workshop can be seen as an environment which closely "approximates the wider language community with all its diversity and dissonance"(155). 

     To support her claims, Ms. Ritchie discusses two case studies of individual students within the writing workshop.  Becky, one of the students, grappled with her preconceived notion that "writing is a matter of conforming to academic discourse".  Through interactions with her workshop group, though, Becky's writing began  to take on a personal style, and individual voice, exemplifying Vygotsky's notion that "as individuals ... transform the language around them and attempt to resolve the dissonance among the voices they hear in the social network" (160), they begin to acquire such a voice.

     Brad, on the other hand, already had his own voice, however, his writing was so narrow and single-minded that it offended the majority of his readers.  Through workshop participation, he managed to discuss controvertial issues not merely by weakening his views on the issues, but by "attempting to imagine the attitudes and values of others, [and in doing so] he began to acknowledge the complexity of the problem he was addressing and thus was forced to see his beliefs in a new light" (168).  Because the workshop provided an environment governed by "internally persuasive discourse" instead of "authoritative discourse" generally found in a student-teacher (or student-tutor) relationship, the student were encouraged to "defy the boundaries of thought and language ... appropriating various voices from the community and transforming those into their own" (172).

     While Ms. Ritchie's article is a study of voice development in beginning writers, perhaps its greatest merit may be found in its multiple references to other scholars and aspects of the writing process.  Because of these, the article allows us to relate previously encountered issues such as community, audience, thought-language relationships, and cross-disciplinary discourse boundaries.  However, the specific case studies presented are not directly applicable to Goucher's writing center, which uses a one-on-one approach rather than a group workshop experience.  (Alex, 94)

 

 

Irigaray, Luce.  This Sex Which is Not One.  "The Power of Discourse and the Subordination of the Feminine."   Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985. 

 

Luce Irigaray is a French feminist philosopher and a trained psychoanalyst.  She has written extensively about women, female sexuality, eroticism, pleasure and the phallocentrism of language.  She has critiqued Freud, Lacan, and Marx in terms of how their philosophies and theories objectify and repress women bodily and otherwise in the "marketplace" and in/through language.  To make Irigaray's philosophy and methods clear, I will quote the publisher's assertion:  "Throughout [her writings] Irigaray seeks to dispute and displace male-centered structures of language and thought through a challenging writing practice that takes a first step toward a woman's discourse, a discourse that would put an end to Western culture's enduring phallocentrism."

            Irigaray believes that women have been reduced to a repressed sexual imaginary, an invisibility that is dominated by male forms and ideas of pleasure, and thus male-dominated and male structured language.  "Woman's desire would not be expected to speak the same language as man's; woman's desire has doubtless been submerged by the logic that has dominated the West since the times of the Greeks" (25).  Western logic has privileged, according to Irigaray, visual sight and indeed the entire "idea" of "concrete structures" and "form" and theory."  This privileging of sight erases women and women's desire; they become the erasure.  "While her body finds itself...eroticized, and called to a double movement of exhibition and of chaste retreat in order to stimulate the drives of the 'subject,' her sexual organ represents the horror of nothing to see.  A defect in this systematics of representation and desire (26 italics Irigaray's emphasis).

            With the foundation of a critique of the structure of desire and women's lack in that structure, Irigaray proceeds to "formulate," or present, a distinction between "the mechanics of solids" and the "mechanics of fluids."  The structure of male desire and representation predominates because of the mechanics of solids in language.  For example, the use of metaphor as an expression of male power in language and discourse perpetuates the repression of the sexual female imaginary, of women themselves: their bodies, their desires, their minds.  Woman, Irigaray would say, is not simply repressed; the use of metaphor and the mechanics of solids results in woman not being...Woman is not. (Metaphorically speaking) The difference between mechanics of solids and fluids is the difference between a ball traveling through the air and water dissipating as it falls in the atmosphere.  The challenge Irigaray tries to meet is restructuring language so that it expresses the invisible dissipation, the fluids, the pluralism, that lie in between and outside of solids, or subsumed by them.   A new attention to fluids in language can create, possibly, a woman's discourse.  This is of course debatable, because it is not quite clear exactly what a "woman's" discourse is, as opposed to any other kind of discourse.  Though Irigaray is critical of dichotomies, it is hard to interpret her ideas as not a dichotomy between men and women, and fluid and solid.  What is most interesting about Irigaray is the style--if it can correctly be called style--of writing, she adopts to try to live her social criticisms.  The following passage is an example of how she attempts to restructure language, to "reflect" the feminine in discourse:

 

Question: "What is the relation or the nonrelation between speaking (as) woman and speaking-among-women?" 

