Annotated Bibliographies for Fall 1996
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[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.]
Olson, D.R. "Towards a psychology of literacy: on the relations between speech and writing." Cognition 60 (1996): 83‑104.PRIVATE
In his article on the relations between speech and writing,
Olson undertakes a grand project. He repudiates a long‑standing
belief, first introduced by Aristotle in his De interpretatione,
that written words are merely "signs of words spoken." Olson
argues that writing is not only a transcription of speech, but
it serves as a model for understanding various properties of
speech such as sentences, words, and phonemes. According to the
author, "the history of writing and the acquisition of literacy
are less matters of learning how to transcribe speech than a
matter of learning to hear and think about one's language in a
new way." In order to prove his argument, the author analyzes the
evolution of the script and shows that the history of scripts is
not a history of a linear ascent that ends with culmination of
discovering the alphabet, but rather a "by‑product of a series of
attempts to adapt a script to a language for which it is ill‑
suited." Thus, the author argues that the inventors of scripts
were not fully aware of the syntactic properties of speech before
they developed a writing system. Through the development of
scripts, they attempted to represent meaning rather than to
Having established the role of script, Olson then undertakes
a cognitive‑developmental method as the one described by Barritt
and Kroll. Just like Barritt and Kroll, he points out the
differences in the "cognitive pathways from thought to
expression" in writing and speech but also goes further and
traces the interactive link between the two modes of expression.
Following the cognitive‑developmental theory, the author examines
the process of learning to read in young children to prove that,
when they learn to read, they start hearing speech in a new way,
in terms of the alphabet with which they have become acquainted.
In a similar way, learning to read helps children understand
syntactic properties of language such as words and sentences.
Whereas, before learning to read, they see signs as a
representation of objects, afterwards, they realize that signs
are representations of words. Thus, "word‑based scripts provide a
model which allows a new consciousness of linguistic form."
Olson's article is important in that it evaluates the
positive impact of word‑based scripts on the ability to represent
meaning unambiguously. This ability is crucial to the development
of logics and "technical prosaic discourse." However, Olson warns
us, word‑based scripts have the downside of creating "blind
spots" by failing to capture some aspects of meaning. This
failure to fully represent meaning is often felt by writers in
their so‑called "planning" process, described by Flower and
Hayes. As Olson concludes, "the claim must not be that writing
only improves thought but rather that it tends to promote a
certain bias." Jenia Iontcheva, 9/15/96
Shulman, Polly. "We'll Always Have Parrots." Discover October 1996: 30‑37.
Polly Shulman's "We'll Always Have Parrots" is an excellent
humorous account of the modern struggle for creative looseness in
writing. She demonstrates the uncertainty, the irony, and the deep
motivation all wrapped up in the search for such inner flow. As one of
those moderns who has experienced the numbing of her own creativity at
home and in the workplace, she is able to vividly show how very
meaningful the search for the internal creative writer can be to a
person. Shulman's personal anecdotes and pithy assessments of
popular methods for contacting this creator within‑‑ the article
discusses these methods from finding a "spirit guide" to aid the creative
process to finding a scientist to increase the percentage of the brain generally
put to use‑‑ end in her wise resolution that the intense rush to engage
one's creative side may be unnecessary after all. If the writer is there
inside, it may only need to be quietly encouraged to come to the
surface. "There's no fighting inspiration," Shulman says. "You just
have to take what comes and go on walking along that dangerous road, keeping
yourself safe with your song." Jeannette Lareau, September 13, 1996
Aubry, Valerie. "Audience Options for High School Students with Difficulties in Writing." Journal of Reading. 38.6 (1995): 434‑442.
In this article, Aubry reports on her research comparing the
effects of different audience options for high school students with
difficulties in writing. Her research is based on a study involving
eight high school juniors and seniors with previously documented writing
difficulties. These students presented their work to a range of
audiences including "small groups of students, one of the teachers alone,
one individual student, and finally, themselves through the use of
videotape" (435). Aubry found that students could develop a sensitivity
to audience. This new ability increased the students' confidence and
independence in writing (435).
Aubry's research describes one factor in students' motivation to
write: their anticipated audience. In "A Cognitive Process Theory of
Writing," Flower and Hayes share Lloyd Bitzer's theory of communication,
which also includes one's audience as a significant contributor to the
way in which one expresses himself: "speech always occurs as a response
to a rhetorical situation, which he succinctly defines as containing an
exigency (which demands a response), an audience, and a set of
constraints" (365). Later in the essay, Flower and Hayes' example of the
English teacher's formation of content goals for addressing a teenage
female audience exemplifies the role of audience consideration in
writing. Aubry explains that high school students' writing suffers when
the teacher is the students' audience because students try so hard to
please the teacher that they "deny their ability to formulate and convey
their own thoughts" (434). According to her study, students prepare more
carefully when their audience includes other students (436). So, by
simply including other peers in the audience of students' writing, a
teacher can elicit higher quality writing. Aubry's study also reveals a
second benefit of peer audiences: After having a peer audience became
routine, students came to utilize their peers more often for feedback on
their writing, becoming less dependent on the teacher (442). Some
students were even more receptive to suggestions from their friends than
to those from the teacher because these students were more likely to ask
for clarification from their peers (441). This findng supports the
efficacy of peer writing tutor programs such as the Writing Center at
Goucher College. Christine Willingmyre, September 15, 1996
Miller, Hildy. “Sites of Inspiration: Where Writing is Embodied in Image and Emotion.” Presence of Mind: Writing and the Domain Beyond the Cognitive. Alice Glarden Brand and Richard L. Braves, ed.s. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, 1994. 113-124.
This chapter deals with the way in which mental images and sensations influence and are a part of the writing process. Miller notes that writing is so often thought of as a strictly verbal activity, detached from sensation or visual image. However some writers are able to enliven their words and bring them closer to sensation , imagery, or emotion. Miller describes her study, in which she tries to find out some roles of mental images in the writing process.
Her method consisted of having a number of students write samples, during the process of which they were stopped three times and asked to report on their thoughts at the moment before interruption. Students also filled out a questionnaire at the completion of their piece. Select students were then extensively interviewed (using standardized questions) about their outlooks and habits of writing, as well as their thought reports and questionnaires.
Miller found that images played at least a part in about half of the students’ thoughts while writing. Students who were really interested in what they were writing tended to give a visual form to their idea. Alternatively, students who were trying to muster some interest in their writing would give visual form and activity to their ideas, thereby making their words “come alive.” Some students used their writing to resolve emotions--although the actual piece may or may not have revealed this. In these cases, images charged with personal emotional significance resided in the minds of the writers as they composed. Moments of high emotion and imagery could either be distracting or helpful to the writing process, depending upon the student. Some writers even felt overwhelmed by the strong emotional or even physical sensations brought out by their writing assignment. In light of these findings Miller states the need to further examine how writers embody ideas in order to learn more about the role of images in the composing process.
Miller presents her expirimental method of thought-sampling in contrast to Flower and Hayes’ method of protocol recording--taping the writer as she is talking out all her thoughts as she composes a piece. It might be useful and interesting to both student and instructor to use these experimental methods as teaching devices. Students, in talking out their compositions, could gain a better idea of the effectiveness of their own process and a basis upon which to make developments or improvements. Teachers would gain insight into their students’ writing and could use the proocols to determine problem areas. Although time consuming and not universally suitable, these protocols could provide a non-grade-based feedback on students’ writing.
Miller’s findings indicated that students spurred their own interest in their writing by creating images for their ideas. This finding could be developed into activities to help unenthusiastic writers become inspired, or just to plain overcome writer’s block. Corinna Yost, 9/15/96
Salvatori, Mariolina. "Conversations with Texts: Reading in the Teaching of Composition." College English 58.4 (April 1996): 440‑454.
Salvatori discusses an aspect of composition which, as yet, we have not examined in class: the role of reading. She stresses reading as a means by which the reader can engage the text in a "conversation", questioning the argument(s) presented
and the author's mode of presentation. She ties in notions of reading and composing as extensions of the social activity of oral communication and examines reading as a crucial part of the composing process (though one that is generally separated from it). Salvatori breaks her article into four parts: historical context, theories of reading and writing as interconnected activities, theoretical justifications for focusing on the
interconnectedness of reading and writing, and countering objections.
Salvatori notes that the reading of compositions (including one's own) is important at all levels of writing proficiency, for the beginner and the experienced, the student and the teacher. However, she warns her audience against reading solely for the message of the work and then composing a regurgitation of what the reader perceives as the most important parts of the reading. Stressing a "concern for the 'acts' rather than 'facts' of reading", Salvatori says that the reader must "imagine a text's argument not as a position to be won and defended by one interlocuter at the expense of another, but rather as a 'topic' about which interlocuters generate critical questions that enable them to reflect on the meaning of knowledge and on the different processes of knowledge formation"(440). She suggests using reading "as a means of teaching 'writing'"(441), "of reading and writing as interconnected disciplines"(443). Salvatori wants the focus of reading to be shifted from something that is separated from writing and individualized to a method that is taught in conjunction with writing. She sees reading and writing as a type of conversation between the reader and the text. The reader must dissect, digest, and question the written work instead of taking it at face value or imitating it in a response to the work (441). This method of reading allows us to analyze, scrutinize, and reflect on our own reading and composing processes (445).
The last portion of Salvatori's article offers strategies for the teaching of the "interconnectedness" of reading and writing. A term she calls "critical self‑reflexivity" is what Salvatori claims we all need to explore and nurture. If we make use of this, Salvatori believes that teachers and students can better communicate and understand one another. She uses it to help her students improve, so that the class becomes a learning experience for all.
Salvatori also mentions two arguments of the opponents to her theory, those who believe that writing is a unique and individual experience of "creativity"(450) and those who view writing as a type of "cultural studies", an experience that should be shared by everyone(451). Salvatori claims that the agument for "creativity" ignores the question of "'how' it is that we tend to construct one and not another critical response to a text"(450). On the other hand, the "cultural studies" argument is based on the opposition to "human beings as independent, self‑relying subjectivities" as is encouraged by self‑reflexivity (451). Salvatori presents a convincing argument
for the need for critical self‑reflexivity, but certainly one that she hopes her readers will dissect and question.
I realize that my response to this article, being saturated with quotations, suggests that I have chosen to disregard Salvatori's argument, but I know that that is not the case. Though I was taught to do exactly what she hopes readers and composers will not do, her essay made me rethink the way that I read, especially with regard to the assignments for my classes. Some may think that there is not enough time to examine
thoroughly and question a text, but I can see that this method of reading lends itself to thought, discussion, and creativity. Examining a written work rather than passively accepting it definitely generates introspection about our reading and composing processes. Emily Christman, 9/17/96
Lakoff, Robin. "Chapter 2 / Talking Like a Lady." Language and Woman s Place
The second chapter of this book begins to go into detail about
Women's language. Lakoff brings up the topic of color discrimination using the
example, " The wall is mauve" (8). She notes that this statement would be a natural
thing for a woman to say, however if a man were to have taken note of such a
particular color discrimination, one might well conclude he was imitating a woman
sarcastically or was a homosexual or an interior decorator (8). Lakoff holds that most
men consider topics such as color petty and unimportant to their everyday lives and
are therefore judged when they do so. Lakoff concludes that Since women are not
expected to make decisions on important matters, such as what kind of job to hold,
they are relegated to the noncrucial decisions as a sop (9).
The next few pages include even more interesting comparisons between
men's and women's speech including stronger and weaker ways of expressing
how one feels. For example, Lakoff compares the phrase "oh dear" with "shit" to
further her point about what is considered acceptable language for the different
sexes(10). Because women are expected to keep to more conservative methods of expressing their emotions, a statement about a serious situation using a
trivializing particle becomes either a joke or very inappropriate (10). She uses the
examples: Oh fudge, my hair is on fire. and Dear me, did he kidnap the baby? (10) Though some of Lakoff s observations are dated, (the book was published in 1975) all of what she writes is highly fascinating, and most of it is undeniably true.
Indeed, this entire chapter is intriguing. Each one of Lakoff s points make me think to myself, Why yes, this is true! I even found myself guilty of laughing at
the examples of women s sentences that seem out of place when used by
men, and are often laughed at under certain circumstances. The only real
inconstancy (this one is especially dated) that I noted is that Lakoff uses the word him
to describe the speaker, and not he or she or one or the like. (Ex: The problem
is that, by so doing, a speaker may also give the impression of not being really sure of
himself, of looking to the addressee for confirmation, even of having no views of his
own (17). Unless this is some big trick and at the end of the book Lakoff comments
on her own usage of he etc., it is almost distracting that someone writing about
gender differences in language does not seem to notice such an obvious
differentiation. On the whole, however, this book is well worth looking into. It is
undoubtedly the most gripping reading I have had thus far in English 221.
Fay‑Ellen Ellwood, 9/22/96
Guzzetti, Barbara and Wayne O. Williams. "Changing the Pattern of
Gendered Discussion: Lessons from Science Classrooms."
Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 40:1 (Sept. 1996)
` The minor position of females in the field of science has
been a significant issue of concern among researchers of gender
politics. Guizzetti and Williams present a wonderful study of
factors that have shaped social and, in particular, educational
practices leading to "the tendency for boys to achieve more than
girls in science." Guizzetti and Williams have uncovered social
norms, teachers' strategies and student interactions that work to
sustain male domination in science classes. Although the authors
focus on the science classroom as their object of study, their
work has broader implications for educators in that it discusses
important problems such as the merits of a single‑sex classroom,
the role of the teacher in fostering gender equity among
students, and, in general, the impact of gender politics on
students' academic performance.
