Revolution Lullabye

February 17, 2016

Bacon, Review Essay: Cross-Disciplinary Approaches to Style

Bacon, Nora. “Review Essay: Cross-Disciplinary Approaches to Style.” College Composition and Communication 67.2 (December 2015): 290-303.

In this book review, Bacon reviews two recent popular style manuals: Helen Sword’s Stylish Academic Writing and Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. Bacon points out the strengths and flaws of both books, ultimately arguing that although both Sword and Pinker bring important interdisciplinary perspectives to teaching style, neither of them (but particularly Pinker) draw on or engage thoroughly enough in the research and theories of composition studies. Bacon calls for more public scholarship by compositionists on writing and style, pointing out that in its absence, other scholars and fields have taken our place.

Bacon uses Patrick Hartwell’s taxonomy of grammars from his 1985 article to construct a parallel taxonomy of style: style 1 (individual style), style 2 (house style), style 3 (usage), style 4 (plain style), style 5 (elaborated style.) She uses this taxonomy to analyze the arguments and advice promoted in both Sword’s and Pinker’s books.

Sword’s book is written to academics about academic prose, and one of Sword’s central arguments is that academics don’t need to write in a boring, stiff style. Sword conducted an empirical study of academic writing in 10 disciplines, and she uses her analysis of the data (over 1000 journal articles) to suggest specific strategies academic writers can use to write better, more reader-friendly and engaging prose.

Pinker’s book is written from the perspective of a cognitive scientist and a linguist, and Bacon points out the main flaw that she sees in it: Pinker’s arguments are detached from composition studies and seem to assume that a person who understands grammar will be a better writer. Bacon disagrees and argues that the relationship between knowing linguistics and sentence structure and being able to write with a clear, dynamic style is complicated. Describing language is different than using it.

 

Quotable Quotes

“Moving too hastily from linguistics to writing, Pinker makes the mistake that generations of back-to-basics school reformers have made, imagining that the way to improve writers’ sentences is to teach them grammar. Composition scholars know that the relationship between an understanding of grammar and an ability to write healthy sentences is not so simple” (300).

“Gaining metalinguistic knowledge is one thing; learning to write well is another. Confusing the two leads to misguided instruction” (301).

“In classrooms and books, we talk about the rules of usage, the virtues of plain style, and the pleasures of the elaborated style in the hope that the discussion will help writers achieve more effective individual styles” (292).

June 16, 2009

Special Issue: The Writing Major, Composition Studies

Special Issue: The Writing Major. Composition Studies 35:1 (Spring 2007).

I’m going to briefly note what’s in this issue and the highlights from each essay or article. Two articles I already have notes on.

Estrem, Heidi. “Growing Pains: The Writing Major in Composition and Rhetoric.” 11-14.

the writing major is that in-between space between 1st year comp and grad programs. This issue features essays and articles about these forming majors, articles that bridge local constraints, stories, and contexts with larger themes of the importance of place, timing, capitalizing on unexpected events, advocacy, and long effort. This group of growing writing majors asks the field to define itself – will it be under the umbrella of “writing studies?”

Carpini, Dominic Delli. “Re-writing the Humanities.” – already have notes

Clary-Lemon, Jennifer. “The Hot Arctic: Writing Majors as New Sites for New Hires.” 37-38

McClure, Randall. “Projecting the Shape of the Writing Major.” 39-40.

think about how instruction is delivered (online?); to and with whom (K-16?, interdisciplinary?) – the importance of the archictecture of a writing major when designing it.

Howard, Rebecca Moore. “Curricular Activism: The Writing Major as Counterdiscourse.” 41-52.

Writing majors give the field an opportunity to argue for a positive, informed view of postsecondary writing instruction. Howard reviews the websites of new writing majors and contends that websites, written for student, faculty, and public audiences, can be composition’s PR tool for changing the traditional, normative assumptions of writing instruction and allowing the institution to see composition and rhetoric as legitimate intellectual, disciplinary work.

