Emig, “The Tacit Tradition”

Janet. "The Tacit Tradition: The Inevitability of a Multi-Disciplinary
Approach to Writing Research." (1977). The Web of Meaning.
Dixie Goswami and Maureen Butler, eds. Upper Montclair, N.J.: Boynton/Cook,
1983. 145-156.

Preconditions to disciplinarity: 1. agreement in esteemed scholars attached
to seminal works (an active in-group: Graves, King, Kinneavy, Britton, Miller,
Moffett, Nystrand, Rouse, and Emig); 2. shared sensibilities about the important
questions and the aims of composition studies in a very general sense; 3.
agreement that comp develops theory from at least a pre-paradigmatic
position (147). From these preconditions, Emig continues her roster-building
project by listing and detailing the influences of three "ancestors": Thomas
Kuhn (148), George Kelly (149), and John Dewey (149). Emig’s tacit
tradition consists of nine influential, out-group members: Kuhn, Kelly, Dewey,
Michael Polanyi, Susanne Langer, Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, A.R. Luria, and Eric
Lenneberg. She proceed to cite each figure and then account for the ways
their work has contributed to the pre-paradigmatic state of composition studies.
Before explaining their commonalities, Emig adds three more neuroscientists
(Brenda Milner, J.Z. Young, and Sir John Eccles), for a total of twelve
influential figures.

All of the figures are transactionalists, according to Emig, in that,
following Rosenblatt, they perceive "the learner/writer [to be] an active
construer of meaning in her transactions with experience" (153). Further, all
are generous "in their allowances of not only what can be legitimately known,
but also of what modes of knowing the knower can deploy" (154). They also
"believe, by definition, in the centrality of processes" (154).

Emig then presents three reasons why a multidisciplinary approach to writing
is inevitable: 1. the scholars of our tacit tradition are "multidisciplinarians"
(155), 2. "powerful and beautiful explanations for how and why people write
reside in many disciplines" (155), and 3. our group/community has a predilection
to play Elbow’s believing game before the doubting game (155). This
applies to the following beliefs:

"that almost all persons can write and want to write;
that not writing or not wanting to write is unnatural;
that, if either occurs, something major has been subverted in a mind, in a life;
that as teachers and researchers we must try to help make writing natural again,
and necessary" (155).

"Since paradigms themselves are tacit, we become aware of them
contrastively, as when we meet persons who comfortably inhabit another" (148).

"Kelly’s metaphor is that we are all scientists seeking prediction,
predictive value in events and experiences" (149).