Furthermore, the research shows that "small groups do not
necessarily facilitate females' participation unless [the
students are] grouped by gender." Usually, males take the lead in
small groups by giving out orders and asking only assumptive
questions. Guzzetti and Williams also find an expressed
difference between the conversational styles of males and
females. Girls are found to be "more interactive, more concerned
about consensus, more willing to consider others' opinions, more
prone to question, and more likely to consult authority to settle
disagreements," whereas boys are found to be "more assertive and
aggressive and less likely to negotiate shared meanings."
Finally, one of the most significant discoveries of Guzzetti
and Williams is that "students are well aware of gender disparity
in classroom discussion." In fact, they are more aware of it than
their professor. Moreover, the data indicate that a greater
percentage of girls than boys are aware of gender differences in
the classroom. This finding is crucial in that it reveals that it
is social relationships, especially interactions among students
themselves that shape gender politics in the classrooms. In this
sense, as the authors correctly acknowledge, "the teachers not
only need to be concerned with their own language that fosters
inequity in discussion, but must also monitor their students'
ways of talking."
Guzzetti and Williams present some strategies for bridging
the gender gap in the science classroom. Teachers should
recognize power relationships based on gender in class
discussions, i.e., "rather than simply listening to what is being
said, teachers must also listen to how it is being said, and by
whom." They should also "group [students] by gender in small
groups for refutational discussions." This approach offers an
interesting alternative to the debate about a single‑sex versus
co‑ed education. It provides females with the opportunity to
experience the reality of a dual‑sex environment, yet it protects
them from the pressures of an enduring paternalistic culture by
allowing them to develop a sense of confidence and even
leadership in small all‑female discussion groups. Finally,
teachers are responsible for establishing rules of discussion
that foster girls' participation and "expand acceptable notions
of science" to cover "women's ways of doing and talking science
[by] valu[ing] intuition, intimacy, and insight," not just the
typically male science talk of "rationality..., propositional
knowledge and theoretical understanding."
Although Guzzetti and Williams concentrate on examining the
gender disparities in the science classroom and although the
authors might be faulted for drifting into some stereotypes about
male/female behavior ensuing from their largely empirical
approach to the problems, their study can be of use to writing
tutors. It can help us understand the gender relationships of the
classroom in general, not just the science classroom, and it can
help us relate better to some of the problems of our tutees, such
as the problem that Lakoff has recognized in the lack of
confidence and the insecurity in girls' writing (cited in
Guzzetti and Williams). As Brodkey has argued, we should not
ignore the effects of class, race, and gender on students'
academic performance and writing approaches. Rather, fostering a
discussion (or a writing mode) that addresses the impacts of
class, race, and/or gender, can often be helpful in unleashing a
student's energy and confidence to produce a strong and effective
writing, just like it has produced better performance for girls
in the science classrooms.--Jenia Iontcheva, 10/21/96
Burrows, Jackson, and Dorothy Saunders. They All Want to Write. 3rd ed. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964.
In "Writing and Growth," the final chapter of They All Want to
Write, the authors propose that teachers can "nurture the creative spirit
and at the same time to effect power in the use of writing skills"
(italics mine, 217). They explain that writing serves two purposes:
"that of artistic self‑expression and that of communicating functional
ideas" (218). The authors maintain that these two purposes are not
antagonistic as many others argue they are. We do not have to sacrifice
either purpose for the other. It is the integration of the artistic and
utalitarian functions of writing into one's writing styles that marks a
mature, successful writer. Plus, fulfilling each of these purposes of
writing helps develop the writer's identity and self‑confidence.
Therefore, "it is equally important to accept a child's own form for his
personal expresson and to help him learn conventional forms for practical
writing" (222). By encouraging both personal and practical writing,
teachers accomplish this dual goal.
Through personal writing a child grows by expressing his
cretivity and releasing his tension. This writing needs to meet only the
child's standards. The goal of personal writing is not in the product
but in the process. The energy and pride that creative action generates
creates a new and stronger person. Therefore, the role of the teacher in
developing children's personal writing skills is simply to provide him
with new experiences upon which he can base his writing and to completely
accept and respect all of his writing of this form. Correction of
personal writing is unnecesary because a flawless product is not the goal
of personal writing.
Practical writing also helps the child to grow. The acquisition
of this ability gives the writer a sense of pride and power. Some
people, including myself, "who cannot lose themselves in flights of
of this ability gives the writer a sense of pride and power. Some
people, including myself, "who cannot lose themselves in flights of
invention find their greatest satisfaction in the graciously worded
socail letter or in the unmistakeably clear report. For them, this is a
real outlet, no less worthwhile than lyric, phantasy, or enchanting
story" (220). I think the authors are correct in their assessment of why
some children prefer practical writing to persoanl writing: "A child can
be more certain that his product is good in the usual, conventional
sense. . . For some uncertain souls this assurance is necessary and
productive of their further strength in writing as well as further
self‑confidence and security" (220).
Teachers of young children must take advantage of children's
enthusiasm for both personal an practical writing. Young children are
generally uninhibited in their expression of their creativity and can
really "get into" personal writing in a way with which many older writers
do not feel comfortable. Plus, young children love the power they feel
by being able to communicate with others in practical writing. Learning
to appreciate and enjoy both personal and practical writing at a young
age leads to successful adult writers.--Christine Willingmyre, October 16, 1996
Zimmerman, Barry J., and Albert Bandura. "Impact of Self‑Regulatory Influences on Writing Course Attainment." American Educational Research Journal 31 (1994): 845‑862.
Barry Zimmerman and Albert Bandura present their findings on one
aspect of writing in "Impact of Self‑Regulatory Influences on Writing
Course Attainment." They measured the perceived self‑efficacy of a group
of 95 college freshman and related this to the students' achievement in
their writing class. To measure beliefs about personal efficacy to
regulate writing activities, they had students rate their perceived
competency on various skills conducive to effective writing, such as the
ability to construct a good opening sentence quickly and the ability to
concentrate on writing even when there are distractions around. They
also measured the students' perceived self efficacy for general academic
achievement by having students rate "the strength of their belief that
they could achieve each of 12 academic grades ranging from A to F
including + and ‑ graduations" (851). Students were also asked to rate
how satisfied they would be with each of these 12 grades spans and what
their grade goals for the writing course were.
Zimmerman and Bandura found that "perceived self‑regulating
efficacy for writing influenced both perceived self‑efficacy for academic
achievement and self‑evaluative standards, which, in turn, were linked to
grade goals. Perceived academic self‑efficacy affected writing grade
achievement both directly and indirectly through its impact on personal
goal setting" (855). Thus, the more assured a student feels of his
writing ability, the more confident he is about his academic
achievement. Considering the integral role of writing in most
college‑level courses, this makes sense. When students are confident
about their ability to manage their writing, they set higher goals for
themselves and are not satisfied with substandard performance. Higher
goals generally lead to higher achievement. Surprisingly, verbal
aptitude did not directly influence writing course grades. However, it
did affect "writing grade achievement indirectly through its effect on
self‑evaluation standards" (855).
So what does this mean for writing teachers? First, it
demonstrates how important perceived self‑regulatory efficacy for writing
is to students' overall academic success. English teachers have an
important job: they must build students' ability to self‑regulate their
writing. How should they do this? First, Zimmerman and Bandura advise
teachers to make "diagnostic assessments of students' self‑regulatory
efficacy for writing at the outset of the course" (858). By doing this,
teachers can provide instruction on the specific areas in which their
students feel deficient. Zimmerman and Bandura report that "students
registered the weakest sense of efficacy to stick to academic activities
when there were other interesting things to do" (858). Thus, teaching
students to motivate themselves should be a primary goal for teachers.
By increasing students' self‑regulatory efficacy for writing in the
specific areas which students find difficult, teachers will indirectly
improve students' overall academic achievement.--Christine Willingmyre
September 28, 1996
Welch, Nancy. "Resisting the Faith: Conversion, Resistance, and the Training of Teachers." College English April 1993: 55.
Nancy Welch's "Resisting the Faith: Conversion, Resistance, and the
Training of Teachers" (College English, vol.55, April 1993) is a
passionate, subtle account of writers' struggle to make real progress in
their chosen field without "let[ting] their language slip into easy,
seductive conversion metaphors." (399) In the article Welch relates her
own experiences in switching from a college that strongly promoted a
freewriting approach to composition (University A), to one that promoted
the view of composition as a form of combat rather than a form of
dialogue (University B). She explores writers' relationships to the
Institution, or "a powerful group of insiders we must both struggle to
join and try to change" (390); she uses this concept of an Institution
to describe the blatantly combative conversional tactics preferred by
the University B, and then demonstrates its quieter, still powerful role
in the teachings at University A. While teacher‑training at University
B was based on the understanding of learning as conversion (388), or a
highly politicized process close to indoctrination, teacher‑training at
University A taught what seemed to be the opposite: "stargazing"
(meaning exploration of topics not necessarily planned as part of the
curriculum) was promoted in the classroom, there were highly interactive
workshops, and the "process" approach to learning supported the
impression that learning was "exploration, reflection, and exchange."
The content of University A's teacher‑training program might have been
more polite, and more palatable for humanistically oriented future
teachers, but that program, laments Nancy Welch, did not invite its
participants to question its underlying assumptions any more than the
program at University B did. And, says Welch, although she left
University B without having been converted to its rather harsh outlook
on learning and had retained the beliefs she had collected at University
A, she did leave with "an awareness of her assumptions as assumptions."
I believe that an extremely important, extremely subtle point is
covered with some efficiency in this article. Nancy Welch is not
striking out to defend University A, the school whose teacher‑training
programs she personally prefers and utilizes. She is not out to rip
down University B for its strict dogma contradicting her personal
beliefs, and she is not out to say that there are a good and an evil at
war here in the form of "personal freedom" (University A freewriting)
and "bondage" ( University B "ideal teacher" molding). She does not see
the situation to be so clearly defined. There are many different views
of writing and Language, all of them based on assumptions that come from
personal histories with family, Institution, and infinite other factors;
these views may be accepted as being valid in their own way, and not as
subject to any larger organization, because they in turn interpret and
evaluate the larger organizations just as they are interpreted and
evaluated by those organizations. University teacher‑training programs
can urge their participants to think critically of all input to which
they are exposed, but they cannot do so if they have divided writers
against one another‑‑ talented versus untalented, enlightened versus
unenlightened, practical versus impractical, right versus wrong.--Jeannette Lareau
September 29, 1996
Salvatori Mariolina. "Conversations with Texts: Reading in theTeaching of Composition." College English 58‑4 (Apr 1996): 440‑454.
In "Conversations with Texts: Reading in the Teaching of
Composition," Mariolina Salvatori discusses the importance of
teaching reading and writing as interconnected processes. Her
justification for concentrating on the interconnectedness of
reading and writing is that such a method develops "one of the
most fundamental human activities‑ critical self‑reflexivity."
Salvatori begins her article by presenting the foundations
of her theory‑ a method of reading promoted by Hans‑Georg
Gadamer. This method is an "art of dialectic," an "art of
questioning," and a "hermeneutical conversation with a text‑" a
conversation "that can only begin and be sustained if and when
the reader/ interlocutor reconstructs and critically engages the
"question," or the argument that the text itself might have been
occasioned by or be an answer to." Salvatori slightly ammends
this theory of "interactive reading" to propose a similar one of
"introspective reading." The latter theory encourages the
teaching of reading "as an opportunity to investigate knowledge‑
producing practices." In the course of a three‑step strategy,
students are asked "first to write their response to a text,
second to construct a reflective commentary on the moves they
made as readers and the possible reasons for them, and third to
formulate an assessment of the particular text their reading
produced." Salvatori uses this strategy with the hope to make
students cognizant of the processes they go through in reaching
certain conclusions about a text: "how [their] thinking ignites
and is ignited by thoughts of others" and "what intricacy of
strands in a text's arguments" they pay most attention to and
how that affects their analysis. Another interesting component
of Salvatori's approach is that she asks students "to reflect on
the kind of argument that the assignment's frame invites readers
to construct about the text and the kinds of arguments that it
simultaneously closes off." Such exercises allow the students to
discern "the limits and the possibilities of how they choose to
structure an argument." Moreover, the exercises compel the
students to monitor the different procedures the latter
undertake in the different phases of text analysis. This enables
the students to engage in the "interactive reading" Gadamer
calls for: first they analyze the text, and then they analyze
their own analysis of the text in order to see yet more ways to
approach the reading.
Salvatori also briefly discusses some critiques to her
approach only to dismiss them as limited in a certain way. The
"creative writing theory" rejects Salvatori's methods as a
"critical dissection," contradictory to creativity. The
supporters of the "creative writing" theory claim that reading
is usually "dream‑like and intuitive" and should not be
"dissected" by dry techniques. Salvatori dismisses the argument
as elitist and contends that reading is not always a "magical"
process. While some texts might induce a "magical" reading in
some students, the effect would hardly be the same on all
readers. The "cultural studies" critique blames Salvatori's
theory for fostering "the illusion of human beings as
independent, self‑relying objectivities" and for paying too much
"depoliticizing attention to form." Salvatori responds to that
with the argument that teaching "critical reflexivity" does not
necessarily interfere with the investigation of texts in their
social and political context. I would add that, in the contrary,
the development of "critical self‑reflexivity" can only help
readers in their exploration of a work in its social and
It is commendable that Salvatori discusses the critiques of
her approach. Thus, she reveals features that could otherwise be
seen as limitations of her theory. As "interactive reading"
teaches us, the acknowledgment of possible limitations of a
certain approach makes us able to explore many more
opportunities for understanding a text, a strategy, or a system.
