Hi Russ. Let me worry at the bone a second more as well (below) --
Chair, English Department
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On Fri, 17 Jul 1998, Russ Hunt wrote:
> Worrying this bone just a minute more . . .
> > The academic essay, either in or out of the classroom, need not be
> > read by only one person; need not be addressed to only one person,
> > rhetorically or otherwise; and need not be written exclusively "to"
> > or "for" one person.
> I agree -- but I'd argue that as soon as it's really read by someone
> other than an assessor, it becomes something other than that
> academic essay, and I don't mean only because it's _construed_
> differently, but also because it will exhibit different textual
> features. Remember that we're still talking in the context of
> Will's question about the rhetoric of the essay on literature. That
> genre (I argue) doesn't have real readers.
It may be that part of the difficulty I'm having is understanding what you
mean by "real readers." I'd argue that the essay on literature does have
real readers (and a number of rhetorical strategies that have evolved to
persuade, engage, entertain, AND exhibit knowledge/skills -- back to your
previous distinction) and real writers as well. I'd also argue that there
are real readers and writers -- of academic essays, among other forms --
in classrooms, although that's another (but closely related) issue.
> > Nor can I accept your construction of the writer (in the classroom,
> > I assume) as "certainly" not seeing herself in a dialogic
> > relationship with the instructor. Yes, the classroom is in one
> > sense (but not in all senses, not monolithically) an artificial
> > venue wherein, to be sure, academic essays of the kind you are
> > describing are often written. But that is not the whole story.
> I'd never argue it was the whole story -- it's not the whole story in
> my classroom, I think (hope). But I'm saying that in order to change
> things we have to make radical changes, not simply minor changes in
> how assignments are phrased or treated. We need to rethink the
> social structure of the classroom. Or so I think.
No argument there. But don't you think that such a re-structuring of the
classroom is in fact going on? I think that changes, minor or major, in
assignments, however conceived, are often the result of just such
reconceptions of classroom space, practice, and functions.
But my major point, what got me started yesterday, was the first one: that
there is a real genre called the academic essay; that it is practised
inside and outside of the classroom; that real writers and readers in
a variety of rhetorical relationships find the genre entertaining,
instructive, important, etc. And that the classroom we know (including the
classrooms we are variously reshaping, all the time) need not be inimical
to the practice of this genre.
Sorry if I appear to be beating a dead horse.
> -- Russ
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