Social Class Reproduction

Four Rules for Teaching Writing:
Image result for image: joy of writing
Always give writing assignments that

1. you will enjoy reading;
2. students will enjoy writing;
3. students will enjoy reading what others in the class have written
4. you will enjoy writing.

If any one of these conditions were not true, then it probably wasn't a very good assignment.

Advice I give to my students: When your words surprise you, you know you are writing.

WPA Conversations

I just did a search for posts on WPA-Ls on personal writing over the last 13 years.  As I expected, there are hundreds of postings. I'll collect them on my research page & maybe try to code & analyze them.  Most writing professors are suspicions & some downright hostile to the use of personal writing.  If you read Beth Daniel's response to me, you might think there is good reason for this hostility--the times when writing teachers more or less intrude into their students' lives.  On the nether end of this complaint lies the writing teacher who plays therapist--Jeffrey Berman comes close to this, but he has researched the process and to my mind, handles the emotional and psychological dangers quite well.  But there are reasons to worry--I suppose.

But I sense a different source of antagonism--and I don't know whether I'll be able to explain it.  The general culprit is "rigor" combined perhaps with the grade issue.  Personal writing seems too soft, too easy to do, too, well, too feminine--no rigor.  It's this hard stuff (sorry) that gets people excited.  Hard stuff is also more academically rigorous.  One could go a long way with this thinking, but I'm sure you get the point (again, sorry).  

It just seems too easy to give writing tasks that students are going to enjoy and that the teacher is going to enjoy reading.  Everybody's just not working hard enough.

I'm pretty certain that this reaction to fun is crazy.  I think writing should be fun.  I think living should be fun.  I think learning should be fun.  I think Beth said that she wants her students to learn how to learn--I don't think that will happen unless the experience of learning is fun.  And I also think the experience has to be fun for both the teacher & students, in which case a kind of double reinforcement occurs--the teacher and student enjoyment feed and enhance each other.  I am certain that when my students know how much I enjoy being with them and reading what they write, then they enjoy the process of learning, and their enjoyment feeds back to me and to each other.  I know some of my cynical friends will just be thinking, he's just taking the easy way out (that might be true--but I'm all for the easy way out); he's not teaching them what they need to know; he's unwilling to do the hard work of reading lifeless papers.  But I think that a lot of what we think we need to teach is bogus.  This claim is hardly news to educators who have, let’s say, thought critically about education. 

John Dewey was hardly the first or last person to acknowledge that most classroom seat time is wasted (Freire, Kozal, Holt, Postman & Weingarten, etc).  As soon as one notices how little education actually occurs in (and out) of the classroom, one is led to wonder about the hidden curriculum (Anyon, Clark), possibly the social reproductive function of education. 

One assumes that in our field, we are far from immune to delusion, thinking we are teaching something useful when in fact we may just be ensuring through what we teach that the redistribution of wealth, assets, and privileges continues in the current pattern.  Or we think we’re teaching critical thinking without thinking critically about critical thinking.  Or we think we’re teaching writing when in fact we’re teaching our students how to dislike writing and do what they can to avoid writing situations.  Well, there are all sorts of possibilities of misdirected instruction.  And each of us knows the misdirected instructor might be us.

I wonder how much of what we teach in required writing classes proves useful to our students either in their undergraduate courses or in their personal and professional lives.  For instance, all this time we spend on teaching argumentative strategies.  Have you ever seen that U-tube presentation, The Five-Minute University?  Hmmmm.  And I know that the current trope among comp/rhet people is evidence-based writing.  Actually, I don’t have anything against evidence-based writing (or thinking) if it’s fun.  If it’s a bore—or painful—well, I’m not for it.

I might be misdirected, but particularly in these waning years of my professional life, I want to teach writing as fun.  I almost don’t care what else my students learn if they learn that writing can be fun—and even enlightening.  Writing to express, to learn, to communicate seriously, to explore, to bring to life half-formed thoughts and vague memories you don’t want to die.  I don’t know—I think we might be more productive in our field if we focused on the joy of writing and passed that joy on.  I think we have to begin from that joy—and it’s the joy we feel when we read and respond to our students and they read and respond to each other and are responded to.  Thinking of basics:  that’s basic.  We can work outward from there.  But if we don’t get that one down, well, I think we’re traveling down the wrong road.

