Studying Writing Studies

Current issues of the teaching flow:

Fractals: mapping a/one’s characteristic sentence, i.e. grammar, onto essay structure as a pseudo-fractal. E.g. parataxis (juxtaposition): “Tell me, how are you?”

Essay structure understood rhetorically—on the model of hypo-/parataxis. E.g. anadiplosis as the model for linking markers at the beginning of new paragraph (gradatio is even better: “My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,/ And every tongue brings in a several tale,/ And every tale condemns me for a villain” [Richard III, 5.3.194]).

An ABC of syntax

Using children’s language learning as the model for understanding academic writing: children improvise, then begin to learn the rules and exceptions through practice, then become over-vigorous in their application of the rules under the impetus of error correction: erratology [science of mistakes]. The same thing happens at University, if we rigorously impose an erratological academic grammar on students: grammar A [“academic”]). Of course, students often think such an approach is what is required to learn academic rigour. Through teaching, rather than obsessively correcting, grammar B [“bad”], we can recapture the improvisation and practice phases of language learning, and thereby liberate students from the aporia of erratology. Then they are freed into the possibilities of Grammar C [“crafty,” thus the craft of grammar].

David Starkey (ed.), Genre by Example: Writing What We Teach (Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 2001).
Winston Weathers, An Alternate Style: Options in Composition (Hayden, 1980).


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