Brick: “First Person Singular, First Person Plural, and Exposition”

In “First Person Singular, First Person Plural, and Exposition,” Allan Brick calls for valuing students’ own idea formation when many political forces are calling for skills education or utility-based writing. He writes that perhaps the problem with students not developing ideas well in their essays is that “the ‘main idea’ is not the student’s idea at all” (509). Advocating for developing student ideas not just to bring them to a specific type of valued college writing, Brick writes that “it is precisely this acceptance of two worlds — one for the person and another (the important one) for those who require that students learn to write exposition for others — that I must question” (511). He isn’t opposing utility, he notes, but rather “utility as a kind of absolute — as an operative cliché that in effect prohibits students from making their own choices about what they will use their writing for” (511).

Brick then lays out a summary of the writing course he teaches, and then notes two necessary revolutions: 1. Affirming “that writing is literature and literature is writing” and that we cannot teach literature and writing as separate, compartmentalized things; and 2. “an overall institutional commitment to the individual’s democratic right to an education that sees personal identity, self-exploration, active creativity, and ‘praxis’ as essential to learning in all fields” (515). Following Paulo Freire, Brick believes this second revolution can help students break from the oppressor/dominator, and concludes, “Whether people will be able to write will be part and parcel of their experiencing politically their needs for hopeful personal life” (515).

Brick, Allan. “First Person Singular, First Personal Plural, and Exposition.” College English 43.5 (Sept. 1981): 508-515.

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