English 221 Annotated Bibliographies for Fall 2005


Stewart, Jack. "Lawrence and the Creative Process." Style (Northern Illinois Univ., DeKalb), 37:2, summer 2003. 160-76, 251.


     In this passionate and vitally relevant article, Jack Stewart examines the truth of D. H. Lawrence's assertions about the creative process by applying them to the author's own works, and then expanding them to all artists in general. Stewart shares many of the same convictions as Flower and Hayes (the idea that writing is not at all a linear, neatly divisible process, but rather "intuitive, precognitive thinking, a vortex of motion and emotion spiralling out of the unconscious towards clarification and resolution"), and maintains Brand's central idea as well (that emotion cannot be removed from the writing process). He combines the thoughts from last week's readings, perhaps in more abstract language, and expands upon them in an examination of Lawrence's work. Stewart also conveys that the why of writing and the how of writing are almost synonymous; according to him and Lawrence, one writes because one "'man struggles with his unborn needs and fulfillment. New unfoldings struggle up in torment in him.... any man of real indviduality tries to know and to understand what is happening even in himself, as he goes along. This struggle for verbal consciousness should not be left out in art.'" Succinctly put by Stewart, "giving birth to the nascent self engenders the creative process.... The drive to clarify and overcome resistance depends on the depth of feeling and the sense of its truth." He believes, then, that writing is Flower and Hayes' act of translating, of grabbing at whole images in the mind and translating them into words for the reader, but the word he chooses to capture this act is "languaging."

     The article also ties in to our discussion of the sense of one's ego in writing. Writers write for several reasons: to express the world as they see and internalize it (thus, according to their emotions and morality), to examine and discover the formation of their selves, and, possibly the most profound concept in the article, to reach a deeper sense of being. Thus, the why of writing directly gives birth to and is intertwined in the how of writing; "'To appreciate the [poetic] manner of thought we have to... allow the mind to move in cycles.... upwards and downwards, and allow for a complete change of the state of mind at any moment (my italics).'" This again is the notion of all the writing processes embedded in one another and occurring in no specific order, and Stewart also touches on the idea of the long-term memory in writing. Stewart's explications of the writing process are ultimately appealing because they clearly show the near "ungraspability" of such a process, yet attempt to grasp it anyway and come away with many insights. Stewart also gives voice to something I mentioned in my first posting for this class: "'all language which is genuinely thoughtful, and therefore rooted in the aliveness of our experience, and which remains in contact with this dynamism, will "sound poetic," because what we call the "poetic sound" simply is the polyphonic resonance of deeply felt, deeply lived experience -- experience really alive in our thinking and saying.'" Once more, the why and how are the same.

     Stewart's application of Lawrence's affirmations of the creative process to the latter's own writings demonstrate the truth of his statements. Lawrence's writings are examples themselves of what he tries (and succeeds) to express. The article is reminiscent of Archibald MacLeish's "Ars Poetica," in which the poet's attempt to explain what a poem should be become his poem itself, also like our metaphysical thinking about our thinking. Form and content merge, just as the why and how of writing merge, as do feeling and thinking (for Brand and for all artists). "For Lawrence, mental momentum draws on the unconscious and depends on the surfacing and association of images; it is not predirected along logocentric paths of abstract ideas.... He characterizes creative thought as precisely the transmutation of bodily awareness into an integrated 'mental consciousness' that seeks and finds expression in language and style."  --Jordana Rozenman, 9/15/05

Pemberton, Michael A. “Modeling Theory and Composing Process Models.” College Composition and Communication, Vol. 44, No. 1. (Feb., 1993), pp. 40-58. Online at JSTOR: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0010-096X%28199302%2944%3A1%3C40%3AMTACPM%3E2.0.CO%3B2-F

     In “Modeling Theory and Composing Process Models,” Michael A. Pemberton investigates the use of different models in mapping the writing process. He discusses the problems that can arise from taking too much out of a given model, when really a model is only meant to be a “conceptual framework.” Models are very open to interpretation, and often can be vague. Because of this, he argues that it is necessary to provide a context for the model’s design, or a thorough explanation of what the model is meant to explain. If this is not provided, the model can be misinterpreted and considered to be a misrepresentation. As Pemberton says, “ Models are not intended to be thought of as anything more than potential and reasonable explanations for observational data…(46).”

     Pemberton also makes an example of the Flower and Hayes cognitive process model, as well as one of the main contenders against that model, Alice Brand. She (along with Susan McLeod, Carol Berkenkotter and Donald Murray, and some others) has taken issue with the fact that the cognitive model doesn’t take the affective or emotional processes into account. It would be difficult to represent the “affective” processes of writing in a model because they are so individualized. I think it is less important to work these emotional processes into a model than it is to simply take this shortcoming into account when looking at a model.  Pemberton references Michael Carter’s article “The Idea of Expertise,” in which Carter “points out that cognitive studies are intentionally reductive and that this feature of their epistemology is, in truth, their greatest strength (47).” In short, the whole point of a model is not to give the “final word” on the writing process, but instead to provide a starting point to learn about the writing process. The models are bound to be simplified, and if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be nearly as useful.

     I found this article useful because it directly relates to our other readings and discussions on the modeling processes, and gives a bit more of a background to the purpose of modeling the writing process. In some ways, I want to lean towards the side that says “models are oversimplified and writing is so individualized that these models can’t possibly apply to me,” but I really can’t convince myself of this. The models we have examined and discussed do apply to me. They aren’t, of course, step-by-step descriptions of my process, but nobody has modeled my personal writing process. Even if I did model my own process, it would still be simplified, because it’s slightly different every time. Honestly, the three-step model of the writing process  (pre-write, write, revise) could work too, because, if my writing is really stripped down, that's what I do. There’s a lot in between, but those three steps are always there. Every person does have their own particular style, and they won’t necessarily fit perfectly into a model, but that doesn’t prevent a model of the process from being useful to us. --Amanda Zrust, 9/18/05

El-Rakhawy, Yehya.  “Madness, Creativity and Society (Interview).”  Alif:  Journal of Comparative Poetics, 1994, No. 14, 206-227.  JSTOR.  Goucher College.  12 Sep. 2005.  http://links.jstor.org/ 

 Yehya El-Rakhawy, professor and head of the department of psychiatry at the Kasr El-Aini School of Medicine, Caira University, and Senior Consultant Psychiatrist at the Dar El-Mokattam Hospital for Mental Health, agreed to respond in writing to questions prepared by three prominent Egyptian scholars: Ehab El Kharrat, neuro-psychiatrist and preacher/ counselor at Kasr El Dobarah Evangelical Church, Ramadan Basttawicy, philosophy professor at Ain Shams University, and Jane McPherson, a psychotherapist at the Counseling Center at the American University in Cairo. Questions focused primarily on the relationship between madness and creativity, a topic in which El-Rakhawy is considered an authority, having published over 135 articles and more than 20 book-length works dealing with literature, psychiatry, and Arabic culture, many of which have implications dealing with the connection between creativity and madness. He is also widely known for his “evolutionary rhythmic theory,” which is a more organic, biologically based approach to mental health and development.

            El-Rakhawy offers a unique perspective on medicine and literature, borrowing heavily from his experience with the Arabic language, Islamic culture, primarily Sufism and al-fitra, as well as Egyptian folk traditions. His perspective, although vastly different from Western cultural traditions, is not out of touch with Western ideas of logic, and is presented in a well-argued, scholarly manner that makes his unorthodox ideas much easier to digest from a Western perspective.

            In this interview, El-Rakhawy argues the futility of connecting specific diagnoses to specific creative outputs, saying that modern psychiatry puts too much focus on the nature of the disease and not enough focus each individual’s nature of the disease. He then explores the life history in contrast to the diagnoses of three well-known “mad artists,” one visual, another literary, and a third philosophical: Van-Gogh, Dostoevski, and Nietschze. El-Rakhawy points out the extenuating circumstances in each of the artists’ lives that could have contributed to their respective art forms, as well as their respective diagnoses (take, for example, Nietzsche’s enormous level of underappreciated work which led to feelings of superiority and loneliness which could have led to his decompensation). Most interestingly, I thought, was El-Rakhawy’s idea of ‘vital energy’ and how when one is compromised by mental illness, their vital energy gets expressed in more extreme outbursts, most often when they are healthy.

            Overall, I found El-Rakhawy’s interview to be extraordinarily stimulating, and I do feel that there could be many practical applications of his unique perspective to our class, especially if I choose to continue researching the topic of creativity and madness. I find it difficult, however, to make anything more than esoteric connections between El-Rakhawy’s ideas and the theories and concepts we’ve been introduced to in class. In fact, I see more links to metaphysical concepts that are dealt with in less academic forms of writing (El-Rakhawy’s ideas about vital energy, especially, make me think of the less-tangible subject matter often touched upon in poetry). Perhaps the one aspect of El-Rakhawy’s ideas that appeal to me the most is the fact that they seem utterly holistic, borrowing qualities from so many varied schools of thought, many of which, I felt, conflicted too much with each other to ever be merged. I think it speaks for itself that this article has helped me to think otherwise.     -Gregory Bortnichak, 9/18/05

Emig, Janet.  “Writing as a mode of learning.”  College Composition and Communication 1997: 122-128.  Journal Storage: the Scholarly Journal Archive.  JSTOR.  Goucher College, Towson, Maryland.  16 Sept 2005 <http://www.jstor.org/>

        In this pithy article, Janet Emig explains why writing is not only an excellent mode of learning, but a unique one.  She presents four “languaging processes”; listening, talking, reading, and writing; and discusses different ways of looking at them and at the differences among them.  Her focus moves quickly to the differences between writing and talking, which are both useful in learning but in very different ways.  She lists similarities and differences, including that talking is often used as prewriting; that writing is a technology while talking is a natural process; that the audience is not always present in writing, but usually is in talking; that writing has a visible product while talking normally does not; and that writing, mainly because of its visibility, is more readily a source of learning.


        In order to explore the ways writing is unique as a mode of learning, Emig mentions several ways to define learning, but explains that most definitions agree on certain “features and strategies that characterize successful learning” (124): reinforcement and feedback, connectivity and selectivity, ability to summarize, and finally, successful learning is engaged and “self-rhythmed”.  She explains three major ways of learning, as described by Jerome Bruner: by doing, by depiction, and by restatement.  Writing, she informs us, does everything at once.  It synthesizes those three ways of learning and “involves the fullest possible functioning of the brain” (125), using both the right and left hemispheres.


        The most important reason that writing is unique is that process is immediately visible and can be reviewed as product, and then edited or taken into account.  This means that feedback, the first strategy of successful learning, is immediately available.  Writing is also done at one’s own pace, the same as successful learning.


        I was pulled in immediately by the title and beginning of this article, though the concept is nothing I would have thought of outside of this class.  I hope to find more articles on the subject in the future; Emig seems to leave it open at the end for others to expound upon her work, so I hope that this has been done.  This article appears to just scratch the surface of writing’s uniqueness, and it seems that by focusing on more specific aspects of it, other writers and researches could go very in-depth and come out with some interesting conclusions, that might then be synthesized in order to shed more light on Emig’s initial thoughts.


        There is a definite connection, as well, between the idea of writing to learn and Peter Elbow’s desire to write at least first drafts without attention to audience.  Elbow explains that if awareness of audience is confusing us, we should ignore it in order to figure out what it is that we want to say—which is, in a sense, learning.  Emig does not mention audience in her article, but it seems to be implied that if we are writing in order to learn, not to teach, that there is no audience other than the self.

         Most students probably do not think of writing as a mode of learning at all; it is something that they are assigned to do, and they assume that they should know what they have to say before beginning a paper.  If they can be encouraged to write in order to find out what it is that they want to say, their writing could become much stronger.—Kaitlin Miller, 9/18/05


Brand, Alice. “Social Cognition, Emotions, and the Psychology of Writing.” JAC 11.2 (1991): 25 pars. 18 Sept. 2005. <http://jac.gsu.edu/jac/11.2/Articles/11.htm>

             Alice Brand had previously addressed the issues of emotion as a crucial step in the writing process. In what feels like a fairly direct follow-up to the role of emotion in the writing process, she now assesses the role of emotion in psychological contexts and the role of those psychological contexts in writing. As the title of the article suggests, Brand here analyzes psychology and the related, but still separate, field of sociology in the writing process.

            Before connecting the role of what she postulates to be considered cognitive/analytical studies (psychology, or clinical psychology, to be more specific) and social sciences (the emotional aspect of the mind’s inner workings), she first examines the history of social psychology and the emotions as it relates to the “accepted”, clinical field of psychology. She notes how pioneers in emotional psychology relied heavily on William Wundt’s practice of introspection as means of documenting emotion, emphasizes the later criticism of said practice for its inability to be tested and proven universal with set experimental guidelines, and notes how the psychological world moved from dealing with the entire range of the inner self to treating emotions as manifestations of a disease, which the psychologists and psychiatrists were now trained to evaluate and treat. Brand also stresses the importance of World War II in the break between cognitive psychology, studying what processes can create a mindset, and social psychology, studying the why rather than the what, and how that war brought about the need for extensive looks at the causes of mental distress; extreme emotional outbursts in the population of the time were generally regarded as abnormal, ergo, emotions were abnormal and not fodder for serious science.

            Brand goes on to discuss the differing viewpoints between the cognitive camp and the social camp: in cognitive psychology, an act such as writing might have some basis from an individual’s surroundings, but it is ultimately an individual’s need to face reality that causes writing to occur. In social psychology, that which surrounds a person defines that person’s need to write. In Brand’s assessment, both factor into the emotions necessary for writing, but both are essential. After all, while we must consider the audience, as sociologists suggest, we must also shut out the possible considerations of potential readers for a time in order to affect our writing. Compromise between the two camps is key.

            While I agree with Brand’s assessment that both social and individual factors lead into proper writing, I would also say that such suggestion comes as no surprise. Common sense leads one to believe that no one theory on the workings of largely uncharted territory is any more right than another, and most psychologists have accepted that many approaches to their field can be combined to best help the patient. This can be a combination of re-socialization and re-framing of cognition, or a combination of behavioral learning with a bit of psychoanalysis thrown in, or a mixture of all. As the notion of multiple factors forming a process is nothing new to me, this follow-up to a direct question of emotion in writing should have had less to do with the history of the schism between cognitive and social psychology and the possible need for reunion and dealt more directly with how social settings can affect the writing process. While Brand does address that obliquely in the last paragraph, the article would have been more helpful dealing either in cognitive emotions and writing, or social emotions and writing, but not the history of both. As a historical analysis, this article works well in documenting processes for evaluating emotions in writing; as a hypothesis, it could have been handled better.—Bree Katz, 9/18/05

Emig, Janet A. “The Uses of the Unconscious in Composing.” College Composition and Communication, 1964, Vol. 15, No. 1, 6-11. JSTOR. Goucher College. 18 Sept., 2005. <http://links.jstor.org>.


     In her essay, “The Uses of the Unconscious in Composing,” Janet Emig compares the use of the acknowledged “conscious mind” in the teaching of writing to the less commonly mentioned “unconscious mind.”  The essay beings with Emig describing the traditional assignment given to a freshman student by the traditional teacher: Write an in-class essay with a well-constructed theme. She criticizes rhetoric textbooks for implying that, “writing is an act of the conscious self alone (6).”  Warriner’s Handbook, Grade 11 is cited for acknowledging the formal layout of the writing process in which the students begins with a plan.  Having made this first criticism, Emig goes on in her essay to quote well know and well respected authors (including Gertrude Stein, Rudyard Kipling, and Amy Lowell) who do in fact acknowledge the use and importance of the unconscious in writing.  Stein, for example, strongly emphasizes the writer to, “think of the writing in terms of discovery,” so it will be as if the creation of the piece, “came out of the pen and out of you and not out of…the thing you are doing (8).”  Emig notes how these kinds of writers, the ones admired and respected, rarely follow the step-by-step layout that Warriner’s prescribes.  Instead they call upon their daemons, the unexplainable flow that comes when the pen is in hand and the mind is set free.  Kipling attributes the creation of his Just So Stories and Kim to his daemons. 

