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Academic Discourse and Critical Consciousness

Academic Discourse and Critical Consciousness

Patricia Bizzell
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    Academic Discourse and Critical Consciousness
    Book Description:

    This collection of essays traces the attempts of one writing teacher to understand theoretically - and to respond pedagogically - to what happens when students from diverse backgrounds learn to use language in college.Bizzell begins from the assumption that democratic education requires us to attempt to educate all students, including those whose social or ethnic backgrounds may have offered them little experience with academic discourse. Over the ten-year period chronicled in these essays, she has seen herself primarily as an advocate for such students, sometimes called "basic writers."Bizzell's views on education for "critical consciousness," widely discussed in the writing field, are represented in most of the essays in this volume. But in the last few chapters, and in the intellectual autobiography written as the introduction to the volume, she calls her previous work into question on the grounds that her self-appointment as an advocate for basic writers may have been presumptous, and her hopes for the politically liberating effects of academic discourse misplaced. She concludes by calling for a theory of discourse that acknowledges the need to argue for values and pedagogy that can assist these arguements to proceed more inclusively than ever before.The essays in this volume constitute the main body of work in which Bizzell developed her influential and often cited ideas. Organized chronologically, they present a picture of how she has grappled with major issues in composition studies over the past decade. In the process, she sketches a trajectory for the development of composition studies as an academic discipline.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7155-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction
    (pp. 3-30)

    I have been teaching first-year college composition since 1971. I mention the date only to locate the historical period in which I began to form and theorize my teaching practices. I have experienced this period as a time in which my skepticism has gradually increased concerning the American promise that education leads up from poverty and political oppression, a promise that seemed on the verge of realization during the campus social activism of the 1960s, and one that initially motivated my choice of teaching as a career.

    The essays collected here represent attempts to understand what I was doing as...

  2. The Ethos of Academic Discourse
    (pp. 31-38)

    I recall reading a survey of viewers of the televised Ford-Carter debates, which presented the perhaps unsurprising findings that those who had favored Carter before the debates felt that he won, while those who had favored Ford were convinced that their man came out ahead. In other words, few people’s minds were changed by what purported to be a reasonable, persuasive exposition of the candidates’ views. More recently, a televised “debate” between candidates for governor of New Jersey gave the viewers even less chance to be persuaded; the number of candidates (a dozen or so) attempting to present their views...

  3. Thomas Kuhn, Scientism, and English Studies
    (pp. 39-50)

    InThe Structure of Scientific Revolutions,¹ Thomas Kuhn elaborates the concept of the “paradigm,” a comprehensive theoretical model that governs both the view of reality accepted by an intellectual community and the practice of that community’s discipline. This concept has increasing interest for English studies because new demands on our composition courses, along with new developments in literary theory, have contributed to a hot debate over the premises of our discipline. Maxine Hairston, for one, has explained in an address to the 1978 convention of the Conference on College Composition and Communication that we should understand this debate as the...

  4. “Inherent” Ideology, “Universal” History, “Empirical” Evidence, and “Context-Free” Writing: Some Problems in E. D. Hirsch’s The Philosophy of Composition
    (pp. 51-74)

    InThe Philosophy of Composition,E. D. Hirsch translates his theories of literary criticism into principles of composition teaching.¹ In his critical books,Validity in Interpretation(1967) andThe Aims of Interpretation(1976), Hirsch champions an anti-relativistic critical position. He opposes the purportedly objective explication of literary texts by formal methods, from the New Criticism to Derridean deconstruction. When the text is detached from the conditions of its creation, he argues, it becomes subject to readings that depend more upon the interpreter than the work itself, readings that do not bring us any closer to the meaning of the text....

  5. Cognition, Convention, and Certainty: What We Need to Know About Writing
    (pp. 75-104)

    What do we need to know about writing? Only recently have we needed to ask this question, and the asking has created composition studies. We have needed to ask it because of changing circumstances in the classroom, and our answers will be put to the test there with a speed uncommon in other academic disciplines. The current theoretical debate over how to go about finding these answers, therefore, is not merely an empty exercise. Students’ lives will be affected in profound ways.

    This profound effect on students is the more to be expected because of the terms in which the...

  6. College Composition: Initiation Into the Academic Discourse Community
    (pp. 105-128)

    Composition studies has become established as an academic discipline. Over the past decade, college writing programs have expanded tremendously, and scholarly attention to writing theory and pedagogy has also grown. Although composition studies are not yet organized under a disciplinary paradigm, some dominant trends are embodied in two recent textbooks,Four Worlds of WritingandWriting in the Arts and Sciences. The authors ofFour Worlds,Janice M. Lauer, Gene Montague, Andrea Lunsford, and Janet Emig, are all eminent practitioners in the field, well qualified to produce a text that is based on “premises derived from rhetorical theory of the...

