This is a tired reflexion on being overwhelmed by the literatures, on wondering if there is any more to be said on writing, and on feeling defeated.
My research into what makes writing ‘academic’ is ambitious, if not pretentious. So much has been written on writing. From Plato to Derrida & co., to Goody, Harris, Lillis and the Academic Literacies movement, EAP, Thomson and Kamler on building scholarly identity through writing, not to mention all the blogs, advice, discipline-specific genreification, and so on. Not sure what I could possibly add, what twist to introduce, what stones to unturn.
I swing from feeling that understanding the ontology of writing is as basic as it once used to be framed, i.e. a mnemonic to record information and organise what is already in the head, to feeling it is much more than that, i.e. an extension of the self, a way of actually being oneself, beyond a representation of oneself to actually being the writing because of the thinking it affords. Yet, I also feel the Academy over- privileges the written mode at the expense of other modes thus thwarting creativity and limiting the very thinking it seeks to nurture.
I have been reading so much student writing in the last few weeks, and perhaps my brain has been numbed by the way we have over-emphasised the need to meet our genre requirements which has meant that students have funnelled their thinking into the mould we have imposed, even though their thinking might have taken a different form given what they themselves had been reading and the inferences they might have wanted to make from these readings had it not been for our ‘genre requirements’.
Many scripts I have read this summer seemed to be bursting at the seams of our imposed genre, trying to transgress the boundaries we had imposed, but not quite daring to. It is when students push against those genre boundaries that their thinking seems to become autonomous, and more interesting, more creative, but then it gets clipped just as it gets going because of genre constraints.
A couple of articles this week added to my malaise. One on how the marketisation of the academy is thwarting creativity and the ability to out-think all others; the other directly challenging the ubiquitousness of the academic essay.
These thoughts are a symptom of saturation from too much reading. I think I need to start writing again …
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