     Emig explains that once the unconscious is recognized, it needs to be fueled, with ritual, for example, rather than habit.  She defines habit as the regular schedule of writing that is observed, whereas ritual is evocative, getting the creative juices to flow.  Above all, Emig sites language as the key to summon the writing daemons.  She suggests that the reading of other authors can influence the reader to pay attention to the rhythm and style of written language, but talking to peers can help one to recognize the oral impact of words, and emphasize that rhythm found in the written.  Still, it is when one sits down and begins to write without thought that the “music” of language can truly be discovered.  Emig compares the methods of creativity in writing (and calling upon daemons and discovering “music”) to Motzart and Beethoven.  The Motzartian, “is one who can instantaneously arrange encounters with his unconscious,” while the Beethovian, “is the agonizer, the evolutionizer (11),” identifying most writers as the latter.  The essay gives credit to the missing ingredient of writing, that part of the process that is most taken for granted, but which without creativity could not exist.  Emig encourages teachers to allow students to find their own daemons, in hopes that each writer can experience their daemons without limitations.

     I appreciated Emig’s article for the reason that it focuses on the part of writing which can never quite come into focus, because it is always changing.  It is something that cannot be taught, but it can be fueled and encouraged, which she recognizes and urges teachers to do.  I found it surprising that professional writers are consulted, “with strange infrequency, considering he is our most powerful source, (8)” and at the same time discouraging.  It would make sense to listen to those writers who were are taught to read with awe and admiration, but we turn instead to a text book which tries to map out the workings of the writing mind.  If this were at all possible in reality there would no longer be any great works, for we would all be writing the same.  And as Emig points out, “which do we hope to receive [from our students]: “The Raven: Revisted” or Beethoven’s Tenth: A Symphony in Prose? (11).”  I believe this essay is the first step in helping me explore the “spark,” or “flow,” in writing.  While it is easy to list what rituals aid a writer, it is quite difficult to explain what happens when the writer gets into writing mode.  What happens to the brain?  What emotions are felt?  Which memories revisited?  And, most importantly, how can that be taught to students?  Our class has explored the more scientific side of the process, but Emig’s article proves that there is more to a good essay than a handful of organized data.  I am looking forward to seeing what other essayists have to say about the involvement of this almost unidentifiable element of the creative process.- Simone Martell, Sept. 18, 2005


Beatty, Walcott H. "Emotions: The Missing Link in Education." Theory into Practice 8.2 (1969): 86-92. Jstor. 16 Sept. 2005 <http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0040-5841%28196904%298%3A2%3C86%3AETMLIE%3E2.0.CO%3B2-D>


This article discusses the importance of the recognition of emotion as a key part of all people.  It chiefly addresses the education of children.  Beatty ties education to emotion in saying that the world of educators has for too long been preoccupied with the cognitive aspects of learning.  He says that it is important to take into account the emotional as well as cognitive growth patterns of students in the act of educating.  To look at a person and not look at their emotional maturity is to take them out of context.  Beatty argues that it is necessary to look at the whole organism to best asses how to educate that organism.


I was attracted to this article because I feel as though it spoke to everything that we have been talking about in class, even though it is not specifically about the writing process.  I feel as though a tutor has to know at least something about a tutee in order to help them because otherwise, the paper ceases to belong to the writer.  I think that is one of the most important aspect of not only teaching writing, but writing itself.  This article explores the ways in which the emotional and cognitive aspects of students are intertwined and explains that it is neccesary to consider both aspects.—Jennifer Curtis, 9/19/05


Sansevere, Samantha. “On the Use of “I” in Academic Writing.” Working with Student Writers. Podis, Leonard and Podis, JoAnne, ed. New York: Peter Lang, 1999. 251-260.

     After reading Koundakjian’s essay for last class, I was struck by her dismissal of academic writing as impersonal. In my own academic writing, here meaning “assigned by a professor to be written on a set topic,” I feel I can still express my own opinions and emotions, even if I cannot use words such as “I” or “my.” I wanted to find an essay that addressed the topic of using personal pronouns in academic writing and how what a person writes reflects their personality, and Sansevere’s essay proved to be exactly right.

     In her essay, Sansevere addresses the attitude of professors towards the use of the personal in academic papers. Her thesis is that just because a writer doesn’t say “I” or “my” doesn’t mean that the essay is not written from their view point.  In fact, she argues that “a voice is to writing what a personality is to a person” and I definitely agree. There is a reason that five people writing on the same topic using the same resources produce five unique papers. Each chooses what is to be included or excluded, what connections to make, and what thesis to defend. This reflects the personal choices made when writing the paper.

     Sansevere also addresses the issue of word choice. This, she argues, is a reflection of the writer’s background. Writing reflects whether the writer is from the city or the country, the writer’s socio-economic background and other personal experiences. Though she admits that often a paper must be tailored to a reader, such as not using “y’all” in a paper for a professor, the word used as a substitute reflects the knowledge of the writer. 

     The author also stresses that a lack of the personal doesn’t mean that the views expressed in the paper are objective. In fact, she argues, it is impossible to be objective in writing. This is largely due to the fact that humans cannot be objective. Past experiences and knowledge cause us to have to take a stance on an issue. Also, every writer has something to gain, Sansevere claims, and thus cannot be completely without opinion on a subject. Those things to be gained include grades, personal fulfillment, publication, etc.; in essence all writing has a purpose.

     Additionally, including the personal lends a sense of responsibility. It causes the writer to be more dedicated to their writing if they must take responsibility for it and it causes the reader to understand what can be taken as universal fact and what is just the writer’s opinion.

     This essay has helped me to see just how much of a person goes into everything he/she writes. From here, I hope to proceed in my research into the topic by examining the differences in people who are non-native English speakers. Is it really the person who chooses the words in a piece of writing, or is the person simply limited by what English words are in that person’s vocabulary? If the writer is being introduced to a topic for the first time, how do they form opinions about it? It is, at least to me, a very interesting topic, since I am also a non-native English speaker.—Milena Rodban, 9/19/05

Bizzell, Patricia.  “On the Possibility of a Unified Theory of Composition and  Literature.”  Rhetoric Review, 1986, Vol. 4, No 2, 174-180.  JSTOR.  Goucher College.  18 Sept, 2005.

             In “On the Possibility of a Unified Theory of Composition and Literature”, which discusses the division between the two areas that reside within the field of English, Patricia Bizzell begins by stating that compositional studies in its current incarnation is a fairly new field of study, rife with disagreements on how to go about teaching and understanding composition.  She goes on to discuss the close relationship between the two fields, citing the tendency of composition theorists to utilize literary theory in their own studies, and exploring the fact that in the English classroom, students are taught to study literature with the assumption that it will assist them in identifying structure and form in their own work, citing that the works of many eminent composition theorists back up this extremely close, working connection between the two fields. 

            Her main argument as to why composition theory and literary studies are still considered separate academic entities is that “there are no dominant theories in each of the two fields between which a union might be negotiated (175)”.  She also states that the “controversies (175)” that both fields face make it difficult for them to unite fully, and that the aforementioned controversies are devastatingly similar.  Both center around the struggle that writers face to create meaning in their work through language, according to Bizzell. 

            After analyzing this controversy thoroughly, Bizzell discusses the possibility of integration of English studies into traditionally more scientific fields, such as cognitive science and sociobiology (176), and begins to describe how in one sense, this has already begun to happen through the study of semiotics.  She disputes scientific studies such as those of Flower and Hayes, stating that they promote a system of compositional law that is too universal: “The problem with these claims to universality in composition studies is that they are unable to account for context-bound aspects of composing (177)”.   She  briefly discusses the composition theorists that focus more on historical and cultural influence on writers, and asserts her hope that “a unifying theory will emerge as these theorists band together to fight a common enemy (177).”

            One suggestion, which Bizzell takes as a possible solution to the rift between the two fields, is that of Terry Eagleton, who believes that the field of literary theory should be eliminated in favor of the study of rhetoric.  Bizzell states that this would benefit those literary theorists who choose to also see themselves as rhetors in that the new title might assist them in connecting with the “practice (178)” of writing.  She  believes that a shift in title within literary theory will eventually unify the two fields completely.

            I particularly appreciated this article because it acknowledges how impossibly connected literary studies and composition studies are, and yet, how divided they can be, as well, and because Bizzell rejects many scientists’ call for a universal way of looking at the composition process.  The idea that composition and literary studies influence each other so much that they could possibly unite and further the interests of both fields, in the classroom as well as in research, fascinates me, and I look forward to exploring it further.—Anna Waltman, 9/19/05

Nelson, G. Lynn. “Writing beyond Testing; ‘The Word as an Instrument of Creation.’” The English Journal 91.1, Assessing Ourselves to Death  (2001): 57-61.  Available at JSTOR: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0013-8274%28200109%            2991%3A1%3C57%3AWBT%22WA%3E2.0.CO%3B2-4

            G. Lynn Nelson is the director of the Greater Phoenix Area Writing Project, a part of the National Writing Project. In this paper, he writes about his outrage at the way in which the subject of English is taught for the purpose of having students test well on standardized tests. He argues that in reducing English to a subject in school that is learned in order to simply perform well on a test is “robbing our children of the birthright of their language ‘as an instrument of creation’” (57). He sees writing as having the potential to in a sense, save us by giving us the power to have a voice and to express ourselves. While Nelson admits that it is not a simple thing to simply go up against school boards and reject their goals and curricula, he encourages other writing teachers to fight this trend and keep teaching students about the power of writing. Nelson uses examples from different writers who used writing to, in a sense, liberate themselves. He quotes Pablo Neruda, William Stafford, Helen Keller, Paulo Freire, and Jimmy Santiago Baca, illustrating how writing has affected each of them and saved these people in some way or another.

            As director of the Greater Phoenix Area Writing Project, Nelson started the Young Adult Writing Project (YAWP), a three-week writing program for teenagers. He writes that they “started this program primarily to help the teenagers—but also to demonstrate what happens when a writing classroom is focused not upon testing but upon the Word as an instrument of creation.”(60) The teenagers (from ages 13-19) are asked to “write from their experiences, their feelings” and their assignments are centered around writing about “times when they lost something, a time when they learned something, a time when they were hurt, a time when they experienced a small joy, etc” (60).  They were also encouraged to free write in journals before sitting down to write a structured piece. After peer feedback, they would revise and then at the end of the three weeks, they would each read a piece they had written. Through his observations of the students, Nelson shows us that over these three weeks, the teenagers “turned their pain and confusion and anger not into violence, but into the Word as an instrument of creation, into art and powerful literacy”(61).

            This article caught my eye and kept me interested for the same reasons it bothered me. Nelson’s passion for what he is writing about is clear from very early on in this piece. His commitment to youth and his conviction that a confidence in, and command of written language has the ability to transform and save people, is inspiring. And yet, there are times when I feel like his overt emotional language hinders his argument. That being said, I felt the piece was getting at some important issues concerning the way children are taught to write and also the way they are taught to view English as simply a subject in school or a test they have to pass. He focused a good deal on teaching children to write so that they have a tool with which to transform their angst and pain into something creative and beautiful. As a result, he centered more on children who would be likely to fail the standardized English tests and how as a result “the system will further take away from them their gift of language, their possibility to find voice and choice and personal power” (58). For instance, the “Native American students in [his] classroom, strangers in their own land…the children in [his] wife’s classroom down the street, children of the poor and disenfranchised, children most likely to fail our tests” (58-59).

            I found similarities between this piece and aspects of Lester Faigley’s “Competing Theories of Process: A Critique and a Proposal.” Nelson seems to align himself with the Expressive View presented in Faigley's paper. Faigley references Rohman and Wlecke’s view that “teachers should stimulate student’s thinking by having them write journals, construct analogies, and, in the spirit of the sixties, meditate before writing essays” (Faigley 529). Faigley also cites (in his footnotes) Ken Macrorie whose angry rejection of the technicization of writing echo’s Nelson’s: “[Ken Macrorie], who damned “themes” as papers “not meant to be read but corrected (686).” But the strongest similarity was Faigley’s reference to expressive theorists “who apply the concept of ‘self-actualization’ from psychoanalysis to writing” (Faigley 531). Faigley quotes Rohman as saying that teachers “must recognize and use, as the psychologists do in therapy, a person’s desire to actualize himself (108)” (531). This is almost exactly what Nelson is getting at in his paper when he says “We are talking about things like voice and personal empowerment and spiritual growth—things that modern technological society takes away from our students, from all of us” (59). In terms of teaching children to write for some higher purpose than just grades or tests, I think that Nelson is on the right track. While he often sounds like he is up on a soapbox, he makes a good point about the power of writing and the importance of cultivating an appreciation of it in students. -Kate Murray 9/19/05

Thompson, Holly. “Traveling the Middle Ground: Bridging the Dichotomies Between Academic and Personal Discourse.” Working With Student Writers. Ed. Leonard A. Podis, JoAnne M. Podis. Lang, 1999. 199-206.

 Holly Thompson’s essay appeals to me because it feels like I could write it. If I were a girl. Written while she was an English major at Oberlin, “Traveling” addresses not only the divide between academic and personal types of writing, but the difference between public and private discourse – and how that relates to gender. She writes successfully in both an academic and personal style, which, considering her points, is nothing less than inspiring.

Thompson begins by explaining the almost diametrically opposite atmospheres she grew up in. Her parents divorced as a child, and her mother was an extremely emotional parent, holding very little back about how she felt. Her father and his new wife, on the other hand, were abnormally clean, orderly, and cold. Where Thompson felt as if she couldn’t express her opinions at her father’s home, she felt the need to explode at home, like her mother, over ‘petty’ issues.

“My father’s home…can be seen as a particularly male sphere of rationality and emotional detachment.” (201) “My description of my mother plays into feminine stereotypes that characterize women as being hyper-emotional, irrational, hysterical.” (202) This is a point that may seem unique to Thompson’s situation, but just because these extremes may not be illustrated so vividly in everyone’s life doesn’t mean the perception doesn’t exist – particularly in the academic community.

Thompson’s analysis of academia’s approach – that it “encourages the use of the public voice over the private one” (202) – is more powerful because she uses her own school, Oberlin College, a pillar of progressive academic thinking. She looks into Oberlin’s past to reveal times where men were allowed to take classes that were not considered “appropriate to the feminine mind”, the only genre classes that Yeowomen were allowed to take.

Thompson calls for the academic community to recognize the middle ground between personal and academic writing, something she struggled with as a college writer. I feel this is something that many writers struggle with, and if classroom conversations are any indication, I’m probably right. Thompson feels her College is still dichotomizing the personal and academic voices – even ‘delegitimizing’ (204) the personal one. That’s not something I want to happen at my or any college.

The modes of writing Thompson uses are both personal and academic, from the narrative of her childhood to the presentation of her argument. I feel that this should be a if not the goal of ours in this course; to find ways to make academic writing personal (or vice versa) in order to provide writers with the type of passion for their subject that we as writers and students have experienced and that Thompson displays here. --Tyler Adams, 9/20/05

Al Sanousi, Haifa. “The Psychological Role of Expressive and Literary Writing: A Case Study on Kuwaiti Women.” PsyArt: An Online Journal for the Psychological Study of the Arts: (2004). 98 pars. 24 Sept. 2005. <http://www.clas.ufl.edu/ipsa/journal/2004_sanousi01.shtm>

             Writing as benefit to mental and physical health strikes strained academic paper and article writers as oxymoronic. Yet Haifa Al Sanousi, a Ph.D. teaching at the University of Kuwait, sees writing as more than just beneficial- the act is essential to maintaining well-being in a stress-filled life, both her own as a teacher of women in the repressive society of Kuwait, and in the stress-filled lives of the women she teaches, women who deal daily with abusive husbands, fathers, and brothers, women who must cope with the pain of beatings and rapes. For those more privileged to have freer-thinking male compatriots, the stress of merely being a woman in the university setting creates enormous pressure, more so than it does on the average college student. For the purpose of helping these women to relieve their stress by expressive writing, discussing feelings, worries, and desires, Al Sanousi first addresses the background of self-expressive writing as therapeutic measure: first experimenter to be cited in the article is Kitty Klein of the University of North Carolina, whose laboratory experiments found that expressive writers’ working memories improved by up to 11% when working out traumatic feelings on paper, 4% when recounting positive occurrences, and 2.5% when simply detailing daily activities. Early researcher Ira Progoff theorized on the need for a journal recounting both daily activities and nightly activities in the form of dreams. James Pennebaker directly researched the benefits of expressive writing, finding that by sitting at his own keyboard for ten minutes a day his marriage improved as his writings helped him understand it, and in a laboratory setting he discovered the effects of decreased blood pressure, higher lung function, and improved memory.

