Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Subject in Discourse

Clifford, John. "The Subject in Discourse." Contending with Words: Composition in a Postmodern Age. New York: MLA, 1991. 38-51.

I have two interests in this article. The first is in Clifford's history of "the subject" in the twentieth century; the second is Clifford's own project to transform composition pedagogy into a more "critical" practice. I'll deal mostly with the first interest since it provides additional background I need for my own understanding of the "subject who writes and who is written." [My own quotes but from somewhere?] However, Clifford's project in this essay seems so dated to me—so postmodern in its own "ideology"—that I am interested in my own reaction to this piece at this moment in 2008. But more about that in a moment.

The "subject" is a term to describe the writer's consciousness as he or she writes—their body and thoughts as they are expressed on the page. I'll be blunt about my own concern related to "the subject." If rhetorical reflection, as I suppose, represents a "reactivation" of invention within the act of writing, we HAVE to have some idea about what it means for a writer to "invent." Postmodernism basically castrated the subject, leaving invention outside the realm of "the subject." If I am to make my claim, I need to "rescue the subject" from these postmodern claims. However, I can't just return to a romantic version of the creative genius on a hero quest within their own psyche to grasp the ultimate boon. No.

But on to Clifford's 101 about the history of "the subject" in the 20th century. He actually spends little time setting the baseline of the "romantic subject." Here is his clearest description of this traditional view of "the subject":
For the traditional humanist, the writer has always been seen as a creative individual, the locus of signification, the originator or meaning, an autonomous being, aware of ends and means, of authorial intentions and motivations. Traditional and expressivist rhetorical theory, in fact, unproblematically assumes that the individual writer is free, beyond the contingencies of history and language, to be an authentic and unique consciousness. (Clifford 39)
These two sentences represent Clifford's summary of the autonomous self. I must admit I am guilty of holding this view of the writing subject because this description (to a degree) represents my experience as a writer. I never presumed to the god-like power of any sort of unique consciousness, but it was my consciousness and I was creating and inventing meanings authentic and unique to me (though shaped of course by outside influences) just as I am now.

Clifford goes on to recount the dismantling of this traditional humanist view of the subject. He starts by discussing the structuralist, mentioning Claude Levi-Strauss and Roland Barthes in particular. These structuralist, he says, "cast doubt on the autonomy of the freely choosing individual by positing instead a subject created or written by linguistic, sociological, and anthropological codes" (40). He goes on to state: "Writing [for the structuralist] does not directly express an individual's ideas; it transmits universal codes" (40). I'm not as well versed on Barthes and the structuralists as I ought to be, but this description reminds me of Joseph Campbell asserting in The Hero with a Thousand Faces that there is a universal code—the hero monomyth—that we find within stories from across the globe. Epics and myths express some sort of psychological (Campbell would assert with a nod to Jung's archetypes) universal experience of humanity and the human consciousness. Clifford goes on to lump Lacan with post-structuralist and neo-Marxist, but I see his work fitting more with this psychological perspective. I may not understand Lacan, but he seems essentially Freudian in his structuralist assessment of the subject:
Lacan, for example, develops a materialist theory of the speaker, or the speaking subject, where the "I" that enunciates differs from the ego that employs the "I." … The subject position one enters through language never fully reveals itself since the unconscious always displaces and condenses through linguistic masks as metaphor and metonymy." (40)
The subject is controlled by the ego and unconscious in ways it is unaware of consciously.

