Bazerman Forum

on "What Written Knowledge Does" 

Discuss--freely--your thoughts and ideas while reading about the differences in knowledge structures and disciplinary conventions. Genres are not just forms. Genres are forms of life, ways of being. They are frames for social action. They are environments for learning. They are locations within which meaning is constructed. Genres shape the thoughts we form and the communication by which we interact. Genres are the familiar places we go to create intelligible communicative action with each other and the guidelines we use to explore the unfamiliar. (“The Life of Genre, The Life in the Classroom”)

Branching off what Jimmy said, I see the ability to write academically in the area of English/Comp studies largely dependent on how one structures their argument and what sources they choose. As Bazerman argues, it is this type of writing that is based on one’s ability to persuade. Yes, like science writing, it is a genre and therefore there are certain rules authors follow; however, there is much more room for creativity as well as failure. The question isn’t how do I get my information across, it’s how do I get my audience to believe what I am saying?

At the same time, I agree with Jimmy in that we, as graduate students, do not feel confident enough in the subject areas in which are writing to be as assertive as others who have been ‘part of the conversation’ for years. We have yet to make a name for ourselves and are therefore reliant more on expert opinions than our own. As Jon said, many of the concepts he read in Norton he took as fact and I think many of us do the same with all sorts of academic writing. We base our opinions on the author’s ability to persuade us, on how strong the argument is that they are making, on their name, and on the credibility of the source (i.e. Norton).

Bazerman makes a good point when discussing Hartman’s essay; he says “The poet’s text and its content, the accumulated experience of literary criticism and literary texts, and the audience’s critical judgment and expectation of poetry do constrain what the critic can persuasively state, yet the critic has considerable power to transform all of them (39).” Therefore, a writer must take into consideration the audience she is addressing and what their attitude toward the subject is; however, she knows that she has the ability to control their understanding of a text or a subject through the persuasive nature of her writing.