            For her part, Al Sanousi relies on her students as subjects, giving them a test to take- a midterm or final examination, one on which their grades depend- and then requests that half the women she teaches write what they are feeling before the test begins. To the other half, the test is given without preamble. Those encouraged to release their anxieties before the test begins have higher grades than those in the control group. She also relies on case study information, that of Kuwaiti author Laila Al Othman, who has succeeded as an independent woman and a writer despite her abused background because, Al Sanousi argues, she could use writing as therapy to find relief from her past.

            To the struggling author, this article’s findings provide a measure of hope. Other articles on the link between writing and psychology that I, personally, have read usually detail the mind’s effect on writing. This article works the other way around, presenting a wide range of evidence to suggest that writing can have a positive effect on the mind, even, extending past the article’s boundaries, the mind of a blocked or stuck writer. As writing academic papers can be just as stressful, if not more so, than taking a test, encouraging a writer to simply might seem like an insult at first, but drawing the writer out by asking him or her to reveal why the particular assignment has become a source of anxiety would allow the student to shift focus off the assignment itself, which for reasons not fully explicable allows the mind to work out the particulars of the assignment and provide a brilliant jump-off point in some instances. Even if this unconscious magic does not occur while the student fleshes out fears and frustrations, simply seeing the anxieties written out on paper permits the student and anyone helping out (a tutor, for instance) to immediately address some primary issues interfering with the writing.

            Al Sanousi’s research, both on the background and in her own setting, provides yet more support for the assertion that having a frustrated writer approach a topic from another angle works wonders in both the immediate situation and any future situations with the same root. While the suggestion of writing when writing itself causes the problem would seem to afford the stressed student with a perfect case of justifiable homicide, the suggestion, Al Sanousi eagerly supports, would just do the trick of unblocking the dam.—Bree Katz, 9/24/05


 Morrow, Diane Stelzer. “Tutoring Writing: Healing or What?” College Composition and Communication, 1991, Vol. 42, No. 2, 218-29. JSTOR. Goucher College. 25 Sept., 2005. <http://links.jstor.org>.

Before becoming a writing tutor at George Mason University, Diane Stelzer Morrow practiced family medicine in Washington, D.C.  Her essay, “Tutoring Writing: Healing or What?” compares the practice of medicine, particularly that of the patient/physician relationship to the tutee/tutor relationship in a class setting.  She was trained in a course similar to 221 before becoming recognized as a credible tutor.  Morrow read the tutoring theories of Susan and Stephen Judy, Muriel Harris, and an essay by Donald Murray of which she cites often in this essay.  She observes how Murray’s description of a tutoring session—“I’m really teaching my students to react to their own work in such a way that they write increasingly effective drafts” (221)—applies to her own experiences in both the examining room and the tutoring room.  She doesn’t so much have her patients write effective drafts, but she is able to have them ask questions and find the answer to their own problems by doing so.  She refers to the “activity-passivity” approach that some doctors take: prescribing drugs or medicine to cure a patient, without the involvement of the patient to find a treatment, then compares this to the writing center, where some students look to the tutor to “fix” their essay without any involvement of their own either.  Her ideal writing session, however, is one where the student takes control instead, and is able to find out for himself the treatment that needs to be administered to the essay. 

The data for this essay comes mostly from Morrow’s experience in each of the aforementioned disciplines, both in which she has authority, which, ironically enough, is another topic she addresses in her discussion of how to approach a student in need of tutoring: “On the one hand I wanted to have a session in which I nodded and smiled and he taught himself; on the other hand I had this nearly overwhelming urge to say something profound…He was looking at me as if I were an authority.  And the funny thing was that’s what I wanted to be.” (222).  This conflict a tutor deals with, that of knowing when to step in and when to sit back, is one that Morrow is all too familiar with.  She shares specific experiences in the essay, including one in which the tutee knew much more about the subject than she did, and one where she had to admit she “just didn’t know” what to do with the paper.

Morrow also references different theories on how to teach essay writing to younger students, in hopes to perhaps avoid “the rut” that leads one to the writing center in the first place.  She cites Murray’s “trialouge of teacher, student, and text” (225), and the “response theory of teaching,” in which a student begins a conference by responding to his or her own writing, hoping to discover on their own what can be done with the paper (the opposite of the “activity-passivity” described for patients above). Morrow offers a number of ways to cope with the stress and conflicts that present themselves in the writing center, equipping the future tutor with enough theories to shake a pen at.

I found Morrow’s essay useful in the sense that it provided the future writing center tutor with several different theories to approach a tutee.  Since she had many case studies as well (three were mentioned in the essay), the reader is able to experience from her first hand accounts the anxieties and stresses that arise in the heat of the moment.  Whether it is that the student knows nothing about the topic, or that the tutor doesn’t either, or that there is too much material to deal with feasibly, Morrow offers theories and examples of how to cope with each situation.  The writing center ultimately is a place of learning, not only for the student, but for the tutor as well.

This essay reminded me of the last essay I read for the annotated bibliography project, one by Janet Emig called, “The Uses of the Unconscious in Composition.”  Both essayists encouraged teachers to encourage their students to discover for themselves what makes an essay work.  Emig suggests free writing, and Morrow suggests talking about the work.  Both have the potential to be equally effective, yet it must be remembered that all theories depend on a particular situation and a particular student.  While I believe Morrows theories and experiences to be true, it will be interesting to see what happens when I am in the position of writing tutor myself, and how much I will let myself discover.- Simone Martell, Sept. 25, 2005

Brand, Alice G. "Values: Understanding Writing through Brain Biology." Rhetoric Review (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.). Vol 16, No 2, Spring 1998. 290-309.

             It was a relief and almost an astonishment to find an article combining morality, emotion, the brain, and the writing process. "Values: Understanding Writing through Brain Biology," while a difficult article, puts forth many insights on the combination of those four concepts. Brand first discusses her three fundamental aspects of the brain: its sociology (not interaction with other brains/people, but its own inner "communities of neurons"), its psychology ("individual intellectual processes and subjective experience"), and its physicality. She covers many ideas, from evolutionary theory and Darwin to "higher-order consciousness and language" to formal education and more, and tries to connect all these concepts with biology, emotion, values, and finally writing. "In composition studies choice is often called Style; in evolutionary theory choice is called Natural Selection," she states, linking the writing process to Darwin. One of her main points is that language, the medium through which we think, is the "prerequisite of higher-order consciousness [moral reasoning]," and that as such it governs the choices we make in writing. Because our moral reasoning is bound to emotion -- in our brain, Brand's argument for the indispensability of emotion in the writing process is furthered. Biology, emotion, values, and writing are all thus inextricably joined. Brand suggests that this will be of great use to instructors once incorporated into  the general teaching consciousness. "Writing problems are not only thinking problems.... they may be emotional problems, situational problems, or biological problems," she declares, refuting a view I had taken (and found supported) in this class until now without truly examining it. "Sensory experience is the quintessential starting point for teaching and learning language," which means that teaching and learning writing involves a great deal of the same. She also discusses instructionist vs. selectionist learning, and reiterates the point from our earlier classes about students "deferring" to others' needs ("at the extreme, learning is equivalent to pedagogical surrender").

     I find all this fascinating because morality is, for me, the greatest form of finding or injecting meaning in life. This article may be the cause of an enormous self-searching for me, because Brand states that "indeed, subjectivity is precisely the attribute that gives human life meaning." I am stuck at this sentence, because it seems to be profoundly true (if subjectivity means individuality, and certainly that is what gives life its meaning; if we or all of our creative works were all the same, there would be no point). BUT. The other side of this coin is that I have always felt, and reasoned, and searched for proof of the idea, that morality is objective. It must be, for reasons I won't go into in this bibliography. What does all this say about creativity? Right and wrong? Is it another situation where I will have to reconcile what are generally taken to be opposites? "The mind, in a sense then, begins when values first register." Is Brand then arguing, as I am, that creativity cannot exist without a moral element? However, "what writing specialists seem blind to is that feelings are reasons for deciding to do one thing or another," whether it be word choice or something larger. Yet if this is true, where does objective reasoning fit in? Enormous questions, but I am beginning to see how I can relate them all to the writing process. I could go on, there is much more quotable matter in this article, but perhaps it would best be saved for the final paper, or class. I think that at this moment what it comes down to is: how can my two most important ideals, individuality and objectivity outside of that, be reconciled, and what does this say about writing?—Jordana Rozenman, 9/25/05

Anderson, Worth, Cynthia Best, Alycia Black, John Hurst, Brandt Miller, and Susan Miller. "Cross-Curricular Underlife: A Collaborative Report on Ways with Academic Words." College Composition and Communication 41.1 (February 1990): 11-36.


      This article, written by a professor and five students at the University of Utah, explores the different ways that writing and language are used in learning in different college courses.  The article’s introduction explains their discovery that in different courses learning and writing are defined in different ways.  The main intent was to discover how successful their freshman writing course was at preparing students for other classes, but as I am neither familiar nor concerned with that particular class, I found their observations much more interesting than their conclusions.


      After the writing course was over, they formed a small group to study how writing and learning operated in other classes—specifically, the courses that each student was taking the next semester.  One immediate and, to me, surprising observation was that only a few courses actually required papers, so what they had learned in the writing course didn’t necessarily directly apply.  However, all of the courses required notes, which helped lead them to the conclusion (at the end) that note-taking skills would have been a good thing to include in the writing course.  The article goes on to explain the various reasons that students choose to take the courses they take, the main ones being interest, requirements (either for core curriculum or for a major), and ease.


      When they came together to discuss their observations, it was discovered that each student had focused on a distinctly different aspect of writing and learning.  Worth Anderson studied how he, in particular, used language in learning; Cynthia Best observed how her fellow students learned; Alycia Black monitored how teachers influenced the use of language; John Hurst explored the relationships among talk, listening, and silence in a classroom environment; and Brandt Miller focused on conversations.


      They came out with many important and interesting observations, several of which are things that most successful students know, but have not necessarily ever articulated.  Different teachers focus on different aspects of writing, the main ones being either facts or presentation of facts.  The teacher is the audience for a piece of academic writing, so what the teacher wants assumes prime importance.  There is a need to know what is important to learn for the subject itself as well as what is important to learn in order for the teacher to be happy.  Learning takes place in at least two different areas—the classroom (lectures and discussions) and the home or dorm (reading the textbook).  Student attitudes depend on teacher attitudes—if a teacher does not appear enthusiastic about a class, the students never can be, and a give-and-take between student and teacher is very necessary.


      At the end of the article the students and then the professor (Susan Miller) went on for several pages about their conclusions, but these conclusions mainly concerned their writing course and how it was effective or deficient.  The professor also drew conclusions that appeared to relate to the Writing Across the Curriculum movement as a whole, but unfortunately I am not as familiar with that movement as I could be and was generally unable to draw any meaningful understanding of her conclusions.


     I feel that an understanding of what the students observed in their research is very necessary for both students and tutors—namely, that each course has its own expectations and requirements, which may not necessarily be the same as what students have been taught to expect.  All students know that meeting the professor’s wishes is of highest importance, but not all know how to go about doing so or even discovering what the professor’s wishes are.  Tutors can help with this, of course, if they are familiar with the professors in question, but even if they are not, it may be possible to help tutees discover what their professors are looking for.  If they have not spoken to their professors directly (which one of the collaborators indicates can be necessary), they can be encouraged to do so, but failing that, there may be other techniques.  The tutor could ask leading questions designed to make the tutee think about how professors present themselves and their materials, and thus discover what the professors may be looking for.


     The discussion of the professor as the audience also made me think of Peter Elbow’s article on ignoring audience, but unlike Janet Emig, this group appears to not even consider writing as a mode of learning.  Their focus is writing in order to demonstrate learning and achieve high grades, and their professors certainly do not seem to have any interest in having them write to learn.  Therefore, their goal would not seem to be furthered by following Elbow’s advice, though their complaints about uninteresting classes and falling asleep while writing certainly might be somewhat alleviated if they looked at other ways of learning than reading, being lectured, and discussing.--Kaitlyn Miller, 9/26/05

Greist, Gary.  “English in its Postmodern Circumstances: Reading, Writing, and Goggle Roving.”  English Journal, 1992, Vol. 81, No. 7, 14-18.  JSTOR.  Goucher College.  26 Sept, 2005.

             In this article regarding the teaching of English at the secondary school level, Gary Greist grapples with the teaching of a subject in the grips of evolution in a society also caught up in the wheels of change. 

            Greist begins by discussing the impact of academic theorists on high school teachers, referencing Peter Elbow’s term “bamboozlement” (14).  He, like Elbow, believes that there is an inherent problem of “playing a teacher role that doesn’t reflect who we are (14)”- in other words, he believes that there is an identity crisis in the classroom due to discrepancies in the theory of teaching English, and moves on to assert that the media’s increased involvement in daily life may have something to do with it.

            He goes on to state that the “epistemological overhaul (14)” going on in the world of high academia regarding compositional and literary theory has yet to trickle down to the high school classroom, and laments the postmodern tendency to attach definitions to things willy-nilly without ever really considering their real meaning and implications.  Greist thinks that this tendency to be mired in strict truths binds educators of English to the past, and compares them to “priests, responsible for the rituals, history, and sacred books of our literary canon (15).” 

            Greist then touches on the influence of the media, and exhorts the necessity of teaching English in cultural context- “the onslaught…not only defines what shapes communication but also what is communicated (15).”  He appears to view the current system of English education as antiquated and refers to it as a “19th Century museum piece (15).” 

            The definition of “goggle roving” (a term coined by Ted Nelson) is “the ability to look around stuff and see the backside (16).”  Greist states that this should be applied to the English classroom in that behind every composition is a world of outside influence from the media.  He also discusses the influence of computers on literature itself, and ponders the effects it could have on the classroom, implying that the electronic world could enhance books in a whole new way and shed a new light on literature itself, not just the teaching of it.

            Due to my interest in the similarities between compositional and literary theory, and how they can be applied in the classroom to our culture, this article was particularly stimulating.  I believe that, despite its focus on literature rather than composition, most of this could be easily applied to both.  The fact that education was emphasized made it accessible as well as practical and piqued my interest in the effects that changes in high academia may or may not have on individual classrooms in the average public school.—Anna Waltman, 9/26/05

Carroll, Pamela Sissi, et al. "When Acceptance Isn’t Enough: Helping ESL Students Become Successful Writers.” The English Journal  Vol 85, No 8, December 1996. 25-33.


     Having never gone through an ESL program myself even though English is my third language, I have always been interested in the experiences of friends who have. Many complain that they are frustrated when quickly grouped with native English speakers in an environment in which they cannot fairly compete. Others enjoy the program, since they get more individual attention than their native English-speaking classmates do. Yet most agree that improvements need to be made to the program and teachers of ESL should be better educated about the needs of their ESL students.

On my quest to find suggested improvements by past teachers themselves, I came across this article, authored by four ESL teachers who now specialize in research on the topic at American universities, including Florida State. The article addresses five areas: assignments, personal narratives, portfolios, time limits and evaluation of ESL work. The first topic struck me as obvious- isn’t it obvious that assignment topics that are appropriate for native English speakers, or L1 speakers as Carroll calls them, may not be appropriate for L2, or second language students? Carroll also feels this is obvious, but because teachers rarely know the specifics of an ESL student’s background, topics such as “How I Spent My Christmas” are assigned without a second thought. Assigning topics that make ESL students uncomfortable, the authors argue, can embarrass and frustrate the students. In my own experience, starting first grade with all native speakers, I recall several instances where I felt frustrated that I could not totally express myself on a certain topic, but I feel that instead of wanting to give up, I felt challenged to try harder. For many students, the frustration is part of the process and often a driving force that pushes the student to succeed, the authors concede, but teachers should challenge the ESL students gradually.