 

Irigaray's answer: "There may be a speaking-among-women that is still a speaking (as) man but that may also be the place where a speaking (as) woman may dare to express itself.  It is certain that with women-among-themselves (and this is one of the stakes of liberation movements, when they are not organized along the lines of masculine power, and when they are not focused on demands for the seizure or the overthrow of 'power'), in these places of women-among-themselves, something of a speaking (as) woman is heard.  This accounts for the desire or the necessity of sexual nonintegration: the dominant language is so powerful that women do not dare to speak (as) woman outside the context of nonintegration."  (135).

 

What she is trying to say, above all, is that language is pluralistic, in and of itself, it can be read in various ways.  Whether or not this can be "called" a "feminine" or "woman's discourse" is a question that remains debatable and rests on the "validity" of her ideas which I summarized earlier.

 

Schmitzer, Thomas C.  "Looking For Clues."  Dynamics of the Writing Conference.  Ed. Thomas Flynn and Mary King.  1985

 

       There is a good strategy in this short article which would be helpful in a writing center situation.

       Schmitzer says that there is a great advantage to one-on-one conferences in writing center situations because the student is ready and looking for new ideas.  It's an ideal time for a tutor to seize the opportunity and show the way.  A student may find, that in the course of developing a subject, other ideas intrude upon the narrative, ideas which do not seem to relate to the work in progress.  Where a novice might ignore these un-solicited intrusions, a seasoned writer welcomes these ideas, or clues, and develops them to his advantage.

       Schmitzer maintains that student writers can be trained to look for clues in their own writing which may signal an impulse toward the creative.  They can be taught to observe patterns in text, recurring phrases, or tendencies in related directions which, while not directly pertaining to the subject of the composition, may be clues to an area of expression which the student had not consciously intended to enter.  Judy Cook, 10/1/94

 

 

Bolter, Jay David.  "Literature in the Electronic Writing Space."  Literacy Online.  Tuman, Myron C., ed.  Pittsburgh:  Pittsburgh UP, 1992.

 

            Bolter examines the current and future role of the computer in composition.  At present, computers are widely used in writing and revision.  However, they are mostly an intermediary in a writing process which eventually returns to the physical, printed page.  He eplains that the permanency of this printed page is the impetus behind textual criticism and exactitude in many fields other than literature, such as science and mathematics.

            However, a recent phenomenon, called "hypertext," promises to change many conventional notions about writing and literature.  Essentially, hypertext is text that is both generated on the computer and read on the computer.  The hypertext author need not write linearly; within or at the end of each passage he or she can allow the reader a choice as to what passage is to be read next.  Hypertext is a little different than "Choose Your Own Adventure" books in that the latter uses only bifurcations and one-way streets.  In hypertext, one may often go back to the previous link or forward to a new one.  Sometimes the potential choices are marked by single, highlighted words, which in turn, lead to more passages with highlighted words.  The intricacy of the text is only limited by the author's imagination and the computer's memory (which these days is an ocean).

            There are many compositional and ethical implications behind hypertext.  The first is that summarization of a hypertext is impossible, for the path taken by the reader may be different every time.  Bolter asserts that the hypertext reader assumes a partially authorial role in that his or her choices shape the reading of the text.  This is quite different than the traditional view of text, a relatively unchanging entity created by a clearly defined author, which must then be approached by the reader.

            With this new assignation of dual authorship (author plus reader [times ]) and the speed and low cost with which one can reproduce any information, how does one deal with issues of ownership and copyright?  Lacking the equivalent of printed page editors and publishing houses, on the information superhighway it is too easy to alter a text slightly without showing any sign of having done so ("the author must not have really meant to spell 'phork' that way. . .").  Perhaps then, information-street-smart people will have to approach hypertexts distrustfully, especially when they are downloaded from large bulletin boards (the bigger the barrel, the bigger the chance of finding a rotten apple).

            Such ethical questions bleed over into academic writing, for, as Bolter says, hypertext suits large bodies of information or text.  In addition to factual databases, Bolter envisions one large hypertext consisting of all texts.  In essence, this hypertext would be a digital representation of links that for now, exist in the minds of  members of academic discourse communities.  A project of this sort would be enormously frustrating, for scholars might argue endlessly over whether to link one text to another, and why.  Eventually, there might be a link between every single word, for each word is a sign which denotes another word.  However, having a canon of all canons would eliminate the problems of text availability and deterioration (i.e. due to acid based paper or inks).  At the same time, I think that hypertextualizing all literature runs the risk of being dependent upon computers.  Imagine, one power surge and all of literary history would be gone in an eyeblink.  Man would be forced to return to the oral-formulaic tradition (a tradition, Bolter notes, that also had a conception of authorship different than that of the age of print) in order to rebuild all that has been lost.

