It is a rough draft, but it is a start

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

I know a lot more work needs to be done, but I feel like I have a good start with this. I’ve been reading and learning and learning and reading. It is good stuff.

(Draft) Proposal for Crossing Boundaries: Negotiating Literature with Writing Studies

Debates between compositionists and literature teachers on how to instruct writing have led to contested territory in English studies. The question arises on how we should be teaching students academic and professional writing. As a teacher who tries to balance the separate fields of writing and literature, I experience this division but want to show how these two fields can be combined to improve current writing pedagogies. My study will show how this linking can take place through pedagogical practices combining literature and writing. These pedagogies include collaborative writing and learning, individual writing and reading, analysis and criticisms of selected texts, and written responses from students. Creative writing will also be used as an avenue to allow students to further explore writing through understanding “writer’s craft” and further develop creative critical thinking skills.

My main thesis rests on the idea that literature and the creative arts in a writing classroom can lead students to improve their understanding of integrating knowledge and ideas because creative acts provide a foundation for understanding this integration. Literature does nothing if it does not integrate and teach larger ideas to the recipients. In this sense, literature should also not be viewed as a static entity, but something that is malleable and can be reinterpreted based on experiences and culture.

With the increasing use of technology in society and the classroom, it may also be time to explore how literature and other creative work can benefit the composition classroom. For example, Douglas Hesse in his article titled “The Place of Creative Writing in Composition Studies” from College Composition and Communication comments on how technology is increasing the need to contemplate craft in the writing classroom where craft is something often taught in creative writing. Hesse, however, feels this teaching of craft can benefit students in composition and other writing classrooms.

Furthermore, numerous books have been published on combining writing studies with literary studies, and the pedagogical approaches mentioned in these books have yielded much success in the classroom. Collections such as When Writing Teachers Teach Literature edited by Art Young and Toby Fulwiler and Teaching Composition/ Teaching Literature edited by Michelle M. Tokarczyk and Irene Papoulis have shown how literature and writing can be integrated. Though there have been other books, articles, and approaches, these two texts provide good examples of linking literature and writing in the classroom. Pedagogical approaches from these books have given students momentum not only to reach out the their communities, but also brought students a great knowledge of the humanities.

In a society that does not always view the humanities as a useful study, we need to promote the humanities as a useful tool for greater understanding of our world and ourselves. By further linking writing studies with the study of literature, we will not only strengthen the humanities, but provide others with a great understanding of the humanities. With the current educational and political emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), we need to show how these fields are not only imperative to a technologically vast society, but also show how these fields can promote humanism. For instance, Dr. Robert Coles at Harvard Business School has used poetry in his business writing classes to get students to think creatively for business writing assignments. David Whyte has also used poetry in professional writing seminars. These instructors are integrating creativity and literature with technical understanding that open areas for further student engagement. It is important to understand that technology can join us as much as it can divide us and so we must use these tools to our greatest advantage. With greater technology, writing and literature will change, but the purpose—that tenuous linking to humanity—will continue to persist.

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