      The authors have very strong views on the topic of assigning ESL students to write personal narratives. In their experience, the authors feel that the personal narrative is the most difficult writing assignment for an ESL student. In our class, consisting mostly of native English speakers, writing a personal narrative was considered the easiest type of assignment. For me personally, it is not. I believe that this is due to the fact that many of my early memories are stored in Russian and it is difficult writing about a moment from my childhood in English, because it involves translating the memory and the emotions attached to it. In this regard, I agree with the authors of the article that it is best to assign other topics instead and gradually introduce the personal narrative after the student has had time to accumulate some personal experiences in the context of the English language.


     The third topic, that of portfolios for ESL students, is seen by Carroll and the others to be vital to allowing an ESL student to be able to monitor their own progress. All four teachers used them in their ESL classes with great success. Yet the benefits of assembling portfolios are arguably identical for both L1 and L2 students alike.

      Time limits are a less clear cut topic. Should L2 students receive extra time for writing essays? To answer this question, one of the teachers used the following experiment. She asked a colleague to assign a topic. She allowed herself 50 minutes to complete the assignment, which she had to write in French, a language with which she had some familiarity. The topic, duck hunting, frustrated her, and after more than two hours, she was still unable to produce even one coherent sentence. Thus, she concluded, it is unfair to hold L1 and L2 students to the same standard in timed essays, but she decided that long range deadlines should be identical for both.


      The final topic, that of revision and evaluation, most intrigued the authors. Should the teacher edit the paper for all mistakes including grammar, spelling and word usage, or should she only revise content? After trying several different approaches, they concluded that at first, minor spelling and grammar mistakes can be overlooked, and only content should be revised. Yet gradually, those mistakes should also be corrected. To correct everything at once, they claim, can lead to frustration and block the writer. Evaluating the papers of ESL students is also a challenge. One of the authors, Frances Blake, suggests tailoring grading to each student and establishing “exit goals.” For example, if the goal of an assignment was to focus on sentence structure, and the student succeeded in this area while making many spelling mistakes, the grade should reflect whether or not the student met the goal of the piece. Grading ESL or L2 students is thus much more subjective than for native English speakers, but the goal of grading for ESL students is to gauge their progress and improvement, not only to evaluate, as often is the case with L1 students.


      These issues present much food for thought and I hope to further explore the ESL programs and their effect on L2 writers. It is clear that the program is not perfect, but next I hope to find out what does work and how this makes ESL students able to compete with native English speakers often in less than 1 year, as with many of my friends. --Milena Rodban, 9/27/05


Iris Breetvelt; Huub van den Bergh; Gert Rijlaarsdam, “Relations between Writing Processes and Text Quality: When and How?”         Cognition and Instruction, Vol. 12, No. 2. (1994), pp. 103-123. Stable URL: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0737-0008%281994%2912%3A2%3C103%3ARBWPAT%3E2.0.CO%3B2-M

     We have been doing a lot of reading on the writing process and the models that attempt to make sense of this process, but not really what impact these processes have on finished pieces. In this article, “Relations between Writing Processes and Text Quality: When and How?” by Iris Breetvelt, Huub van den Bergh, and Gert Rijlaarsdam, the authors research what all these writing processes we’ve been studying have to do with the final result. 

      In examining 40 pieces of writing from 20 ninth-grade students (two per student), the three authors took into account eleven “cognitive processes,” starting with “reading writing assignment,” and moving into processes such as “goal setting,” “writing,” “re-reading,” and “revising,” just to name a few. They defined all of the eleven processes they referred to, and looked at the influence of said processes through various points in the writing process. They divided each collected protocol (150 minutes) into three “episodes,” the “initial,” the “middle” and “final (109).”  As they examined each episode, they looked at what cognitive processes were involved. It was particularly interesting that a major difference between “good” and “poor” writers was, in some cases, simply the order of their cognitive processes: depending on what “episode” a given process occurred, it had a different overall effect on the final product. For example, they noted that reading through the assignment through the “initial episode” was related to a good final piece, while reading the assignment in the middle and final episodes related to a lower-quality paper. Every one of the cognitive activities affected the text quality differently based on where in the process they occurred.

      Some of the conclusions they reached were rather unexpected: for example, they did not find that “revising” had as positive a result as previous studies had found, and also that “good” writers did not necessarily revise more during the first stage than “poor” writers did. However, I wonder if part of this was as a result of the topics given the students. The two essays that students had to write were “Living alone, yes or no?” and “Children, yes or no?” (107). Both of these topics are very simple, which, granted, is useful for measuring simply the “process,” but whenever I am faced with such basic (uninteresting…) topics, I think my writing process changes somewhat. Topics such as these will result in me revising less and generally paying less attention. In writing a research paper, on the other hand, I spend a lot of time with the “pre-writing” stage, looking at my information and figuring out where to even start.

     An added benefit of this piece was that the authors finally provided a more concrete definition of what makes a “good writer.” Given how central this is to the essay, I don't think that they could have gotten away with using vague definitions, as some of the other authors have done. One of the criteria for being a “good” writer was, not surprisingly, “audience awareness.” (Peter Elbow would, of course, disagree.)

      This article was interesting because it put these abstract processes into perspective for me. Although all of these readings about models and process have made me extremely self-conscious about my own writing process, I haven’t really considered how the order affects my finished pieces. This piece provided a lot of insight on where these activities lie in the overall process and why, and I think that this will be good to keep in mind as we continue to examine the writing process. --Amanda Zrust, 9/27/05

Mandel, Barrett J.  “The Writer Writing Is Not at Home.”  College Composition and Communication, Dec. 1980, Vol. 31, No. 4, 370-377.  JSTOR.  Goucher College. 27 Sep. 2005.  http://links.jstor.org/

      At first glance, Mandel is offering typical expressive-view arguments, saying that writing stems from the unconscious and that good writing occurs when all thoughts and logic have not had a chance to interfere. What sets him apart from other expressive-view theorists is that not only does he postulate how writing occurs, but he suggests teaching methods to develop the non-conscious “insights” necessary for good writing.

     In essence, Mandel’s theory is that writing is a non-conscious reflex, almost like speaking, but more closely related to thinking. He thinks that teaching students to write using models of logic and form stifles insight, and therefore makes writing more difficult, or less “actual.” He recommends a combination of free writing, as well as rote writing (copying) to stimulate insight, and get students to trust in the idea that they know more and are capable of more than they think they are.

     My points of contention with Mandel, however, are rather numerous. My foremost complaint is that he seemed to be a bit over-zealous about the necessity of insight to the point where he practically arguing that there is no validity at all in teaching logic. I agree with Mandel that relying on logic to point the mind towards the creation of something solid from a mass of abstract thoughts, ideas, feelings, colors, etc. is counter-productive, but I would also argue that a solid foundation in logic could stimulate and develop a students higher-level thinking skills necessary in achieving insight. He also uses quotes from Bernard Lonergan, an author who uses math and science to explain insight, to argue that insight is the only form of “intelligent activity,” which would exclude things like critical thinking and analysis, something that most would agree requires a great deal of intelligent activity to accomplish. Finally, Mandell is convinced that the intangible and somewhat elusive non-conscious place where insight comes from is “perfectly dependable.” He credits this same mysterious place with making speech possible. I can’t stress enough how deliberate and difficult I have found speech to be in my own personal experience, but I wouldn’t argue that there is some degree of insight that goes into the moment before I think about what I have to say.

     In short, Mandell has some truly compelling ideas that, for the most part, I have agreed with wholeheartedly. Nonetheless, his extreme zealousness for his own ideas makes them more difficult to swallow. There is a lot we can take from Mandell, but there is still a lot he needs to work out. Once again, I have found myself wondering why the most brilliant and influential theorists can never accept that they may need to integrate their ideas with those of opposing schools of thought to make for some level of practical applicability. --Gregory Bortnichak, 9/28/05 

Hecker, Linda. "Walking, Tinkertoys, and Legos:  Using Movement and Manipulatives to Help Students Write." The English Journal 86.6 (1997): 46-52. Jstor. 29 Sept. 2005 <http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0013-8274%28199710%2986%3a6%3c46%3awtalum%3e2.0.co%3b2-x>


     This article explores the connection between the theory of multiple intelligences and the writing process.  More specifically, it discusses the ways in which one should help a kinesthetically or visually strong learner in writing.  It cites research at Landmark College and describes different methods used to help students write.  The theory of multiple intelligences says that there are seven intelligences:  bodily/ kinesthetic, visual/ spacial, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, logical/ mathematical, and musical/ rhythmic (recently, a naturalist intelligence was added).  Many times, students who are strong in one area are relatively weak in the others.  Learners who are not linguistically strong frequently have strengths in areas like bodily/kinesthetic or visual/ spacial. Hecker presents ways to connect the process of creating text to the strengths of other types of learners in ways other than verbally.  She questions the logic behind teaching linguistic topics by linguistic means.  I found this very interesting.  Ideas which a linguistic learner might think of as elementary can help a visual learner understand concepts by translating them into a language which is more easily understood and absorbed.


     The reason I picked this article is because I am very interested in the theory of Multiple Intelligences.  I have done research on Howard Gardner's theories and have seen many parallels between his ideas and the topics we discuss in class.  I know that a basic tennant of the theory of Multiple Intelligences is that of redefining intelligence.  This, in all my research, equated to the rejection of such measures as standardized testing and IQ scores.  I began to see, however that it extends itself into the world of the writing process through the concepts of "good writers" and "poor writers."  I found myself asking why it was that some students were poor writers and others were good writers.  Obviously, there is no real answer to this question, but I think that the best way to tutor a variety of people is through multiple intelligences.  Any person who is a poor writer will, presumably, have an area in Gardner's model which is stronger.  The key to using the theory to one's benefit is to use strengths to work on weaknesses.  As Hecker mentions, it is possible to use these skills externally as an introduction to an idea and then have a student internalize the strategies, making the connection occur in their brain and thus strengthening their linguistic abilities.  Hecker says that this is not a fix-all solution; that not all students will be able to use these techniques, and that is true.  The real value in these findings lies in making connections to all of the other intelligences in different tricks and strategies to help different kids of learners.  --Jennifer Curtis, 10/2/05


Gebhardt, Richard C. “Initial Plans and Spontaneous Composition: Toward a Comprehensive Theory of the Writing Process.” College English, Vol. 44,         No. 6 (Oct., 1982), 620-627.

             Gebhardt discusses some different theories of the writing process and makes connections between them looking primarily at the differences of linear and nonlinear writing process theories. He begins by quoting two different theories by Martha L. King and Barrett J. Mandel, which each present very different ideas. Martha L. King argues that the writing process has three phases: pre-writing, articulation and post-writing and that these three phases occur in a somewhat linear fashion. Mandel, on the other hand, argues that “writing is writing” and that it is “not the result of what we normally call thinking” (621). Gebhardt points out that “So contradictory are King’s linear description of the writing process and Mandel’s nonlinear view that neither could be a comprehensive theory of composing unless the other, simply, were wrong” (621) As a result, Gebhardt argues that neither of these theories work very well and instead, throughout his piece, looks for ways to bring them together and create a broader and more comprehensive theory.

            Gebhardt draws extensively on different examples from many other theories and studies done by people we are already familiar with, such as Sondra Perl, Janet Emig, Linda S. Flowers and John R. Hayes as well as ones we haven’t discussed yet, such as James Britton and Nancy Sommers. Gebhardt takes aspects of all of these theorists’ ideas, concluding that they “suggest that our profession is developing a healthy, comprehensive view of writing with the power to initiate ideas and move composition forward” (626). He claims that in Sommer’s idea that “we can hypothesize that the composing process is both linear and recursive,” he “see[s] the direction that composition theory needs to move in order to be comprehensive” (624). James Britton also makes a similar point in his conception/incubation/ production model. He asserts that “when a writer begins a task as soon as it is set, the conception and incubation processes are running concurrently with production” showing that while this theory may appear linear at first, it also takes into consideration the idea of processes happening in a less linear fashion than is first implied (624).

            This piece attracted me because it pulls together many of the theories we have read about and tries to synthesize the ideas presented in each. While that is the reason I was initially drawn to the piece, to be honest, it didn’t exactly deliver on my expectations. While it presented all of the different ideas clearly and concisely, his conclusion was less than enlightening. In this assessment, I admit to being somewhat harsh in that I so often want what I know I can’t have: an all-conclusive, enlightening explanation of how it all works. In the end, Gebhardt concludes by saying that there is not one concrete answer to how people write and how they learn to write but that “only by clarifying how initial plans and spontaneous composition work together in writing can a theory of the writing process help teachers understand the complex and dynamic act of writing” (627).

            It is quite the undertaking to try to reconcile the differences in such a broad range of theories, especially those of Mandel and King, in their polar differences.

In the end though, I got the impression that while he was tying in parts of all of the theories, Gebhardt saw a superior theory as one which would emphasized the theories stemming from research done by James Britton, Nancy Sommers, Sondra Perl and Flower and Hayes and not as much from the Mandel theory he initially presents. It seems that while Gebhardt thinks that aspects of Mandel’s theory can be applied to writing, his piece points away from the idea that “words flow from a pen, not from a mind” and that writing “is not a transcription of thoughts already held in the mind” (621). He instead takes from Mandel the point that “the act of putting words on paper changes whatever writers expect to write when they pick up their pens” but shies away from Mandel’s more extreme points (622).--Kate Murray, 10/2/05

Stephen M. North. “Training Tutors to Talk About Writing.” College Composition and Communication. 1984. http://www.jstor.org/view/0010096x/

        Both Stephen North and the Muriel Harris reading this week have helped encourage me about being a writing tutor. I’m beginning to distinguish a lot easier between the job of editor and the job of a tutor. “Writing tutors are not text editors whose job is to “repair” writing.” (439) I’ve understood the fundamental difference since the beginning of this class, but not at this conscious level. It’s like North slapping me awake. Oh, yeah, now I really understand. Editing is for publication. Tutoring is for growth.

        “A tutor’s job has most to do with the writer, not the text, and the direction of any tutorial derives from the writer.” (436) Again, North does a great job of giving me blatant messages that I knew but weren’t at the top of my consciousness. This past week was the first time I participated in both my community service ventures – one is ‘Upward Bound’ at Morgan State University, where I tutor high school kids, the other is at The Hampden Center in, um, Hampden, where I tutor third to fifth graders. Different situations call for different techniques. I simply correct spelling with Whitney, a fourth-grader I was working with yesterday who spelled dolphin “dolfin”. I feel the need to explain the process behind why American Government is still taught when I’m tutoring Idris, a tenth-grader.

        I feel everyone will acquire their own techniques while tutoring, but that tutors must beware of reliance on certain methods. “What is most difficult to master in tutoring is an appropriate sense of control, an ability to identify and promote direction without taking over from the writer,” North writes. I agree. My tutoring isn’t always English at the community service jobs, but it’s still tutoring. And telling Claudaya answers at Hampden and failing to break down the concept of metaphor to Florence at MSU isn’t going to provide either of them with what they need to succeed in their future courses.

        I’m not easily discouraged by lack of visual progress, but North is good to warn us – repeatedly – of the not-so-perky aspects of being a Writing Center tutor. While progress or lack thereof may not discourage me, the expectations of what North calls the “heathens” – tutees and faculty members who think we’re here to fix rather than help – might be rather annoying.

         North knows what he’s doing, having taught a course forever at some SUNY college. It’s him, students, and my professor that I trust most. People who haven’t really interacted with the system I’ll soon be a part of can certainly help me by showing me lots of data and testimonies, but people who have collected their own through passion for writing rather than science are definitely connecting with me more. North is a good example of that. This reading and the Muriel Harris one from this week were my two favorites so far. I think that’s a good sign.—Tyler Adams, 10/2/05

Damasio, Antonio. Descartes' Error. Grosset/Putnam, New York: 1994. pp 97-114.

