This week in Learning How to Write…
Marilyn Cooper talks sense in “The Ecology of Writing” when she so eloquently states, “So revolution [of whether to commit to prewriting, writing and revising] dwindles to dogma” (p. 364). That doctrine is spewed as well in Lester Faigley’s article, “Competing Theories of Process: A Critique and a Proposal” where he claims, “If the process movement is to continue to influence the teaching of writing and to supply alternatives to current-traditional pedagogy, it must take a broader conception of writing, one that understands writing processes are historically dynamic—not psychic states, cognitive routines, or neutral social relationships” (p. 537). In fact, Faigley continues to move the revolution forward by reminding readers that future research in writing should shift into focusing on “how the possibilities for individual expression will be affected by major technological changes in progress” (p. 538).
The discussion on process on whether to ditch it and stick with the expressivist bent on finding the writer’s true voice or stay true to the rhetorical theory of the logic behind truth found from an informed standpoint is definitely influenced by both Lisa Ede and Andrea Lunsford. Their article “Audience Addressed/Audience Invoked: The Role of Audience in Composition Theory and Pedagogy” zooms in one important aspect that many teachers deal with which is “to be for or against an emphasis on audience in composition courses” (155). They discuss how some writing models also make an ultimatum—emphasis on the writer or on the finished product but never a compromise in between (157). Ede and Lunsford stress that these models also put too much concentration on the “role of the audience than on that of the writer.” Their answer to that happy medium lies in identifying the writers’ “internal dialogue” where they try to create the audience based on what they know (158). Furthermore, the audience cannot just be a creation of the writer’s mind. They assert that a writer has to not only do the research to know the audience but also create a mental concept of them so as to make the audience feel “invited…to see themselves as [the writer]…saw them” (p.163).
What sums it all up though, is, “One of the factors that makes writing so difficult, as we know, is that we have no recipes: each rhetorical situation is unique and thus requires the writer, catalyzed and guided by a strong sense of purpose, to reanalyze and reinvent solutions” (p. 164). Some of their parting words of advice to writers are that whoever wishes to “be read must often adapt their discourse to meet the needs and expectations of an addressed audience” (p. 166). Of course, the writers need to remember as a writer they are also a reader when they go through writing process—“…writers create readers and readers create riders. In the meeting of these two lies meaning, lies communication” (p. 169).
After audience is identified, the actual process comes back into play and what comes next really blows all the other theories out of the water. David Bartholomae writes in “The Study of Error” talks about how there really isn’t a set standard of what basic writing is (p. 253). He specifies that it definitely is something that children are learning rather it is “a variety of writing, not writing with fewer parts or more rudimentary constituents” (p. 254). To move these students forward, he employs a method that focuses on giving these writers back the control that they lack in “choice and option” (p. 255).
Basically Bartholomae has a student writer reread his/her writing aloud in order for him to learn and classify whether a student is just making a grammatical error or if a student cannot make the distinction of the error him/herself (pp. 257-258). This empowers a student, he claims, by allowing a student to flex the muscle of control as “language users” (p. 258). What then is revealed is the “ ‘intended’ text that can supplement a teacher’s or researcher’s own reconstruction and aid in the interpretation of errors, whether they be accidental, interlingua, or due to dialect interference” (p.266).
Now all professional theories aside, my past practices in teaching composition aligns with Ede and Lunsford in terms of how I have focused on creating audience but also researched audience as well. This is what I teach my students. It’s not good enough just to have it in your head. Knowing is a powerful tool. Additionally, the study of errors that Bartholomae talks of is something I am kind of guilty of—in a way. I often point out to students that when you read your work out loud, you pick up on errors that you never noticed in your head. In fact, I really push to have other students read the work back to the original writer to see if the intended message to the audience is well-received. If it’s not, then I have the writer try to figure out what flaws/errors are holding that writer back. It always seemed like common sense to me.
From high school to college, in writing audience is key.