I just signed on to the computer again (after a couple
of days absence) & found this wonderful discussion brewing.
I'm very interested in Cathy's suggestion that disciplinary
discourse may be seen as lobbying for particular (peculiar?)
reading strategies--& certainly in the case of lit crit,
& despite frequent claims to the contrary, the reading
strategies we tend to teach in lit classes are peculiar
to the discipline. I think I've been arguing Cathy's
position for at least the last 10 years, but I'm not
sure I've seen it phrased so succinctly.
My lingering problem with the discussion, though, centres
on the assumed irrelevance of the literary essay. I'm not
convinced that it need be irrelevant--that student
writing about literature needs to be hopelessly imitative,
phoney, unmotivated, etc. (I guess the fact that I'm
writing a text about the subject suggests my commitment
to _both_ writing & literature, eh?)
> 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.
Even if we allow that--once we agree on terms such "essay
on literature" or "real"-- the student lit paper is seen
by many as little more than an exercise, does this make it
so very different from other forms of writing assigned
in a university setting? And what of the success stories?
My own students enthusiastically embrace literary discussion, &
many write personally committed, informed, even witty essays.
Some of those who have gone on in literary studies have
found a wider audience through publication--& like some
of your own students, I suspect, many of my students
make their essays available to others
by placing them in a class binder (usually held on reserve
in the library) or by "publishing" them electronically.
Isn't this a form of real writing for real readers?
Or am I hearing another argument, one that posits the
essay on literature as a form (or genre) which violates
rules of good writing?
Let me put the question another way: don't those of us who
study & teach writing have some responsibility
to bring that expertise to bear on a "genre" that is too
easily written off as artificial?
PS. I'll try to track down the NCTE book too.
< < W.F. Garrett-Petts > >
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