      I have often marveled at professional writers who describe writing as a painful process, or a torment (Joseph Conrad, for example). To make a career, probably the most time-consuming aspect of one's life, out of a personal torture, is nearly incomprehensible to me. I say "nearly" because I think writing may be singular in one very important way from any other career, and possibly even from all other creative work as well. The only reason I can see for a man condemning himself to a life of misery in the way that plagued writers do is that he feels so strongly that his ideas are worth voicing that he will sacrifice his well-being for the sake of getting them out there. He is so needful of presenting his convictions to himself and the world that he endures the torment of the writing process so that he may end up with a satisfactory product. Certainly there are painters, sculptors, choreographers who agonize over every last detail of their masterpieces, but I have never heard a biographer of an architect or a painter say that building or painting was a torment for them. This must be a result of the medium through which writers express themselves: language. As Oscar Wilde vehemently declares (perhaps unjustly) in my 340 reading for this week, literature is the highest art because its material is language -- a vehicle through which images (visual art), movement (dance), rhythm, cadence (music), form, and color all can be conveyed. "Language is the parent, and not the child, of thought," he says, and Damasio in chapter five of his book serves as an interesting comment on this subject.

     "Most of the words we use in our inner speech, before speaking or writing a sentence, exist as auditory or visual images in our consciousness," he informs us, and even more intriguingly, "if they did not become images, however fleetingly, they would not be anything we could know." In relation to our discussion of the first or second week of class, then, are those labeled as "skilled writers" more aware of those images flying through their heads? Or is it a matter of being more driven to translate and set down those images into permanent print than non-writers? Or both? What drives the writer, especially the tormented one, to go through the writing process once these images have been grasped at? Perhaps Damasio would answer that it is one's sense of self, or desire to discover the sense of self, which apparently has a "neural basis." To think of the self and its neural basis is a thing of wonder. This idea may cause concern that science always seems to for those, such as myself, who believe and want to believe that the self is infinitely significant/meaningful in this world, but as Damasio points out, it need not be a source of doubt. "The self is not the infamous homunculus, a little person inside our brain perceiving and thinking about the images the brain forms. It is, rather, a perpetually re-created neurobiological state." If the self is a neurobiological state, one might ask aghast, what does this say about our ideas of the self as personally constructed by thought and experience? "Years of justified attack on the homunculus concept have made many theorists equally fearful of the concept of the self. But the neural self need not be homuncular at all. What should cause some fear, actually, is the idea of a selfless cognition." Thus ends Damasio on a reassuring note: a neural self is in sync with the idea of importance of self, because thought is both neural and emotional. 

     In the midst of what was a very interesting and also difficult chapter for me to wade through, there is a lesson to be gleaned for the tutor. As North would agree wholeheartedly, we must help our tutees find their voices if they are to become better writers. Ideally this would lead them to a sharper, more passionate use of language in trying to convey the images in their heads, and language is so much a mystery to us still that the job could be described as truly fun, and truly a challenge. I suppose that language is the parent of thought if we make a clear distinction between thought and feeling. The model would then go something like: feeling --> image --> language --> true thought, but all of these concepts are so closely related in our brains that the lines blur. If one has a better command of language, then, it will lead to better understood thoughts, and thus better (more articulate) writing.--Jordana Rozenman, 10/2/05

Lardner, Ted.  “Locating the Boundaries of Composition and Creative Writing.”  College Composition and Communication, Sep. 1999, Vol. 51, No. 1, 72-77.  JSTOR.  Goucher College.  14 Oct. 2005.  http://links.jstor.org/

         For our first English 221 writing assignment, we were asked to respond to the question of; “how do we write?” I found myself lumping my personal processes into two main categories: academic writing, and creative writing. For me, the two disciplines were completely different; serving separate functions for both myself and the reader, as well as utilizing completely different avenues to find completion. I heard this same dichotomy echoed in many of my classmate’s responses. Lardner presents an article which really brings this whole question of academic vs. creative writing under the microscope.

            Lardner essentially poses the question of whether or not these two separate fields really exist, or whether they have been manufactured by writing pedagogy in higher education. He brings up some very convincing arguments, saying that the two disciplines are kept apart by having separate faculty, separate journals, separate standards for legitimacy (compositional teachers look down on creative writing teachers for rarely using citations to back their theories on creative composition), and even separate factions of students (most likely fostered by their faculty’s example). Lardner wants us to see that there is in fact much we can learn from the processes of both creative and compositional pedagogy, because both disciplines embody strengths that the other wishes to possess, and vice-versa. Take, for example, Lardner’s speculation that most creative writing classrooms are more conservative than typical composition classes due to the fact that composition courses deal openly with the cultural and societal power relations that affect writing, whereas creative courses are less-likely to approach this problem directly. To take this one step further, Lardner points out that few creative writing classes have thoroughly explored and defined the philosophical and cultural underpinnings of the “voice” or “point of view” within creative writing. It’s almost as if Lardner wants to tell everyone in the creative camp that they’re being too ambiguous and ideological, and then run over to the compositional camp and tell them they need take the stick out of their asses and find their inner flower-child.

            Lardner packs a quite a few salient arguments into a very terse, and thought provoking article. This whole discrepancy of discourse vs. ideology, of abstract vs. concrete, and art vs. craft, has manifested itself in many different ways throughout the literature I’ve seen on the writing process, but Lardner is the first to really dissect this important recurrent theme. Lardner himself is a bit dense, perhaps because he is attempting to condense too much into to too short of an article without getting the chance to fully explain it all. I would be interested to read his more drawn-out analysis of the same issue. Richard Fulkerson, the author quoted most throughout the piece, also seems like a good source to investigate to get more conclusive information.--Gregory Bortnichak, 10/14/05

Mor-Sommerfeld, Aura. "Language mosaic. Developing literacy in a second–new language: a new perspective." Reading 36.3 (Nov 2002): 99-105.


      This article postulates a new method of studying the learning and writing processes of children learning a second language: the author calls it “language mosaic”, explaining that as the written version of the spoken “interlanguage” or code-switching.  She presents examples of language mosaic using the writing of several children whose first language is Hebrew and who are learning English as a second language.  These examples fit into three categories, each with their own relevance to the study of second-language learning.


      The first category is switching from one language to another as well as one script to another—the writer switches languages and alphabets at the same time, using the proper alphabet for each language.  One of the examples shown is of a poem written by a six-year-old that switches between Hebrew and English several times.  The remarkable thing is that, not only does it make perfect internal sense to a reader who understands both languages, but the child makes use of the language changes to conform to the rules of poetry: a rhyme is created between an English word (sore) and a Hebrew word (masor, meaning “saw”).  Other examples are of children writing stories or making lists in which they choose to write the English words that they know in English, despite the fact that the rest of the writing is in Hebrew.  Mor-Sommerfeld notes that no word is ever repeated—the children are, evidently, able to move fairly seamlessly from one language to the other.


      The second category is switching from one alphabet to another within a single word.  The example given is one child writing the word “giraffe” with the “g” written in English and the rest of the letters in Hebrew, and then the word “festival” with the “t” in English and the rest in Hebrew.  Neither of these changes involve a direct switching of the symbol; there is no soft “g” in Hebrew, and there are actually two “t” sounds.  The child had to have an ability, as described before, to move seamlessly between the languages.


      The third and final category is switching between languages while using a single alphabet.  The example given is a child’s email to her mother, using the English alphabet but switching back and forth between Hebrew and English words (though in this example the writing seems to start out with more English and move towards more Hebrew).  This again shows that the child can move between the two languages without confusion and, as Mor-Sommerfeld puts it, there is evidence of a concept of the “whole child” (103).


      This a fourth category, but it is not quite the same as the others—it does not involve using both English and Hebrew, but using a computer keyboard to help someone who is used to the Hebrew alphabet write using the English alphabet.  This is not explained fully and I did not understand exactly how this worked or how it was relevant.


      Finally, Mor-Sommerfeld describes the three issues she finds most important: creativity (the child’s ability to explore use of the languages), “metalinguistic awareness and reading-writing connections” (104), and the relationship between the two languages.  She suggests that the mosaic she has described can be seen as a dialogue between the two languages, and wonders if it might be, in fact, necessary for full mastery of the second language or of language and literacy in general.  She wraps up by hoping that more research will be done into whether learning a second language helps literacy in the first language.


      The most interesting part of this article, to me, is the conclusion.  I wonder if anyone has done such research—if so, it must be quite recent, since this article itself is only a few years old.  It’s also interesting to think not how different, but how similar the composing processes must be (at least for children who are still, in effect, learning both languages) for the subjects to be able to move so smoothly between them.  The only child who does not appear to be perfectly comfortable using both languages is the one who is limited to a single alphabet, and she seems self-conscious, perhaps extra aware of her difficulties because of that limit and because of her desire to please her mother.


     An understanding of the way the brain switches between languages could be very helpful to ESL students, especially those who are still struggling with English.  If they can have a conscious metalinguistic awareness (as Mor-Sommerfeld might put it), they might feel that the two languages are not so different after all and that writing techniques that they know in one language might very well be transferred to the other.--Kaitlyn Miller, 10/27/05

Brooke, Robert. “Control in Writing: Flower, Derrida, and Images of the Writer.” College English, April 1989, Vol. 51, No. 4, 405-17. JSTOR. Goucher College. 16 Oct., 2005. <http://links.jstor.org>.

     Robert Brooke is a teacher at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is upset with Flower’s writing model.  He sees a paradox in her claims, one that allows her writing to be interpreted in several different ways that contradict each other.  At first glance, Flower’s model illustrates a way for a writer to view his or her own writing methods allowing him or her to develop a means of “controlling” his or her writing; she sees a writer who is “in control” as a good writer, and one who is “out of control” as bad.  But Brooke sees what Flower labels “control” as more of a consciousness.  When a writer is in the “flow,” he or she is out of control, the writing is happening from the unconscious. However, for most writers, this is the state in which their best writing is produced. Brooke, in this essay, attempts to apply a Derridean way of looking at Flower’s model and claims in hopes to find, the “hinge” of her writing, “those places where the writing could ‘fold either way’” (406).  He believes there are in fact contradictions in her theories, but he knows there is a way to extract a better concept, and with that a better understanding of the writing process for writers and for students.

     Flower’s writing is broken up into different categories which Brooke then dissects, looking for the “hinges.”  Her rhetorical purpose, he finds, is to look at writing as a problem-solving activity (407).  This is where her theories of “in control”/ “out of control” take place.  Since writing is a constant interaction between different actions of the brain (the conscious thought of what to write, the unconscious thought-process involving memory, and awareness of external surroundings), it is impossible to call a writer simply “in control” at any given point in his or her writing process; it is all so much more complex.  The biggest problem with the assertion that the “in control” writer is better, is that Flower’s arbitrarily attributes good writing to control, discounting the important relationship between the conscious and unconscious.  One cannot prevail over the other because one cannot function without the other.

     To solve the problem raised in Flower’s work, Brooke applies the Derridean method of “deconstructing” in reading, to over turn the opposing point, and then find a new concept that irrupts from the writing (411).  According to Flower’s applications, there is a part of the brain that functions as a “control center,” allowing the writer to be consciously aware of all that is going on in the writing process.  When this idea is deconstructed, however, Flower herself tells us that some of the processes work in the individual’s mind on their own terms, and can never be fully consciously controlled.  The concept of “in control/ “out of control” cannot be applied to the writing process, and is therefore deemed invalid (412).

     Because control as the instrumental key in the writing process has been ruled out, Brooke turns to Derrida to find the source of a writer’s approach to language and writing.  Rather than “control” being the crux of the process, it is “arche-writing”, where a new concept “irrupts.”  In this case, control does not apply as an agent in writing, and so we must view writing as a subject itself, which can be seen in three ways: 1) subject as agency; 2) subject as topic; 3) subject as object of action (414-15).  When writing is seen in this way, our approach to the writing process is no longer so limited.  It allows for the writer to take into account all parts of the process (conscious/unconscious or “in control”/ “out of control”) and develop a piece of work that is wholly a subject of themselves.

     I agree with Brooke in terms of viewing the writing process in such a limited “black and white” light as Flower has, but I did have some difficulty understanding where the “arche-writing” came from and applied to Flower.  I could see that Flower did contradict herself, more than likely to serve her purpose of creating a legible model, yet the jump Brooke made to view the process as a “subject of writing” seemed rather arbitrary.  I believe that a good deal of the writing process takes place unconsciously, when a writer is in the “flow,” and that the holistic approach would take into account both this aspect as well as the conscious thought, but I still find it difficult to see “writing as a subject.”  The ideas he suggests are a great jumping off point for what we’ve been discussing in 221 thus far, and I can see how applying this as a tutor will allow the tutee to step back from his or her writing and see where some things are coming from.  I also believe, however, that there is much more that goes into the process, and that the process is not the same every time for every individual.  Perhaps in a general sense the concept of “writing as a subject” can work, but until we are all made homogenous each writer and his or her process needs to be viewed as distinct and changing.  - Simone Martell, Oct. 17, 2005

Podis, Leonard A. “Training Peer Tutors for the Writing Lab. College Composition and Communication. Vol. 31, No. 1 (Feb., 1980), 70-75 (also in Working with Student Writers edited by Leonard A. Podis and JoAnne M. Podis)

             In this short article, Podis concisely illustrates how he runs his writing center at Oberlin College. He gets right to the point in the first paragraph by stating his general view that “the ideal tutor should strive to be both knowledgeable and helpful” (70). He also points out that being “knowledgeable and helpful” can often conflict. Podis outlines what he views as the most productive way to train writing tutors. He sees the training process taking place in three different areas including teaching tutors about written discourse and composition, exposing them to different “pedagogical styles” and giving them real life practice tutoring students in a writing center. He comments briefly on the different texts he assigns the students and the purposes of the texts. His most important assertion is that when choosing students to be tutors, they “need not show expertise as much as promise” (71). The readings the students read were similar to those that we have read, especially those with a focus on “the relative value of languages and dialects, and the arbitrariness of standards of usage” (71). 

            I was drawn to the way in which Podis clearly outlines techniques and suggestions for teaching tutors in the best way he knows possible. When I am involved in learn something, I like to have some clarity in what is expected of me. I find it helpful to have something concrete to start from and then be able to expand on that or tailor it in order to make it my own. This is the aspect of this article that most appealed to me. It gave straightforward pointers to what it takes to be a successful writing tutor. For instance, on page 72, Podis presents a sort of checklist for what to look for in a paper on the first reading and then on the second reading. Referring to the tutors “reaction” to the paper he or she is reading, number three under Second Reading reads “Can you trace logical explanation, through illustration (specific examples), through chronological process, through comparison/ contrast?” (72). These are concise, helpful suggestions on how to approach a criticism of a student’s paper. The rest of the points are similarly helpful.

            As helpful as most of the paper was, there were a few things on which I would have liked more information. Number one under the First Reading is “Underline or circle words or sentences which seem particularly effective or particularly weak.” This makes me think of Arnie’s suggestion that we never write on the student’s paper because it has a negative effect on the student’s sense of ownership of their work. In that respect, my first reaction is to agree with Arnie because I feel that it is somehow the job of the professor or teacher to scribble corrections on a student’s paper, and in a tutor/tutee relationship we are trying to go beyond that and establish a more balanced, personal and student based relationship. That being said, every time I have gone to the writing center, a tutor has always written on my paper and at the time I don’t remember having it bother me. However, now that I think of it, I realize that sometimes I would read a really great word or phrase that a tutor had inserted into my text, and wonder about my ownership of the paper in relation to that word or phrase. So in a very roundabout way, I have come to the conclusion that if at all possible, the tutor should try to never write directly on the student’s paper.