Note I sent to Becky
Hi, Becky
The usual apologies for a non-reply.
So thanks for your note--and I'm interested in what you're doing.  I particularly respond to your For me . . . sentences.  What a wonderful objective.  I think those of us who love writing and want to pass that love on (and have not been beguiled by the academic pose [forgive me for putting it that way] should band together.  Actually, we should form a SIG--or is there one already?  I simply love reading what my students write.  I don't need to read novels.  I'm not quite as organized about this as you are.  I simply have students write about interesting topics (and that I know I would like to write about, too) and then we read and respond to each other, pretty much as if we were talking to each other.  Like I ask them to write about some changes they are going through (I'm going through a big one--my wife of 41 years having died two years ago).  Let me attach a few autobiographies my students just wrote (what's interesting here: we don't workshop these at all).

Irvin Peckham
Professor of Rhetoric & Composition
Louisiana State University

On Sep 24, 2013, at 4:28 AM, Becky Jackson <> wrote:
Thanks, Irv, for your eloquent post about the value of personal writing in the classroom. I'm currently teaching a course called "Narrative as Knowledge" (upper-level undergraduate) that examines personal knowledge as a legitimate form of knowing (we are reading Bruner, Spigelman, and Robert Nash, for example) and asks students to experiment with personal experience pieces that move outward and engage voices in the conversation about literacy, learning, and education (we have also read Villanueva's Bootstraps and critical literacy narratives written by students in previous courses).

I've arrived, over many years, at the same place you have. For me, teaching writing these days is mostly about creating conditions that encourage students to enjoy and use writing in their lives.

Thanks again for your post.


Rebecca Jackson, PhD
Associate Professor
Director, MA major in Rhetoric and Composition
Department of English
Texas State University-San Marcos
San Marcos, TX 78666

From Nick Carbone

This site might help, Dawn: -- at least in terms of how to structure.

But what do your students mean, in their agreement, by "critically analyzing"?  I'd talk to them about that, asking them perhaps to find examples of lyrics contemporary or older, that are critically analyzed.

It's interesting coming so soon after the discussion about personal writing that your third sentence, the one after the idea of critical analysis then moves the idea that the students will have a "new personal narrative experience where they may gain some insight into their own character."

If those are the emerging goals: insight into self via critical analysis of lyrics (or poetry, perhaps, if the lyrics are read as such), then what will that be inviting writers to do?

I don't listen much at all to music and so am not versed in music criticism, but I think the question is emphasis on whether poetry or  music criticism. If the focus is on lyrics, that's a poetry path; if the focus is on music -- lyrics and sound and performance -- then looking at reviews of music videos, albums, concerts might be the thing.

But again, one way to go, since you've broached it with students, is to bring these ideas back to them and ask them to find examples, to define the assignment, its purposes and goals, and to see where that takes it.

On Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 8:04 PM, Dawn Lombardi <> wrote:
To the wonderful people of this list:

I am a Master's candidate/TA in FYC at the University of Akron. My students and I agreed that an essay assignment critically analyzing their favorite song lyrics would give them an excellent opportunity to write about something meaningful to them. It would also provide them with a new personal narrative experience where they may gain some insight into their own character, belief systems, and values. 

My question for the List is this: Does anyone have experience teaching this type of assignment? I am interested in anything and everything you can contribute. I have decided to personally choose a few songs from different genres to analyze as a class so they have the experience before I ask them to perform. Something from Springsteen perhaps for a political view analysis; something from Eminem maybe for a rap/drug culture/recovery analysis; a country music song for an emotional-filled love is good/love is bad song, etc. I want to cover different genres and issues, and I am open to your suggestions. Should I look at poetry or music appreciation? 

Finally, I would add that what I am looking for is a valuable classroom discussion for the students regarding the powerful impact music plays in our lives. I want them to be able to state why they chose the particular song that they consider their favorite, what the song means to them (more than "because I like it"), what thoughts/emotions/memories the song conjures in them, and what the thesis of the song is and how it relates to a larger societal issue. I want them to take the "me" out of it and apply their analysis of the song to our culture/society/world. I would be most grateful if you could point me in the direction of any good books/articles/ websites/blogs on this topic.

