Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Notes Towards Day 27 (Thurs, Dec. 8): Gifts, Light and Learning!

Jody Cohen, "Hungry Ghosts," from The Breaking Project

I. Alice to open @ 11:30:
in preparation for skyping today
* we all took some time to write together:
what gifts have we received from our collaboration?
what are we taking away from our partnership?

Parkway's offering

Rae, thamid and liajia will read what we wrote:
Thank you for...
* Inviting us to see in new ways, and speak so frankly, about our own experience at Bryn Mawr.

Thank you for...
* making us grateful for our campus and all the opportunities that Bryn Mawr College provides.

Thank you for...
* calling us out on our inconsistency: a bunch of us wrote that college isn't necessary for success, but you pointed out that we are in college now; it was easy for us to say that college wasn't necessary... because we're in college.

Thank you for ....
* helping us recognize that the things we say are very much influenced by our life situations and where we are right now.

Thank you for
* forcing us to reevaluate our choices and goals.

Thank you for
*reminding us of the need for positive thinking.

Thank you for
* for opening up different perspectives.

Thank you for
* reminding us that we can make our goals more concrete – we can make paths to follow.

Thank you for
* giving us renewed faith in the youth of this city.

Thank you for
* teaching us that it's ok to identify ourselves as what we aspire to be, to say "I am a writer" or "I am a basketball player."

Thank you for being our friends.

* Anne: does anyone want to say anything additional?

* Jody: now we've named-and-heard what gifts have been exchanged,
what might we share w/ one another, about how we could take
this work farther, in the larger partnership between the schools?
how might act in response to Parkway's motto, "dare to be wise"?

Anne: let's continue this conversation on Serendip....

II. peeling off into our smaller groups, @ noon

* afterthoughts about our conversations, on Tuesday, "with" the characters from Little Bee?
What did we highlight/foreground by re-considering the novel from these other points of view?
What did we learn about their pasts and futures, by attending more carefully to them?
What did we learn about our own roles and obligations, as readers and actors in the world?
Were we merely (as Spivak said) "welcoming selective inhabitants of the margin in order to better exclude the margin"?

These are all questions about representation.

So too were your very interesting postings, last weekend,
about the "classed" dimensions of academic writing: you gave
both some pretty scathing critiques of our shared writing work this semester, and an
account of feeling equally oppressed by the invitation to be free of such conventions!

Rae: I try to sound smart in my writing-- I think everyone does. And because of this, we all come off pretentious …. in terms of true expression, I think pictures/images are the way to go-- they speak for themselves and say a thousand words.

aogiarrata: Academic writing to me, is intimidating. The specific structure of each paragraph within a structured essay is almost like guess work. Each teacher has a different view on what academic writing really is

MVW1993: When I think of academic writing, I think of a composition that utilizes sophisticated language, complex sentence structures, and, quite frequently, an abundance of sources to support its main argument …. the majority of academic writing is classed … in order to have a firm grasp of how to successfully compose an academic piece, one must presumably have the background of a good education … in academic writing, with all of its complex words and flowing sentence structure, the intended audience is always meant to have achieved a “good” education, just as the author of an academic piece presumably has.

lijia577: does academic writing define how people should think, or even render other ways to think illegitimate?  

lissiem: academic writing is definitely classed.  Because of the education I've received and how I've grown up, I've learned to write well, even if what I'm saying is a load of nonsense.

lijia577: The main goal of academic writing to me is to make sense, which means that it could be potential boring and dull while it must be useful instead of being entertaining.

MVW1993: Being able to write well and having an extensive vocabulary definitely affects the way that a piece is received by its intended audience and can definitely have some class connotations.

snatarajan: many times, regardless of how I think I want to portray an idea in my writing, I resort to "flowery" language … these words just get caught up in each other and end up saying... "a load of nonsense" …. I think the problem is really rooted in our/society's classification of what is considered academic writing. Maybe there is more academic value to being able to clearly and concisely express a thought without all the "beautiful" or "flowery" language  surrounding it.

meggiekate: I'm curious as to what academic writing would look like if it "were more about the ideas and less about how they are presented." I think it's a shortcoming that we communicate primarily through language in academia. I know that whenever I have an idea, it doesn't usually exist in my mind in words but more in images, sounds, or emotions. I think it would be really interesting if we were able to express and communicate our ideas exactly the way that they appear in our minds instead of having to fit our ideas into our language. I'm not sure how this would be done exactly, but I think if that did happen, we would have more artistic and creative assignments take the place of academic papers.

jrschwartz15: The label of "academic writing" in itself expects a certain level of education and sophistication in the reader …. Class determines access, plain and simple…. not only must you have access to the education that might allow you to understand it, but you have to be able to apply that education to the text.

melel: Same with most people, I feel that academic writing obstructs the free flow of emotion. … One thing that I really don’t like academic writing is that we have to hold a specific point and try to use our language to convince others. Even sometimes I know that the question actually have no correct answer and can be answered in many ways, I still need to write my essay pretending that only my thought is the ‘right’ one. So personally speaking I think academic writing leaves limited space for writers to develop their own explanations for questions and arguments.  What’s more, academic wring is ‘classed’ because only certain groups of readers have the knowledge that can make them understand the content of an academic paper, others, however, have no access to it. ...Also, I notice that the language used by writers is always ‘standard English free of mistakes’, which is usually spoken by middle-classed white people.

gfeliz: ultimately, you can communicate ideas in whichever way to you want depending on how you understand and want to convey the idea.