            Another thing I found lacking in this article was any sign of instruction on helping students with prewriting. The emphasis was mostly on correcting the paper and helping the student understand those things he or she needed to work on. I feel that helping students with prewriting is a very important part of the writing center and was confused as to why Podis didn’t mention it at all. Thinking about this, I was reminded of Stephen North’s point that “nearly everyone who writes likes—needs to talk about his or her writing, preferably to someone who will really listen, who knows how to listen, and knows how to talk about writing too” (440). While some people are naturally good listeners, many are not, and I think the subject merits some attention. I know that in my personal experience, talking about what I am going to write about and how I am going to go about it, and having someone really listen, has been one of the most helpful parts of actually producing decent prose. North expands on that point, writing about the importance of having someone “who would not only listen but draw them out, ask them questions they would not think to ask themselves” (440).

            Podis touches briefly on the point made by Virginia Pryor when she wrote, “because of the hegemonic nature of the ‘standards’ for academic writing, a large proportion of student writers are faced with a constant tension between the sense of being coerced into using specific language, grammar and style and their own compulsion to assimilate into the system by following its rules” (Podis & Podis 222). He seems to be headed in the same direction when he writes, “The idea is to orient the tutors towards enlightened acceptance of many non-standard errors as being culturally different, not linguistically inferior” (71). His is an open-minded, and somewhat liberal approach and he tends to be concerned with a holistic approach to tutoring. I think he makes an excellent point which again supports Pryor’s, when he writes “The tutor is to see himself/herself as a guide who can help the tutee learn standard practices, not as a guard righteously defending the English language against those who would defile it” (71).

            Overall, I feel like the article is a nice starting point for a tutor to go from. In addition to all of the different theories and studies we’ve learned about from reading all of the texts we are assigned along with the articles we read for the annotated bibliographies, this article complements our already comprehensive knowledge of tutoring theory and practice. --Kate Murray, 10/27/05

Weiner, Sue. “Four First Graders' Descriptions of How They Spell.” The Elementary School Journal, Vol. 94, No. 3. (Jan., 1994), pp. 315-330. Stable URL: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0013-5984%28199401%2994%3A3%3C315%3AFFGDOH%3E2.0.CO%3B2-D

      I was immediately attracted to the title of this article, “Four First Graders’ Descriptions of How They Spell,” by Sue Weiner. Like my writing, I’ve never really considered what exactly I do when I spell. It just happens. So I thought it would be interesting to read how first graders describe their “spelling process,” especially since learning to spell and first grade go hand-in-hand. One of the main points Weiner discusses in this article is the visualization strategies that “good” spellers employ, where “poor” spellers instead rely just on the sound of the word.

      Using a kind of modified “thinking aloud” protocol, Weiner had the students explain to a puppet on the end of their pencil how they were spelling and why they were selecting a given letter. Weiner detailed a “hierarchy” of spelling techniques/processes. The poor spellers tended to use “sound/symbol” knowledge, meaning they were more attached to “sounding a word out.” This prevents spellers from taking into account the rules of English spelling, which the good spellers were more able to do using “within-word patterns.” This is more sophisticated, as the students are basing their spelling knowledge on not just the letters, but also patterns they have learned or understood from past spelling experiences. She mentions that students that employ this method tend to come up with words that just “look” right because they follow certain patterns, even if they are incorrect. There is a third tier in the hierarchy, that being “across-word meaning patterns.” This is the process by which the students focus on the meaning of the word and how it relates to the spelling, rather than just the construction of the word.

      Weiner also discusses the reasons why some children may be more proficient spellers than others; it is suggested that more experience with printed words and reading may contribute to better spelling because it builds knowledge of the visual representation of words. She notes that both the poor spellers were also poor readers, and they tended to rely almost exclusively on the sound/symbol knowledge in writing and in spelling tests. She does not focus on this reading/spelling connection, but indicates that it could prove important.

      I also find it interesting that both of the poor spellers were male, where both of the good spellers were female. I know that my own little brother was never really excited about sitting down and reading, and I have to wonder if it could have anything to do with gender differences in learning. But could Weiner simply have chosen one good male speller and one poor female speller?

      I just finished reading Bee Season by Myla Goldberg, and I found myself thinking about Eliza’s visualization methods as I read this article and how they would fit into Weiner’s conclusions. I know that when I spell out loud I picture the word in my head and say each letter as I say it. I don't have to visualize when I’m writing or typing a word, however; I can just put it out there. Kind of like the visual must exist somewhere: if I am already writing it out, I fulfill that need to visualize the word. There’s a popular board game, “Cranium,” that has four different “skill” categories that include activities like singing songs, drawing, trivia, or the word category, which I like, except for when I misspelled “Mississippi” (how embarrassing!). One of the other things the word category has players do is spell words backwards. Doing that really requires focusing on and visualizing the word.  --Amanda Zrust, 10/27/05

Klopfenstein, Kristin, and Thomas, M. Kathleen. “The Advanced Placement Performance Advantage: Fact or Fiction?” AEAweb. 8 Jan. 2005. American Economic Association. 18 Oct. 2005. <http://www.aeaweb.org/annual_mtg_papers/2005/0108_1015_0302.pdf>

            In assessing how well Advanced Placement classes prepare students for taking on college courses, one should take as a given that the College Board is not to be trusted for accurate research in the matter. As it designs and distributes the tests around which AP preparatory courses are based, tests for which students must pay around $80 apiece (or such was the case as of May 2004—the price may have risen since), the program will naturally tout all studies promoting its advantages. To receive an accurate assessment of how much actual advantage one-time AP students have upon entering college over peers who followed a regular high-school courseload, economics professors Kristin Klopfenstein and M. Kathleen Thomas realized they would have to construct their own research project in order to evaluate performance of AP students and non-AP students.

            The best way to assess the AP program’s effectiveness, the researchers decided, was to evaluate second-year retention rates at colleges. As AP classes and tests are supposedly designed to reflect entry-level college courses, the students who benefited from having already taken these basic classes should, theoretically, be better able to handle the workload that causes some students to panic right off the bat and drop out. Therefore, the student already introduced to the stress that higher-level education can produce should be more inclined to stay in school. Given that such factors as background could also affect retention rates, the researchers broke the student population into white, black, and Hispanic, based on the predominant race of the high schools from which the students came. The researchers also broke the categories of AP tests, such as math, English, social sciences, etc., into different factors for their research.

            Comparisons between the AP students’ and non-AP students’ retention rates among the three races revealed a fairly insignificant difference between the two basic groups of students. Only students taking AP math and science courses had a noticeably higher likelihood of remaining in college for their second year. Still, as these are only two basic categories of seven offered by the AP program as of this year, the authors argue that expansion and excessive touting of the College Board’s successful program would not be advised, as the program itself seems not to live up to standards—if it can’t keep students in college after having supposedly prepared them for the challenge, how can it be successful?

            Though I am specifically interested in how well one Advanced Placement category, English, prepares students for college writing, this study into the overall effectiveness of college prep classes in readying students offered a sobering insight into something I had suspected for a while—AP courses might or might not have been beneficial to my college experience. I benefited from the courses in the sense that I received a semester’s worth of college credit off AP tests taken and passed before high school graduation. This report, however, seems to confirm what my suspicions that, while I would not have the extra twelve credits, I might have been just as well-prepared for the quality of a Goucher College education had I stayed in typical high school courses.

            That stated, I would still like to evaluate whether or not the quality of the AP writing-based courses has any effect, positive or negative, on the quality of student writing while in college, regardless of whether the student is a freshman on the brink of fleeing for home or a senior slogging through one last year. I, personally, have no way of assessing whether or not AP writing courses gave me the basis I needed for achieving basic college writing proficiency after one semester at Goucher or whether the foundations for successful academic writing skills came out of the words and evil temper of Stephany Shadwell, my ninth-grade English teacher. I would like to know if the AP exams had any value beyond the twelve credits that will allow me to graduate early; Klopfenstein and Thomas have voiced my own thoughts that if I had not gained those credits, I might as well have demanded my $320 back.—Bree Katz, 10/24/05

Wallace Chafe; Deborah Tannen, “The Relation between Written and Spoken Language.” Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 16. (1987), pp. 383-407. Stable URL:  http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=00846570%281987%292%3A16%3C383%3ATRBWAS%3E2.0.CO%3B2-V

      I am particularly interested in the differences between written and spoken language, and part of the reason I selected “The Relation between Written and Spoken Language,” by Wallace Chafe and Deborah Tannen, is because I’ve read and liked Deborah Tannen’s other work on the differences in male and female speech.

            The first part of this article discusses research that has been done on the relationships and similarities/differences in written and spoken language. Many of the studies involved having subjects write and speak on similar topics. Generally it was found that spoken language is more simplified, repetitive, and produces more words. Written language, on the other hand, has a more varied vocabulary, more complicated syntax, and longer words. One study examined the differences in writing based on the tools used, looking at handwriting, typing, and stenography (this was published in 1987…). They found that the faster the method of writing, the more spoken-like the discourse.  A study by Portnoy (386), measuring comprehensibility in spoken and written language, found that shorter words in speaking were more comprehensible, while in writing, longer words were more comprehensible.

            The studies they introduce in the first part of the article provide a background for the second part, which puts speaking and writing into a cultural context. Tannen (Chafe did most of the first part and Tannen did the second) focuses primarily on literacy and orality. She discusses the cultural impact that writing, what it means to be literate, including its effect on cognition and memory. She points out that “writing is a technology” and therefore is not a neutral force in society. In one study she references, the introduction of literacy into a community of Alaskan Athabaskans upsets their ethnic identity because it requires “self display that is only appropriate when one is in a position of dominance (393).” She also discusses the home and school as important cultural constructs in influencing how children learn to read and write (393). I know that my parents and my schools had a great deal to do with how and why I read and write the way I do. Yet another thing she brings up that we have discussed in class is the issue of what is “appropriate” for scholarly writing. “Narrative and emotion” are inappropriate, especially in scientific writing (396). I thought this distinction was particularly important. Why does being emotional give one less credibility (that is only a half-rhetorical question…)?

            We all probably take writing and literacy for granted, and I know I can’t imagine not being able to write up this annotation right now. Chafe and Tannen do not argue that literacy over orality is better or more advanced, but that it simply confers different effects on the society. They discuss writing as its own technology, but what about the effects of technology on writing? They briefly discussed the study comparing different tools used in writing and how they affected the writing; today, we have text messaging and instant messenger. These styles of writing blur the line between speaking and writing: with such an instant response from the “reader,” it is closer to speaking than writing, though there is text involved. --Amanda Zrust, 10/24/05

Elbow, Peter. "Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking: Sorting Out Three Forms of Judgment." College English, vol. 55, no. 2, 1993. pp 187-206.

      In terms of reconciling concepts that are generally thought to be in opposition to one another, Peter Elbow is a master. In "Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking," Elbow first explains why grading is a horrible idea, then why evaluating serves learning's ends much better, and finally why liking is helpful and necessary in teaching writing if the goal is to help students visibly improve. Angry with the inherent injustice, possible laziness, and the uselessness of ranking, or grading on a numeric scale, Elbow proposes that teachers of writing do away with this sort of system as much as possible and replace the leftover space with evaluation of writing. Evaluation obviously helps refine writing more than grading can because it offers feedback, and it also answers the "why" of the big red number assigned to the given paper. In this way, however, Elbow cautions that evaluation has its downfalls as well, because it may simply become a means of justification for that "ranking that we all hunger for," rather than an honest attempt to really get into the writer's strengths and weaknesses. Elbow's central and most refreshing suggestion, then, is that English teachers "learn to become better likers."

      Brilliantly fusing subjectivity and objectivity (in a way that let me breathe a sigh of relief), Elbow hopes that we "realize that liking need not get in the way of clear-eyed evaluation." Moreover, liking can lead to clear-eyed evaluation, and to evaluation that will truly benefit the student. It is an argument for passion in the classroom: "Good writing teachers like student writing.... Good teachers see what is only potentially good, they get a kick out of mere possibility -- and they encourage it." Here, then, lies the secret of Elbow's call for liking, both the reasons behind it and the means of achieving it: we can like bad papers if we are able to see what is potentially good in them, and we should strive to do so because the evaluation borne of this sort of response to student writing will lead them to better writing far more than an entirely detached position would. It is so important for teachers to see what strengths lie untapped in their students if these strengths are ever to be unleashed; As Elbow understands, "having at least a few appreciative readers is probably indispensable to getting better." This optimistic view seems to say that there is hope and potential in every student, in even the worst papers, and it is the teacher's job to find it. "It's not imporvement that leads to liking, but rather liking that leads to improvement," Elbow sums up, and this truly needed statement in the English-teaching world goes back to the idea of pain in writing. I don't think that all writing is inherently painful; on the contrary, I think that some of the most profound pieces are written in moments of joy and self-love. Yet another opportunity to reconcile two "opposites:" perhaps liking what is produced by the painful kind of writing moves the writer to try again.

      This article was extremely interesting and helpful to someone who is contemplating teaching high school English, such as myself. I have always hated the unfairness of grades, because so much of them can be based on the grader. Yet I also have always understood the necessity, or thought I had: how else are we to have an objective scale by which to compare all competitors when they need to be compared (who most deserves college entrance, for one example)? But Elbow has shown me that once again, the realm of writing is singular in its demands. If the goal is to improve writing, liking and evaluating are certainly a necessary basis, and a basis which may even lead to more objective grading in the end. "Notice how much more helpful it is if we can say, 'Do more of what you've done here,' than if we say 'Do something different from anything you've done in the whole paper.'" Such a suggestion is more helpful, and it can only be done if we have found what we like in the paper to begin with. I remember, from one of my favorite and most influential teachers, that risk-taking is a huge factor in improving writing. Students will only do so if they feel "safe," as Elbow says, and if they have an idea of what risks to take, what has worked and might work better later. If enhancing writing comes from thoughtful conversation between teacher/tutor and student, then the best we can do is, as Elbow suggests, listen to them, read uncommented-on work sometimes (which will help them improve independently), and encourage what is good in the rest of it.--Jordana Rozenman, 10/24/05

Greenhalgh, Anne. “Voices in Response: A Postmodern Reading of Teacher Response”  College Composition and Communication.  Vol. 43, October 1992.  401-410.

            Anne Greenhalgh begins with a short summary of the article ahead, stating that a balance must be created between student and teacher responsibility during the writing process.  Greenhalgh states that her essay “addresses this ethical question” (page 401) through a postmodern lens, emphasizing individual style and voice, and how to identify and interact with it in the context of a classroom.

            Her exploration of the student-teacher dynamic moves on to further address the issue of voice, claiming that “voice does not just describe writing style but expresses social identity” (402).  Here we see that she places a direct emphasis on how writing canexpress power or powerlessness: “…I also assume that teachers speak a pre-existing and institutionalized discourse- that constrains the way in which they constitute themselves and students as subjects,” (402).  She speculates that the discourse- the voice in which teachers write- itself is what serves as the dividing line between student and professor, the (alleged) learned and the learners. 

      The importance of learning to recognize cues is also stressed- according to research, students taught to make lists of improvements can create more complete revisions than those simply told to “fix it”.  Greenhalgh also discusses the aspect of roles in the educational process, stating that it is far more important for the teacher to assume the role of the director than that of the evaluator.  This is more conducive to guiding the student through the writing process, rather than telling them whether they’re good or bad and leaving it at that.

      She then turns to language theory to further explicate her ideas, calling on research done by David Silverman and Brian Torode that created a theory that there are two different types of voice: interruption and interpretation.  The combination of the two can drastically alter the way a student reads a response from a teacher.  Torode and Silverman found that teachers tend to respond in an interpretive voice rather than an interruptive one, though both are often used; this creates a lack of text-specific response and makes it more difficult for the reader to view the response as relevant to his or her individual work due to the conflict of teachers responding based on rules versus based on the student’s text itself. Greenhalgh then calls for more research and exploration into this dichotomy, so that in the future, responses may be more attuned to the students themselves, and therefore, more helpful to them.

      Next, she uses the example of her dissertation advisor’s response to her graduate dissertation.  Her advisor, Professor Daniels, uses interpretive voice to suggest that his conclusions come from “external realities”- authorities outside of simply the realm of teacher, student, and text.  She describes his writing as “interpretive with interruptive force” (406).  While he goes back and forth between interpretive and interruptive, he ultimately leaves her in control of her own writing.

