Response to Bruffee and Bazerman

 

A short response paper for English 600. I enjoyed the readings, and was pleased with the paper.

    Although writing is often popularly portrayed as an individual’s solitary musings, Bruffee and Bazerman assert that writing is inherently social in nature and function. The process of writing invokes prior texts and contexts, and the product of writing speaks and delivers knowledge to the writer’s peers. Additionally, each author emphasizes the mediating effects of genre, but each focuses on different aspects of genre. Bazerman focuses on how written genres mediate the relationship between writer and audience. Bruffee, on the other hand, examines how generic relationships extend beyond the text, and how extra-textual relationships are crucial to inducting new members into the knowledge community.
    Bazerman states that “writing and reading may take place in privacy and composure, and they carry out distant social actions, but they are still highly contextualized social actions, speaking very directly to social context and social goals” (22). In other words, texts, even academic ones, are not produced in a vacuum. Writers are motivated by the social situation under which they are writing, and the purpose of their writing is to convey ideas and knowledge to their peers in a comprehensible fashion.
    The way in which authors write the knowledge they wish to disseminate is shaped by the conventions of the genre in which they are writing. As Bazerman illustrates, genres function socially not only to regulate writing patterns but also to mediate the relationship between writer and audience. He writes, “The regularization of writing genres and situations within specific communities can increase the likelihood of successful, forceful communication” (23). Bazerman then goes on to examine how different authors in various genres of academic writing deploy language and symbolization, embed knowledge in the text, anticipate audience, and portray authorial persona. Genres serve both as a vehicle for structuring the content of written knowledge within disciplines and, as Bazerman concludes, “create that rhetorical universe” (36).
    Bruffee examines how communities of peers become “rhetorical universes” through normal discourse. Normal discourse is the writing and speech that members of a profession or academic discipline engage in on a daily basis, and it helps facilitate meaning and mediate the relationship between speakers/writers and listeners/readers. Therefore, the idea of genre as structuring discourse and guiding meaning for participants extends beyond the text to include verbal discourse. Within speech and written genres, knowledge is embedded and preserved in both the language and rhetorical devices that the community has established as conventional.
    Bruffee adds, “Mastery of a knowledge community’s normal discourse is the basic qualification for acceptance into that community” (90). Because normal discourse occurs within a community, situating learning within that community facilitates mastery of the discourse. Focusing on academic communities, Bruffee argues that collaborative learning, if applied appropriately, fosters an ideal context for acquiring academic language. Writing alone is insufficient for acquiring the normal discourse of the university. Rather, students must also engage in conversation about their writing, discussing and practicing the conventions of the genre of academic discourse. By engaging in both verbal and written conversations with their peers, students gain a deeper understanding of the normal discourse of the community which they seek to enter.