Write a 2-3 page essay that reflects on your development as a writer over the course of this semester. You should use specific passages from your writing this semester, including final and rough drafts of essays, homework and in-class writing (reading responses, etc.) and your writer’s reflections. In addition, you should use the passages from Bartholomae, Elbow, and/or Sommers (see below) as lenses through which you can view and analyze your writing. As in earlier essays, your goal is to develop an interesting idea/argument by working with sources. In this case, your sources are your essays, drafts, exercises, and personal experiences with writing, revision, research. Your job is to put your analysis of the examples you choose in tension with one or more of the quotations below.
Writing Professors on Writing
“Every time a student sits down to write for us, he has to invent the university for the occasion–invent the university, that is, or branch of it, like History or Anthropology or Economics or English. He has to learn to speak out language, to speak as we do, to try on the peculiar ways of knowing, selecting, evaluating, reporting, concluding, and arguing that define the discourse of our community.”
Peter Elbow, Writing Without Teachers:
“The commonsense, conventional understanding of writing is as follows: Writing is a two-step process. First you figure out your meaning, then you put it into language. . . .
This idea of writing is backwards. That’s why it causes so much trouble. Instead of a two-step transaction of meaning-into-language, think of writing as an organic, developmental process in which you start writing at the very beginning–before you know your meaning at all–and encourage your words gradually to change and evolve. Only at the end will you know what you want to say or the words you want to say it with. You should expect yourself to end up somewhere different from where you started. Meaning is not what you start out with but what you end up with. Control, coherence, and knowing your mind are not what our start out with but what you end up with. . . . Writing is a way to end up thinking something you couldn’t have started out thinking.”
Peter Elbow, “The Shifting Relationship between Speech and Writing.”
We think of the mind’s natural capacity for chaos and disorganization as the problem in writing—and before we finish any piece of indelible public writing, of course, that incoherence must be overcome. But what a relief it is to realize that this capacity for ephemeral incoherence is valuable and can be harnessed for insight and growth. The most precious thing in this kind of writing is to find one contradicting oneself. It guarantees that there will be some movement and growth in one’s thinking; the writing will not just be a record of past thoughts or prejudices.
Nancy Sommers, “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers.”
“The experienced writers describe their primary objective when revising as finding the form or shape of their argument. Although the metaphors vary, the experienced writers often use structural expressions such as ‘finding a framework,’ ‘a pattern,’ or ‘a design’ for their argument. When questioned about this emphasis, the experienced writers responded that since their first drafts are usually scattered attempts to define their territory, their objective in the second draft is to begin observing general patterns of development and deciding what should be included and what excluded. One writer explained, ‘I have learned from experience that I need to keep writing a first draft until I figure out what I want to say. Then in a second draft, I begin to see the structure of an argument and how all the various sub-arguments which are buried beneath the surface of all those sentences are related.’ What is described here is a process in which the writer is both agent and vehicle. ‘Writing,’ says Barthes, unlike speech, ‘develops like a seed, not a line,”‘ and like a seed it confuses beginning and end, conception and production. Thus, the experienced writers say their drafts are “not determined by time,’ that rewriting is a ‘constant process,’ that they feel as if (they) ‘can go on forever.’ Revising confuses the beginning and end, the agent and vehicle; it confuses, in order to find, the line of argument’(384).
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