Saturday, August 26, 2006

Writing as Transcribed Reality

From Berlin's Rhetoric and Reality, a crumb from today's exam reading:

Current-traditional rhetoric did undergo a number of changes during this period [1920-1940], even though none of them were substantive. One new addition to the classroom was the use of the research paper. Requiring students to engage in library research was a predictable outcome of a course taught by teachers whose major source of professional rewards was the accumulation of research publications. Furthermore, the research paper represented the insistence in current-traditional rhetoric on finding meaning outside the composing act, with writing itself serving as a simple transcription process. The first article in English Journal to discuss the teaching of the research paper appeared in 1930 (Chalfant), but use of the research paper was commonly mentioned in program descriptions in the twenties. Textbooks that included discussion of the research paper began to appear in significant numbers in 1931. After this, no year of English Journal appeared without a number of articles on approaches to teaching the research essay. It should also be noted that the widespread use of this assignment was influenced by the improvements in library collections during the twenties, as well as by new ways of indexing these materials for easy access--the periodical guides, for example. (70)

Here, the point about research paper writing sparked by indexing systems jumps out at me. A good collection (institutional or personal; for the greater good or for my own good) needs only to be indexed when it is housed with other collections, right? The index associates and disassociates. It preserves a minor degree of granularity while introducing scalable ties (one with one, one with many, many with many). Or not. Not exactly, anyway. Still the thought of research writing before the convenience of libraries--collecting, tracing, indexing, tagging, associating--is somehow refreshing. There is a small, pleasant jolt in the reminder of something less systematized, less comprehensive: a pre-indexical aberrance.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at August 26, 2006 10:40 PM to Reading Notes