  7. Academic Discourse and Critical Consciousness: An Application of Paulo Freire
    (pp. 129-152)

    Whether academic discourse can be taught in a liberating way is now an important question for composition teachers, because most college writing programs now have the same official goal: to equip students for performing the writing tasks their college education demands, and the writing tasks they will encounter after college. At most schools, achieving this goal entails instruction in “Standard” English and in academic discourse, which uses “Standard” English. Individual teachers’ methods and goals may vary with the particular character of their students, but in general, commitment to the official goal presumes the resolution of an issue that concerned writing...

  8. William Perry and Liberal Education
    (pp. 153-163)

    The work of psychologist William G. Perry, Jr. has attracted much attention recently from college writing teachers who seek a developmental model to inform composition courses and writing-across-the-curriculum programs. To assess Perry’s usefulness to writing instruction, I would like first to summarize his work, giving his own interpretation of its significance, and then to say how I think we should, and should not, use it.

    After taking a BA in psychology at Harvard College, Perry began his academic career teaching English literature at Williams College. In 1947 he returned to Harvard to head the Bureau of Study Counsel, and there...

  9. What Happens When Basic Writers Come to College?
    (pp. 164-174)

    I wish to propose a hypothesis for researching an answer to this question. For the time being, let me suggest that “basic writers” are those who are least well prepared for college. They may be defined in absolute terms, by features of their writing, or in relative terms, by their placement in a given school’s freshman composition sequence, but, either way, their salient characteristic is their “outlandishness” —their appearance to many teachers and to themselves as the students who are most alien in the college community. Currently there are three major ways to describe what happens to these outlanders when...

  10. Composing Processes: An Overview
    (pp. 175-201)

    Composition scholars agree that the composing process exists or, rather, that there is a complex of activities out of which all writing emerges. We cannot specify one composing process as invariably successful. Current research in the field is beginning to draw a detailed picture of these composing processes.

    “Composing” usually refers to all the processes out of which a piece of written work emerges. During composing, the writer may spend some time musing, rereading notes or drafts, or reading the texts of others, as well as actually putting words on the page herself. In composition research, “writing” usually refers precisely...

  11. Foundationalism and Anti-Foundationalism in Composition Studies
    (pp. 202-221)

    “Social” seemed to be the key word at the 1985 Conference on College Composition and Communication. Many of the papers presented there analyzed the discourse conventions that a particular social context inculcates in participating writers. Other papers sought to detail the pedagogy that would enable student writers to make informed choices among the discourses appropriate to different contexts, without enforcing any one choice as the best. The recurring references to the social indicated the great degree to which composition studies is coming under a truly rhetorical theory of language and knowledge, one that sees all language-using practices as determined by...

  12. What Is a Discourse Community?
    (pp. 222-237)

    The concept of “discourse community,” though now widely used in composition studies, has not been defined authoritatively—that is, in such a way as to win assent from all composition researchers and scholars of rhetoric. In the absence of consensus, let me offer a tentative definition: a “discourse community” is a group of people who share certain language-using practices. These practices can be seen as conventionalized in two ways. Stylistic conventions regulate social interactions both within the group and in its dealings with outsiders; to this extent “discourse community” borrows from the sociolinguistic concept of “speech community.” Also, canonical knowledge...

  13. Arguing About Literacy
    (pp. 238-255)

    Arguments about literacy typically take the same form. One kind of literacy holds a commanding position, that which comprises the ways of using language valued by the academy and the upper social classes with which it is associated. The dominance of this academic literacy is challenged by people who have made their way into the schools but whose native tongues are at a relatively greater remove from the academic dialect, whose preferred modes of developing ideas conflict with the linear logic and impersonal posture of academic debate, and whose cultural treasures are not included in the academic canon. These challenges...

  14. Beyond Anti-Foundationalism to Rhetorical Authority: Problems Defining “Cultural Literacy”
    (pp. 256-276)

    When students enter college, it soon becomes apparent that some of them are already comfortable with academic discourse, while other students seem quite unfamiliar with academic discourse and resistant to learning it. This state of affairs might not be considered a problem: the academy might simply expel those who do not share its discourse and welcome and reward those who do. Indeed, this is how the situation is handled in many schools today.

    Many writing teachers, however, have not been satisfied with this response to the lack of shared discourse. Many of us have felt that it is unfair, a...

  15. Afterword
    (pp. 277-295)

    Recently I happened to read Max Weber’s essay “Science as a Vocation.”¹ Weber asserts that science—or perhaps we should translate his term to mean scholarship—is presently thought to be capable of explaining everything in the world. Because of this belief in the power of science, there are no more mysterious forces in the world for modern people, only currently unexplained ones. Human life is rendered meaningless by this belief in the expanding explanatory scope of science, because the individual life cannot be imagined as possessing any satisfying completeness when, whenever one must leave the theater, the unfolding of...