Little Italy: Academic Writing stays in the realm of academia. ... If we could utilize music in way that will foster change in how we view class I believe it will get the attention of a larger audience.

S.Yeager: Is Academic Writing Classed? I have to admit.  My first thought is; "Fuck yes!".  Though this class has exposed us to a variety of academic texts that are rooted in the personal, academic writing definitely relies on a classed structure of densely worded prose and almost deliberately confusing wording.  In order to unlock the meaning of many academic texts, one has to have been taught or taught themselves an extensive vocabulary that is not used in every day speech.  When was the last time anyone used the word "hegemony" in everyday language?  Additionally, there are academic snigletts that get used in discussion and writing, such as "problematize", while coloquial delects are excluded.  

kganihanova: academic writing is classed according to what kind of school you could afford to attend.

Freckles93: I have formed a very narrow definition of what is means to write academically… something long, stuffy, boring and unrelateable….[But!] reading an ethnography [that] was very colloquial and casual -- by far the least "academic" … work that we've read… I started to become put off by the pedestrian language of the author. Everything felt wrong to me, like the ethnography had been written by an amateur….I was horrified by how stuck up I'd become.

At times I felt that my voice was becoming lost on all of the very precise language I was attempting to use. But at other times, I felt that my interpretations were taking over the paper and that my voice had too much of a presence.

Chandrea: this form of expressing our ideas is restrictive but I kind of like it because it's convenient …I'm reluctant to doing anything other than that …. I really am not that creative/artistic as I'd like to be… I just see writing papers as a cop-out …. I never expected to come to college and be told to do anything but writing papers when it came to expressing my ideas...

ssaludades: My little brother's disability helped me remember that people view information differently. Knowing this, in order to teach, we need to recognize these different perspectives and adapt the present information to the way that they see things - in the way that they see things.

nbnguyen: the biggest problem with academic writing is that it prevents us from expressing our emotion….and underestimates the importance of emotion in gaining knowledge. Furthermore, it's somehow impersonal which prevents us from express ourselves and sharing our experiences and point of view.

Sabbot: I agree! I think academic writing forces us to take a step away from the personal and turn issues that would otherwise be important to us into abstractions. I also think this means that we hold ourselves back from saying things passionately – which I think is extremely necessary…. Academic writing is, for many people, inaccessible. And this means there will be a class divide between academia and 'everyone else' until changes are made to the writing style.

Utitofon: academic writing can be viewed as an egotistical attempt to leave your reader feeling awed by you. It is rarely a conversation, but a lecture. Academic writing robs us of intellectual ownership, we lose authority as Percy asserted, because we have to back up our thoughts with sources.  The message is that we don’t have a right to think for ourselves, we have to think through the eyes of the ‘experts’, and consciously adjust our point of view to fit in with theirs. It perpetuates the idea that there is a group of knowers and that the rest of us, the ‘know not’s cannot go off on our own tangent. No, our ideas have to be validated by the opinions of others. Yet, who says the experts are infallible?

….I am in a kind of mess now, because after 9 weeks of adjusting to the formal writing style, I feel trapped being asked to work with my imagination.

thamid: I wonder if this type of writing became the “standard” so teachers and professors can clearly see what point is trying to be made rather than having to figure it out for themselves and really reading what is trying to be said.

JHarmon: formality and perfection. Tied up in dense theory or personal story, the author's we read about somehow articulate their ideas in a way that I feel I never could. Their ideas are described so well that describing them any other way could never do them justice.Yes, these works have been edited, pared down, and abstracted to fit the goals of our assertions. However, in this process of editing, paring, and abstracting, how much of our voice are we deleting and muting? How much of ourselves do we take out of our own equation?

how might you "put yourselves back" in this weekend, in two modes: on-line and in our "teach-in"?
what else might we "do with" these scathing critiques --and resistance to being free --of such conventions?

see the emerging web "events" @ /exchange/courses/esem/f11/webpaper
reminder to post yours by 5 p.m. tomorrow, and tag it as "Student Webpaper--> InClass/OutClassed";
see you also in the English House Lecture Hall, for our "teach-in," @ 7 p.m. on Sunday

III. to close, here, for now: text rendering @ 12:15
So: class has become a lens, for all of us, in reading the world.
What will we do w/ that, now that our class meetings are ending?
How might we act differently now? (Freire's essay on "Reading the World"!)

We ended Tuesday's class beginning to explore the relation
between Chris Cleve's writing and our acting.

Let's break down that binary of thinking and acting,
of in class and outclass.....
acting (Patricia Williams said) could look like teaching, or writing, or talking.
For example, by asking questions, in your interviews, you were opening up
all sorts of things for folks (and yourself): things could take root in those
conversations, and later emerge in the world.

We have done some concrete actions (our workshop on campus, our visits w/ Parkway....).
We have also critiqued and problematized those actions.

What does it mean for each of us, now, @ semester's end, to be active in relation to these issues?
(It doesn't mean that you have to cut off your finger, like Sarah, or commit suicide, like Andrew).
How will each of us now take this course forward....?

Write for a bit in response to these questions.

Choose one of your sentences to read aloud; then a phrase; then a word (from anywhere).

12:30: final evaluations