“If thought is internalized public and social talk, then writing of all kinds is internalized social talk made public and social again. If thought is internalized conversation, then writing is internalized conversation re-externalized” (422). This seems to make sense to me, but I also have a fishy suspicion about this claim. I think perhaps it is the close link between thought and writing and speech and writing, similar to the unproblemized link between speech and writing that I’ve seen in other essays. My concern might be that this view might promote a “presence” of the author in the writer that isn’t questioned. hmmm… But then again, if writing is a form of conversation (and isn’t it?), then perhaps this does make sense…
“our task must involve engaging students in conversation among themselves at as many points in both the writing and reading process as possible, and that we should contrive to ensure that students’ conversation about what they read and write is similar in as many ways as possible to the way we would like them eventually to read and write. The way they talk with each other determines the way they will think and the way they will write” (422).
Bruffee proposes that the most important writing that students should do in first-year composition is “normal discourse,” or writing for a community of peers, such as one would in a job or in an academic discipline (424). I think it’s important to be able to write to peers, but I also have to wonder about the ability to write to those with more power, especially in a hierarchical society where most of our students (women, minorities, queer folk) will always be writing to people who have more power (even if the context has been “depoliticized”).
Richard Rorty’s concept of “abnormal discourse” seems pretty interesting – that an outsider to a community comes in and doesn’t know the conventions, so can’t speak or write “normal discourse” and is instead read as “either ‘kooky’ (if he loses his point) or ‘revolutionary’ (if he gains it)” because it doesn’t sound rational to those in the discourse community (429, quoting Rorty).
Sometime over the last year I read a critique of Bruffee’s social constructionism, but I can’t remember where it was…
Bruffee, Kenneth A. “Collaborative Learning and the ‘Conversation of Mankind.'” Cross-Talk in Comp Theory: A Reader. 2nd ed. Ed. Victor Villanueva. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2003. 415-436.
I also re-read these two Berlin articles today:
Berlin, James A. â€œContemporary Composition: The Major Pedagogical Theories.â€œ Cross-Talk in Comp Theory: A Reader. 2nd ed. Ed. Victor Villanueva. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2003. 255-270.
—. â€œRhetoric and Ideology in the Writing Class.â€œ The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 4th ed. Ed. Edward P.J. Corbet, Nancy Meyers, and Gary Tate. New York: Oxford UP, 2000. 9-25.