Re: Freewriting

Nick Carbone (nickc@MARLBORO.EDU)
Tue, 23 Jul 1996 23:19:39 -0400

Was it Lanham who wrote, _Style: An Anti-Textbook_? It's miles away in
my office or I'd know at a glance. Beth's work, which seeks an
alternative to the essay seems a step in similar direction, though it
seems to less an argument against the essay and more an argument for
emergent forms. Victor's observation that writing is political and the
conundrum of validating what one is against is important.

Victor writes:
I just want to write. Yes, there is a pun there. Writing, for me, should
be not just an ethical act but a political one. And so, I am confronted
with the problem of not writing in such a way that will be reactionary.
That's what is at stake for me everytime I set out to write. How do
I not recapitulate the very thing that I want to change? Repeat the
'mistakes' of the past in the classroom!? Instead, how would I improve
on my "teaching"? Let's say that it's something like ... 'teaching
writing'! Which is a political act. Writing this post is a political
act, right?

What to do, how to act. Why write? How to write? But more to the point,
which political acts have political consequences? Which acts lead to
change and is that change good? I know we can't break to many molds too
quickly. Britton's metaphor of templates in _Language and Learning_
describes the idea of starting with what someone knows and building on
that or away from that, but at any rate changing the template, expanding
upon it. It seems to me the anti- urge is rooted in this. We start by
defining an issue or problem in such a way as to build an implicit
argument for the need for change. Then after defining, we describe and
explore soem alternative, that may in many respects be not all that
different. And this becomes the anti, which is really a catchy way of
saying proffered new paradigmatic preference, which given time will be as
dogmatic as anything else.

Except now we're all post-modern chic, fully aware of the incipient irony
and wary of offending the very sensibility that lead to our critique of
the current situation. So we become more bewildered than Hamlet, awash
in the slings and arrows of outrageous kluges. At least in our
discussions. In our classrooms we have to act. We're paid to act and no
amount of postmodern irony will suffice to replace what we're paid to do,
what we've taken out loans and other indentures against to do. So our
radical angst gets tempered and put to some less idealistic use.
Especially since we're stuck coming up with an ideal we can name, because
once named and defined, someone'll deconstruct it on us.

So maybe this is a good beginning, a good place to begin. How do we
act? How do we balance our politics and ethos? What do we teach when we
teach writing?

Nick Carbone, Writing Instructor
Marlboro College
Marlboro, VT 05344