I fear I am asking quite a lot here. Thank you in advance for your consideration!

Dawn Lombardi
Master's Candidate/TA
The University of Akron
English Dept.
Akron, Ohio

I'm not sure about how age-appropriate the stuff they put upon me in my high school years was.  It was wearying to the max.  The reading itself was okay, but the teaching of it was off-putting, to say it the least.  I was a life-long reader and was big on the written word (why else become an English major?), but my teachers always seemed drained and put-upon and distracted.  After I taught public school for 7 years, I figured out why. 

Teaching is an exquisite adventure.  Only a few realize it as such.  The call for "excellence in education" is absurd.  Excellence is always that, excellence, the achievement of the very few.  But we can do better in our general instruction if we teach young people to learn how to learn.  How to let their curiosity become an activity.  I am now teaching freshmen once again after 12 years, and loving it.  When Orwell talked about "hope being with the proletariat," I see hope being with the freshmen.

Fred K.

On Sep 25, 2013, at 12:52 PM, David Schwalm <> wrote:

> I was put off by poetry in jr. high and high school mainly because the poetry we read was not really age appropriate. We had no idea what it was about, and, when the teacher "told" us what it was really about (usually  death, love, loss etc.) we could never connect the text we were reading with the official interpretation.  So we just said, "whatever," and moved along. Us meat and potato boys from the Midwest was pretty literal minded.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Writing Program Administration [] On Behalf Of Nelms, Jerry
> Sent: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 10:26 AM
> Subject: Re: Personal Writing
> From my experience of talking with students in my courses over the years, I found that most undergrad and grad students not only don't want to write poetry, they don't want to read poetry.  Even after all these years, I'm still shocked and amazed that prospective English teachers at the high school and college levels would dislike poetry.
> Jerry
> Gerald Nelms
> Academic Director of Developmental Writing University College Wright State University
> ________________________________________
> From: Writing Program Administration [] on behalf of Rebecca Powell [rapowell@NMSU.EDU]
> Sent: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 11:17 AM
> To:
> Subject: Personal Writing
> On the notion of what kinds of writing students' value, in research I am currently conducting with twelfth graders, students say they value pieces of writing that teachers have praised. On a side note, they hate writing poetry, or at least 200 of them hate poetry.
> This is initial data, and I still have a lot of work in front of me.
> Best,
> Rebecca Powell
> ________________________________________
> From: Writing Program Administration <> on behalf of Beth Daniell <bdaniell@KENNESAW.EDU>
> Sent: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 10:38 PM
> Subject: Re: WPA-L Digest - 23 Sep 2013 to 24 Sep 2013 - Special issue (#2013-379)
> All and Irv,
> As Irv says, I may have over spoken. There's no one on this list who shouldn't use something you call "personal writing." Part of the problem for me is I don't know what you mean by that. It's a squishy term.
> It is my sincere belief that people who do not know how to teach writing will teach anything else--because teaching writing is hard. They'll teach literature, film, grammar (or what they call grammar), document design, the New Yorker style essay, etc. None of these is bad in itself, but I've seen too many courses become something besides a writing course. Sometimes people have students write only what happened to them and how they feel about it--which a lot of us see as a starting point for writing that moves beyond self and feelings.
> I have seen bad teachers interfere in students' lives in extremely unprofessioinal ways  because they focused on confessional writing. Which is probably the term I should use. Some of these teachers were TAs; others were not.
> But the best writing always comes out of a person's concerns, experiences, life. See the research Nancy Sommers did at Harvard. See the students in Herrington and Curtis in Persons in Progress.
> In our second course, most teachers use Ballenger's The Curious Researcher. This book focuses on inquiry. Most of our teachers use a variety of ways to get students to a topic they care about and can ask questions about. For the last three years we've had an essay contest with two sections, creative non-fiction and academic. All the academic winners  have been papers that came out of the students' own experiences. At the ceremony in the spring we ask the winners to read a small excerpt and tell the audience how they came to write the paper. Hearing those students talk about their work and where it came from is the best hour of my life every year. These papers sometimes begin with a narrative or a description that might be called personal, but not always, but in these paper they go further: the students rely on sources in order to make their arguments.
> To see inquiry fueled by felt need or the cognitive dissonance some of our students experience when they see the world as it is is to see real integrated learning, not academic writing in order to learn the forms.
> This is why the distinction personal and academic bothers me.
> I do think Rich is correct that students usually value their self-sponsored writing and not what they do for school.    Beth
> Beth Daniell, Ph.D.
> Professor of English
> Director of General Education in English
> Director of Writing Across the Curriculum College of Humanities and Social Sciences
> Kennesaw State University
> 1000 Chastain Road #2701
> 155 D English Building 27
> Kennesaw, GA 30144
> 770-423-6935 (Office)
> 770-423-6297 (Department)
> 770-423-6524 (FAX)

