Skip to content

Reading and Writing is complicated…depending on who’s reading and writing

So I broke down what I thought about each individual article to make it easier, I apologize for the lengthiness:

Peter elbow- pg. 75, My first question is does it matter what the writers intention is? To say that the meaning is never determinate I feel is a bit unfair. I think that by the simple act of searching for meaning and validating that meaning with every students favorite phrase “textual evidence” we are making the meaning determinate we just don’t know what it is. I think elbow makes an excellent reference to being lost and if the people searching for you believe you exist it heightens your chance of being discovered which he ties to search for an authors meaning in a work of writing. I absolutely agree with this. It reminds me of the old adage if you look for trouble you will find it. As readers and students we are taught to approach the texts that are provided to us by looking for a hidden meaning, however this is in contrast to texts we choose for ourselves for pleasure that we don’t read and search for meaning but rather discover it as we read.


Perl talks about a “felt sense” and the “right” or “wrong” correspondence that relates to intention. What we write contains an intended meaning which we assess as being right or wrong if it matches with our intention. Interesting point but in my opinion this comes into direct conflict with Elbow who talks about the writers intention and how it inherently has no meaning. So I wonder, if someone were to read something someone wrote that was deemed to inadequately meet their own desired intention, what does that mean for the reader intention? I do agree that we all judge our own writing as “right” or “wrong” or however you want to label the sides of the coin but this concept puzzles me and seems problematic. When we judge our writing we judge it on the rules and criteria of the rules they have been taught, that places an intrinsic value system on the writing so how else should a writer judge their work? How do they approve of a piece of writing that has no rules or criteria? How is the writer only writing for the approval of others if they have internalized the rules they have learned and taken them on as their own? This is what I mean I feel like this concept is somewhat flawed.


Patricia Bizzell 468 – She discusses the problems of educational failure is not linguistic, not if we mean linguistic as urban dialects THEN at the top of 469 she discusses what the nature of english studies should be according to Fish, which is to investigate the nature of discourse communities which comes after Bizzell states that educational problems should be understood as issues joining those same communities of discourse. What I take from this is that a great portion of out communities feel disconnected and unable to relate to the texts we have chosen to represent out standards. The truth is, is that a young person who grew up on the streets of L.A. Listening to heavy metal and learning about the cruelest parts of the world from the inside and has an urban dialect that represents the community and influences they have been exposed to is not going to be able to relate the same way more of us who come from arguably relatable backgrounds to the texts presented, but to deem that persons educational failure on purely that would be unfair.


Wayne Booth- first paragraph, does finding ones own “proper tone of voice” make that significant of a difference? Who are you writing for? Yourself or for someone else? Is your audience someone you care about? Or is it someone who doesn’t matter? He talks about a student who wrote boring pretentious papers until he disagreed passionately about a topic and wrote what Booth deemed to be a fantastic paper. I think that raises a very important notion about the quality of our work in the eyes of others and who we present it to. Do we write better when we care? Or seem to care or not? What exactly was this student lacking when they wrote previously if they were so bright? I ultimately have to agree since I see it in my students often. The quality they embed in their work is trump by the quality found in writing they can get behind or be passionate about.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Posted in 3 Perspectives on Writing.

Tagged with , , , .

4 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. Travis Lamprecht says

    I agree that someone’s educational failure should not be blamed entirely on his or her community. No matter what our environment or background is, we’re not all going to relate to a Jane Austen novel. Some may be interested some may not but it is the responsibility of the teacher to make the subject matter intriguing to learn. I’m currently taking a Medieval Literature course; I had no interest in the subject and was prepared to suffer through a long semester of torture. My professor quickly changed my outlook because of his excitement and knowledge he brings every week. His thrill and passion are intoxicating. The entire class, with students of varying ages, backgrounds and communities has all taken an unforeseen interest in Medieval Literature because of his teaching style.

    • mobrien says

      I think that our jobs are the most difficult when we are teaching pieces. I am currently in the midst of To Kill a Mockingbird, and preparing to end the year with Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare is always a fight with our students because they believe that since they do not come from the time period, they cannot possibly relate to the storyline. However, I am passionate about thie story, and for every conflict that happens on the streets of Verona, I am finding parallels to my students’ worlds so they can make sense of the work. I think that the students’ community can assist them in their understanding of a work, but the students’ success with the material should not be blamed on the community. Students struggle with a variety of outside factors every day. Playing the blame game on any one of those factors is not the responsible thing to do. I think that when I student is in the classroom, that is the space to transform those factors into postitive attributes that can work for, not against student success.

  2. Christopher Grimm says

    Travis: Cheers on medieval lit! I’m weighing taking a graduate course on Chaucer here. I enjoy good Geoffrey’s contributions to English literature and our language as a whole! My undergraduate Chaucer class was a really challenging and rewarding experience. Im skeptical about Queens, though; I’ve heard one of our medievalists is a particularly tough grader. I wonder.

    Megan: I really relate to your difficulties teaching Romeo and Juliet. Indeed, so many of our students seem to suffer from Shakespeare-phobia. It’s problematic that so many people are troubled by this brilliant, poignant, and rewarding writer. R & J is really the gateway into a whole literary world of exploration! I wish you the best with the remainder of the school year!

    Trevor: I appreciate both your insights and your blog structure/length. We’re graduate students in English, man. The tendency to lean a bit prolix is certainly par for the course!

    I have my own struggles with Peter Elbow’s essay. Should we first consider ourselves “writers” or “academics;” that appears to be the question. Well, personally, I have only just begun to consider myself a “writer.” I respect Elbow’s starting point, that he considers himself a writer first. However, I wonder about our students’ labels.

    “Academic” appears to be something of a harsh word in our American culture. President Obama was criticized during his first presidential campaign for fear of appearing “too academic.” The fictional Josiah Bartlet, on television’s The West Wing is a depiction of a New England economist occupying the White House; he, too, was criticized as appearing “too scholarly.” Many of us might remember going through our schooling with the fear of appearing “too nerdy,” certainly some of our students encounter this stigma. Why is “academic” such a problematic concept?

    Is the issue the old adage, “those who can do, do; those who cannot do, teach?” I have always found difficulty in this statement, particularly as an aspiring “academic.” I certainly disagree with the statement. Teachers open up whole arenas of contemplation, wonder and debate. Many of us pursue other endeavors while we teach; this is the nature–and the benefit–of our profession.

    Mr. Elbow identifies as a writer foremost. I respect this identity. However, considering “literacy,” as a concept, I think it’s important to remember that we–and our students–are readers before writers. I would posit that many fine writers, in fact, probably ALL fine writers, are readers, first. Those who convey ideas, characters, language and emotion in convincing ways certainly learned their craft from other writers. Reading precedes writing. If this claim means that I am an “academic” before I am a writer, so be it. There are worse labels by which to adhere!

  3. Michael Dettmer says

    Passion for a subject matter absolutely allows for an easier and more enjoyable writing experience. Passion enables one to dig deeper into his/her own writing abilities. Unfortunately, I have found in my own experience that most of the writing subject matters are not something that I am passionate about. Whatever the situation or subject matter, the writer has to find a way to write a passionate response. It is the responsibility of the writer to create a passionate response, whether or not that response is genuine. A good writer has to adapt accordingly to the assignment.