A RhetNet SnapShot Repl y:


Michael Spooner

Beth Baldwin's success with "textual conversation" in the classroom brings to mind the many/several experiments lately with new forms of writing in the scholarly journals. It seems rare anymore that an issue goes by without at least one unorthodox "essay." I'm thinking of textual interviews (Reynolds's article comes to mind); dialogues (e.g. Elbow/Yancey); experiments with crots and/or lists (Bishop in CCC); hypertext efforts (Purves in AW). And most of these deliberately bear the traces of online textual treatments.

So does it seem that The Essay is modulating toward new forms, which will in turn authorize or (let's say) confirm the encouragement of new forms like Beth's "textual conversation" that aim to dislodge the essay in the classroom? That would be interesting.

On the other hand, these experimental scholarly texts *really* don't go that far afield from the monological tradition that Beth and others are impatient with. I mean, we're still looking at pretty single-minded, single-voiced stuff, which, though it often tries for a tech-rhet look (The Rhet Pack look?), doesn't truly manage it. So, though it's innovative, it still tends to reinforce the academic essay as the genre of choice for communicating scholarship.

One could even argue, as I think Richard Long might (though not to put words in his mouth), that the "net/texts" online don't move very far from the Essay. They're just shorter bits. Sometimes they're multilinear, but linear nonetheless. And they're not so interactive as they wish to be: witness the 224 hits on this site to date vs the mere seven reader contributions.

Why do you think that is? (or do you think I'm wrong?) Is it just inertia/tradition? Or is maybe the Essay just such a useful genre (like the poem, say) that we see no need to leave it behind?

Where is the new essay of the cyber age? What will it look like? Will we know it when we see it?


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