Revolution Lullabye

June 12, 2009

Britton, The Composing Processes and the Functions of Writing

Britton, James. “The Composing Processes and the Functions of Writing.” In Research on Composing: Points of Departure. Eds. Cooper and Odell. Urbana: NCTE, 1978. 13-28.

Britton, who had previously articulated his theory of discourse, uses this essay to answer two questions about writing: Who is it for? and What is it for? He finds that the answers to those questions differ based on the kind of writing the writer is engaging in. Transactional writing, one of his categories of discourse, places the writer in the role of the participant whose writing is a communicative goal that is interpreted piecemeal by a reader. Poetic writing, on the other hand, places the writer in the role of the spectator whose writing is an end in itself that is interpreted globally by the reader. Expressive writing – placed in the middle of the transactional and poetic spectrum – requires both the spectator and participant persepective, and writers must be able to negotiate the cognitive and affective ordering that is inherent to both to write a successful composition.

Notable Notes

draws on Langer: cognitive and affective order – art is the combination of our congitive and affective responses to experiences, expressive writing requires both

three stages of writing process: preparation, incubation, articulation

organizing power of generalization – concern with the global, nto the details (physiognomic perception)

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Cooper and Odell, Research on Composing

Cooper, Charles R. and Lee Odell. Research on Composing: Points of Departure. Urbana: NCTE, 1978.

This collection, from the 1975 Buffalo Conference on Researching Composing, wants to expand the nature and scope of research on the writing process. The editors argue that to do so, scholars in composition need to question their basic assumptions about how writing happens and be open to changing and revising their theories. Writing researchers, they argue, need to look at writers, not written products of published writers, for models of composing, and should look beyond English for answers to research questions – to rhetorical theory, developmental and cognitive psychology, education, and discourse theory. The essays – including those written by Britton, Young, Emig, and Murray – are therefore speculative and broad in scope, trying out new theories and ideas to open the door for further research and questioning in the composing process.

Quotable Quotes

purpose: “redirecting and revitalizing research in written composition” (xiii)

Notable Notes

value of teacher-research

Perl, Understanding Composing

Perl, Sondra. “Understanding Composing.” CCC 31:4 (Dec 1980) 363-369.

Perl develops a model of composing based on her findings from research with think-aloud protocols of teachers of writing. She points out three ways writers go back and revise their thinking and writing (rereading, going back to a topic or key word, and going back to the felt sense that the topic creates.) Perl argues that this┬áthird way – tapping into emotions, feelings, and ideas that are not yet put in words – has not been adequately studied for its effect on a writer’s writing process. She calls this use of the felt sense, which she believes experienced writers rely on, as “a process of retrospective structuring,” of figuring out how writing feels right or wrong, how it makes a writer think. This retrospective structuring is in contrast to another important process of writing, “projective structuring,” in which the writer puts herself in the position of the reader and structures writing with that perspective. Both struturing processes are necessary for creating meaning in writing.

Quotable Quotes

“In writing, meaning is crafted and constructed.” (367) – not something tangible to be found

Notable Notes

her retrospective/projective structuring is like the reader-centered/writer-centered model

Hairston, The Winds of Change

Hairston, Maxine. “The Winds of Change: Thomas Kuhn and the Revolution in the Teaching of Writing.” CCC 33:1 (Feb 1982) 76-88.

Hairston draws on Kuhn’s theory of paradigm shifts to declare that the field of composition and rhetoric has experienced a paradigm shift in the teaching of writing, moving from (current-)traditional methods to process pedagogy. She claims current-traditional pedagogy is primarily focused on expository writing; wants students to find form, not ideas, through writing; is a linear composing model; equates teaching editing with teaching writing; and is not connected to research or experimentation. In contrast, Hairston argues that the process model is concerned with writers and their process, not their written products, and so is concerned with teaching students heuristics to invent, compose, and revise; is rhetorically-based; is recursive and holistic; treats writing as a way of learning and communicating; and is informed by other disciplines like psychology and linguistics. The process model depends on research in writing and on writers, and requires teachers of writing to be writers. Hairston argues that the process model is the best equip to teach writing to the new populations of American colleges and universities.

Notable Notes

attention to process began in the 1950s and 1960s with generative theories of linguistics (Chomsky) and grammar (Christensen), along with tagmemicists (Pike)

Flower and Hayes, A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing

Flower, Linda and John R. Hayes. “A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing.” CCC 32:4 (Dec 1981) 365-387.

Flower and Hayes introduce their theory of the congntive processes involved in writing, hoping that with their articulation of this theory, they will lay the groundwork for further research and study in how writing happens. They culled the results from five years of protocal analysis research, in which writers were given a set prompt (like write an article for Seventeen magazine), to form their four-part theory. Their theory states: 1. the process of writing is actually an entire set of distinctive thinking processes that the writer organizes while writing 2. any of these processes can be embedded in another, organized hierarchly by the writer 3. the act of writing itself is a goal-directed activity, one of a network of goals that grows and emerges through writing, and 4. the goals are created by the writer and can be changed during the writing process. Flower and Hayes also label three parts of the act of writing: the task environment (rhetorical situation); the writer’s long-term memory (of audience, topic, and writing plan); and the writing processes (planning, translating, and reviewing grounded in self-reflective monitoring.) Flower and Hayes hope their model shows that writing is at the same time purposeful and open to change, direction, and finding meaning, and argue for their model (as opposed to linguistic, rhetorical, or educational models) as better positioning researchers to answer how writers make writing choices.

Quotable Quotes

answer this question: “What guides the decisions wrters make as they write?”

Sommers, Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers

Sommers, Nancy. “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers.” CCC 31:4 (Dec 1980) 378-388.

Sommers argues that the field needs to focus and research how writers revise, and offers her case study of twenty students and 20 adult writers (from Boston and Oklahoma City) as a starting point. Each writer wrote three essays, revised them twice, and sat for interviews with Sommers about their revision strategies. Sommers found that students often focus on the word level when revising – they have what she deems a “thesaurus philosophy of writing” (381) – while the adults saw revision as an opportunity to shape their thoughts and discover the direction and meaning of their writing. Sommers stressed that the truncated view of writing students have – one in which they have a thesis before they even begin writing – does not allow them to engage in writing as a process of discovery or learning, and that teachers of writing need to show students that good writing allows for a holistic and recursive revision process, one that seeks dissonance and wrestles with meaning.

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