      Greenhalgh then asserts her belief that there is a viable role for interpretive comments and for the rulebook, but that the relationship between student and professor should be better understood through further study of these two very different voices.  She then raises the question of “how to voice not only the discourse of education that necessarily informs teacher comments, but also the immediate and material experience of reading student writing” (408).

      Moving from that question, she begins exploring the implications of her ideas into the classroom setting, again calling for teachers to pay more attention to responding to the students’ text itself by asking themselves how exactly they write- as she says, “I write as a writing instructor researching my past experience as a graduate-student writer” (408).  She discusses how distant she felt from her professors because of the way in which they chose to respond to her writing, and offers three possible solutions for teachers in dealing with writing responses: track changes in their own voices to be able to better recognize them; incorporate students by asking them how they think teachers should be responding; and, finally, assist students in hearing changes in voice, so that interpretation of teacher responses will be easier and more helpful to them.  Most importantly, she asks that teachers “open their ears” (410) in order to better hear and understand their students, and respond more fully and accurately.

      I feel that this piece addresses directly a couple of the concerns that strike me as being relevant as the big research project nears- classroom politics and the relationship of teacher to student.  Research on how ideas get lost in interpretation as they travel from high academia down to the high school and college classrooms particularly piques my interest, because I believe it happens a lot.  This article pointed me in a few directions as to what to research next (I am going to try to get a hold of that Silverman and Torode information) and new directions to take my ideas that are far less daunting than taking on postmodernist compositional theory as a whole.--Anna Waltman, 10/25/05

Walker, Laurie. “Research in the Classroom: Our Rhythm-Riddled Discourse.” The English Journal 78.4 (1989): 98-99.  Jstor. 20 Oct. 2005 <http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0013-8274%28198904%2978%3ARITCOR%E2.0.CO%3B2-H>.


      This article explores the importance of rhythm in the expression, interpretation, and education of language.  Walker says that rhythm alters the meaning of a passage.  When the passage is read in the rhythm the author intended, the reader and writer are “sychronized.”  When it is not, meaning may be obscured or lost.  This is the idea behind flow of syntax and word usage.  Rhythm puts emphasis on certain parts of sentences and breaks up and groups different ideas.  Timing is an important part of discourse, says Walker, citing the punch line of a joke as an example.  Walker also says that language is closely tied to performing arts through this connection to rhythm.  The article also mentions ways in which the adaptation and assimilation of foreign rhythms can help in the learning of a second language.  The expanse of rhythm’s effect on language is explored briefly, as the article is only two pages long. 

      This article, though short, shows insight into an area which I am very interested.  I see this connecting to the ideas of some members of the class as well.  In addition to helping to expand on the idea of Multiple Intelligences (my area of interest), I think this article would also help students interested in musical patterns in writing and those interested in second language learning.  A lot of the article sparked thoughts and questions which can be expanded upon and researched.  For example, did punctuation come into being to facilitate the presence of rhythm in written discourse?  I find in my writing that sometimes a word is just not right for a sentence, although the meaning serves well.  Is that because it doesn’t fit into my desired rhythm?  I feel as though I have dismissed words or phrases because they have the wrong number of syllables, without realizing that I was so concerned with rhythm. --Jennifer Curtis, 10/27/05


Harris, Muriel and Silva, Tony. “Tutoring ESL Students: Issues and Options”  College Composition and Communication, Vol. 44, No. 4. (Dec., 1993), pp. 525-537.Stable URL: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0010096X%28199312%2944%3A4%3C525%3ATESIAO%3E2.0.CO%3B2-E



      Since I enjoyed reading Harris’ piece for class, I decided to see what she had to say about my topic, the composing processes of ESL students. I came across this article from JSTOR, which addresses the very issue of how Writing Center tutors should go about tutoring students with composing processes that are so different from those of native English speaker.


      Harris and Silva uncover several issues that tutors encounter when tutoring ESL students that do not come up when they tutor native English speakers. The most glaring of these is resisting the urge to correct every single grammatical error or rewrite the paper completely. The authors argue that this does nothing for the tutee and it goes against the principles of the Writing Center. Instead, they advise highlighting the writers’ strengths and then dealing with more prominent errors, such as organization and focus. To better assist tutors with this task, Harris and Silva divide errors into two categories: global and local. Global errors are those that impact the meaning of a sentence or paragraph. Local errors, conversely, are those that are grammatical in nature but do not change the meaning. Distinguishing the types of errors makes the job of the tutor more manageable, but the authors agree that this sometimes frustrates the writer, who wants to turn in a paper equal in quality to his native English speaking classmates. The tutor should, in such a situation, explain to the tutee that his job is to help him become a better writer, not to ensure him an “A” paper.


      Once the errors have been divided, it must be determined what fuels the errors of the ESL student’s writing errors. There are two common causes. The first is that the language instruction of a student may have been deficient in a certain are and thus they simply are unaware of a certain rule. Another cause could be that the student’s first language is impacting his ability to understand a certain rule because it conflicts with what he’s done in his native language all his life. The danger in making these distinctions, however, is that tutors then tend to generalize. For example, if a student’s native language is Chinese, and many Chinese students struggle with a particular issue, then tutors may tend to think that this student definitely has the same problem.


      Another difficulty inherent in tutoring ESL students is that tutors are ill-equipped to explain to an ESL student why something is wrong. Native English speakers know what sounds right, but they do not necessarily the reason that it is correct. To deal with this problem, the authors suggest that tutors sit in on grammar courses. Ultimately, though, the tutor’s goal is to engage the tutee in a conversation about what the tutee thinks is correct or incorrect.


       In the end, both agree that talking to an ESL student is the best way to find out what help the tutee requires. Instead of guessing what the ESL student is struggling with, tutors should ask. Though sometimes the writer will not be able to diagnose his own writing problem, conversing with the tutee can still help both of the people involved to better express what the one needs and what the other can help him accomplish. In many ways, conversation can be extremely valuable for the ESL student who is in the process of finding his voice in a new language and needs direction in this.--Milena Rodban, 10/26/05


Lichten, William. “Whither Advanced Placement?” Education Policy Analysis Archives 8:29 (2000): 45 pars. 30 Oct. 2005. <http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v8n29.html>.

             William Lichten of Yale University, possibly as a result of discouragement he felt teaching students who seemed, to him, hardly prepared for the rigors of serious higher education, elected to study the effects of AP tests on college placement strictly on statistics. He examined first the College Board’s claims on their highly lucrative AP program, claims which stated that two-thirds of all students who take Advanced Placement examinations receive a score of 3 (passing, the equivalent of getting a C in a college-level course) or higher. He then goes on to attack these claims using a few different methods, first by defining his own terms of “advanced placement,” then by looking at the overall statistics for students who have taken the tests, then by examining what percentage of college students receive acceptable scores, 4 or 5, that can translate into college credit.

            In Lichten’s idea of advanced placement, the term refers not so much to a high school student more advanced than his or her peers, but rather to a student who, upon entering college, immediately places into a more advanced course than many other college students would take. In other words, he focuses more on college than on high school. In his estimation, going on the program’s claims that two-thirds of students receive passing college credit from taking the test, he finds that only one-quarter of the passing students actually placed into higher-level mathematics courses, not quite the estimation the College Board offered. Judging on statistics alone, Lichten finds that, while the average for the entire United States for students who receive 3 or higher on the tests is 64.6%, or close to two-thirds, the estimate of students who receive 4 or 5, the scores needed in many colleges to achieve credit, is only 35.2%. He asserts that this number falls far below the College Board’s claims as they would lead one to believe that roughly two-thirds of students receive credit, but because a score of 3 is not considered acceptable by most colleges, the Board has fallen short of its claims. He goes on to state that it is “dilution” of the test-taking pool that has led to what he sees as a reduction in the effectiveness of AP tests in placing students in more advanced courses upon entering college.

            Of most interest to me is Lichten’s mention of the AP English Literature test, which he says defies the norm of increasingly lousy scores. While the average of passing scores on all other tests reached only 49%, according to his research, the scores for the Lit test showed 68% of students passing. He dismisses the anomaly, stating that many colleges do not accept credit for the Lit test, even if the student received a score of 5. I feel that he should have pursued the abnormality, perhaps in a separate study, to see if the preparations for the test if not the test itself had any beneficial results for students entering college courses. A score of 68% would seem to indicate an improvement in the reading comprehension and, more importantly to me, the writing comprehension of entry-level students as compared to other students in the same colleges who were placed automatically in what Lichten calls “remedial” or basic-level writing courses. He based his comparison for students who placed into higher-level courses right off on scores from the AP Calculus examination.

            It appears that I will have to conduct my own research to see if the elevated exam scores of AP English Literature takers had any visible effect on entering college students’ writing skills. Though I realize this is not a likely possibility given my current location as opposed to that of my high school, I would be interested to see if the “dilution” of which Lichten somewhat snobbishly complains, in which students whom he does not feel are qualified to take the AP exams take them due to mandates given by individual states pushing the AP program in high schools, actually results in an even greater reduction of credit-worthy scores. When I was in high school (here goes the nineteen-year-old grandma again), we had to get permission from our teachers and from the head of the department before signing up for an AP course. It helped greatly if we were already in Honors courses; even then, we were asked repeatedly and doubtfully if we were really prepared for the strenuous nature of the courses. I hear that current students get registered for AP courses almost automatically now, with no particular consideration given to the students’ abilities to handle the workload and the style of the classes. I would be interested to see if this push by Grandview’s administration leads to lower average AP scores among the student body. For now, however, my immediate interest lies in discovering just how much effect that 68% passing English Literature score had on entering students’ college writing proficiency.--Bree Katz, 10/30/05

Knox-Quinn, Carolyn. “Collaboration in the Writing Classroom: An Interview with Ken Kesey.” College Composition and Communication 41.3 (1990): 309-17. JSTOR. Julia Rogers Library, Goucher College. 30 October, 2005. <http://jstor.org>.



      Though this interview, conducted by Carolyn Knox-Quinn, Ken Kesey, and two of his students, is about the process of writing a novel collaboratively, there are similarities between their processes and those of the collaborative projects of the students of English 221.  Knox-Quinn focus mostly on the strategies Kesey used as a teacher for the task of writing a novel, and having a full class write that novel.  He shares some of techniques and explains the process as Knox-Quinn asks about it, but he isn’t afraid to share struggles and obstacles his collaborative group overcame to make the project successful.

      Throughout the interview Kesey gives his opinions on the process, including the expected, “Nothing hampers creativity like too many cooks” (309), to the fact that “it frees you from yourself” (312).  He gives suggestions as to how to approach the process in a larger group.  His task was to create a novel that included the input of several members of one class, all with different ideas and different opinions; “We were all completely alike in that we had habits and we had style” (314).  On the first day of the project he had all members of the group come in with a card.  On the card was a description of a character that each member had created, as well as a need of that character (312).  Now, not all of these creations were necessarily used in the final product, some could have even been dismissed within the first class period, but it gave to group something to start with, it lead them on a track which they loosely followed for the duration of the task.

      Having this track made the process go by more smoothly than if there were no guidelines at all.  Of course, the creation of the project came from the students, none of it was pre-meditated, but the structure provided the students with a path to follow.  Sometimes, as with any large project, they had to veer off the path and, in one case, all meet up along the same detour.  Their story became that of an anthropologist studying in the Western United States in the 1930’s.  Because of the location of the story they all found themselves researching bats of that area at one point: “We found out we had to learn about bats.  So we were all current with each other.  We needed to have some things in common” (313).  They each had their own ideas about the story and the characters, but at that point they all shared something in common.

      This, and many other lessons arose for the students throughout the project.  It’s one thing, for example, to talk about ideas and discuss them amongst the group, and another to compose, and still another to rewrite and edit.  All are so important to the success of the project, yet all are so unique, but each student has to be able to complete each stage.  With a large group, too, it is difficult to get much accomplished in a short period of time.  On rare occasions, however, the large group is beneficial for time constraints.  Most of the time the more people involved the more ideas are floating around the more competition builds up.  It is not necessarily competition between members of the group, Kesey warns, but competition with the system.  Each time you put yourself out there, each time you immerse yourself in a something, it is a win/lose situation.  You must compete with all that is around you to succeed (315).

      I liked how the interview not only involved the teacher, the authority figure, of the project, but included the input of two students as well.  It’s important to understand that more than ones person is involved with any project, even those novels that are only credited to one author.  I think it’s also important that Kesey invested so much of himself in the project; he said he alone made up 50% of the class (309).  As tutors we as “authority figures” must invest much of ourselves into the session in order to fully help the tutee.  If we believe we will be unaffected by the success of the student we are fooling ourselves.  Time involved in 221 and in the actual sessions all works towards helping produce better writing and writers. 

      There are several more important points that Kesey and Knox-Quinn bring up in her interview that pertain to any collaborative project, not just those that involve fiction writing.  It allowed me to see the process from another perspective and gave me the confidence to approach the upcoming one with a creative mind and spirit.  For one thing we must always remember as writers is to have confidence in our work, for that is what makes it truly successful.- Simone Martell, October 30, 2005


Thorson, Helga.  “Using the Computer to Compare Foreign and Native Language Writing Processes: A Statistical and Case Study Approach.”  The Modern Language Journal (2000): 155-169.


      This article describes a study done on American students learning and writing in German, using a relatively new technique—the composing is done directly on a computer, and a program called Trace-It tracks their keystrokes, allowing close analysis of composition and revision.  The article begins with a discussion of past research on L1 and L2 composition and revision, explaining that little past research has been very useful.  Even in those studies which did compare the composing processes in L1 and L2 of the same students, very different populations were used, making it difficult to draw definitive conclusions among them.  The only thing those past studies did show is that writing processes may be transferred from L1 to L2.  Many past studies also used think-aloud procedures, which, while useful, are in Thorson’s opinion “intrusive and reactive” (158), and she sees the keystroke tracking as more reliable because it is unobtrusive.


      The article goes on to describe the study.  Two groups of students are used: an intermediate language course and an upper-level culture course.  All of the writing is done in-class, on the computer.  There are four assignments—a letter in English (L1), a letter in German (L2), an article in English, and an article in German.  What was studied was the ratio of revisions to typed text, the ratio of “distant” revisions to total revisions, and the quantity of writing.


      Not all of the analyzed portions yielded statistically significant results.  The conclusions that could be made with confidence were that “participants revised more in German than they did in English” (161)—as had been expected, since they were less familiar with German as L2—and that the genre (whether it was a letter or an article) had more effect on the process in English than in German, probably also because of the difference in degree of familiarity.


      There were also two case studies, one from the higher-level course and one from the lower-level course.  The particular students were chosen because they went along well with the general trends.  Both typed more in English and revised more in German.  One of them showed a much greater tendency to organize the work before actual writing, which was even more evident in German than in English.  The other tended to write straight through in both languages, though did organize more for the German article.


      The article ended with, as so often articles end with, a call for further research.  Thorson particularly hoped for greater sample sizes to be used in order to provide better statistical comparison, and to find out whether skill in L1 translated to skill in L2, whether the writing environment or use of multiple drafts affect process, and whether there are differences between writing in different foreign languages.


      I was quite surprised, when I found this article, that I hadn’t found it before, as it seemed to pertain so directly to my research topic.  It is about English-speaking students writing in a foreign language rather than ESL students, but I see no reason that the conclusions drawn by this study shouldn’t extend to ESL students as well.  I’m not sure how actively useful the things this article shows can be, but they do shed some light on how students compose in a second language.  The process differences seem to be more based on familiarity with the language than on actual differences in mental processes.