After this summary of the structuralist undercutting of the autonomous subject, he moves to discuss the post-structuralist "(re)vision." He mentions that post-structuralists were skeptical of the structuralists "general transhistorical systems of meaning"—i.e. any sort of universal force influencing the subject such as archetypes or the unconscious:
Meaning is thereby made situational and relational. Everything depends on the specific institution where the discourse takes place; in varying contexts the same words are radically transformed to mean one thing and then another. Poststructuralism, then, decenters writing as well as the self, seeing both not only as effect of language patterns but as the result of multiple discourses already in place, already overdetermined by historical and social meanings in constant internal struggle. (40)
With the poststructuralist, to include neo-Marxist and Deconstructionist, we have the postmodern critique of the autonomous subject. The critique seems to have three linch pins. First, that culture, ideology, and language (which contains both) determine the "subject"—what the writer thinks and says. Second, that no situation is universal and thus each situation is unique. Contingency rules and meaning or truth is dependent upon the particulars of the situation in which the meaning is expressed (dissio logio). Third, that language itself is uncertain; our filling of the gap between sign and signified is not fixed and can be undone by multiple alternatives to that equation we call meaning. Meaning itself is a fiction. He mentions Derrida, in particular, in reference to this third critique: "Derrida similarly displaces the subject from the center, for example, in his notion of difference where attempts to define linguistic signifiers create an endless postponement of presence, an endless play of signification. For Derrida, one signifier gives way to another so that meaning is always relational, always changing" (40). Any meaning, any assertion of "presence" can be countered with another meaning which language allows. Clifford gives shortshrift to the first critique about the power of culture and ideology to determine the meanings found and expressed by the subject with a nod to Foucault and not a mention at all of Bakhtin. He sums of the result of the poststructuralist, postmodern destruction of the humanist subject with this statement: "As a result, the independent and private consciousness formerly endowed with plentitude and presence, with a timeless and transcultural essence, becomes in postmodern thought a decentered subject constantly being called on to inhabit overdetermined positions, the implications of which can be only dimly grasped by a consciousness written by multiple, shifting codes" (40-41). The strawman view of this debate has on one side the subject who "creates" from a private agency within and the subject who is "created" by outside forces determining from the outside. Postmodernism would place greater agency on those forces from outside that determine the subject. Is it any wonder, then, with this postmodern perspective that invention became a dormant concern in composition/rhetoric? Invention became a na├»ve impossibility, supplanted by a heroic struggle against the ideologies that would oppress and determine the writer—perhaps a losing battle or an idealistic crusade for "justice."

The post-postmodern correction to this stripping of the subject's agency is to return some control to the writer, to acknowledge that in the face of these multiple outside influences the writer still shapes and forms their meaning in ways determined (to a degree) by themselves. Helen Foster's conception of "networked subjectivity" as well as Anis Bawarshi's conception of genre's interaction with the subject present alternative, broader views of the writer who writes and is written. Each presents "invention" as a form of negotiation that must be accomplished by the writer as he or she writes; where the writer has some power in this negotiation process. Thus, we have the reawakening of invention in writing studies.

To do Clifford justice, he doesn't fall into a narrow postmodern position that agency for the writer completely is determined from the outside, though he seems thoroughly neo-Marxist in his distrust of ideology's oppressive influence and the need for the writer to resist this oppression. He's all about ideology and hegemony and power. He bases the largest part of his thinking upon Althusser and his 1971 essay "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus." He likes Althusser's position that "destigmatizes ideology as natural and inevitable" (41). So much of my experience with ideological criticism seems to present ideology as a bad thing—ew, that's ideological and thus bad implicitly. Seeing ideology as "natural" defines it as something like Burke's notion of the "terministic screen." It is an agreed upon perspective that through its terms, understandings, and conventions shapes a world view and beliefs. By its nature it includes as it excludes, allows as it disallows, names as it leaves unnamed. An ideology is a construct, socially negotiated and socially maintained. Quoting Althusser, Clifford says, "ideology represents 'the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence'" (42). OK, call it imaginary, but it still shapes how we see the world and interact within it, which means it is another word for reality.

Now to what seems so dated about Clifford's ideological critique of composition/rhetoric. I can't deny the validity of his criticism of composition teaching practices that he attacks, but I hear his critiques with a different ear that isn't so full of the terministic screen of ideological criticism. Instead, I have been influenced by Anis Bawarshi's Genre & The Invention of the Writer and her equation of structures with genre's. Bawarshi expands our understanding of genres from simple forms and even from recurring situations that generate these forms to genre as an ontologically and epistemologically shaping structure. Genre's are expressions of ideology; ideology is in kind of genre—a shaped structure that shapes. Thus, Clifford's critique of the writing subject in so much of composition/rhetoric could be really reduced to a criticism of the genre of writing held dear by so many writing teachers. This quote from Clifford sounds so much like Bawarshi to me in the sense that form equals genre and the nature of genre to shape writers: "But form is also an attitude toward reality; it is rhetorical power, a way to shape experience, and as such it constructs subjects" (43). Genre invents the writer. Clifford blasts the traditional academic essay for the "attitude toward reality" that it "fictionalizes": "it constructs subjects who assume that knowledge can be demonstrated merely by asserting a strong thesis and supporting it with three concrete points. But rarely is truth the issue. Writing subjects learn that the panoply of discourse conventions are, in fact, the sin qua non, that adherence to ritual is the real ideological drama being enacted" (43). Clifford's critique of form and ritual here seems analogous to blasting an ideology for being an ideology. Granted, he blasts the five paragraph essay for an illusion of establishing truth, but what in fact is the genre supposed to do and be within its context. It is, after all, a teaching-genre, a school-based form of writing intended to accomplish particular goals within the particular context of the school classroom. As such, it has its own validity despite its weaknesses from a larger discourse and epistemological viewpoint.