In that sense, teaching "critical self‑reflexivity" has great
implications for composition teachers and for tutors. If
students are urged to analyze their assignments and their
approaches to various texts in light of Salvatori's theory, they
can significantly expand their views on how to investigate a
reading and an assignment. This will certainly lead to a more
comprehensive exploration of texts, encompassing more than just
the primary biases of a writer.--Jenia Iontcheva, 9/30/96
Hoff, Laurie, R. "From Omnipotent Teacher‑in‑Charge to Co‑Conspirator in the Classroom: Developing Lifelong Readers and Writers." English Journal October 1994: 42‑50.
In this article, Laurie Hoff shares her experiences in creating
and implementing a "program that would entice reluctant students to
become competent lifelong readers and writers" (49). She first observed
that her old teaching methods were no longer working with her students
because most of them viewed reading and writing as boring and frustrating
tasks that they had to put up with in order to graduate. Many teachers
attend workshops and read educational journals, but don't apply what they
learn because most teachers are as resistant to major change as they rest
of us. However, by incorporating the findings of current educational
researchers into her program, Hoff made significant progress toward her
goal of creating lifelong readers and writers. First, Hoff had
to create an appropriate classroom environment for her program. She
created a user‑friendly "studio for learning" by replacing the standard
desks with couches, bean‑ bag chairs and other furniture she found at
thrift stores. She made all of the supplies a student might need for
writing and reading (paper, pencils, white‑out, books, etc.) available in
the classroom. During the first few days of class, Hoff concentrated on
building mutual respect and trust with the students. She listened to the
students and let them participate in creating the curriculum, classroom
activities and assessment procedures. One method that she used that I
thought was very good was to have the students, as a class, develop a
list of the qualities of a "good"teacher and a "good" student. Hoff
then used these descriptions to develop teacher/student agreements that
both the teacher and the students signed. A typical class tarted with a
5 to 10‑minute "mini‑lesson" focussing on one specific aspect of reading
or writing. Then the students were allowed to individually choose how
they wanted to spend their "workshop time." They could, for example,
read a book of their choice or try out a new style of writing. Students
were responsible for assessing their own work. In the beginning of each
quarter, students received a grade rubric listing the required work. At
the end of the quarter, students would discuss their portfolios with the
teacher in a conference.
As a student, how would I feel about this class? I think it
would take me a while to get used to. I would be wondering, "Where's the
trick?" However, once I got into it, I would see how much I would
actually be accomplishing and would better understand the purpose of the
class. Grading myself would make me nervous because I have gotten so
dependent on grades as a primary source of reinforcement for writing. I
think the "mini‑lesson" is a wonderful idea. Even as a successful
student, my attention starts drifting about 5 to 10 minutes of
instruction. Hoff found that her students "were able to learn and retain
more information after 10 minutes than if I had spent the entire hour on
the lesson!" (47). I can understand how this is true!
I also like the idea of allowing the student personal choice in
terms of reading and writing. Learning is so much more enjoyable and
exciting when we are learning about something that interests us. I'm
taking this wonderful psychology class now that has reminded me how
thrilling learning can be. I come back from class excited and really get
into the readings because the topic interests me. It' sad that I don't
feel this way about all of my classes. However, I think that we also
need to learn about things that we wouldn't choose to learn about on our
own. First, we might learn that the subject actually doe interest us.
Also, we become more informed, well‑rounded people by studying things
that do not necessarily interest us. For example, I think history is
terribly boring, but I'm glad that I've been required to take
historyclasses anyway. I doubt that I would have chosen to study history
if I had not been required to. So, although I admire the idea of giving
students personal choice in their learning, I also think that there
should be some general requirements for everyone. ChristineWillingmyre
October 5, 1996
Lakoff, Robin. Language and Woman's Place, Chapter 3: "Talking About Women"
In this chapter, Lakoff continues to explain that certain
elements of vocabulary are demeaning to women and or derive from sexist
or unequal connotation. Near the opening of the chapter, she discusses
the use of the word _lady_ in the place of woman in conversation. _Lady_ is
"the more colloquial word: it is less apt to be used . . . in discussing
serious matters" (22). Lakoff holds that when _lady_ is used in job
terminology, the lower the status of the occupation, the more likely it
is that the female employed will be referred to as _lady_. For example,
_cleaning lady_ is socially accepted and "appropriate," whereas, _garbage
gentleman_ is unheard of (23). As far as I'm concerned, this is, for the
most part, generally true.
Until now, Lakoff has been making mostly observations, though
dated, about certain sexist characteristics of the English language; I
have only been interpreting her opinion through the text. As the book
unfolds, however, her dated opinion emerges quite blatantly. Some of it
I agree with, yet I feel free to attack her on certain points that
have been proven wrong by contemporary fact. Lakoff holds fast to the
notion that woman contains so much sexual connotation that its use is
"embarrassing" or inappropriate in certain settings. Thus, "we may
expect that, in the future, lady will replace woman as the primary word
for the human female, since woman will have become too blatantly sexual"
(26). This, of course, has not taken place, so it gives me a sense of
wicked pleasure to attack such a poorly thought out prediction.
It is at this point in the text that Lakoff reveals her true
colors about men. Many feminists, including myself, consider women and
men to be equal. Lakoff is of another opinion: "A little thought should
convince anyone that, in fact, it is men who are self‑centered and
egocentric and that women's seeming vanity is not that at all" (27).
Though women are the wronged sex in this analyzation of vocabulary, let's
not make hasty generalizations! Lakoff further adds that "[i]n fact, men
are the vain sex. Men may derive pleasure directly from their own
works. Men do things purely for their own satisfaction, not caring
nearly so much how it will look to others. This, surely, is the true
egocentricity" (27‑28). It is unfortunate that all of the praiseworthy
observations that Lakoff had been making until now are jaded by her
degrading sexist opinions.
Lakoff's opinion grows still further from mine as she addresses
the subject of pronominal neutralization. Lakoff contradicts
herself by stating it is best to use the masculine pronoun to represent
an individual in a mixed gender group. She points out that this is an
element of English, as well as in other languages, that is
too deeply integrated into the language to practically try to remedy.
The use of _their_ instead of _his_, she notes, is frowned upon by
grammatical authorities, however she never suggests the possibility of a
sentence such as "Everyone take his [and her] seat" (44). Had no one
thought of that at this time? Although I again have the advantage of
reading this twenty years later after certain changes in grammar have
taken place, I continue to hold some of Lakoff's opinions against her.
Ultimately, however, her study, no matter how opinionated, has sparked my
interest and it is because of this book that I hope to continue research
in this area.--Fay‑Ellen Ellwood, 10/5/96
Nancy Sommers, "I Stand Here Writing" College English 55 (April 1993) 420‑428.
Meanwhile, aside from its theoretical implications, life inside the system of constructs humanity has exchanged for individual and communal God‑ consciousness continues. Life, full of runny noses and ironing and bad hair days, afternoon snacks and sunny Saturdays and warm socks. Is the confusion between human nature and human illusion really necessary for human survival? Do we have, or did we once have, collective needs and instincts that relate(d) us to something larger than our surface‑oriented lives as a child is related to a parent‑‑ do we need to feel locked into an inescapable format, a hug, a Grammar? Do we deny the fact that we ourselves are responsible for such a Grammar, or do we claim that this Grammar is the only one of its kind that could arise from human contemplation? Will humans crumble and fall without their societies, on which they have become so dependent? Should we talk about the possibility of infinite diversity and the falsehood of society *only in the context of mass communication and self‑exploration,* only on the way to a reformed set of cultural boundaries that reflect a reformed sense of what confinement we wish to embrace? Should life be wasted in complaining about the fact that much of what we are taught to revere is suspect, or should we, as Joseph Harris says, "...accustom ourselves to dealing with contradictions, instead of seeking a theory that appears to abrogate them?"(Graves 276) Are we capable, and should we be capable, of distinguishing between dream and reality? (I remind you, Harris says that *healthy* discourse systems, like *healthy* humans, are full of contradictions. He does not say normal, he says healthy.)
In this essay, Nancy Sommers describes her life's changes through childhood, adulthood, parenthood, learning and teaching, writing and speaking, and, most of all, reflecting. She tells of the delicacy and personal nature of writing, inadvertently backing the writer‑ based method of composition. In one example, she tells of a boy who discovers *by pointing out and examining* the barriers and boundaries that humans set for themselves, chronicles "an intellectual journey" and "makes connections among the sources that circulate within him...;" this excellently demonstrates the benefit of philosophy, the helpfulness of questioning every single piece of information one has ever assimilated in order to know that it is indeed assimilated, not instinctive. The instinctive, natural, *healthy* part of the potent dreaming process is the added dimension it gives to everyday life when indistinguishably combined with what I believe to be, and have spoken of as, human nature. Sommers ends her essay with these words: "Having the courage to live with uncertainty, ambiguity, even doubt, we can walk into all of those fields of writing...We need only be inventors, we need only give freely and abundantly to the texts, imagining even as we write that we too will be a source from which other readers can draw sustenance." We do indeed invent and imagine as humans, more than we realize. This last statement of the author supports the audience‑ based method of writing, implying that our writing for our own satisfaction, our own delicate fulfillment, is actually our means of furthering the society in which we find ourselves dreaming. If our writings are going to touch society regardless of our denials, and if our society is determined to hold us forever, writers ought to be very careful with their craft. Life should be balanced and respected and appreciated for what we have made it, if there can be nothing else.
If life is not necessarily destined to be ruled by society, and we can indeed loose it to fit our natures instead of our constructs, who knows what the truth will be?
Wadlington, Elizabeth, Shirley Jacob, and Sandra Bailey. "Teaching Students with Dyslexia in the Regular Classroom." Childhood Education Fall 1996: 2‑5.
All regular education teachers should read "Teaching Students with Dyslexia in the Regular Classroom." In the past, when a student had a learning disability, he was pulled out into a special education classroom for help. However, the movement today in education is toward inclusion. In fact, Public Law 94‑142 gives students the right to be educated in the least restrictive environment, which means children with
disabilities must be educated with non‑ disabled children to the maximum
extent possible. Since about 10‑15 percent of the general population has
dyslexia (2), teachers should be familiar with the characteristics of
dyslexia and with the teaching strategies that are effective for children
with dyslexia. This article provides this information in a concise, understandable form.
At first it seems unreasonable to expect teachers to make the
numerous special accommodations and modifications that students with
learning disabilities need. However, all students can benefit from the
suggestions for teachers of students with dyslexia provided in this
article. The authors of this article differentiate between children with
learning disabilities [who "often do significantly well in some areas but
very poorly in others" (3)] and slow learners [who "consistently perform
at below‑average levels in most areas" (3)]. However, in "Response to
Historical Perspective: A Developmental Language Perspective," Kamhi
makes the valid point that "all children will probably be better served
if the teacher assumes that the learning problem is not specific to
reading (i.e., word recognition)" (51). Most of the recommendations in
"Teaching Students with Dyslexia in the Regular Classroom" are general
teaching strategies from which all children could benefit. For example,
all children learn better from and enjoy the multisensory methods that
the National Teacher Education Initiative Task Force identified as
effective for children with dyslexia.
According to the Bowman Gray Program Project, "dyslexic readers
need highly structured, explicit and intensive instruction in phonics
rules and their application to print. They profit from building a base
of phonetically regular words before learning nonphonetic sight words"
(4). Thus, the whole language approach encouraged so strongly by today's
educational researchers is not the most effective technique for teaching
reading to children with dyslexia. These children learn better when they
are directly taught the rules that certain groups of words follow. I
wonder whether children with dyslexia would similarly benefit more from
learning the formal rules of grammar (Grammar 2, according to Patrick
Hartwell in "Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar") than from
picking up these rules through actively "manipulating language in
meaningful contexts" (Hartwell, 178). Hartwell advocated the latter
method for teaching students in general, but perhaps students with
dyslexia would profit more from direct and structured instruction of
grammar. --Christine Willingmyre, October 24, 1996
Needles, Margaret, and Michael Knapp. "Teaching Writing to Children Who Are Underserved." Journal of Educational Psychology 86 (1994): 339‑349.
In "Teaching Writing to Children Who Are Underserved," Needles and Knapp
present their findings on a sociocognitive approach to writing. This approach proves to be a potentially successful method of writing instruction for these
students. It varies from the most common approach used today for teaching writing to children from low‑income families, the skill‑based perspective, by including some components of this perspective in addition to some from the whole language perspective.
Advocates of the skill‑based perspective recommend direct instruction of "the
discrete skills of written expression ‑ spelling, sentence structure, paragraph
construction, and other facets of grammar, word usage, or composition" (339‑340). The authors cite research which shows that this explicit and structured
method of writing instruction is especially beneficial to students of low income
families and of nonmainstream cultural backgrounds. This technique would include
instruction on the rules of "Grammar 2" as criticized by Hartwell in "Grammar, Grammar and the Teaching of Grammar."
The whole language perspective, on the other hand, is similar to the
method of instruction that Hartwell advocates in his article. According to this
theory, written theory, written language is best learned through active manipulation in meaningful contexts.