Thanks, Macia, for your post below--I'm always ready go collaborate on a book :).
I posted a rant on my blog concerning my student's comment.

"Keeping our students off-balace"

In short, I'm aiming in a slightly different direction, Marcia.  Rather than comfort our students on writing as a struggle, I'm aiming at writing as pleasure.  What we need to examine, from my perspective, if the fallacy of writing as struggle.  I know we can make it fun, as singing can be fun, as dancing can be fun, as just moving around and being alive can be fun.  I think we can interrogate an educational process that has too easily gotten hung up on rigor (mortis).
Irvin Peckham
Professor of Writing
Louisiana State University

On Oct 12, 2013, at 11:00 AM, Marcia Ribble <marciaribble@HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:

Irv, congrats on your personal writing project.  For a bib you could start with Janet Emig's book
on the writing processes of 12th graders, and focus on her chapter talking about those writers
who are well known and who talk about their own writing processes.  She discounted their personal
experiences because she was looking for commonalities, not unique characteristics and experiences.
After that you could jump to all the many books by professional writers on writing.  They often do comment
opon just the exact difficulties your student talks about below.  Although the field of English does value
writers of books that are famous, they do not value teaching creative writing, and certainly, as your student
notes, there is little support for students who want to grow up to be writers of anything except literary
criticism.   Families often see writing fiction and poetry and autobiography as a frivolous waste of time and
energy compared with "studying for a job making good money."  Stephen King's book on writing is a good
source for students who have problems with spelling etc., but who long to be a writer. Their teachers
have equated being a good writer with perfection in spelling syntax, etc. and ignore completely the
fact that most of our greatest writers have editors; like Twain and Livy and his Atlantic Monthly pal.  It's
not just coincidence that so many highly esteemed writers have dropped out of college, eg., Nikki Giovani
dropped out of Columbia.  Poet Diane Wakoski teaches at Michigan State but argues that poets and other
writers are ruined by going to college.  Students need to read folks like Anne Sexton's life in letters, and
anything else by writers who talk about writing as struggle, about writers' block, about writing as anguish, and
challenge, who are honest about the manuscripts lost like A Moveable Feast details.  Your student may feel
comforted if she knows that many if not most writers share her feelings and concerns.  Joyce' book about himself
as a young writer from the ghetto can be helpful too.  

Hey, Irv, maybe we ought to put together a book about writing anxiety?


Sender:       Writing Program Administration <WPA-L@ASU.EDU>
Poster:       Mary Goldschmidt <marygoldschmidt@COMCAST.NET>
Subject:      Re: Encouraging "I don't know"--personal writing

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From me 5.9.13
I am going to momentarily slip back into this conversation--really tearing myself away from my students' essays, which, with all due apologies, are more interesting to read than most academic articles I read. 

First: I think the discussion about individualism and personal writing could be reframed within the kind of work Moffett and Britton did--imagining genres on a continuum, beginning with writers writing to themselves about themselves (the kind of writing to which I am unapologetically addicted) and moving outward to writers writing about abstract subjects outside themselves to largely anonymous audiences.  And of course these genres intersect, fold into each other.  Essentializing the "individualism" discussion seems to ignore what Moffett called the Universe of
Discourse.  He also made clear that imagining the continuum as aligned with emotional and chronological development was hopelessly naive.  Berlin has so much to add to our field--but he seriously misdirected this conversation by linking expressive discourse to capitalist toadies.