      I did wonder whether anyone had done the continued research that Thorson suggested—especially on whether skill in L1 translates into skill in L2.  Is there any way to find out if this research has been continued?  It might be very helpful to find those articles.  If they have not been continued, well, perhaps we can continue them ourselves.--Kaitlyn Miller, 10/30/05

Carpenter, Carol. “Exercises to Combat Sexist Reading and Writing. College English, Vol. 43, No. 3 (Mar., 1981), 293-300.  Also available at: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0010-0994%28198103%2943% 3A3%3C293%3AETCSRA%3E2.0.CO%3B2-6

     Carpenter starts out writing primarily about sexism within literature and then broadens her focus to sexism in all kinds of writing. Her article focuses on different exercises to use in the classroom to initiate conversations about sexism in writing and therefore in society. She argues that the college composition course is an optimal venue in which to challenge students’ ingrained, and often subconscious, sexism relating to reading, writing and therefore, thinking. Carpenter cites many of the sexist stereotypes that are perpetuated in the language and cultural norms of our society. She then gives three examples of practical activities that are “designed to explore the implications of sexism while building reading and writing skills” (293). The first exercise she describes asks students to analyze works of authors such as Ernest Hemingway or Joyce Carol Oates, and then making word lists, focusing in on the use of sexist language to describe males or females and their actions. Carpenter’s point is that by creating these word lists, the “students can deduce the author’s attitude toward the characters and, by implication, toward men and women” (294). After creating word lists from the writings of a distinguished author, Carpenter then asks the students to create word lists from something they have written, citing that, “After all, it is easier for students to point out Hemingway’s sexism than it is to recognize and admit sexist biases in their own language” (295). The idea is that these exercises will raise questions and provide ample material for class discussions on sexism and the different ways it is represented in writing. The second exercise that Carpenter discussed was looking at fairy tales and discussing the “sexism passed unexamined and unchallenged from one generation to the next” (297). Students were asked to examine traditional fairy tales and pose given questions concerning gender roles, more specifically, “What ideas are taught about male and female behavior through fairy tales?” (297). The students were then asked to write a fairytale, either an original one, or a rewriting of one, “in nonsexist terms.” The last exercise she suggests is to assign each student a research paper on a subject pertaining to a facet of the conversation on sexism that particularly interested the student. She then lists some ideas for different topics. She emphasizes letting each student choose a topic that interests them because she feels that is the most important aspect in students producing the most meaningful and relevant research papers.    

     I was drawn to this article because I have always found gender issues and stereotypes fascinating. Carpenter’s emphasis on how these stereotypes manifest in writing and literature was straightforward and refreshing. In English classrooms there is always one or more conversations about the use of “man” as the general word for humanity or other equally tired subjects, but in this article, Carpenter pointed out different and more in depth ways that sexism permeates literature and writing. Her specific exercises and assignments were clear and to the point and yet very telling and illustrative in showing the seemingly ubiquitous sexism in writing. The readings for this week, focusing on what it means to write in a “feminine” way or a “male” way were interesting while also being very frustrating. I liked this particular article because I think it focused more on the origins and perpetuation of the actuality of gendered writing.

     It all confuses me and I see it sort of like a problem of the chicken and the egg. Our society teaches us to act in a certain way, but the books we read also teach us to be a certain way. The classic books we are assigned to read in high school or college, and even the books that are read to us when we are children, illustrate sexual stereotypes. It is odd though, because I consider writing an art, and there is a huge amount of artistic freedom given in our society. Almost anything can be “art” if the artist says it is. And so many things are forgiven in the name of art. One can write terrible things or take pictures that in all other contexts would be grossly offensive, but in the name of art, are somehow acceptable. So in one way I have a hard time with criticizing great authors for representing women in a misogynistic way, or men in a masculine stereotype, because as art, isn’t it their right? But at the same time, as someone who will be listened to, someone who has respect, is it not also an artist’s job to be socially responsible?

      So in the end, I don’t feel that we should tell people not to write that way, or to write in a certain way. I think the most important thing to do is to make sure we are aware of it. That when we read Hemingway, or anyone else for that matter, we make sure to look beyond the beautiful prose and see that there is something within what he is saying that is not necessarily something that should be lived by or emulated in our lives. But this is so hard, is it not? Even though I am aware that the fashion magazines and the billboards and the movies and television shows all give me a false sense of identity and unattainable expectations, I still can’t remove myself completely. I still buy into my society’s forced idea of beauty and hate myself when I can’t live up to it, even though I know that I shouldn’t. So that brings me back to the other side. Asking people to write without stereotypes is not only completely impossible, but it is also its own form of censorship. So really in the end, all we can ask is that people have an awareness of the themes in writing that perpetuate sexism, or racism, or any other kind of intolerance or prejudice. I think that in her article, Carpenter has made a good start in identifying different ways of doing that in the classroom. --Kate Murray, 10/30/05

Valdes , Guadalupe, et al.  The Development of Writing Abilities in a Foreign Language: Contributions toward a General Theory of L2 Writing. The Modern Language Journal, Vol. 76, No. 3. (Autumn, 1992), pp. 333-352.


The authors of this study endeavor to form a connection between the writing abilities of native English speaker and their writing in a foreign language. This clearly connects to my research topic, which focuses on how students use existing writing abilities in an L1 and carry them over to an L2 in their writing processes as well as how the L1 affects the composing process when writing in L2. According to the guidelines established by the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines, students should generally follow a certain progression. At the start they write only letters, then progress to copying or producing familiar words or phrases. After this, many can write fragmented or loosely constructed sentences. Finally, students start to write more cohesive paragraphs. This is the direct result of the teaching style employed in Foreign Language instruction that promoted grammatical accuracy over the development of stylistic composition. However, an examination of these guidelines yields one major question. It seems strange that a student who is an advanced writer in English could only write disjointed fragments in a second language. Conversely, if a student writes well in a language other than English, why should it be assumed that they would first write only fragments and badly organized paragraphs in English? Grammatical and technical errors aside, the thoughts and ideas expressed in a competent writer’s work should be the same no matter what language is being used to express them.


        In the study, the authors focus on a group of native English speakers studying Spanish at various levels at a private, selective college. The students are assumed to write competently in English. The data studied include personal narratives on the topic of “Yo” or “Me,” written in Spanish during class. The authors do not study the writing process, since their focus is on the actual writing samples produced by the students, and not the way by which they go about producing them. At the lowest level, students are permitted to consult a dictionary or glossary, though at the higher levels this is not allowed. After an examination of the writing samples, the researchers concluded that the students’ writing samples did not follow the established ACTFL guidelines. Instead the samples revealed a transfer of L1 writing abilities to the L2 writing task. Though the grammar and vocabulary of the samples of students in the lower level were less advanced, the thoughts and organization was not. The more advanced Spanish students were able to manipulate the language and usage in sophisticated and thoughtful ways to produce advanced writing. Across the board, the level of thought was much more advanced- across all levels- than the guidelines suggest. All the students endeavored to produce narratives that had- in some form or other- and introductory paragraph, body paragraphs and a concluding sentence or two. Though limited vocabulary and knowledge of structure hindered the lower level students, they still employed writing techniques from English in terms of the use of imagery, metaphors and comparisons. Those use of these was more common in the more advanced students’ writing, the writing samples of lower level students showed evidence of transfer of English abilities into the Spanish composition. This evidence points to the interaction of languages that a multilingual person experiences. Since we must connect any newly acquired information to knowledge that we have previously accumulated, it logically follows that past knowledge affects the learning of new material. In this case, writing techniques used when composing in English carried over into Spanish composition. Those students who wrote sophisticated English compositions thus produced Spanish compositions that were organized, well thought out and full of meaning.


      The researchers were able to conclude that while the ACTFL guidelines are not completely useless, they cannot be applied to students who have successfully entered a selective institution of higher learning with a sufficient background in English composition. This has broad implications for the teaching of foreign languages in such circumstances. It also suggests the need for new ways of evaluating students and their progress. Though the authors argue that the process of interaction may be different for ESL students, and warrants further study, they feel that their research has concluded that there is a strong interaction between an individual’s L1 and L2; whether it helps, hinders or complements the learning of the L2 remains to be seen. It can be suggested though, that the interaction for an ESL student would require more restructuring of existing knowledge to better grasp the L2 because many ESL students tend to be native speakers of languages such as Russian, Chinese, etc., which share almost nothing with English. Native English speakers thus have an easier time learning Spanish or French since the alphabets and structures in the three languages are quite similar. In preparation for the research project, I hope to find a study that focuses on the specific writing processes of non-native English speakers to determine whether they compose in their L1 and then translate, compose directly in the L2 or follow some other process. This would give better insight into the direct interaction between the L1 and L2 which is not visible by simply studying the writing samples of students, as was done in this study. --Milena Rodban, 10/30/05


 Jones, Joseph. ‘Recomposing the AP English Exam.’ The English Journal, Vol. 91, No. 1, ‘Assessing Ourselves To Death’, September 2001, pp. 51-56.

             Joseph Jones sure takes a while to make a point. He’d like to let you know that the AP Language and Literature test should add a portfolio element. He really would. But first he needs to explain a lot. I’m not complaining. It’s a very good overview of the history of the AP test, critiquing it at every opportunity. I also agree with his main point – that the Advanced Placement Program is ‘the last bastion of New Criticism’ (54) and needs to be re-evaluated and redesigned.

            There’s always been something about the AP test that I disliked. I enjoyed the high school classes I took for AP English, and I got a 5 and a 4 on Language and Literature, respectively. Joseph’s review of the history and approach to the inherent philosophy of the test help confirm my subconscious suspicions. The AP test was created because of elitism – that’s how I interpret the ‘intersection of interests’ (51) from three private secondary schools and three private universities back in the ‘50’s. The response from liberal arts schools birthed AP, which is now run by The College Board, who should really be sued for anti-trust. Lots of colleges value AP courses higher than regular courses, but a third of the nation’s high schools don’t offer any. There aren’t any real alternatives in terms of proving yourself as a writer in the old ‘New Critical’ sense. That’s not a good thing.

            Joseph agrees with me. The test is the emphasis of any AP course that may be offered, for several reasons: the end result is how faculty are assessed, and students and parents would like college credit and the lesser cost of eventual tuition are the two main ones. Yet the AP test material is not available to the teachers, so AP tests are unlike any other high school course – the test determines the curricula, not vice versa. This is what allows for the range of teaching styles and subsequent experiences that this English 221 class experienced in high school. You don’t even have to enroll in a course to take the test – for some types of learners, this method might be worth a recommendation.

            This all wouldn’t be so bad if the test was an accurate appraisal of a student’s skills as a writer; the popular opinion of almost everyone that’s not the College Board (CEEB) or Educational Testing Services (ETS) is that it’s not. The multiple choice section, which lasts an hour, is 45 percent of the test. The three timed essay responses are 55 percent, and students are given two hours to complete them. I don’t think multiple choice is a good way of analyzing any skill other than memorization. Joseph’s skepticism is equally fervent, but he makes a point I hadn’t acknowledged. “Though the multiple-choice section accounts for 45 percent of the exams’ overall value, the one hour multiple-choice section is proportionately more heavily weighted than the three timed essays students are given two hours to complete.” (53)

            Whoa. So on a test designed to measure writing ability, the actual writing is valued less than multiple choice? Something’s wrong here. Not only that, 40 minutes an essay isn’t anything like the type of writing you do in college English courses. Plus ‘there are good, competent writers who, for a variety of reasons, can’t seem to do well on the multiple-choice section of the exam’ (53). The portfolio suggestion is a simple one that I would love to see take place. I think Joseph’s questioning of the AP’s authenticity is quite valid. It almost makes me glad this is so late – almost – because annotating this really focuses my vision on approaching the AP test in my collaborative project. Maybe I can help pick up where Joseph left off. --Tyler Adams, 11/17/05

 Campbell, Joann. "Writing to Heal: Using Meditation in the Writing Process." CollegeComposition and Communication 45 (1994): 246-251. 15 Nov. 2005.

            Campbell writes about the potential benefits of and possible problems of incorporating meditation into pedagogy. She makes a careful point not to define meditation in religious terms, preferring to say; “meditation is the notion of training the mind.” Campbell pays special attention to the positive results found with studies of anxious or blocked writers who used meditation to overcome their respective disabilities, and discusses the connections between meditating and writing as two not so separate processes of healing.

            Furthermore, Campbell does well to create a fascinating juxtaposition of secular and non-secular thought, as well as ancient practices and cutting-edge writing techniques. She has obviously researched this topic comprehensively, drawing from varied sources very conscientiously and effectively. I could very well use her paper her a source book, as they make strong ties to my key inquiry of the relationship of pain and the writing process.

Ultimately there are several key points in Campbell’s work that I will be able to draw from. Her case studies of the positive effects of meditation on blocked and anxious writers ties in to my paper quite well. Also, her discussion of the obstacles for and implications of incorporating meditation into writing pedagogy makes not only for excellent material for my paper’s conclusion (which deals with the application of my observations on pain in the writing process to the writing center), but also makes a fascinating statement about the political nature of the postmodern classroom. She also does a fine job of using the work of writing theorist Lester Faigley to explicate how meditation can be used to develop a vital sense of “self” in writing (and beyond). Unfortunately, many of the finer points of meditation practices and their specific effects on the writer were ignored in favor of summarizing the leading expert in this particular field: Moffett. Moffett and Campbell work well in tangent for the purpose of my paper, and could very well provide the synthesis I need for my closing arguments.  --Greg Bortnichak, 11/17/05

Sommers, Nancy. “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers.” Landmark Essays, ed. Perl, Sondra. Hermagoras Press. 1994.

             I wasn’t really thinking about who would be coming into the Writing Center before I read this essay. That sounds silly, but hear me out; I was thinking about all the techniques I’d used and thinking about how I could use them because, well, no case is the same. So I wasn’t going to waste my time stereotyping or thinking of the ‘average tutee’. But my future tutees will probably share many common traits I can contemplate. Nancy Sommers’ essay illustrates this well.

            In this essay, Sommers reviews 20 college freshmen writers and 20 experienced adult writers from the same locations by having them produce three drafts each of expressive, explanatory, and persuasive essays. Each writer was interviewed after completion of each essay, and each writer suggested revisions for a composition written by an unknown author. Sommers gets a lot of data from this, and draws intriguing conclusions from them.

            Student writers are limited compared to the experienced adults – very limited. Their methods of revision aren’t the way I think of revision – yet these, more than likely, will constitute most of my tutees. Sommers says this the fault of linear models of writing based around speech – and indeed, you can’t revise speech the way you can writing: “this is the essential difference between writing and speaking” (77). In 221, most of us moved past the linear model on our own before being encouraged by teachers, if we were at all. This implies to me that there are many students who have expectations dictated to them that cramp the quality of the writing process in total, but particularly nullify the possibility of quality revision.

      “These revision strategies are teacher-based, directed towards a teacher-reader who expects compliance with rules – with pre-existing “conceptions” – and who will only examine parts of the composition.” (80)

      “These revision strategies” refers to rewording, mainly. Sommers says the only modification of ideas in the student essays occurred “when they tried out two or three introductory paragraphs” (80), then partly because of the linear model inciting them to use a thesis statement. Student writers in this methodology are primarily concerned with vocabulary. What this means for me as a tutor is that I should to try to help tutees learn to think of their work as more of a whole; experienced writers “describe their primary objective when revising as finding the form or shape of their argument.” (81) Inexperienced writers need to zoom out – it’s as if they’re focusing on a small chip instead of finishing the sculpture properly.

      Sommers says experienced writers “imagine a reader…whose existence and whose expectations influence their revision process.” (82) “Such a reader gives them just what the students lacked: new eyes to ‘review’ their work.” That’s me! I am ‘new eyes’. I can be a reader with expectations far different than that of the invented teacher-reader previously conjured up. If someone along these lines comes in to the Writing Center, I’m sure I’ll think of Sommers’ essay. Probably even look it up.

      More than being a reader, Sommers tells me a somewhat philosophical way to approach the issue of inexperienced versus experienced: “Student writers constantly struggle to bring their essays into congruence with a predefined meaning. The experienced writers do the opposite: they seek to discover (to create) meaning in the engagement with their writing, in revision.” (83) I feel that is a good way to sum up one of my strongest feelings about writing; that adherence diminishes quality and ceiling of writing. Taking the prompt, assignment, or starting point and ignoring it in favor of communication and revision is what results in the best academic writing. Now I’ve got an academic to back me up.--Tyler Adams, 12/something/05