Re: freewriting

Nick Carbone (nickc@MARLBORO.EDU)
Thu, 25 Jul 1996 09:13:38 -0400

What's the role of narrative? Mike's concern that stories may go from
descriptive to prescriptive is always a danger. It raises shades of
William Bennet like didacticism--imagine a book of Writing Virtues?
Though saying that, I'm sure we all see some virtue to writing, something
about that makes doing it well worth more than mere efficient
communication and tenure.

One issue with story telling is the danger of simplicity. Oversimplified
tellings or readings of stories lead to misunderstanding. One of the
intriguing turns e-mail discussion takes, usually because of the brevity
of the individual posts, is the impulse to follow up and clarify
comments, to expalin more, to soemtimes give more detail, sometimes
explore more carefully an objection. No onemessage tells the whole story
of a list's narrative, does it? Well maybe one of Fred's on MBU or one
of Eric's here, but you know what I mean.

A collection of stories then, and including student stories is certainly
posssible, would be more complex, less susceptable to reduction, to
dogma. I'm fond of Matthew Arnold's observation that there is not a
creed which cannot be shaken, a fact which cannot be challenged, and that
the best of religion is not established on fact and dogma and creeds, but
on its unconscious poetry. It's always seemed to me that good teachers
have an ability to appreciate unconscious poetry, it's a way to help
slow, though not always prevent, the literalization of the metaphors we
use when we tell stories about our writing and teaching.

We've had these discussions before, sharing metaphors, telling classroom
stories, describing how we apply theory and to what degree. Often there
is a counter argument raised that's made by extending the metaphor beyond
what an author intended, by giving the narrative an unexpected twist. I
suppose a good constellation of stories should include follow up
narratives. If a writer heres one what has worked for another writer,
and tries it herself, the results or application or feeling of it might
be different. Linking the variations would be great, it would show both
the complexity of each story, the complexity of acting on stories, and
the process of someone working with their own sense of whom they are as
a writer, or whom they want other writers to believe they are. I mean,
when we're dealing with something so fishy as a porpoise, you need to
leave room for whoppers and the ones that got away.

Nick Carbone, Writing Instructor
Marlboro College
Marlboro, VT 05344