Re: Monological Discourse

Thu, 8 Feb 1996 15:25:16 -0500

On Thu, 8 Feb 1996, Nick Carbone wrote:

> We refer to 'discourse communities' when we discuss academic writing. We
> look at how writers must learn and somehow become competent in the
> particular discourse conventions of their community. We teach and
> practice, for example, particular conventions for citing sources--for
> acknowledging and sometimes bringing into our writing other 'voices' in
> the community.

Exactly so, Nick. We use the word "dialogue" in our discourse community
in an academic (metaphorical) way. And *if* someone would say to me
as a teacher of fyc or undergrad rhet/comp that what I'm supposed to
be doing in my class is to teach the conventions of the academic
discourse community (how to do the monological essay), then hey-ho
I'm on it. Unfortunately, we are generally told that that's *not*
what we're doing -- that we're addressing a larger social project.

> All of which leads me to wonder if the main difference between rhetoric
> in print and rhetoric in pixels isn't so much whether one is an essay and
> the other is not, but the difference speed and fluidity bring to the process.

Yes. Plus, the e-medium makes our exchanges "rationally visible" (to
borrow a term from John Shotter). We can be particpants and
spectators of our language use almost simultaneously.

> We write in these forums. We generally write in ways that recognizable
> from print--same syntax and grammar applies in the actual composing of a
> message. However there are differences that mark this as a completely
> different genre. While it's not quite talking, neither is it the same
> kind of writing.

I call this genre "textual conversation."
> Most e-mail in lists is one draft writing.
As is conversation?

> Most is written sooner rather than later in response to a message.
> There's a short window on the life of any thread.

Like conversation?

> E-mail is generally more informal, or at least less bureaucratic, to
> borrow a term from Lanham's _Revising Prose_.

Like conversation?

Truth is, we lead our social lives primarily in conversational modes.
This is where the grass roots social construction of knowledge
and meaning happens.