Shamoon, Linda and Celest Martin. “What Part of the Elephant is This? Questioning Creative Non-Fiction in the Writing Major” 53-54

study of nonfiction can be placed in a historical trajectory in comp/rhet with expressivism. need to investigate and open up the theoretical and conceptual connections between creative nonfiction and comp/rhet

Schaffner, Spencer. “Grounding the Writing Major in the Socio-Graphemic Approach.” 55-56

the activity of writing is the central organizing theme to study: “students will become specialists in the study of written language, rhetoric, writing technologies, and image/text semiotics” (55).

Peeples et al. “Chronos and Kairos, Strategies and Tactics” notes already

Taylor, Beth. “On Brown University’s New Nonfiction Writing Program” 77-78

students aren’t required to take writing at Brown, but 26% do take a nonfiction writing course – academic essay, journalism, creative nonfiction

Newman, Glenn. “Concoting a Writing Major: A Recipe for Success.” 79-80.

undergrad who developed his own rhet/comp major at U of Utah and is preparing himself to go to grad school for rhet/comp

Scott, Tony. “The Cart, the Horse, and the Road They Are Driving Down: Thinking Ecologically about a New Writing Major.” 81-93.

faculty designing writing majors must think beyond their scholarly,  intellectual visions and consider the institutional constraints they are working with – hiring, budgets, staffing, space. Argues for a move to a “post-writing program era” (90) – without mandated syllabi, teacher management; encourage scholarly and pedagogical experimentation. The contradiction between the administrative functions of a writing program and the faculty functions of a major. Draws on Marx, circulation to look at the narratives and ideologies of power and control are wired into postsecondary writing instruction (85)

Peele, Thomas. “What Do We Mean When We Say ‘Writing?'” 95-96

where does creative nonfiction belong? disciplinary arguments that writing majors bring out

Lowe, Kelly. “Against the Writing Major.” 97-98.

writing majors, in order to thrive, must have proper staffing and consider faculty strenghts and weaknesses when constructing a program. Find the faculty to fit the major, not the other way around. Don’t attempt a major if you can’t run it well.

Taylor, Hill. “Black Spaces: Examining the Writing Major at an Urban HBCU.”

argues for consideration of context when developing a writing major – a Tier 1, mostly white research institution is going to have a much different writing major than an open-admissions, Washington DC, urban HBCU, which could focus on writing for government, policy, education, and African-American rhetorics and pedagogies. Calls for a haptic curriculum (one that is contingent, participatory), not an optic one (simplified, homogenous one) for writing majors (draws on Giles Deleuze’s A Thousand Plateaus.)

March 7, 2009

Wysocki, Writing New Media

Wysocki, Anne Frances, et al. Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition. Logan, Utah: Utah State UP, 2004.

This book, containing chapters by Anne Frances Wysocki, Johndan Jordan-Eilola, Cynthia L. Selfe, and Geoffrey Sirc, explores how a writing classroom (and composition studies) might be opened to new media. Each chapter provides a theoretical framework and argument for incorporating new media in the classroom and several classroom and homework activities, piloted by the authors, that teachers can adapt and use in their classrooms to encourage use and understanding of new media practices.

January 26, 2009

Carpini, “Re-Writing the Humanities”

Carpini, Dominic Delli. “Re-Writing the Humanities: The Writing Major’s Effect upon Undergraduate Studies in English Departments.” Composition Studies 35:1 (Spring 2007) 15-36.

Beginning with a classification of the three main types of undergraduate writing majors – professional, liberal arts, and hybrid – Carpini shows how one writing major, the Professional Writing Major at York College of Pennsylvania, has redefined what writing studies means to students and to the discipline. The major has returned rhetoric to the humanities, informing students’ work in literary studies and philosophy by increasing the topics and discussions they can draw on and write about and making them more careful readers and writers. It also has revitalized and added a new area of inquiry to those students in pre-professional tracks, like English education. This was in the special edition of Composition Studies about the writing major, and Carpini includes several institutions’ own writing major descriptions.

Quotable Quotes

“the potential that writing majors have to influence the disciplines with which we share institutional homes and to introduce undergraduate students to areas of research that, until recently, were reserved for graduate studies” (15)

the writing major is on “a continuum moving from praxis to gnosis.” (16)

Notable Notes

English secondary teachers learning tutoring in the writing center

abolition and Crowley arguments cited

extensive (15 or so) descriptions of writing majors from the college or university’s catalogues

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