And second: most of the discussions seem predicated on the notion that students are writing to the teacher for a grade or some kind of evaluation.  Let me imagine two significantly different constructs of writing.  The former is the school writing--the writing for some kind of ranking or grade--regardless of the hypothetical audiences constructed by the teacher; the second is writers writing to express something, emotional, conceptual, or otherwise, to clarify their own thinking and, perhaps secondarily (as is most of the case with my writing) to communicate those thoughts and emotions to a community of writers (thank you, Peter) and maybe later to an unknown audience.  These are two radically different writing constructs--and they have to be read and responded to differently.
Irvin Peckham
Professor of Rhetoric and  Composition


I want to echo/emphasize what Irv says below regarding the *purposes* of wr=
iting courses, and "the degree to which writing or cultural interrogation s=
hould be the focus." This question is often at the heart our debates, wheth=
er we go back to Hairston or even more recent discussions of genre (mutt or=
 otherwise). Ideally, in any given program there are several classes, such =
that the foci can be varied (and transparent).=20

But regardless of the class, the private/public binary is certainly an impo=
rtant issue. Bill, when you mentioned your autobiography course I thought o=
f an opinion piece that appeared in the Chronicle many years ago which rais=
ed important ethical and curricular issues on this very issue. The authors =
argued that as composition faculty we need to be aware that requiring self-=
disclosure through assigning "personal writing" might be more dangerous (th=
reatening, less safe) for students who have experienced trauma. It was that=
 essay which sparked my own scholarship in the field (yes, shameless self-p=
romotion here), and resulted in an award-wining article which examined the =
dynamics of "personal writing" in the context of theories of self-represent=
ation, referentiality and fiction, drawing on Hayden White, Karl Weintraub,=
 and Paul de Man, among others. Among the many issues to consider are that:=

1) writing a research report on some component of sexual assault would no d=
oubt be just as difficult as "personal writing" on such a topic -- in other=
 words, the personal is always already embedded within our view of the worl=
d, and=20

2) similarly, autobiographical writing is always the construction of a self=
 (not the unproblematized representation of the self) as it has been shaped=
 by material and discursive forces.=20

I describe a composition course I was teaching at the time (Comp I) in whic=
h autobiography was the organizing principle; we read Augustine's Confessio=
ns , De Quincy's Confessions of an English Opium Eater , and Maxine Hong Ki=
ngston's Woman Warrior (attached for those interested in reading more).=20

This was in 1994. I teach writing courses now completely differently, but i=
f given the right programmatic context, I would love to teach something sim=


I love personal writing :)
Irvin Peckham
Professor of Rhetoric and  Composition
Louisiana State University

From: Writing Program Administration [] on behalf of Bill Thelin [billthelin@YAHOO.COM]
Sent: Monday, May 06, 2013 11:21 AM
Subject: Re: Encouraging "I don't know"

---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender:       Writing Program Administration 
Poster:       Bill Thelin 
Subject:      Re: Encouraging "I don't know"