The way out is not necessarily to blast the academic essay with all its rules, conventions and rituals. As teachers of students writing within an academic context, we need to equip our students with proficiency in this kind of writing (Bartholomae would agree). But we also need to equip our students with an expanded awareness of this kind of writing as a genre. We need to equip our students with a knowledge of how genres function and how students need to interrogate a writing task in terms of genre—whatever that writing task might be. Clifford seems to arrive at this same position, but he expresses it in ideological terms. He talks about "raising their consciousness about the ideological dimensions of rhetoric" and "helping student to read and write and think in ways that both resist domination and exploitation and encourage self-consciousness about who they are and can be in the social world" (51). Yes. We should encourage self-consciousness that the writer is operating within a construct, a genre that generates desires and motivations that to a degree create the writer as the writer creates the genres. But no, in the sense that genres like ideologies are evil for being dominating and exploiting—every genre and every ideology can be critiqued for that fault. The challenge for the writer who writes, for the subject who writes as they are being written, is to negotiate (to invent) their position within that genre. That's what we need to teach.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Rescuing the Subject

Miller, Susan. Rescuing the Subject: A Critical Introduction to Rhetoric and the Writer. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Press, 2004. (2004 paperback 2nd edition, originally published 1989).

Susan Miller's project in this text predominantly is to refigure the rhetorical tradition to highlight the significance of writing as opposed to oratory in how we conceive this tradition and how we understand "the subject"--i.e. the writer who writes. Do we conceive of the writer and what the writer is about through the lens of a rhetorical tradition dominated by concerns and figurations of oratory, or do we see the writer through a lens of "textual rhetoric?" It seems clear to me from how she ends the text and her special focus on Mina Shaughnessy and the struggles of developmental writers that she is discussing what I might call "textual literacy." She means the cognitive and linguistic skills to read and write text on a page. By recasting the rhetorical tradition and illuminating the prominence of thinking and philosophizing about the written word all the way back to Plato, Miller is "rescuing" the writer (the subject who writes) from a tradition biased toward the spoken word. She valorizes the scholarly study of the written word as unique. Charles Bazerman seems to be the most prominent scholar in "discourse studies" who has extended Miller's project in terms of research (though I could be wrong).

I recall a comment that John Schilb made in the video Take 20 about the difficulty Composition Studies (or Writing Studies) will have in the face of our modern transformation in literacy to a "new media" literacy. In the face of multi-modal texts, he said, we will face special challenges to define the nature of and relevance of written texts. He might have just been conservative here--guarding his traditional bastion of disciplinary work--but I think he speaks from the perspective of Miller's "textual rhetoric." Schilb's comment makes me wonder if Composition really ranges within the narrow walls of "textual rhetoric" or if it should range beyond just words on the page. I think this question is one of the largest questions facing Freshman Composition classes around the country. Perhaps some innovative teachers have broadened into new media literacy in both reception (critical reading) and production (critical "writing") of new media "texts," but I would guess that the majority of "English" teachers teaching writing have not. I know I can't claim to have made this transformation (though I peck at the edges), and I certainly don't see it amongst my colleagues. These musings make me wonder if Miller's point to recover writing in the rhetorical tradition isn't to a degree moot now. The problem now is that we use textual paradigms (print-based literacy) to describe and understand the new form of new media literacy. What is "remediation" after all but this way of using one construct to formulate another construct.

I want to return to the title of Miller's work--rescuing the subject. My interest in this book was predominantly in the title. I am interested in various conceptualizations of "the subject"--the writer who writes, the thinking agent who puts words to page. For my own research focus, I will have to present my own conceptualization of "the subject" since implicit in my understanding of process and reflection is a writer who makes decisions and choices about their writing. My special affinity with cognitive views toward composition (Flower and Hayes) presumes a thinking subject with power over how they conceive their own sense of reality. I think this cognitive tradition can be too narrowly reduced to the "unified self." Flower's own expansion into the "social cognitive theory of writing" is about taking into account these "outside" influences on writers.

