Annotated Bibliographies for Fall 1996

* * * * *

[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

transcribe speech.

     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

political context.

     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" [630].  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" [639].  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?"[649].  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" [650].  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"[652].  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" [652].  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"[652].  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

straightforward manner.

        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

English 221

Annotated Bibliography 1



Baumlin, James S. and Tita French. "Psyche/Logos: Mapping the

            Terrains of Mind and Rhetoric." College English 51:3 (March

            1989): 245-261.


            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 Rhetorica) 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 " 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

English 221

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

English 221

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

English 221

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 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

English 221

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                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?     


Emily Christman

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. 







Emily Christman

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.





Emily Christman

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.



Emily Christman

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 

totally valid.

        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