Reviewing CCCC 2000: Tripled Essay Writing Draft 3

Academic writing is not something I was particularly fond of...and even now, the best academic writing I read today too often feels like work when my best instincts about reading and writing are that they are activities that work well with more of a sense of play than work.

It's taken so much reading, studying, and learning to feel playful in the world of academic writing. Conferences like this one help...like when Lynn Z. Bloom wondered into our workshop this morning. Her essay on "The Essay Canon" in an issue of College English last year blew me away. Bloom's voice, her research, and her intelligence really came together in the essay in ways that changed the way I looked at academic writing. Was she today's omen or a little, gray-haired lady lost at a large conference? Isn't there usually a similar disjunction in academic writing--a great mind (reader or writer) always wondering if this is the right place? Why did she walk into this workshop on essay writing and then leave? Is her teacherly sense of the essay canon a workshop blessing or a wrong turn and writer's block?

The conference, "the C's," becomes odder and odder. A compositionist, who's speaking at the panel I'm chairing tonight says that "since nothing that isn't lame is going on in composition these days," [she] plans to hang out with techies. Another colleague says he doesn't attend sessions--maybe a few--because if the papers are good, they'll be published and then he'll read them.

I've got to say it's an irresistible relief to read this. I feel like a closeted anti academician (not what I really mean but I can't come up with a term) who discovers there's a whole universe of like-minded people out there and maybe I should come out. The problem is, you can't really speak with any authority against this sort of "lameness" unless you've spent lots of time and energy writing and polishing the very sort of stuff one wishes to liberate everyone from. Or perhaps this isn't true, I don't know. Perhaps everyone is just waiting for someone to declare "the emperor has no clothes!" Well, it isn't going to be me, I'm afraid. But I hope someone better equipped (or with more chutzpa) will...I know I'm oversimplifying this whole subject, but this is my gut reaction.

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