Do I sense a dissertation topic?

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

In trying to further understand the hybridity between teaching writing and teaching literature and how the two can help each other out (in more ways than what is just obvious), I received this book in the mail yesterday:

http://www.heinemann.com/products/0363.aspx

When Writing Teachers Teach Literature, a collection of scholarly essays on writing pedagogy and literature pedagogy and how these two can be brought together by Art Young and Toby Fulwiler. (FYI: You can get a cheaper version by using bookfinder.com.) I haven’t done much more than glance through the content list, but it looks beneficial for me, particularly at the end when the essays discuss how we can bring these two fields together and strengthen our teaching.

For years, literature teachers who teach writing have always said that “reading good writing helps bring about good writing.” I think this is a very true argument, but a. I don’t think it is argued or implemented as well as it could be and b. there is just more to this story. With post-process, ideas in posthumanism, new media, and other technologies, writing is becoming an advanced, if not transforming, art form. Literature (in terms of reading it, understanding it, evaluating and analyzing it), I think, can help writing in this sense. For example, if we can deconstruct a work of literature, we can better deconstruct writing to evaluate its process and form and even create new genres and break the rules of existing ones. (Once you know the rules, you an break them, without too much alteration of the meaning.) Though literature is essentially static, and perhaps that is why it is not valued so much today, it can still help us to better understand ethical principles, human principles, and writing and its processes. (I bolded this because I think I am onto something here and I don’t want to forget it. 😉 )

Around here, people feel that integrating knowledge and ideas is not happening as well as it could be happening in student writing. While yes, I think this is true, I also think we understand how to integrate knowledge and ideas far too well so when we look at student writing that does it, we have a tendency to mark it lower than it should be during assessment and in our own grading. But I also think integrating ideas and knowledge in writing can be improved by having students read literature, look at popular forms of art (music to name one), do creative assignments, and overall use creative thinking in the classroom and in their approach to assignments (as well as in our approach to assignments–but that is a different argument, somewhat). Either way, I may be sniffing out a dissertation topic in this. I don’t know. I did tell Dr. Sassi that I imagine this paper/project I am working on in her class as a “literature review” so that I can start to get a feel for what is already out there.

There is a lot happening out here in academia. I promise.

But I’m excited to start to read this book.

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