            Whether hypertext will assume a significant place in writing classrooms remains to be seen.  I imagine that it would require major changes in teaching methods.  In hypertext, one is not restricted to linear thinking, a cognitive process often encouraged in schools (outlines, standard essay format).  Some teachers have begun to swerve away from linear thinking, for I remember often having to create word webs, which permit multiple connections as in hypertext.  However, there is so much else teachers must do.  Compounded with the fact that these teachers probably were themselves taught to think of texts linearly, it seems that hypertext has a long time in coming.

            What I fear most is a takeover of traditionally printed writing by hypertext.  The main loss to literature would be the loss "of a sense of the sanctity of the text" (35).  To me, there is nothing quite as empowering as one person voicing themselves through writing.  It is an enduring testament to the individuality of man.  Woe be the day when the human voice becomes submerged in computerized hypertext.  Mika Sam, 11/21/94

 

McCorduck, Pamela.  "How We Knew, How We Know, How We Will Know."  Literacy Online.  Tuman, Myron C., ed.  Pittsburgh:  Pittsburgh UP, 1992.

 

            Though the title of McCorduck's article implies a general epistemological focus, the author concerns herself largely with the role of text and computers in knowing.  She sees the current conception of knowledge as limited mostly to a textual foundation.  By this model, not being able to write something down is the equivalent of not knowing it.  McCorduck makes the astute observation that this assumption is an unspoken one, one that has persisted in academia for hundreds of years.  Though she explains why this might be so (text can be cheaply made in large quantities) and though a large part of this article deals with the history of knowing, she spends only one paragraph dealing with the implications of such a long tradition of a text-based view of knowledge.  One implication is an observed tendency of literate people to think differently than illiterate people: the former can grasp abstraction, time frames and generalities better.  McCorduck describes such abilities as "cognitive benefits" (246).  I cannot help but wonder, are they truly "benefits" or are she and our culture prejudiced to see them as "benefits"?  Do illiterate people thus have cognitive "deficits"?  If yes, I would quickly point out that recent research by Howard Gardner and others indicates that linguistic ability is not the sole measure of cognitive ability.

            Following several opening remarks, McCorduck launches into a long-winded discussion of human knowing as it was before text: through sight and visual representation.  This foray does raise some intriguing questions such as, "Is knowledge/truth embodied in drawing or writing, or can those media only represent knowledge/truth?  She also does a good job of positing why man developed representational systems such as drawing or writing.  These systems permitted a "tribal encyclopedia" (250) to be preserved and transmitted, information which might contribute to the survival ability of that tribe.  Art also has its place in this scheme, for though it may not be intended for mere information transmittal, it does the potential to promote group unity, a characteristic necessary for tribal survival.

            However, after this lengthy discussion on past and current knowing, McCorduck barely touches on the future of knowing.  Very early in her article, she makes a very provocative statement: "The privileged position text has occupied in our schools, indeed in our intellectual lives is coming to an end" (245).  However, she barely elaborates on this statement.  She explains that computers will occupy part of the niche that text does or did, but then contradicts herself, stressing that though computers operate on a numeric basis, they present information in a mostly textual manner.

            Again making a statement without exploring it much,  McCorduck says, "The primacy of text is over, though text is hardly dead" (255).  She also mentions Barthes' assertion two decades ago that the author is dead.  Perhaps it is unfair to argue against such unelaborated statements, but I do not believe that text is in its eleventh hour, nor do I believe that the author is dead.  Were these assertions true, the Writing Center and English 221 would not exist, nor would Goucher's emphasis on writing in all disciplines.  And yes, computers may be on their way into academia, but still mostly in a textually or visually oriented format.  If text was not central to knowing, perhaps music or movement would play a larger role in knowing; however, they do not.  Perhaps they should occupy a larger niche, especially if one agrees with Gardner's ideas about multiple intelligences, but saying so does not make it so.

            Even though McCorduck does not completely elaborate upon the future of text and knowing, her article is by no means entirely without worth.  She delves into epistemological history and points out the dominant role of text in knowing.  In discussing "the primacy of text" (255), however briefly, she suggests that a paradigm shift in human knowing may be unfolding.  If that shift is occurring right now, perhaps it is unfair to demand that McCorduck understand it completely.  Her article succeeds at alerting the reader to the possibility of such a shift, so that they may watch for it themselves.  Mika Sam, 11/21/94