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To both Paul and Maja,=0A=0AFirst, I just hate--and I mean, really hate!!!!=
--the term "personal writing."=A0 Perhaps it connotes for me something it s=
houldn't, but for me, it means writing simply for the self.=A0 That's all w=
ell and good in a journal or diary, but when we extend that into the first =
writing assignment of the semester, I have problems.=A0=A0 Second, I encour=
age students almost always to include experiences they have had and witness=
ed to help in their understanding and the writing of the assignments we con=
struct in class.=A0 I just will not let those experiences and observations =
stand on their own.=A0 I want them to be analyzed and contextualized. =A0 L=
etting the first assignment just be an experience or reflection delays the =
process.=A0 The entry point, Maja, becomes the ending point for students in=
 the next assignment, and they end up confused at to why they need to do mo=
re because they were rewarded previously for doing just the "personal writi=
ng."=A0 I don't know if we're
 disagreeing or not, but I thought I would add this.=0A=0APaul, I like your=
 term "unreflective and uncritical first person essays" and that is indeed =
what I do not like.=A0 But I wonder if anyone on this list would say, "Hey,=
 I assign unreflective and uncritical first person essays to my students an=
d I like them"?=A0 The terms are very negative.=A0 What is at issue for me =
is instructors assigning personal experience essays that consist of nothing=
 but narration with, perhaps, reflection or a "so what?" aspect, such as wh=
at the student learned or how the event impacted his or her life.=A0 To me,=
 these are, indeed, unreflective and uncritical essays, but practitioners m=
ight not recognize them as such.=A0 So I don't know if I am agreeing with y=
ou or not.=A0 Perhaps you could tell me more about why my definition is lim=
ited.=A0 What types of experience-based essays other than what I have discu=
ssed in my first paragraph (and, of course, contemplative creative nonficti=
on) do you think are critical?=0A=0AThanks,=0A=0ABill=0A=0A=0A=0A=0A_______=
_________________________=0A From: Maja Wilson =0ATo:=
 WPA-L@ASU.EDU =0ASent: Sunday, May 5, 2013 11:36 PM=0ASubject: Re: Encoura=
ging "I don't know"=0A =0A=0A=0ABill, in my classroom, personal writing is =
the entry point for these discussions and explorations of context. One with=
out the other, as you point out, is incomplete. I'd only add that the other=
 without the one can be equally incomplete. =A0Saying that a starting point=
 is not an ending point is to state the obvious, but to dismiss the startin=
g point for not being the ending point is just illogical. In my experience.=
 ;-)=0A=0AMaja=0A=0ASent from my iPhone=0A=0AOn May 5, 2013, at 10:01 PM, "=
Paul T. Corrigan"  wrote:=0A=0A=0ABill, On your first=
 paragraph: Hear, hear!=0A>=0A>=0A>On your second paragraph: Don't your com=
ments apply only to a limited kind of "personal writing"? Rather than denig=
rating all personal writing (with the explicit exception of "contemplative =
creative nonfiction"), why not just denigrate some narrower=A0category, say=
, "uncritical and unreflective first-person essays"?=0A>=0A>=0A>I deeply ap=
preciate Nancy Sommer's example and defense of a good kind of personal writ=
ing in "I Stand Here Writing."=0A>=0A>=0A>Paul T. Corrigan=0A>Assistant Pro=
fessor of English=0A>Southeastern University=0A>1000 Longfellow Blvd=0A>Lak=
eland, FL 33801-6034=0A>(863) 667-5534=0A>>paulcorriga=>=0A>=0A>=0A>=0A>=0A>=0A>=0A>=0A>=0A>=0A>=0A>On Sun, May 5, 2013 at =
9:43 PM, Bill Thelin  wrote:=0A>=0A>One of the most p=
owerful things we can do as an instructor is to say, "I don't know," or "I'=
m not sure." =A0Donald Lazere coined the term, if I'm not mistaken, "the Cu=
lture of Certitude," to describe the bombastic rhetoric that citizens and o=
ur students are subjected to in the media, mostly from the right wing. =A0I=
 want students, rather, to pause and to think. =A0As Henry Giroux has writt=
en, though, this violates the concept of "time" in a neoliberal society. =
=A0We do not have time to ponder, as it is inefficient in production and co=
nsumption. =A0In my humble opinion, college should be a time to slow down--=
just at the time where students are introduced to all sorts of fabulous, co=
ntroversial, deep theories and insights that might ignite them in ways that=
 demand immediate action and reaction. =A0But no, no, no, they need to take=
 time to understand. =A0Yes, they must experiment, but the time frame canno=
t be so short that mistakes cannot be tolerated. =A0Yet, our
 impulse is to rush them through. =A0Four years--far too little already, in=
 my estimation--is too long. =A0We have to start them in high school. =A0I =
just read an article today about the STEP program in my area that starts it=
s recruiting with 6th graders. =A0It's madness. =A0And it produces certitud=
e, as no one really can afford to be of two minds, to be deeply troubled by=
 the arguments of multiple sides in a debate. =A0It shuts off our ability t=
o listen. =A0So as professors, we have to model uncertainty. =A0I need to b=
e able to say honestly, "If I thought I knew everything and truly did, I wo=
uld not be here now. =A0I already would have been deemed the all-time great=
est philosopher/public intellectual in known history and would undoubtedly =
be richly rewarded for my insights in ways that would make mere teaching a =
passing fancy." =A0:)=0A>>=0A>>=0A>>Unfortunately, I think personal writing=
 does not help. =A0While I like contemplative creative nonfiction, I sure h=
ate how students (and teachers) let experience and observation lead the way=
 to knowledge without considering the context in which those experiences an=
d observations take place. =A0Too often, personal writing seeks to isolate =
students. =A0The assignments don't often enough allow for true communicatio=
n and collaboration among students. =A0A subject is not discussed. =A0Rathe=
r, it is something like "an experience that I learned from" or "a time that=
 caused me to reflect on who I am." =A0Students are not asked to reflect on=
 their experiences in light of the experiences of each other or on document=
ed information on such seemingly individual experiences. =A0Instead, their =
reflection amounts to a simple mirror. =A0I suppose close observation can r=
eveal some things, but that reflection back in the mirror cannot reproduce =
the perspective of others nor can
 it counter the imprint society has placed upon a person in judging that re=
flection. =A0It's very sad that so many instructors keep relying on this mo=
=0A>> From: Janet Lively =0A>>To: WPA-L@ASU.EDU =
=0A>>Sent: Sunday, May 5, 2013 6:57 PM=0A>>=0A>>Subject: Re: Encouraging "I=
 don't know"=0A>> =0A>>=0A>>=0A>>Certainty is the anathema to the personal =
essay. Creative nonfiction can provide guidance on how to be interestingly =
uncertain. Or at least it seems that way to me...=0A>>=0A>>=0A>>=0A>>=0A>>J=
anet Lively=0A>>Co-Writing Director=0A>>Northwestern Michigan College=0A>>1=
701 E.Front St.=0A>>Traverse City, MI=A0 49684=0A>>231-995-1231=0A>>jlively=>>=0A>>=0A>>=0A>>=0A>>=0A>>=0A>
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Paul, I like your
 term "unreflective and uncritical first person essays" and that is indeed =
what I do not like.  But I wonder if anyone on this list would say, "H=
ey, I assign unreflective and uncritical first person essays to my students=
 and I like them"?  The terms are very negative.  What is at issu=
e for me is instructors assigning personal experience essays that consist o=
f nothing but narration with, perhaps, reflection or a "so what?" aspect, s=
uch as what the student learned or how the event impacted his or her life.&=
nbsp; To me, these are, indeed, unreflective and uncritical essays, but pra=
ctitioners might not recognize them as such.  So I don't know if I am =
agreeing with you or not.  Perhaps you could tell me more about why my=
 definition is limited.  What types of experience-based essays other t=
han what I have discussed in my first paragraph (and, of course, contemplat=
ive creative nonfiction) do you think are critical?




