Diversity Writing

Marzluf, Phillip P. "Diversity Writing: Natural Languages, Authentic Voices."
CCC 57.3 (2006): 503-522.

Later today our grad group (CCRGC) is
engaging Marzluf’s
in conversation for an hour. We developed the grad group at
the beginning of the semester as a supplement to what’s already a solid lineup
of colloquia. Why? Primarily so we could invite faculty for focused
discussions and devise our own brief sessions around common concerns (CV
workshops, conference proposal collaboration, practicing talking about our work,
reading stuff outside of coursework, etc.).

I’m short on time and really should be writing toward the three (better
conceived as 1+1+1 or .1+.1+.1+.1…tiny installments) seminar papers whose
terminal buzzers go off at the end of the month or thereabouts, but I wanted to
get down a few notes about issues I’d like us to take up during today’s session.
First, Marzluf’s article works like this:

After opening with a brief account of what he means by diversity writing,
Marzluf sketches a brief history of Natural Language Theory (oral language is
purer than written; generally favors rationalism). In the third
section of the essay he critiques expressivist commitments to the authentic
voices of students, commitments Marzluf contends too easily lead to a
salvationist ethic, embracing a student’s "natural" vernacular at the expense of more
self-detached models of rational (i.e. serious) academic discourse. Failed
writing, Marzluf argues, paraphrasing Elbow, results "when writers falsify their
voices" (513), and diversity writing can lead to such falsifications if
teachers over-correlate student identity and demonstrations of authenticity
through writing in the vernacular. Marzluf levels a strong critique of the
salvationist proclivities that too easily align with diversity writing,
including uneven valuations of authenticity in voice (505). He

My goal in this article has been to reject a salvationist tendency in
diversity-writing scholarship, one that attempts to save, affirm or legitimate
students. Though diversity writing should provide students a comfortable
space for interrogating difference, it need not force students to perform
their commitment to language and their communities. This is not to imply
that diversity writing should be apolitical or impersonal, only that it is a
clumsy apparatus indeed for students to use to reveal and perform themselves.

Early in the essay he defines "diversity writing" as "a pedagogical approach that invites
students to apply critical reading and writing strategies to situate themselves
within, analyze, and research the political and cultural assumptions,
consequences, and issues that constitute human difference" (503).
Diversity writing becomes synonymous with diversity studies, or, as I read it, a
label consistent with "studies of difference."

Here are a few of questions/concerns I want to get at later today:
1. On the basis of his description, how does our FYC curriculum at
Syracuse match with the curriculum at Kansas State–particular to their
"diversity writing" orientations? Does his definition work for us? Does it
adequately name the thing we’re trying to do or enact when we teach in a
"diversity writing" curriculum?
2. With his overt emphasis on race in "diversity writing," how is his
curricular model problematic for this narrowed focus? How might his
arguments about Natural Language Theory, salvationist motives, and authenticity
generalize to broader identifications?
3. What do you make of his use of content as a rhetorical strategy
for answering "an audience of skeptical students, parents, and administrators,
who may react strongly to the political connotations of ‘diversity’ or fear that
evaluation will be based on the ideological whims of individual writing
instructors" (519)?