The sociocognitive perspective incorporates some aspects of both the
skills‑ based perspective and the whole language perspective in addition to other
components. According to this theory, "literacy involves not only the
acquisition of reading and writing skills but also 'a way of thinking and speaking'"
(340). The new element of this theory is the focus on the role of social interaction in the development of writing. Application of the sociocognitive theory unites the other two theories by including "direct instruction in needed skills and strategies within the context of an authentic task" (340).
To test the effectiveness of the sociocognitive perspective, the
authors first developed a list of the six most important components of this theory:
1. Component skills are best learned within the context of the writing task
2. The quality of children's writing increases when school‑assigned
writing tasks are meaningful and authentic
3. Children's fluency and competence in writing are influenced by the
degree to which the task connects to the child's background and experiences
4. When children are allowed to interact while performing writing tasks,
their involvement and learning are increased
5. Children develop competence in writing when they approach writing as a
problem‑solving process 6. Ample opportunities to write extended text help children develop writing competence
The authors then compared the writing proficiency of students who were taught
writing by various approaches, including the three discussed above. A
substantial substantial percentage of children the classes studied were from families with low incomes.
Although the research was correlational and thus does not prove
cause and effect, the findings show that "the more that writing instruction displays
sociocognitive features, the more it is associated with high levels of
writingcompetence. Conversely, the less these features are in evidence ‑ which
means that writing instruction conforms more closely to the premises of the skill‑based perspective ‑ the lower the levels of writing competence" (347). Educational researchers currently advocate the sociocognitive method of writing
instruction for most students. However, they recommend the skill‑based method forstudents of families of low incomes. This research suggests that the sociocognitive approach may be the most effective method of writing instruction
for all students. Christine Willingmyre, November 1, 1996
Sperling, Melanie. "Revisiting the Writing‑Speaking Connection:
Challenges for Research on Writing and Writing Instruction."
Review of Educational Research 66‑1 (Spring 1996), pp.53‑86.
Research on the composition process and on writing
instruction has acknowledged the intrinsic connections between
speaking and writing. Melanie Sperling examines the relationship
between those two modes of communication by reviewing research
that perceives these relationships in two contrasting ways. Some
researchers argue that writing differs from speaking, while
others contend that writing and speaking and inherently similar
modes of communication. After looking into both positions,
Sperling concludes that neither theory in itself can present a
sufficient explanation of the writing process, and thus neither
theory can by itself serve as an adequate basis for a "useful
pedagogy" of composition. Nevertheless, both approaches offer
meaningful insights into the writing process, and, therefore,
they should not be overlooked.
Sperling conducts her study with a strong conviction that
"we can understand how students learn and develop as writers by
considering writing against the backdrop of speaking, that is,
the two language modes, writing and speaking, are mutually
informing, and writers and speakers have much to learn from each
other." Further, the author examines writing "variously as text,
cognitive process, and sociocultural construction." This strategy
renders her analysis to be well‑rounded and in‑depth.
The first theory of the writing‑speaking relationship
reviewed by Sperling stresses the difference between writing and
speaking. Such research suggests that "writing is more complex
than speaking, being comprised, for example, of more subordinate
clauses, elaborations, abstractions, sentence‑combining
transformations, embeddings, and passive verb forms."
Accordingly, students have to adapt to the challenging complex
requirements of the written language. Bartholomae and other
researchers, who discuss the requirements posed by discourse
communities, would fall into the category of proponents of the
thesis that writing and speaking are different and that writing
is the more complex and more demanding mode of expression. To
quote Sperling, "these researchers generally conclude that to
serve students who for cultural, social, or linguistic reasons
are not "naturally" conversant with such discourse, the academy
must explicitly teach its characteristics."
The second theory of the relationship between writing and
speaking focuses more on the commonaliites between the two
communicative modes. As Sperling notes, this theory "rests
largely on the metaphor that writing, like speaking, is a
conversational act." Thus, the author continues:
researchers who take this position help to shape the
belief that readers are to writers what listeners are
to speakers... Adhering to this position, researchers
often emphasize ways that speaking supports writing,
with particular focus on ways that conversation
supports the process of learning to write.
This position is reflected in theories of peer tutoring, like the
ones expounded by Bruffee, North and Clark, whereby a
conversation with a tutor is said to lead to a clarification of
the student's writing and, eventually, to a better prose. Also,
viewed in the light of this theory, elliptical and unsuccesful
writer‑based prose can be seen as a reflection of "much overt,
face‑to‑face conversation, in which, for example, interlocutors
help supply one another with context and connection during
communication." Thus, we can speculate that a letter between
Tolstoy's characters, who communicated deep and complex thoughts
with only a few words, would have been just as subtle and
nebulous as their metacognitive conversations were. The theory of
the similarity between speaking and writing also views the issue
of the requirements of the academic community from a different
angle. Supporters of the theory believe that:
a writer's knowledge of his or her audience improves
his or her writing... In this context, the writer‑
audience relationship is thus confounded with the
institutionally rooted teacher‑student relationship in
which students as writers learn (or do not learn) to do
what the teacher, as an authority, wants.
The inherent tendency of students to attempt to shape their text
to the specific requirements (as they understand them) of their
audience, i.e., their teacher, has been shown by McCarthy in her
case study of a college student grappling with writing in
different disciplines. A distorted view of the audience is a
common occurence and leads to inadequate prose, and, therefore,
seeing writing requirements as requirements of a broad discourse
community rather than a specific person, can be a valuable
complementary technique in shaping one's prose.
Sperling ends her analysis with many provocative questions,
opening the door to further research. Be it open‑ended, her
article provides us with a well‑rounded and insightful
representation of different positions on writing. It prompts us
to think whether and how we should integrate different theories
of composing, and confirms the inherent connections between
opening the door to further research. Be it open‑ended, her
article provides us with a well‑rounded and insightful
representation of different positions on writing. It prompts us
to think whether and how we should integrate different theories
of composing, and confirms the inherent connections between
writing and speaking and the invariable importance of the teacher
in writing instruction and of the social context in shaping the
written discourse. As a conclusion, it seems to me that, in the
writing center, we have integrated many of elements from the two
theories of the writing‑speaking relationships. Thus, we
acknowledge and utilize the similarity of writing and speaking in
the tutoring sessions; on the other hand, we also see writing as
a complex process, as something that should be taught, and we
recognize the express demands of the academic community. In other
words, while we acknowledge the differences between writing and
speaking, we also search for common ground between the two modes
in order to find successful strategies to help students who do
not yet feel comfortable in the field of writing. --Jenia Iontcheva , 11/4/96
Woolf, Virginia. "Women and Fiction" in The Feminist Critique of Language edited by Deborah Cameron. New York : Routledge, 1990.
This critique of language, first published in 1929,
lays the foundation for exploration of the male‑dominated roots of
language. The first quesion that Woolf addresses is: why have women
written mostly fiction? Notable women writers have been few and far
between (Sappho, Murasaki). Finally by the end of the eighteenth
century women began to write substantial novels. Austen, Eliot, and the
Bronte sisters were making tracks, but they were not yet publishing
non‑fiction or ample amounts of profound poetry. A woman in the ninteenth
century "lived almost solely in
her home and her emotions" (35) and therefore was not allowed the
experience of war and the world as men were. Woolf would agree with
the article we read on a blind writers' inability to write to their
fullest potential. A woman of this time simply had a limited subject
vocabulary a writer as because she was denied the chance to have worldly
experience. Logically, their novels were primarially about emotions, marriage, and
home life because they didn't have the opportunity to sail and fight.
I am quite interested in what Woolf has to say about what men and
women preceve as their different values. The follwing paragraph reminds me
directly of Deborah Tannen's angle in her book _You Just Don't Understand_ that I
previously reviewed. Like Tannen, Woolf understands that men and women
view the world differently:
"It is probable, however, that both in life and in art the values
of a woman are not the values of a man. Thus, when a woman comes to
write a novel, she will find that she is perpetually wishing to alter the
established values ‑ to make serious what appears insignificant to a man,
and trivial and what is to him important. And for that, of course, she
will be critized; for the critic of the opposite sex will be genuinely
puzzzled and surprsed by an attempt to alter the current scale of values,
and will see in it not meerly a difference of view, but a view that is
weak, or trivial, or sentimental, becaue it differs from his own" (37).
This idea of the different experiences of men and women as reason for
their differing attitudes and therefore writings about life is clearly
not a dated phenemon. Both Woolf and Tannen have shown me that women
and men do indeed, even now, experience life somewhat differently. As
much as I'm a feminist advocate of equality between men and women, there
are certain differences betwen a man's and a woman's expereince in
society that will continue to be present.
We can appluad Woolf further because her predictions are becoming
reality. More women are indeed becoming poets and addressing such
questions as have to do with endeavors beyond those of the home (the
meaning of life, for example). We must not forget that it was in the
earlier part of this very century that women were forced into domestic life; they were
denied rooms of their own. Woolf hopefully and realistically predicts
that the woman's novel "will become, more than at present, a work of art
like any other, and its resources and its limitations will be explored. .
. They will make a fuller and a more subtle use of the instrument of
writing. Their technique will become bolder and richer" (39). All of
this needed to take place before a gateway could be opened for women to
make a place in the prose world. Therefore, it was not until this began
to take place that reason to discuss contrasts in the conversation and
writings of women and men could arise. Neat! Fay-Ellen Ellwood, 11/4/96
Spender, Dale. "Extracts from Man Made Language" and Black, Maria and Rosalind Coward, "Linguistic, social and sexual relations: a review of Dale Spender's Man Made Language in The Feminist Critique of Language edited by Deborah Cameron. New York : Routledge, 1990.
Dale Spender states that "Human beings cannot impartially
describe the universe because in order to describe it they must first have
a classification system. But, paradoxically, once they have that
classification system, once they have a language, they can see only
certain arbitrary things"(103). I believe this passage is key to
explaining one of Spender's main points: it is because of our natural
tendancy to need to classify in language that we tend to view and describe
the world through this lens that we create. At the same time it gives us freedom
to express, it restricts us. We even go so far as to fear change or
alterations, no matter how vague, to those standards which we have
created and set. Spender refers to this as "a language trap" (105).
language trap which is in their interest" (106). The lock on the trap is
tight, because, as afore expressed, we are somehow stuck in
our set systems of defining the world, even if some of the terms no
longer hold substantial validity. By the end of this selection, Spender
has decided that the inadequate naming of the world is entirely the
fault of men: "But because it has been males who have named the world, no
such choice exists and the falseness of the partial names they have
supplied goes unchecked" (109). I don't think I would go so far as to
say it is all men's fault. Let's see what Spender's critics have to say.
Black and Coward appreciate Spender's contributation to the
feminist exploration of language. The problem that Black and Coward have
with Spender's work is that it often does not go over and beyond
answering questions that have been asked before her; she raises some
interesting ones of her own, but she is poorly informed on certain topics.
Black and Coward do much to explain and clarify some of Spenders ideas.
Although Spender discusses the different effect of language for men and
women, she, as opposed to Robin Lakoff, "does not suggest that women speak
a different language" than men, they just experience, and therefore
explain the world differently. Black and Coward make reference to a
discussion on childbirth in Spenders book in which Spender explains that
men define childbirth, with no reference to pain, as a truly satisfying
event in a woman's life. When women talk of labor, however, they will
not refrain from referring to it as just that. This reminds me of
another commentary on gender differences found in (brownie points for
Fay‑Ellen) Chaucer's The Wife of Bath's Tale. In mentioning the lion and
man fable, the perceptive Wife of Bath notes that when men tell the tales they will
be of men victoriously killing lions, but if the lions had been telling
the stories, they would of course have been about lions killing men. But
as it has been in the world that Spender describes, it was the men who told
the story, and therefore it is their words that remain as dominant; their words have built the iron bars that trap our language.--Fay-Ellen Ellwood, 11/4/96
Harris, Muriel. "Talking in the Middle: Why Writers Need Writing Tutors." College English Jan. 1995: 27‑42.
In this article Muriel Harris aims to demonstrate the unique benefits students can derive from the tutoring experience. She argues that because of inherent problems in the student‑teacher relationship, certain writing skills and knowledge can only be grasped in the environment of a writing center. She claims that the free‑flowing, interactive discourse necessary to grasp the ideas and techniques of writing is impossible to cultivate in the class room. The teacher, no matter how "down to earth" or laid back, is always in a position of authority over the student. This hierarchy naturally causes fear, anxiety and self‑doubt. A student will not usually engage in a truly useful, self‑reflective dialogue about his writing with a teacher simply because he will edit himself to avoid saying something "stupid" or "wrong". This goes back to the ideas of discourse communities. Quite simply, students are nervous about entering into a dialogue with someone they see as coming from a different, more advanced discourse community.
Harris explores many specific skills, or knowledge, that can best be learned in a writing center. She first notes that the tutor relationship encourages independent thought in students. Tutors do not tell tutees what to do‑‑ they guide them to solutions. Harris reports that students feel empowered after a tutoring session. This feeling of empowerment ensures that the strategies learned will not soon be forgotten since they were thought up by the student himself. In a similar way, tutors help students to truly understand writing strategies and skills. A student may have learned about outlining or revising in textbooks but still not grasp what the actual process feels like. Tutors not only can guide students through such processes step by step, but they can put the strategies into context, allowing for a better understanding. Perhaps the most important service writing centers provide is the boosting of self‑confidence. Frustration with an assignment, writer's block, apprehension about writing can all be aired in the writing center. It provides a unique forum where students can express their self‑doubts, their anger and their fear. The mere expression of these feelings, and the reassurance that they are "normal" is often enough to get a writer going. In addition to this, tutors offer positive reinforcement and encouragement, instilling confidence and motivation in writers.
