Re: Reassessing our practices

Steve Krause (skrause@BGNET.BGSU.EDU)
Wed, 14 Feb 1996 21:38:16 -0500

I don't really have the time or energy to respond to this in great
detail, but a couple things here:

On Wed, 14 Feb 1996, Bob King wrote:

> On Wed, 14 Feb 1996, Steve Krause wrote:
> > I think there are at least 3 different definitions of essay here-- the
> > things students do in classes (which re-inscribe a power relationship
> > between teachers and students that most of us think is unhealthy); the
> > things academics do to get brownie points (which seem to bare _very_
> > little resemblence to the sorts of things that students do); and as a tool
> > for "individual expression" or at least the illusion of that.
> This just seems plain wrong in a number of ways. First, monologue *is* a
> unifying factor across all these "types" of essays. Again, don't
> take my word for it though. Go back and see for yourself that Beth
> has been trying to point out the same thing, to much the same (i.e.,
> nil) effect.

Well, I guess we're just going to have to disagree. To me, suggesting
that these "types of essays" are all the same because they are one form
or another of monologue makes about as much sense as saying these essays
are all the same because people use language to write them or they're all
done on paper. Besides, depending on what you mean by "monologue," I
don't see any reason why these types of essays are defintionally are
monologues. If one quotes a variety of sources, does that count? What
if they're collaborative projects (albeit essays)? What if there is
interview content? What if the writer is trying to divorce him or
her self entirely from the text, to deny the existience of the "one" who
wrote it in the first place (i.e., what if it's written like an
instructional mannual?)

Second, please explain to me how you can see a power
> relationship between students and teachers inscribed in essay practice
> as "unhealthy" but steadfastly cannot see the same basic "power thing"
> involved in relation to faculty making "brownie points" with each other
> and with university administrations via the production of monological
> essays? Yes, Steve there are shades of differences between
> different kinds of essays. I grant that. But there are also
> features which all essays have in common, and you don't seem to want
> to grant that.
Well, there are more than mere shades here. Students writing "good
essays" get a good grade and get to move on with their goals of finishing
one class. Tenure-track faculty who write "good essays" potentially get
published to a much wider audience, get better jobs, get money. The
stakes are dramatically different. I'm not denying the "power thing" in
relationship to the sorts of essays that academics write (vs our fy comp
students, for example) and I guess (depending on my feelings about my own
writing at a given point in time) I find it unhealthy as well. But we
can't _equate_ the power. There is no abstract/generic "Power" at work
here, there is no swap between the power relationships between teachers
and students and those between faculty and administrations (or what have

> > You're not (IMO) addressing the issue here. It's not
> > an issue of whether or not it's a "power" relationship-- anyone who has
> > taught writing before knows that-- it's an issue of how does one deal
> > with this power.
> Well, if you don't acknowledge certain aspects of power (i.e., how it
> operates on formal as well as social as well as propositional levels --
> see my previous post on the "polysemia" of practices) then you won't, as
> a matter of course, "deal with it." So we're still at point one, which
> yes is the source of my frustration.
Huh? Why not? And "dealing with it" is not necessarily about denial.
As Foucault said in _Power/Knowledge_ in that one quote that everyone
always seems to cite in these matters, power is not an inherently bad
thing nor is it an inherently inescapable thing. I think "dealing" with
power is in effect part of the process of acknowledgement. At least I
_think_ this is what you're getting at...

Steve Krause * Department of English * Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, OH * 43403 * (419) 372-8934 *
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