/b> Maja Wilson <findleys@HOTMAIL.COM>
 Sent: Sunday, May 5, 2013 11:36 PM
 Subject: Re: Encouraging "I don't know"<=

Bill, in my classroom, personal writing is the entry point f=
or these discussions and explorations of context. One without the other, as=
 you point out, is incomplete. I'd only add that the other without the one =
can be equally incomplete.  Saying that a starting point is not an end=
ing point is to state the obvious, but to dismiss the starting point for no=
t being the
 ending point is just illogical. In my experience. ;-)


Sent from my iPhone

On May 5, 2013, at 10:01=
 PM, "Paul T. Corrigan" <ptcorri=
gan@GMAIL.COM> wrote:

Bill, On your first paragraph: Hear, hear!

On your second paragraph: Don't your comments apply only =
to a limited kind of "personal writing"? Rather than denigrating all person=
al writing (with the explicit exception of "contemplative creative nonficti=
on"), why not just denigrate some narrower category, say, "uncritical =
and unreflective first-person essays"?

I deeply appreciate Nancy Sommer's example and defense =
of a good kind of personal writing in "I Stand Here =

Paul T. Corrigan=

Assistant Professor of English=0ASoutheastern University
1000 Longfellow Blvd
keland, FL 33801-6034
(863) 667-5534

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