Harris makes several good arguments for the importance of writing centers. She demonstrates the unique field of possibilities that exists beyond the Writing Center doors. I like the role she gives to writing centers. For her, they are not mere supplements to the regular composition classroom. Rather, they are an integral part of producing good writers.--Lindsey Balcom, 11/12/96
Atkins, Douglas G. "Envisioning the Stranger's Heart." College English Oct. 1994: 629‑641.
In this article Douglas Atkins explores the essay, both its form and implications. He first makes the distinction between a true essay and a mere "article". He makes the point that most college compositions, loosely called essays, are in fact articles. Articles "smack of the artificial and the mechanical, [their] parts might be simply assembled, like those of a small engine" . Articles are full of the subject, but the writer is, for the most part not present. Essays, on the other hand, weave together the personal and the factual. The writer's process of wonder and contemplation is more present, the reader feels more involved in the question the essay addresses. According to Atkins, essays take the personal and make it universal. They "latch onto, explore, question, illuminate, and reveal wonder‑ful surprises in the commonplace" . Atkins idea of the essay goes back to the word's original meaning‑‑ "to attempt". The true essay recognizes that it is an attempt, a process, a "coming‑towards" of knowing the world.
This article really interested me because it made me realize that a lot of the assignments here, can and should be written as real essays. It seems easier, certainly to write an article. This is what most professors expect, and what I excel at writing. However, the apathy I feel towards writing a lot of the time, the feeling of dissatisfaction I have towards most completed assignments could perhaps be abated if I took a more "essayistic" view of things. I needed to be reminded that the point of college and writing is not simply to fill my mind with knowledge and then spew this knowledge back in some form or another. The point, rather, is to keep my wonder alive‑‑ to see the world as a place to be explored and understood. Atkins makes the point that the process, the constant struggle to grasp the world and communicate it to others, is the most important thing. Students and professors alike could benefit from remembering how to "attempt" without the necessity of a definitive answer.--Lindsey Balcom, 11/12/96
Harvey, Gordon. "Presence in the Essay." College English Oct. 1994: 642‑654.
In this article Gordon Harvey calls for much the same thing as Douglas Atkins does in the previous essay. Like Atkins, he desires a more personal, writer‑oriented form of writing. He criticizes Atkins and other theorists for wanting to take the personal too far. He claims that the new emphasis on teaching students to incorporate their feelings and experiences into their writing is misguided, and often produces less than acceptable results. Freshmen Comp. courses should not begin with a "personal" or autobiographical essay. Harvey claims that such assignments miss the point, which is the relationship between text and reader. Focusing too much on personal anecdotes or reactions is just as bad as writing a formal, impersonal composition. Both extremes alienate the audience, giving them nothing to latch on to for interest or understanding.
Harvey proposes a kind of middle ground. He thinks that the writer's presence can best be felt implicitly rather than explicitly. He asks the question "how can academic writing be informed by personal experience without injecting personal information?". Harvey goes on to list several ways this can be achieved. The first way is through what Harvey calls "motive". A writer must show through his writing "why it isn't simply obvious, why there's a mystery to unfold...why the essay needs writing" . In other words, the writer must convey to the reader the curiosity that first made him want to explore this topic in the first place.
Another way to infuse presence in writing is through development of the thesis. The writer should not be afraid to follow up on counter‑arguments, to explore other possibilities, or to demonstrate the twisted path that led to his conclusions. In this way, the writer expresses his "wondering and wandering", allowing the reader to become truly engaged with the subject as the writer is. A more obvious way in which presence can be felt is through the choice of quotations and comparisons. The quotations chosen from a text, the connections drawn to other texts or events all give the reader insight into the character of the writer. The reader feels the writer's presence by seeing what stood out for him in the text and what comparisons he was compelled to make.
Presence can also be felt in the larger conclusions drawn from a text: "We feel presence when the textual essayist discovers and opens up an implication". This implication can have to do with questions of theory‑‑ "the author's work in general, or the genre, or the value of literature itself"‑‑or "of human behavior, of how life tends to go" . The use of "we" instead of "I" that generally occurs in such statements gives a sense of universality that the reader can hold onto and can thus relate to the writer.
I think this is a very worthwhile piece to read. Like Harvey I'm uncomfortable reading or writing personal narratives, especially "personal textual analyses". Specific personal information gives a piece too casual of a tone, makes it lack authority. To me, personal anecdotes weaken an argument, make it seem trivial. However I also see the value of "presence...the feeling of a mind actively engaged and absorbed in the subject at hand". In fact I think its only natural to want to put some of yourself into any argument. I like Harvey's suggestions because they allow me to maintain the objective, rigidly structured format I favor in academic writing while still giving voice to my opinions and thoughts. I think all writers could benefit from reading this piece. Whether writers fall on the too personal/anecdotal/unorganized end of the spectrum or the too impersonal/rigid end, Harvey's suggestions can help writers find the middle ground that is good writing.--Lindsey Balcom, 11/12/96
Bunge, Nancy L. Finding the Words: Conversations with Writers Who Teach.
Chigago: Swallow Press, 1985, 1‑17.
In the first chapter of her book _Finding the Words_, Nancy Bunge
interviews Marvin Bell, a poet and a teacher of poetry at the Iowa
Writer's Workshop. In talking of his various ideas and experiences ,
Bell discusses writing issues such as process and audience in terms of
poetry (Bell's perspective as a poetry writer highly contrasts that of an
academic essayist in some areas). He also talks about the nature of
poetry, saying, "Poetry...has to do with the quality of the imagination
and further, the quality of an imaginative engagement with the world or
the subject matter." (p.6) Poetry happens when a writer can create art
out of an imaginative involvement with both the surrounding world and
language (p.13). In trying to help his students learn this, he
encourages them to accept and develop what their own individual work is
saying, yet at the same time learn from the differences between theirs
and fellow students' work. The students tend to have difficulty writing
to such a wide and critical audience but are more likely to succeed if
they can forget about comparing their own work to that of others. This
kind of detachment recalls Peter Elbow's expression, "desert island
mode," in which the writer blocks out the idea of the audience in order
to write more freely.
Once the students have written something, Bell wants his them to
concentrate on language‑‑to see and work with the meanings of the actual
words on their papers regardless of whether or not the words express the
original intentions or ideas behind the poem. A prose writer might
encounter a similar situation in which words do not clearly express
intention. In this case, however, the writer does not accept this as a
developmental change, but works to make the words clearly match the ideas
for the benefit of the audience's understanding. This is one of the
many standards for writing academic prose that forms a bridge of clarity
between the writer and the audience over which ideas may flow in a
Poetry, however, does not need to be such a vehicle for
straightforward communication; it also exists for its own aesthetic value.
While obtuseness is not necessarily good‑‑if a reader can't somehow relate
to the work, the poem will be set aside‑‑one cannot say that the poem is
written from a neutral perspective that is as easily accessible by the
reader as by the writer. This is because the poet is usually more
personally and imaginatively involved in the work. The poem becomes
tinged with the mind of the poet and may not at first be understandable
without the reader having to reread and ponder it, as Bunge says she had
to do with one of Bell's books. Thus, differences between the
writer‑audience relationship of poetry and prose reflects the differing
purposes of these two genres.
In light of these and other differences between poetry and prose,
I wonder in what areas of poetry writing peer tutors trained in the
context and content of academic prose‑writing could be of use. However,
even if the tutor might not be able to help with content, the tutee with
a difficult poetry assignment could benefit from a human sounding board,
a person with whom to consult on the rules of grammar, or a
tutor‑prompted second look at the assignment. In another, yet related
direction, I can think of several ways that a tutor might be able to take
advantage of poetry in helping a tutee's paper problems. For example, a
person might find that personal issues and opinions were disrupting the
flow of objective prose. If so inclined, the writer could take those
ideas and write a poem‑‑a freer space for subjective thoughts‑‑thus using
and getting those distracting ideas out of the way without having to
forcing them back inside. In another situation, students could write a
poem about their paper topic if they found it to be detrimentally
uninteresting. This attempt to form a funny, contemplative, personal or
somehow alternative relationship with the material might spark interest
and make the writing a bit less onerous. Thus, the differing natures
of poetry and prose give them the potential to complement each other in
the effort of writing. --Corinna Yost, 11/21/96
Laurel A. Silber
Annotated Bibliography 1
Baumlin, James S. and Tita French. "Psyche/Logos: Mapping the
Terrains of Mind and Rhetoric." College English 51:3 (March
In "Psyche/Logos: Mapping the Terrain of Mind and Rhetoric," James and Tita Baumlin argue that no "theory of rhetoric [can] be fully adequate [if it] denies psychology in its systems," and suggest that as "rhetoric mirrors psychology," the emergence of a new rhetoric is possible only if "a new creature- a new man, a new woman" evolves. Baumlin and Baumlin challenge Douglas Ehninger's interpretation of the history of rhetoric as "a progression from the grammatical...rhetoric of antiquity to the psychological rhetoric of the British eighteenth century to the sociological rhetoric of contemporary theory, asserting that these systems do not operate in exclusion of each other. Stating that "discourse unites within itself the grammatical or technical, the sociological, and the psychological aspects of language," the Baumlins examine the history of rhetoric in relation to the "assumptions" it makes. These assumptions concern "the nature of mind, emotions, and will," and are interpreted through the lenses of psychoanalytic theory and the classic rhetoric of Aristotle and Plato.
Explaining that rhetoriticians and literary theorists employ "insights of modern psychology" to analyze text, Baumlin and Baumlin also reverse this relationship. They issue the claim that because the patient's discourse yields "meaning to figurative analysis," the language theorist may influence psychotherapy as well. "Mapping the effects of logos or language upon the psyche" this essay traces the history of writers and orators whose discourse had the power to heal its audience. The Baumlins unveil the "right rhetoric" as one whose end is to heal its audience emotionally, morally, and politically. Insisting that "health...rests on the harmonious relationship among the rational, emotional, and appetitive aspects of soul," the Platonic dialogues and Aristotle's Rhetorica illustrate the relationship between logos or language, discourse, and "cure;" thus, this association is evidently transhistorical, inherited from antiquity. Pairing each of the Aristotelian pisteis, the pathetic, logical, and ethical proofs (explored in ) with Freud's theoretical id, ego, and superego, Baumlin and Baumlin suggest that ego and logos were "twin births." Language gave us "I," the name that fosters our symbolic control over our environment. Thus, both the history and destiny of rhetoric parallel the evolution of human desire, intellect, and soul.
As Western classical theory emphasizes ethos, the Baumlins' argument moves toward a rhetoric that facilitates and houses ethical human being. This new rhetoric would commit itself to the health of its audience, while promoting justice in the individual and the state. Also employing Jung's archetypal psychology and theory of the unconscious, the essay shifts to address the implications that the development of a rhetoric rooted in the just human soul would have on the politics of modernity. Revisioning ethos, contemporary feminist ideology finds an audience in "Psyche/Logos," as the Baumlin team examines the intricate challenges that women face in the reinvention and appropriation of their own discourse. Drawing from Lacanian theory, the Baumlins identify the risk female speakers/writers take as they often "condemned...to bear the burden of projection, becoming the audience's other;" thus, it seems that new dimensions of the speaker-writer/audience relationship have been uncovered. While Plato and Aristotle campaigned for a rhetoric that would heal the masses, feminists including Julia Kristeva and Luce Iriguray recognize the patriarchal masses that have repressed an emerging rhetoric of women. Summoning a discourse that accommodates "the uniquely 'female aesthetic'" (without subjugating women), Baumlin and Baumlin assert that the "right" female rhetoric will find itself once we appropriate a revised psychology. James and Tita Baumlin conclude their fantastic essay by proposing that we "restore to rhetoric the wholeness it loses whenever psychology, or health, or the mythic, or the feminine is banished from its system;" they challenge us to restore the "new creature" of "right" human being.
This essay embodies overwhelming implications concerning classical rhetoric, the healing nature of speech and the written word, women reinventing language, the wounding power of audience, and the possibilty for a new psychology to revise all of the above. The reference to the audience "projections" that women speakers/writers face seems to resonate with Peter Elbow's "Closing My Eyes As I Speak." As Elbow speaks of external and internal audiences that can either encourage or paralyze (and women have been censored and silenced by a male-centered rhetoric throughout history), how can we distinguish which internal voices are our own? Although I find the discussion of women and rhetoric especially intriguing, the bulk of "Psyche/Logos" addresses a necessary inclusion of psychology in any "right" rhetoric. I think this is really significant, especially in the context of all of the reading we have done pertaining to cognitive vs. affective theories of the composing process. While Ehninger observed a progression between distinct systems of rhetoric, the Baumlins assert that any complete rhetoric will include the grammatical, psychological, and the sociological, thus paralleling the assertion that no cognitive theory is whole without the affective component and vice versa. A truly impressive article, "Psyche/Logos" issues the challenge of re/visioning our mirroring psychology and rhetoric, as well as the history that reflects both.
Laurel A. Silber
Annotated Bibliography 2
Morgan, Dan. "Connecting Literature to Students' Lives." College English 55(September 1993). 491-500.
