Tag: silence

Decolonize This! Writing as Embodied Double Consciousness

Often in the writing center tutors are trained, as are many students, that writing is an object—both a product and that which must be produced. The arguments over “good” and “bad” writing are arguments based on neoliberal capitalist discourses surrounding the selling and consuming of texts, be they written, digital, or multimodal. Therefore, “good” writing is writing that can be produced for the purposes of selling it to consumers (academics, the public, and so on). While writing is a product and does serve a larger capitalist goal, writing is not only a product. Writing is not only an object, but an action—a type of cultural practice and way of doing. Though these cultural practices of academic writing is deeply tied to classed (upper-middle-class) and raced (white) assumptions and ideologies, this cultural practice is a useful discourse to learn and one that is taken on or embodied in scholars neither identifying as upper middle class or white. It is in this embodiment—this “putting on of the White Hat”—that I argue a feeling of double consciousness is created that is or could be portrayed in writing or in the works of those writing from the margins.

For many scholars of color, this elitist academic discourse creates a type of double consciousness within writing, where they question: To whom am I writing if not my own? For what purposes am I writing if not for those not in the academy? To which community should I speak when I write and to what discourse community do I need to preference, suppress, or speak across equally? These questions are not outside writers’ heads when they write. We cannot automatically silence the discourses—of teachers, tutors, parents, friends, employers and employees—that tell us what acceptable writing is and what it is not, and while one can (and many do) argue that standard writing is nothing but a rejection of discourses of resistance, e.g. Black Language and Rhetoric, Working-Class Rhetoric, Queer Rhetoric, and so on, these rejections create an embodied response. This effect can cause a state of double consciousness that can present in clients as “I don’t know how to say this the way the teacher wants. Help me say what I want the way they want” to “Why do I have to write about Keeping Up with the Kardashians as a representation of American culture? I’m an American. I live in America. That’s not my life.”

I could ask the conventional question of how we should train students to answer these questions and others like them in a relatively short writing center consultation (a question of time)? However, I want to ask by what means should tutors be trained to address the colonizing practice of academic writing, its purpose in neutralizing discourses from communities deemed undesirable, as well as its democratic functions? Moreover, what tools do tutors need to teach clients rhetorical disguises which would “involve using dominant codes of language in expected ways, to speak and write in ways that might otherwise appear to be covering or assimilating to white standards of conduct” (Denny, 2010, p. 54)? How can the embodied experience of navigating double consciousness, not only in writing but also in the public arena, be useful in teaching clients ways to counteract such psychological damage within their writing?

The Consultant Diaries: Learning about Being Quiet

Hey there! Welcome to my very first Consultant Diaries post. I’m Erica, and I’ve been working at The Writing Center for exactly one semester (and a half).

I absolutely love working at The Writing Center. It’s not a boring on-campus job where you’re doing the same thing every day. I mean, you kind of do the same thing every day (you consult people, obviously), but each consultation is different and there’s something new to learn from every single one.

This week, I’ve learned about the importance of being quiet, of sitting back and letting the client think or just take off writing. In WRA 395, the class you take to become a consultant here, we called this “letting the client lead the session.”

For instance, the other day I had a client who wanted help writing a cover letter. She had never written a cover letter before, so I spent a few minutes explaining the general requirements for content and organization. The client took notes while I explained all this. Then suddenly, she dove in and started writing her intro paragraph. I just sat there and let her write. She got stuck and asked me for advice. I gave her some, and then she started writing again. So I sat there and let her write. And so we continued for most of the session.

It felt weird just sitting there because I didn’t feel like I was helping the client. But then I realized that what I was really doing was letting her follow her own writing process. And that always leads to the most success.

Those are my words of wisdom for the week. I’ll be back in a couple weeks. Until then, drink some tea, write a lot, and come say hi to us at The Writing Center! If you’re lucky, there will be chocolate in the bowl on the counter. =)