Spring 2003
Audrey Thompson
University of Utah
Office: 308C MBH; mailbox in 307 MBH
fax. (801) 587-7801
voicemail: (801) 587-7803, recep. 587-7814
Class meets T 2:00-5:00
386 MBH
Office Hours: T 10:30-12:00 and H 2:00-3:30 and by appointment
web:  http://www.pauahtun.org/audrey.html

The Writing Wars: Scholarship and the Construction of Knowledge
ECS 6629-001/7629-001

Course Description

Can published educational scholarship include poetry? Should Spanish be translated for English-only readers of academic articles? What is the relation between narratives and theories? What is the status of clarity — is it a democratic appeal to inclusion or an oppressive mechanism for making everything fit the dominant discourse? What status do reason, coherence, objectivity, and accessibility have, in progressive educational scholarship?

Over the past ten years or so, what counts as scholarship in education has become a matter for dispute, with newer — either more artistic or otherwise transgressive — approaches to scholarship challenging the assumptions built into traditional approaches to scholarship. Traditional approaches to scholarship aim for transparency and accessibility, expecting claims to be presented in a linear, more or less scientific fashion; alternative and oppositional approaches, by contrast, may enlist forms of knowledge making from outside the sciences (and sometimes outside the humanities as well). This course will examine competing approaches to knowledge construction and to the dissemination of knowledge in educational scholarship. Among the questions we will be asking are how each kind of scholarship does its work, how it addresses its audience, what its strengths are, what its limitations are, what it assumes about meaning and knowledge, and what it assumes about persuasion and transformation.

We will be looking at specific examples of each type of writing in order to understand how it does its work and how it succeeds and/or fails in addressing its audience and its materials. In addition to offering practical suggestions for pursuing each kind of scholarly writing, the course will consider a variety of theoretical arguments for and against each approach to scholarly writing. It is not assumed that there is one “best” approach to scholarly writing, but rather that there are important strengths and limitations to each. Among the questions we will be raising will be that of the nature of the scholarly investments in each approach to writing.

Required Texts:

The readings will be available on electronic reserve at the Marriott University Library or will be provided in class. Some handouts will be available on the electronic version of the syllabus.


Course Requirements

Requirements for the course include regular attendance and participation; a midterm paper; and a final paper. The final paper should offer arguments and counter-arguments regarding the positions it describes, and should support the arguments with reference to the readings, lectures, and discussions. While outside readings may certainly be included, the primary emphasis should be on the readings from the course. (Outside readings are not required for any of the papers.) The midterm should be 6-8 pages long. The final paper should be 12-16 pages in length. There is no final exam.

Course Requirements:

Class attendance and participation 20%
Midterm paper (6-8 pages) 35%
Final paper (12-16 pages) 45%

In writing the final paper, you should take into account the following criteria:

1) The paper should focus on one or more issues regarding the writing wars. (These might include, for example, the question of whether scholarly writing can and should be generally accessible, and what the considerations related to this are; how writing is related to knowledge; issues of objectivity and neutrality; the role of emotion and experience in scholarly knowledge; the kind of worldview represented by particular approaches to scholarly writing; what counts as clarity, persuasiveness, rigor, etc.). The issues criterion means that there should be an argument in your paper.

2) You should discuss at least two of the modes or traditions we have talked about in class, although one of these can be primary. For example, you could talk mostly about genre-based writing in comparing it to transgressive and transparent writing. (Keep in mind that genre-based writing is a type of artistic writing. You can talk about artistic and genre-based writing as two modes but don’t compare and contrast them, as they do not have competing goals. Genre-based writing is a highly specific type of artistic writing.) Or you could compare and contrast transparent and artistic writing, giving each of them equal time. Possibly you would make an argument for a kind of transparent writing that weaves in some elements of artistic writing but subordinates these to the transparent project — and so on. It is not required that you actually write in more than one mode. I suggest that you rely on the transparent mode at least strategically to a fair degree, as this is the language of power and therefore a code you need to know. As you are learning other scholarly modes of writing, it is best to practice them in occasional paragraphs or very short pieces, rather than rely on them to do all your work for you. (Keep in mind, too, your limited audience, i.e., me. I will be able to respond to some things better than others. For example, I am better at responding to narrative than to poetry. Check with me before embarking on anything too avant garde, as I may have to tell you that I am not able to respond adequately to some undertakings.)

3) Naturally your paper should draw on and be informed by both the readings and the class discussions. In the interests of a well focused and compact paper, please do not combine this assignment with an assignment for a different course. This should be a paper distinctively for this course. This is not to say that you cannot draw on other things you have read, naturally, but it is to say that it should be clear that this is a paper that emerges from this course and that is pushing you (and me) to think further about the issues raised in the course.

Doing a specific textual analysis of a provocative article from the course and bringing other articles to bear on it would be one way of approaching the final paper. Thus, for example, you could take the Patai essay on method and evaluate it in light of hooks, Lugones, Richardson, Williams, and others. This is not the only possible way to approach the final paper, however. Such a paper would be issues oriented and argument-based, not simply expository or analytic.

An epistemological and political journey is also a possible approach to the final paper, insofar as it focuses on issues raised by the course and is informed by readings from the course. It is better to have a tight, focused paper than an overly ambitious paper that you try to squeeze down, so with a topic like this, I would suggest focusing on some aspect of the journey — for example, going back and forth between different ideas about objectivity or accessibility; what writing in Spanish might have meant to you at different points in your school career and how this ties in with the issues raised in the course; or how you have struggled with ideas about the role of emotion and experience in academic writing.


Tues. 7 Jan.             I. Introduction: Academic Ways of Meaning-Making

Electronic handout: Questions We Will Be Asking about Each of the Readings

Tues. 14 Jan.             II. The Debate over Clarity

Tues. 21 Jan.             III. Transparent Writing: The Structure of the Argument

Tues. 28 Jan.             IV. Analysis, Description, and Ethics in Transparent Writing

Tues. 4 Feb.             V. Aesthetics and Meaning in Transparent Scholarly Writing

Tues. 11 Feb.             VI. Institutional Politics and Transparent Scholarly Writing
Readings: Tues. 18 Feb.             VII. Critiques of Transparent Scholarly Writing

Tues. 25 Feb.            VIII. Artistic Scholarly Writing

Tues. 4 March             IX. Critiques of Artistic Scholarly Writing
Readings: Tues. 11 March            X. Genre-Based Scholarly Writing

Tues. 18 March             SPRING BREAK: CLASS DOES NOT MEET

Tues. 25 March             XI. Critiques of Genre-Based Scholarly Writing

Tues. 1 April            XII. Transgressive Scholarly Writing, Pt. I
Readings: Tues. 8 April            XIII. Transgressive Scholarly Writing, Pt. II
Readings: Draft of final paper due (topics to be assigned or pre-arranged)

Tues. 15 April            XIV. Transgressive Scholarly Writing, Pt. III

Tues. 22 April            XV. Critiques of Transgressive Scholarly Writing
Readings: Tues. 29 April            Finals Week: No Class Meeting

Final paper due in lieu of exam
Count by Muhammad Muquit

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