Sellers discussion on the 4 activities of writers writing reading working with others writers and pu


Sellers discussion on the 4 activities of writers writing reading working with others writers and pu

This article was originally published in Textual Studies in Canada 4 Writing Classes, Writing Genres, Doug Brent University of Calgary It is certainly not news that other texts form one of the most important features of the social context out of which new texts arise.

However, recent work in the area of oenre has vastly refined the rather coarse notion of "intertextuality.

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In Shaping Written Knowledge: The Genre and Activity of the Experimental Article in Science, Charles Bazerman suggests that genres emerge from and in turn shape the goals, epistemological assumptions, and knowledge-making practices of a discourse community.

In a case study of an engineer's professional writing, Dorothy Winsor refines this notion by showing how different roles, shaped by dlfferent corporate objectives at different times, call into being different genres and different knowledge-making practices. Graham Smart's study of the genres used in the administration of the Bank of Canada calls attention to the ways in which a variety of genres can be combined into a complex web of recirculating knowledge in which each knowledge-making activity is represented by a separate genre.

Sellers discussion on the 4 activities of writers writing reading working with others writers and pu

Fmally, Anthony Pare and Graham Smart build on Bazerman's insights to argue that genres form networks of expectations regarding not only formal features but also composing processes, social roles, and reading practices.

In short, genres exert a powerful and systematic shaping influence on new texts and the ways in which they are written and read. This body of generic theory casts new light on the one genre to which more students in writing classrooms are exposed than any other: Students have a highly efficient, survival-driven ability to internalize the generic features of the discourse environment in which they are expected to perform.

If the textbook implicitly forms the authoritative representation of knowledge in the classroom, students will efficiently internalize and reproduce not just the "content" of that genre whatever writing heuristics or algorithms are explicitly presentedbut also the textual forms, composing practices, and reading processes that are implicit in that genre.

In short, they will learn to write like textbook authors. In its broad outline, this is a well-known and much-lamented problem.

In this article I wish to use recent work in genre to illuminate the problem more fully, and in turn to use the problems of the textbook genre to advance our understanding of how genres guide and constrain composing practice.

At the heart of my discussion will be a representative anecdote which I believe illuminates the ways in which students, and by extension writers in general, recreate for themselves generically organlzed knowledge. When I say that this is a well-known and much-lamented problem, I am referring to the periodic jeremiads that appear in composition journals.

Meditations on the inadequacies of textbooks seem peculiar to this discipline: However, there are almost no articles from disciplines other than composition which engage in rigorous critique of textbooks as a class.

Partly I suspect that the discipline of composition studies itself is inherently a pedagogical study in ways that other disciplines except of course for the ultimate pedagogical discipline, Education are not. This makes its practitioners more inclined to scrutinize the apparatus of their discipline with the intensity of a pool player sighting along her cue.

In addition, composition is a more inherently self-reflexive discipline from others. Opponents of the "banking mode" of education from Dewey onward have argued that all education is a process of discovering and internalizing new modes of learning, not of receiving and reproducing knowledge.

But the spectacle of students learmng the contents of textbooks in, say, chemistry or economics, and then reproduclng that knowledge on a test, is not as self-evidently absurd as the spectacle of students in composition classes reading about how paragraphs should be formed and then going off to form them.

Composition has no obvious subject matter of its own except the descriptions of the procedures which students are expected to learn and of the products they are supposed to produce; yet these descriptions have so regularly and so patently failed to produce satisfactory results in the classroom that composltlon researchers are constantly looking under the table to see why it's wobbling so badly.

In all disciplines, then, textbooks and the pedagogical practices surrounding them could bear critique, but it is in the discipline of composition studies that this critique has been occurring in a deeply anguished fashion. Kathleen Welch, for instance argues that composition textbooks rarely appear to take any account of the vast body of rhetorical theory that has informed our discipline over the past thirty years.

Instead, they present warmed-over versions of the rhetorical canons and modes supplemented by brief excerpts of model texts which have been surgically removed from the discourse environment which gives them life. These compendia of current-traditional concepts are particularly dangerous, she argues, because they figure so heavily in the teaching of teachers as well as students.

Untll recently, many writing teachers had little formal education in the discipline until recently, Connors argues, there was no disciplineso teachers learned their craft by following the textbooks.

Even now, when many writing teachers have been exposed to the rich veins of knowledge being created in the field, textbooks exert a powerful ideological influence because they suggest that the wilted precepts they contain represent the prevailing beliefs of the profession.

In Canada, of course, the danger is magnified by the fact that the American composition revolution has largely passed us by.Comment: This book is in very good condition and will be shipped within 24 hours of ordering.

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Sellers discussion on the 4 activities of writers writing reading working with others writers and pu

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