Confiding that few students are initially enthusiastic towards the literature with which they are asked to engage, Morgan addresses the importance of getting students to identify with the characters and themes of assigned texts on a personal level. Suggesting that professors become disenchanted with students who do not immediately embrace the syllabus, Morgan suggests that the professor who invests him/herself in drawing each student (and the life experiences of each student) into the texts will improve the teaching/learning exchange as a whole. He explains that "literature does not teach itself" and proposes that as many undergraduates are "uninitiated readers...[with] resistance to 'serious' literary works," professors will have to bridge the gap between students and the texts by displacing inhibition and alienation with common experience and personal associations. Morgan also asserts that professors must adjust the manner in which they measure success; rather than determining "whether students can explicate,...grasp the intricacies of poststructuralism, or...deconstruct," a professor should evaluate the "thoughtful connections" that students bring to the text.
Thus, Morgan's essay speaks directly to the professor of undergraduate literature, urging him/her to create an inviting literary environment to which the student may bring his/her own experience and personality. "Connecting Literature to Students' Lives" also carries implications concerning the relationship between reader/composer and text, and perhaps offers writing center tutors a way to connect with their tutees. I think that getting students to brainstorm and freewrite about their connections with assigned readings might be a good way to get them thinking and perhaps unveil central themes about which they could write. However, I found that Morgan's suggestions are somewhat problematic in the context of a classroom setting (often characterized by one professor leading discussion). Although making connections is an intrinsic facet of real learning (especially in an interdisciplinary department/liberal arts curriculum), I don't feel that professors always have time to bring each text "home" to every student. Stating that "inexperienced readers respond particularly well to realist fiction," Morgan suggests that professors make syllabus selections based on the interests of each class. This seems like an amiable objective, but many courses promise to cover a specific period or genre of literature; to what degree can the syllabus shapeshift with each new group of students? It seems that a good compromise might be for professors to require a personal journal through which students could relate the varying texts to their own lives and also to other readings. Professors could also expose students to different styles of interpretive criticism; I have found that the degree to which I can relate to texts often depends on (or is at least influenced by) the theoretical framework through which I understand it. Students could bring class, gender, and culture (the way they view themselves and their world) to their reading and composition by finding the theory that addresses these issues and applying it. Thus, I am countering Morgan's proposal for "Connecting Literature To Students' Lives" with a challenge: rather than cushioning a syllabus to parallel every student's personal experience, every student can find a critical disguise for that experience. If students were encouraged to reveal their lives and their "person" in discussion and coursework through the lens of literary criticism, they would not only bring themselves to the text, they might bring some understanding to themselves.
Laurel A. Silber
Annotated Bibliography 3
Zuber, Sharon and Ann M. Reed. "The Politics of Grammar Handbooks: Generic He and Singular They." College English 55:5 (September 1993): 515-530.
"According to traditional prescriptive grammar, all of us, whether male or female, are treated as grammatically masculine, and the feminist critique of language confronts a long tradition of writing the world male."
Sharon Zuber and Ann M. Reed identify the "tension between demands for language change and the authority of tradition" surrounding the question of gendered pronoun usage. Revealing that handbooks are currently revered as "powerful, although not always accurate monitors of language," this essay historically traces both the authority of handbooks and the tradition "of using 'singular they'" in writing and speech. A handbook writer's authorization of "generic he," "he or she," or "singular they," reflects a political choice with social implications. Stating that we often "read 'beyond'" grammar and punctuation, "the bricks and mortar," of text, Zuber and Reed suggest that the politics underlying syntax is often dismissed, while powerfully influential. As the "'generic he' is alive and well in spite of recent efforts to sensitize people to its implications," Zuber and Reed's essay is a feminist critique of this practice while observing that a shift to "singular they" challenges not only the tradition of formal grammar, but the society grounding itself in those very traditions.
"With the revitalization of the women's movement and the development of sociolinguistic theory...during the 1970's and 1980's" came the realization that pronoun usage choices make direct statements concerning sex and class. This article effectively articulates the tension between the authorized pronoun (the generic he), the practiced pronoun (usually the complicated he/she construction), and the ideal pronoun, the "singular they" that accommodates both men and women. Recognizing that "the writers of handbooks have a stake in conserving their linguistic authority," Zuber and Reed suggest that they "would have to challenge another tradition of authority to sanction" the use of "singular they" in writing. Stating that "nonsexist language has increased the pressure for such a challenge," Zuber and Reed conclude their essay, one that seems to issue that very challenge.
Published in 1993, "The Politics of Grammar Handbooks" is a fairly current article; thus, I found the indication that there has been a "recent shift away from tentative acceptance of 'singular they'" particularly interesting. Stating that "in the later 1980's and early 1990's, some handbooks that had taken a more permissive view of 'singular they' actually returned to a more prescriptive view," Zuber and Reed identify an inconsistency in the relationship between social reality and handbook authority. While feminist criticism and psycholinguistics are prominent discourses in the academic setting and we become increasingly conscious of the power of the written/spoken word, there is an apparent return to tradition, to sexist usage.
Therefore, if sexist usage is authorized by the grammar handbooks and contradicts the socio-political ideology promoted in a given discourse, how can a student determine the degree to which usage and discourse are integrated? In "The Politics of Grammar Handbooks," Zuber and Reed explain that "grammars" have "served to 'defend the language from decay'...from change associated with those who threatened the social order;" would a return to "generic he" reflect the patriarchy's struggle to reclaim traditions that feminist discourses have uprooted? Thus, as Zuber and Reed describe that historically, "a threatened aristocracy could preserve its status by distinguishing itself grammatically," is the renunciation of nonsexist usage (of "singular they") a way that male-dominated societies preserve their status (and woman's subsequent silence)? "The Politics of Grammar Handbooks" holds implications for every person who has access to any "authority" of tradition and social reality.
Laurel A. Silber
Annotated Bibliography 4
Showalter, Elaine. "Toward a Feminist Poetics." The New Feminist Criticism. Ed. Elaine Showalter. New York: Pantheon Books, 1985. 125-143.
Introducing feminist criticism as "a body of work which needs to be considered both as a major contribution to to English studies and as part of an interdisciplinary effort to reconstruct the social, political, and cultural experience of women," Showalter's "Toward a Feminist Poetics" addresses both its 1970's audience and the social climate we know today. Suggesting that there are two classes of feminist criticism, Showalter begins with the basics. She explains that while her "feminist critique" is concerned with "woman as reader," her term for analysis concerned with "woman as writer" is "gynocritics," and that the experimental latter may lead the political former out from the shadows cast by a history of male authorship and patriarchal subordination. Showalter states that the "images and stereotypoes of women in literature, the omissions of and misconceptions about women in criticism, and the fissures in male-constructed literary history," are some of the issues explored by the feminist critique.
A "historically grounded inquiry," the feminist critique examines both the subjection of female audiences to "exploitation and manipulation...in popular culture and film," and the "woman-as-sign" relationship accepted in semiotics. Addressing "the psychodynamics of female creativity; linguistics and the problem of a female language; the trajectory of the individual or collective female literary career; literary history; and...studies of particular writers and works;" "gynocritics" understands women in terms of inventing their own textual meaning, rather than inheriting someone else's. While the feminist critique reinterprets old male models, gynocritics "begins at the point when we...stop trying to fit women between the lines of male literary history," emerging from female experience and building a new framework of feminist analysis.
As the importance of "understanding the framework of the female subculture" is emphasized, Showalter asserts that "we fail to make necessary connections within [the] tradition" of female experience when we do not examine the conditions surrounding that tradition. We will not appreciate what we have secured without acknowledging what we have been denied. As Showalter suggests that academia's practice of studying "women writers in isolation" does not foster students' understanding of the "patterns and phases in the evolution of the female tradition of writing;" students concerned about making connections between women writers may have to campaign for broadened syllabae or conduct their own research. Arguing that women's fiction must "go beyond...the reclamation of suffering," Showalter asserts that women must write themselves into a "new world" defined not by victimization, but by liberation. Showalter's discussion of the experimental gynocritics encourages women to "write" between and beyond the "lines" of women's literature most accessible to them. "Toward a Feminist Poetics" is an excellent source from which an understanding of contemporary feminist criticism (its origin, its struggles, its destination) may be extracted.
Laurel A. Silber
Annotated Bibliography 5
Lakoff, Robin. "Language and Woman's Place." The Women and Language Debate: A Sourcebook. Eds. Camille Roman, Suzanne Juhasz, and Christanne Miller. New Brunswick: Rutgers
University Press, 1994. 280-291.
"If she refuses to talk like a lady, she is ridiculed and subject to criticism as unfeminine; if she does learn, she is ridiculed as unable to think clearly, unable to take part in a serious discussion; in some sense, as less than fully human. These two choices which a woman has--to be less than a woman or less than a person--are highly painful."
Suggesting that "women experience linguistic discrimination in...[both] the way they are taught to use language, and in the way general language use treats them," Robin Lakoff explores the "two choices...a woman has" while questioning how "changing linguistic disparities," may "correct [the] social inequity" of women in American society. For Lakoff, "'woman's language'--[means] both language restricted to women and language descriptive of women alone;" her essay argues that this language "submerges a woman's personal identity," and exposes the degrees to which women are "denied access to power" linguistically. Comparing the process of language acquisition for girls and boys, Lakoff proposes that while both sexes begin learning "women's language," boys "unlearn...[this] original form of expression," and girls retain it. Thus, "Language and Woman's Place," compares the speech of women and men and how these different "languages" construct and are framed by the social roles that dictate the behaviors of women and the privaledges of men.
Lakoff recognizes levels of discrimination reflected in the lexical, syntaxical, and intonational patterns of speech prescribed for women, and also identifies how men too are injured by the usage and vocabulary equated with effeminacy. Finally, she considers both "what might be done, and perhaps what should not be done, to remedy" the struggle women face in order to express themselves as women and people, while preserving sexual identity and humanity. Before explicating her argument, Lakoff validates her data sources (drawn mainly from "introspection") and submits that her study, while representing "the speech of only a small subpart of the community," has universal applications. I think this is significant, especially in light of the central question/dilemma Lakoff's essay issues and describes.
Beginning her essay by defending the very data on which she founds her argument, Lakoff seems almost to be making an apology. She reveals that it has been "gathered mainly by introspection," and also claims to have drawn from the media. However, as Lakoff describes that "a good sample of data...[has] to be elicited artificially from someone," and that she is "as good an artificial source as anyone," she illustrates the very struggle her essay articulates. She cannot begin her argument without first identifying where it may be perceived as weak, or falling short. The following passage reflects the "two choices" Lakoff claims women (in this case, female students) have.
"if a girl knows that a professor will be receptive to comments that sound scholarly, objective, unemotional, she will...be tempted to use neutral language in class or conference. But if she knows that, as a man, he will respond more approvingly to her at other levels if she uses women's language, and sounds frilly and feminine, won't she be confused as well as sorely tempted at once?"
While I feel that Lakoff's association between "women's language" and that which is "frilly and feminine" is problematic, I think that the tension illustrated in the citation above is experienced by Lakoff herself, as a feminist critic writing within the professional academic community. Like the "confused [and]...sorely tempted" girl described above, Lakoff is struggling to be heard and respected by the "scholarly, objective, unemotional" academy; stating that she draws from her own experience, Lakoff predicts that her data, her essay, and her voice, will be rejected. Lakoff commits almost two full pages to explaining why she made the choices that she did and emphasizing that these choices are indeed relevant. What does this imply about women's status in the academy (or at least how women feel in the academy)?
For me, Lakoff's essay indicates much about the power of audience and audience awareness. By integrating Lakoff's argument and the questions raised in Peter Elbow's "Closing My Eyes As I Speak," we can deduce that are women may be more aware of and inhibited by their awareness of audience. While it issues many questions, Lakoff's argument convinces its audience that women's struggle to reinvent "women's language" lies not only in their finding nonsexist words and employing genderless usage, but also in challenging traditional discourses and believing in the voices that they themselves raise. Does "neutral" academic language mean masculine academic language? Furthermore, as Lakoff feels she must explain why she recognizes her own observations as valid, scholastic "data," is any language communicable or real if/when it denies and rejects the personal experiences of those who invent it? Can we truly invent a variation of human language that is completely "artificial" and independent of emotion; would we want to?
Bibliography Response 3
Connors, Robert J. "Teaching and Learning as a Man". College English Vol.58, No.2, Feb. 96. 137-157.
This article was long but very interesting to read, especially after the feminist inundation on campus at the start of the semester when Carol Gilligan was here. Connors offers insight to a problem which he himself faces, and one which he feels often goes unresolved. He struggles with the little defined process through which many of today's males go to sequester their manhood. He notes that in this age of feminism it is easy to see why male students often struggle with the subjects and strategies of the composition process. Male teachers are involved in a conflict too, as they question their roles with male students, "Master? Father? Camp counselor? Buddy?"(139).
Combining English, psychology, and history, Connors takes an interdisciplinary approach to the challenge male students and male teachers face in the composition classroom. His argument takes many references from Walter Ong's book, Fighting for Life. Connors discusses the system of single-sex (i.e. all male) education in ancient Greece and how that set the standard for schooling practices up through the end of the 19th century. He notes that the rules changed with the "entrance of women into higher education"(141). Prior to coeducational practices, "rhetoric instruction meant contest"(140). "A man could attack another man verbally, and was expected to, but to attack a woman, either physically or intellectually, was thought ignoble"(141). He notes that "education post-1850 was much more irenic, negotiative, explanatory. Thus the educational structure we inherit is an amalgam of newer irenic values and half-understood survivals from a more agonistic time in education"(142). I don't think that Connors is advocating a return to single-sex education, but instead he is offering an origin to the dilemma between male students and male teachers.
The mode of education changed from oral discourse and argument to written composition, which Connors defines as "a newer sort of rhetoric, one suitable for women and mixed classes"(142). He writes that "the actual teaching of composition has been the most feminized area of college instruction outside of home economics for almost a century"(142) (Does any college still teach home economics? Did male professors ever teach it?) He goes on to write that "today the teaching of writing is not only feminized, but increasingly feminist"(142). This translates into a difficulty for men because they often feel that they cannot relate to the subject and are perhaps being attacked by the author. I do not know if the question of common ground is ever discussed in composition classrooms, but it seems to me to be important. Often works are included in a curriculum to broaden the students' exposure to pieces with a specific theme or time period, but writing about a piece is easier if a point of reference can be established. Jeanette mentioned that she has difficulty with feeling that literature which uses he (his, him, etc) as a personal pronoun applies to her. I can imaging that a similar experience is felt by men reading feminist works. However, is this problem not addressed because male students do not feel it is important, or not a manly topic, or simply because they do no care? I may be being too narrow in my options.
In his attitude toward composition as a type of rhetoric spurred on by women, I felt that Connors was implying that all men are born knowing how to respond in the old agonist environment, only to be suddenly hurled into a sphere of women (and composition). This simply is not true. Obviously male students and female students are taught in the same way in any given classroom (i.e. teachers do not often modify their methods of teachers to different genders), who why is it that such different outcomes result? Part of the difference is due to influences from society, including the media, parental upbringing, peer attitudes, all of which help to create a person’s sense of identity and influence the way a student perceives various teachings. Connors proposes ways to teach male students which will, hopefully, bring more of a norm to the classroom and negate stereotypes.
Connors then proceeds to a series of question and possible answers about the development of male students and how male teachers fit in to the picture. He hypothesizes that teachers of writing courses should engage their male students instead of providing “temporary artificial dominance” which produces the opposite reaction, one of resentment rather than enthusiasm in the classroom(145). In addition to maintaining specific rules in classes, Connors proposes more exploration into the field of men’s studies to help combat the significant absence of role modes that male students find acceptable and to help these “guys” as they struggle with their identity and the achievement of manhood(148). “Men’s studies and the men’s movement have helped me bring some of my own uncertainties and questions into the open, and I hope to see more discussion about the ways in which gender affects both women and men as we try to teach and learn about writing,” says Connors (148). I suppose that some women like Elizabeth Flynn and Carol Gilligan would argue that, for centuries, all education has concerned men’s studies in some shape or form, but I think that anything that makes students (and all people, regardless of gender) want to learn, to search for knowledge and communicate amongst one another, is worth exploring.
The questions that Connors poses concern the stereotypes of male students and the origin of them, possible “male” genres of writing, effective methods for teachers of male students and whether these differ from those that are effective for female students, and the description of male learning styles. The stereotypes, Connors claims, originate with the transition to adulthood that students face in high school and college. Connors suggests that writing teachers “can and should see the uses of this process for [male students] as both writers and readers” and need to strive to get ”’beneath the mask’ in male students’ writing”(149). Concerning male genres of writing, Connors points to the tendency of male students to write about achievements, quests, and/or heroes. He states that “men love algorithms” and “tend to seek escape from the uncomfortable personalism of real mentoring by turning to distanced, rule- and convention-governed writing - exposition and argument”(150). Personally, I know some female writers (myself included at times) who follow this pattern as well.
Noting that many male students choose to write about sports-related topics, Connors asks the question of why men often seek closeness with others through sports. I think that this is obvious, but perhaps it is just me. Men form a discourse community around sports. Sports are seen as masculine activities, and in today’s age of politically correctness and emerging homosexualities, sports offers a common ground on which men can meet, converse, compete, and receive interaction that is often lacking from other areas of their lives. I like to compare women in the shopping mall to men in the weight room. Everyone enjoys having some time to talk to their friends.
In his next question concerning male teachers and their “stance” toward male students, Connors hopes desperately that these teachers will step forward and be “models of manhood for their students”, mentors who will engage and challenge these young men, urging them to look critically at the world and the issues that they face growing up (151-153). He notes that there are preexisting views about the differences between how women and men confront “dialogic collaboration” in the classroom. The trend shows that women prefer a group effort whereas men more often utilize “hierarchical collaboration”(153-154). Connors states that “young men are simply more drawn to individual work and to hierarchies”(154). I don’t think that this necessarily applies to male students more than female. Personally, I prefer individual work because group work takes more time and receiving group credit means that each individual in the group runs the risk of having his or her grade lowered because someone else failed to contribute properly. I would like to think that this would urge all participants to do their parts, but it does not work out that way. Connors also mentions that “young men usually want clearly defined individualized credit for the work they do and the roles they play in groups”(154). This desire for individualism when the class requires group work causes a conflict which, Connors says, manifests itself in the fact that “men lag far behind women in educational achievement”(154). I wonder if this is true.
One other point which Connors discusses, with which I agree, is that “young men have different attitudinal responses to teaching and learning than...young women”(155). I should hope so, because this article would not make much sense otherwise. As to male learning styles, Connors brings up the idea that males do not respond to collaborative projects the way females do. This would be another interesting topic for a project. In conclusion Connors reiterates the necessity of male teachers in writing courses to try to understand their male students, contributing to a more positive classroom experience for these young men (155). I would like to see Connors and Flynn have a forum on the issues of men’s studies and women’s studies. It seems to me from reading this article and others about female students, that all students, regardless of their gender, need and desire some understanding from their teachers.
Bibliography Response 4
Runciman, Lex. “Fun?” College English 53:2 (Feb 91) 156-162.
I am not sure how much this article relates to a specific part of composition, but it struck me as interesting. As a science major, I have tended to shy away from the liberal arts, not from lack of interest, but more because of the whole writing thing. I have to write plenty of papers for my science classes, but they differ from liberal arts papers. Runciman’s quest to find instances of students and professional writers who have fun writing is valid and important. That is what draws students toward a specific discipline and what keeps writers going (besides having deadlines).
Searching through the journals, College English and College Composition and Communication, Runciman brings up some interesting points as he looks for evidence of fun. He mentions the possibility of the formation of a unified theory of writing that composition researchers, like Flower and Hayes, have been studying for quite some time. The notion of this theory seems illogical to me because, in my mind, that would mean that all writers have intrinsically the same process by which they compose. I realize that as a single species, the room for differences amongst humans is limited, however, this theory detracts from the idea that each person is an individual and that no two people are exactly alike. The idea of finding continuity amongst writers is a nice thought, but I do not think that anyone follows all of the rules exactly. It is similar to saying that some people are normal (compared to what and using whose definition of normal?).
Runciman notes that many teachers do not want to give up on their students, showing a “refusal to succumb”(157). I am glad that teachers feel this way and hope that they strive to find ways to help their students to enjoy learning how to compose. He also mentions Muriel Harris’ article on single vs. multi-draft writers in which she notes that single draft writers are less likely to enjoy writing (158). I can identify with this statement. Putting papers off until the last minute does not allow the writer time to enjoy the actual writing itself, the searching that occurs in trying to find the perfect word or phrase to convey the stated and implied meanings. Writing drafts can provide a sense of accomplishment and can aid in the revision process with which writers fine tune their pieces (hopefully) to their satisfaction. Runciman calls it the “rewards of thinking and writing”(158). I like that. Runciman also points out that “the notion of writing as (at least in part) a problem-solving process has become almost ubiquitous (158). This makes it seem like a task more than something which students can and should enjoy. This idea of problem-solving seems to stem from a few decades ago when the literary trend was to make the liberal arts as scientific as possible in order to receive government funding.
Runciman notes that enjoyment from writing is often reserved for “literary writers” rather than “essayists, theorists, article writers, researchers, and technical writers”(159). This notion should be changed so that students are more receptive to writing essays (vs. stories which seem much more exciting). He says that when students do enjoy writing, it is often accompanied by “surprise and disbelief”(160). I think that writing center tutors can help in this respect, especially if the student has no idea how to begin. Once a student begins to write, formulates an idea and starts to put his/her thoughts down on paper, the appearance of visible progress often encourages them to continue. Students need to associate writing with enjoyment not problems (160-161). Runciman sees that “curtailing or seriously abbreviating the [writing] process curtails or seriously abbreviates the opportunities for reward during writing”(161). I wonder if single draft writers who finish their papers before the deadline, but still do not revise after the paper is written, feel the same way. Runciman ends by acknowledging that “writing becomes self-rewarding though never effortless”(161). As a scientist who enjoys taking liberal arts classes every now and then, I certainly agree with him. Writing can be an aesthetic pleasure, a cure that does not require a prescription.
Bibliography Response 5
Peterson, Linda H. “Gender and the Autobiographical Essay: Research Perspectives, Pedagogical Practices.” College Composition and Communication 42:2 (May 91) 170-183.
Peterson examines the gender differences in response to the autobiographical essay. She first tests different groups of students to see how each responds to writing autobiographical essays and then explores ways to formulate assignments and classroom pedagogy to help both men and women defy the stereotypes of how they are supposed to respond to these types of questions.
The two groups of students were attending either Yale or Utah State and had equal numbers of males and females. The Yale students were also of more diverse ethnicities, races, and religions than the Utah students. “Both read model essays by men and women writers; and both were asked to recount a story or event with special significance in their lives. The students were told to communicate that significance clearly to the reader and to remember the importance of examples and relevant details in their writing”(172). Significance, clarity, and richness of detail were three qualities on which the papers were rated (172). Overall, Peterson found that the female students, on average, received higher scores than the male students, but I found her analysis of their chosen topics more intriguing. She defines the women’s essays as being mostly “‘relational’ - i.e., they focus on the relationship of the writer with some other person or group”, with the event being “almost always a crisis in the relationship”(173). The male writers chose more often to write about a topic that focused on “the self, the self alone, the self as distinct from others”(173). Male relational topics involved interactions with other males “especially episodes that help[ed] the writer define his sense of individuality or maturity”(174). This correlates with Richard Connors observations on the compositions of male students.
Peterson next offers some suggestions for teachers who assign autobiographical writing topics to their students. These include “not unwittingly privileging one mode of self-understanding over another” (i.e. assign gender-linked or gender-neutral topics), using “both masculine and feminine subjects” and authors in the model readings that teachers assign, and not privileging or penalizing “certain gender-specific modes of self-representation”(174-175). I agree that teachers should look beyond the stereotypes when critiquing a student’s paper. Just because if follows the typical example does not mean that it is a shallow piece.
Peterson discusses the best essays from the study and how the techniques that their authors used could help other students. Challenging the gender stereotype and exploring the universal experience are two way that students can approach autobiographical essays(176-177). Trying to write that paper from the point of view of someone of the opposite sex and provide insight that the author might not have initially perceived (177). However Peterson also notes that this “may obscure the realities of gender that inform [students’] lives and their writing, resulting in a blindness to “issues of [one’s own] gender implicit in literary texts”(179). Personally , I think that if this happens, the student is taking the suggestion a little too far.
Peterson notes that teachers often assign autobiographical assignments to deal “change attitudes,...improve skills,...or create awareness of genre”(180-181). However these goals need to be incorporated with the concerns about gender. Students should understand that they do not need to be constrained by stereotypes of their genders and that by moving past these stereotypes they can often discover the qualities which teachers desire in student writing: ”intimacy and richness of detail, highly individual voices and views of experiences, challenges to the status quo, critical stances vis-à-vis the dominant culture or ruling class or patriarchy”(180). I hope that students do not feel limited by society’s expectations of their gender and use writing as a means by which to get past these expectations. I am sure it is much easier and socially acceptable than cross-dressing.
Bibliography Response 6
Morrow, Diane Stelzer. “Tutoring Writing: Healing or What?” College Composition and Communication 42:2 (May 91). 218- 229.
In her article, Morrow draws “parallels between the writing center and the clinic”(218). A former physician turned tutor and writing teacher, Morrow notes the similarities between the two professions and the responses of the “patients”. She cites three “models of the doctor-patient relationship: activity-passivity, guidance-cooperation, and mutual participation” and how they “provide a useful tool for looking at...writing teachers and students”(219). She notes that many tutoring session begin with the activity-passivity model. The student comes to the writing center with the assumption that the tutor will intrinsically know how to “fix” his or her paper. “Most students begin by assuming that the tutor is in charge” and therefore begin by taking a passive role (221). We talked about this in class and the solution of making sure that, if anyone holds the pen, it should be the student. It is important that the students know that they can revise and improve their papers and that the tutor is a means by which they can get started. The tutor has basic instructions about rules of writing and a knowledge of what works, but we do not have tricks that will result in an ‘A’. Of course sometimes the student thinks “Well, if I knew how to fix my paper, I wouldn’t be here.” The tutor can change this mindset and show the student that yes, first of all, he/she does know how to fix his/her own paper, but, as a second thought, it is generally helpful to have someone (especially a neutral party) with whom to discuss the assignment. Morrow quotes from Donald Murray who uses the strategy of teaching his students to “react to their own work in such a way that they write increasingly effective drafts”(221). This empowers the student and gives him/her confidence in using the writing process. Morrow mentions a few other experiences which she had when she first began tutoring, such as the “nearly overwhelming urge to say something profound” after reading a student’s paper (222), being afraid of making a mistake, and learning that “I don’t know” is an appropriate response sometimes(223-224). Being a tutor means that there is a sense of hierarchy and authority that comes with the job, no matter how hard one tries to dispel it. Morrow hopes that both the tutor and the students will let this affect the session as little as possible. She also discusses the idea of letting the tutee talk about the paper to the tutor, since the student probably knows more about the topic than the tutor (and even if this is not true, it can be more helpful to act this way). Drawn in by its scientific aspects, I enjoyed reading this article because it addressed issues which I am sure I will face in the writing center and it talked about them from the point of view of someone who has made and learned from the mistakes.
Holman, Elizabeth. "Behind the Screen of Consciousness: Intuition,
Insight, and Inspiration in the Writing Process." Presence of Mind:
Writing and the Domain Beyond the Cognitive. Ed.s Alice Glarden Brand
Richard L. Graves. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishing, 1994.
This article explores the relationship between the writing process
and intuition. Holman says that intuition is "a positive knowledge of
things in and of themselves without the intervention or impurities of the
conscious mind." (p 66) In other words, intuition, or insight, is
knowledge or a realization coming suddenly to a person without a conscious
attempt to reach any solution. The article goes so far as to say that
this irrational way of knowing may be more involved in the process of
writing than is conscious thought.
For an idea of how intuition plays a part in the composing
process, consider the following scenario: A writer starts on a work by
concentrating on the information and materials of the problem. At this
point, the writer is making a conscious effort to find the solution or
make a whole. Usually, after this step comes a time in which the writer
is not consciously dealing with the question or working on the writing.
But, according to Holman , the unconscious is still working on the
problem, perhaps using as fuel the huge amount of sensory information that
the brain receives constantly but processes unconsciously. The writer may
then suddenly experience a sudden realization of a possible solution, as
the conscious mind briefly connects with the workings of the unconscious
This scenario could be an argument for the virtues of starting
writing early and then leaving it alone for awhile in order to let the
intuitive process work, instead of trying to do all the work at once
(although some writers report higher levels intuition at times when they
are under pressure to finish writing). A writer who finds it difficult to
start writing early could still take advantage of the concept by leaving
just and hour or two between drafting and revising; new ideas, as well as
the objectivity a writer needs in order to effectively revise could
develop in the interim. Alternatively, the writer could make it a
mandatory rule to at least look at , think about, and brainstorm paper
topics the day the teacher assigned them, no matter how limited the
writer's knowledge of the topic. This action could "set up" the
unconscious for some good intuitive work in the future.
Writers wishing to explore other ways of tapping their intuition
during their composing process may take advantage of the way the brain and
body function in an interconnected way. Chemicals released in the brain
during heavy exercise and during the period when one is almost asleep may
trigger insight, showing that writing does not have to be considered an
entirely mental process. Emig, concentrating on the connections between
the hand, the eye, and the brain in the composing process would agree with
this. As writers interested in their own intuitive processes explore
different options, records they keep could lead to a more reliable
knowledge of their inner workings. Personal or formal discoveries made in
the area of intuitive writing could fulfill the need to broaden current
models, such as the one postulated by Flower and Hayes, showing
composition as a largely rational process.
North, Stephen M. "Revisiting 'The Idea of a Writing Center.'" The
Writing Center Journal. 15.1 (Fall 1995) (?) : 7‑19.
A writer who starts out his article with a rather lengthy account
of the movie Dead Poet's Society to draw a comparison between that movie
and an article he had previously written must have something unusual to
say about his earlier writing. Indeed, North says that his article, "The
Idea of a Writing Center," was like the movie in that it got people's
attention with its theatrics, but it also presented an unrealistic image
that writing centers should not try to fulfill. Therefore, North spends
the body of his article going back to particular passages and conducting a
reality check. The first passage deals with likely motivations of writers
coming to the center. Most writers are driven by concern about the grade
they need to get in composition class, or the fact that they just want to
finish the darned thing. This is not to say that writers genuinely
wanting to talk about and improve their writing do not come into the
center. However, most people have several motives of differing natures,
and so the tutor should not feel bad if the session is motivated by the
student's need to get a certain grade. North goes on to say that tutors
also should not feel like they have to sit on their hands in order not to
interfere with the writer's natural composing process. This desire to be
unobtrusive could likely lead to the tutor's becoming ineffectual. There
is no possible way for a tutor to observe writers in their natural writing
habitats, so to speak, because the writing center itself is a change in
environment. The tutor should therefore not be afraid to enact the
interactive dynamics necessary for helping the tutee. Thus, North tries
to present a realistic picture of student motives and tutor‑tutee
North then explains realities of how the writing center interacts
with the whole institution. Part of that interaction is the tutor‑teacher
relationship. Supposedly impartial, interaction is still tense at times,
considering the at‑times unfavorable view of teaching that tutors possess
and the respective positions on the institutional ladder occupied by
tutors and faculty. The broader Writing Center‑institution relationship
also does not include the writing center as the ideal "center of
consciousness about writing" unless the college is small enough for people
to know one another. The large size of so many colleges and the tendency
of centers in such large schools to become the place to send those with
literacy problems makes centers more likely to become a "small, nagging"
"institutional conscience" instead of a center of consciousness.
In his own university, North and his fellow faculty have responded
to the problem of being outsized by making their writing center the focus
of a departmental writing track instead of the whole university. Students
who wish to develop their writing skills elect this track, and compulsory
freshman English classes no longer exist. This makes me curious as to how
they will handle teaching writing skills to those who do not elect the
writing program but who still need to be able to function in the academic
community. I can definitely see the advantages for some, however.
Students who wrote in regular interaction with the writing center would
certainly benefit from the conversation going on there. However, the
original aim of the writing center, to offer all students the opportunity
to talk about, work on, and improve their writing, seems to have drowned
in the ocean of independent‑style writers. A reason for this could be
that few people have experienced collaborative learning and are skeptical
or oblivious to its benefits. Few high‑schools or even colleges use this
technique. Maybe the troubles that have come with the uniqueness of the
writing center's methods point to a need to make cooperative learning a
regular practice in all fields.
Bloom, Lynn Z. "Freshman Composition as a Middle‑Class Enterprise."
College English. 58.6 (October 1996): 654‑673.
In this article, Bloom demonstrates that the values taught in
freshman English, which enable students to become part of the academic
community (and eventually productive members of the workforce), are those
of middle‑class society. She lists a set of virtues familiar to us
through Ben Franklin's Poor Richard and explains, in turn, how each value
manifests itself in freshman composition. Beginning with the virtues of
self‑ reliance and responsibility, Bloom states that literacy is an
expected characteristic of "good," responsible citizens. The respectable
citizen should have equally respectable values, and so the prose of
freshmen should not deviate into racism, sexism, sadism, or any other
‑ism, no matter what the technical quality of the writing. One must not
disturb the decorum of the classroom‑‑a classroom which is the neutral
convergence of all sorts of backgrounds and viewpoints‑‑there must be
propriety there. Propriety also means having the ultimate respect for
another person's property; thus, any form of borrowing or appropriating is
universally frowned upon as plagiarism. Propriety in tone, language, and
style of writing includes adherence to Standard English and also reflects
the uninitiated student's correct station. Teachers are unused to and
likely to mark down any attempt by a student to write in a familiar manner
of a peer. This behavior borders upon insubordination, a breach of the
middle‑class respect for authority. The values moderation, thrift and
efficiency manifest themselves in clarity, plainness, and economy of style
and even in a practical, non‑recursive process of writing. Order is a
must, as unpredictable organization or any breach or the above standards
shows a disregard for the audience.
What Bloom says above about middle‑class teachers' need for
decorous and respectable prose in the classroom parallels Linda Brodkey's
discussion in her article "On the Subjects of Class and Gender in the
'Literacy Letters.'" In her study of letters written between English
teachers and adults enrolled in a literacy class, she finds that even on
the level of a personal letter, the teachers avoided dealing with any
potentially uncomfortable issues of class differences. When the members
of the adult literacy class wrote, with beginning‑level writing skills,
about personal troubles like tight budgets or, more seriously, the murder
of a neighbor, the teachers avoided or treated the subject lightly. Thus,
the teachers assumed an instructor‑pupil‑type relationship with their
semi‑literate correspondents, a relationship that does not allow intrusion
of disturbing issues like class differences into classroom‑based
Bloom's writing is anything but impersonal, though she claims some
of the middle‑class values that she describes; she tells her reader how
they were ingrained during her upbringing. Her article thus does have the
orderly, predictable equivalent of an introduction, body, and a clearly
delineated conclusion. However, around the point in her essay about proper
tone, Bloom departs, as she does in several other places, into an
illustrative personal account of a TA under her charge coming to grips
with the acceptability of using the pronoun "I" in academic prose. With
this particular account, and, indeed, with the mood of her whole essay,
she contradicts outright anyone who has ever disapproved of writing
academically in the first person. Her unconventional alternating style,
her first‑person accounts themselves, her use of foreign expressions, and
indeed, her treatment of a topic usually avoided shows the reader which
middle‑class rules of writing she disdains.
Bloom, in fact, after demonstrating the connection between middle
class values and standards of literacy, warns of the potential for this
association to marginalize those who are not literate in Standard English.
Even though the story of an immigrant who gets an education and therefore
goes on to be successful may be benign at first, it implies that the
middle class values that person learned in school enabled success, not the
individual, perhaps non‑American, characteristics of that person. Bloom
therefore encourages the creation of classroom opportunities for people of
non‑American backgrounds to use their own dialect so that they won't have
to entirely leave behind their linguistic heritage in order to be
successful in an American academic setting.
I, however, am rather skeptical of this idea, since, as Bloom even
says, black students, for example, object strongly to having the dialect
of their culture taught in school. They have traditionally been put down
for their own unique way of speaking and don't see how including it in
education will help others to forget these stereotypes. Students want to
learn Standard English because it is the dialect of success in the world
of middle‑class America. Like Lazere, I think that many students do not
want to learn "oppositional" material because they want to graduate and
get a steady job, not join a political protest. Therein lies the danger
of middle‑class values: they enable the success of so many people that
there are too few who want to question them.
Jimenez, Robert T., Georgia Earnest Garcia, P. David Pearson. "Three
Children, Two Languages, and Strategic Reading: Case Studies in
Bilingual/Monolingual Reading." American Educational Research Journal,
32.1 (Spring 1995): 67‑97.
The authors of this article set out to discover the cognitive
processes that enabled Pamela, a bilingual middle‑school student, to be
successful in reading both English and Spanish. To do so, they had her
read several stories and articles, some in Spanish and some in English,
while doing think‑out‑loud protocols. The writers also interviewed Pamela
after her reading protocols in order to ask her about her ways of
comprehending what she had read. To obtain some information against which
to compare Pamela's results, Catalina, a less‑successful bilingual
student, and Michelle, a successful monolingual student also participated
in similar activities.
The article goes on at some length describing some very
interesting conversations between the three girls and their interviewers
which give the reader a glimpse into how each student approached, read,
thought about, and comprehended the readings. The researchers found that
Pamela's success stemmed from her positive attitude about reading and her
awareness of and ability to take advantage of the relationship between
English and Spanish. In each language, Pamela concentrated on learning
unknown vocabulary words, as she believed that vocabulary words were her
key to better reading in each tongue. Her concentration on learning
vocabulary made her work with context clues, which helped her to read for
overall meaning. If Pamela came across an unknown word in one language,
she searched for clues in her knowledge of her other language, thus using
her bilingualism to help her out. Catalina, on the other hand, did not
see her bilingualism as having any advantages. She thought that knowing
two languages was confusing, and thus made no useful connections between
English and Spanish. Her attitude about reading was rather indifferent
and thus did not make any special attempts to unlock the meanings of
unknown words, even though she recognized that she did not understand some
words. The researchers conclude that Pamela and Catalina's differing
attitudes about reading and bilingualism contribute to their differing
levels of reading success.
I think that the fact that the two girls have differing histories
sheds some light on the above conclusion (the article does not go into
their backgrounds, however). Catalina has spent all of her twelve years
in the United States, whereas Pamela immigrated from Mexico when she was
seven. Both of Pamela's parents were born in Mexico, while only
Catalina's father was born there (her mother was born in the US).
Although I do not know for sure, I hypothesize that Catalina grew up
knowing both English and Spanish, while Pamela learned Spanish first and
then began to learn English later in her childhood. Pamela, therefore is
more likely to have the mentality of a learner of language than is
Catalina, who probably was surrounded by at least some English influence
since early childhood. Thus, Catalina knows both languages and probably
is not focusing on a need to learn one or the other. One might say that
she is "too close" to both languages to see a useful relationship between
them. Pamela, on the other hand, had the rudiments of one language
ingrained upon her brain before she had to start learning another, and
therefore has had the experience of making the learning transition from
Spanish to English. Since recognizing cognates is a language‑learning
skill, she applies that skill successfully to reading. In my view, Pamela
and Catalina do not share the same bilingual experience, and, therefore, a
comparison that may have taken their bilingualism for a constant cannot be
The above is just a theory of mine, but it brings up the issue of
one's "distance" from language. Native speakers of English are very close
to their language; they constantly use rules that they cannot consciously
define. ESL students, on the other hand, learn English by learning as
many of these rules as they can. Barbara Kennedy's article, "Non‑native
Speakers as Students in First‑year Composition Classes" provides some
very helpful exercises that can teach ESL students these rules of writing.
While thinking about these exercises, I realized that in my writing, I
follow automatically many of the rules they cover without knowing what
exactly the grammar in my head is doing; and this sometimes leads me to
uncertainty over whether or not, for example, I have made that series of
sentences into a clear, coherent whole. The exercises offered me a
clarifying second look at my own language. Perhaps, then, exercises
designed for ESL students might benefit everyone, non‑native speakers and
native speakers alike. More research into the subject of how the origin
of one's bilingualism affects language ability might help students like
Catalina who seem to be suffering instead of benefiting from their