I must say that Miller's thoughts on this issue of "the subject" are disappointing. However, she does describe the dynamic of the modernist "unified subject" theory and the post-modernist, deconstructionist indeterminant subject who faces being "written" by culture, conventions, and language itself. Let's see if I can find a few quotes:

"In this broader space, an originating presence to a text, the forgotten writer, is more complex than the individual and imaginatively 'masculine' subject, who we conceive of as an independent, potentially totalizing, univocal source of statements. It has been a relief, not just a logical linguistic and theoretical conclusion, to proclaim the recent 'death' of that figure.

The writer who enlarges our vision of what it means specifically to explain written discourse lives ... in a complex textual world. The writer knows especially about convention, precedents, and 'anxieties of influence,' the control of already written language over both meaning and the further actual results of writing. The writer, who is admittedly a fiction whose existence is never called into play outside a theoretically conceived writing event, both originates with, and results from, a written text. ... this writer simultaneously sacrifices 'meaning' to the resistance of written language, and written language to 'meaning,' in actual, time-bound performances." (15)

"The premises for this theoretical proposal are that writing cannot now be imagined only as a 'medium' for direct communication from a singular individual, and that it is always the living embodiment of a risk whose description must vary historically, but which is always the province of a textual 'actor' taking in hand a language that in fact can only fictionalize such assertive control." (36)
"I have assumed that working out this theory of writers historically, philosophically, and in terms of definitions of rhetoric will contribute to ongoing reconceptualizations within compositions studies because I take the act of writing to be still somewhat hidden in the persistent convention that writing only 'contains' individual speech or thought. Most theorists and teachers of written composition still unquestioningly emphasize a direct connection between thought and spoken-to-written language. Many lament the difference between 'authors' and the halting textual voices of imitative ... student writing. They aim to produce 'student writers' who write and read 'for themselves,' assuming that a thesis may be 'stated' with discernible clarity, coherence, and completeness. Composition, more than any other textual study, necessarily confronts writing as discovery, as play, and as process because it faces unstable student texts that have been written by those who seem to know only their own oral culture. But common practices in the field persistently honor oppositions to discovery, play, and process: product, seriousness, and perfect communication. Even the most enlightened often relegate the instabilities of writing to 'pedagogy' while retaining in their descriptions of 'rhetoric' an ideal of assertive and stable texts.

Alternatives to these tacit assumptions and their results depend on reconceiving both student writers and the act of writing." (150)

I think the missing link, or undeveloped promise, of Miller's book is its application in the classroom. She does a lot for the scholarly study of written communication, but only holds out a changed premise for writing teachers. It is up to the writing teacher to see where this new premise--the reconception of student writers and the act of writing--will take their pedagogy. From the quote above, it appears she offers a solidly "process" pedagogy as an alternative to current-traditional pedagogy by opposing process vs. product, play vs. seriousness, and discovery vs. perfect communication (if this last pair fit). From my perspective in 2008, I find this a disappointing way to reduce her thoughts on teaching. It is her enhances sensitivity to what is involved in the act of writing, her presentation of an expanded picture of the writer and writing with a long tradition behind it, that makes her book important. I keep coming back to Foster's "networked subjectivity," and I think that Miller would probably like Foster's notions of the writer.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Electronic Writing Workshop and the e-Rhetorical Forum

I talked previously about the importance of choice for student writing in our classrooms. I want to discuss now the difference that using technology can make for conducting our "writing workshop" where students write on topics of their choice. I have taught in a teaching context where students shared and responded to each other over electronic networks for over fifteen years, and in that time I've noticed some important differences from what we might call a "traditional" classroom learning environment (i.e. non-mediated).

The first set of differences is merely a matter of mechanics. An electronic network makes a writing workshop work so much better. Student writing posted to an online setting is instantly available to everyone in the class. When doing peer response, there is no need to make multiple copies for the whole group to read, nor is there the need for turn-taking in the act of peer response. Multiple readers can be responding to the same text concurrently. Lastly, the electronic writing workshop explodes the walls of the classroom so that students can access and respond to this writing outside of class.

The next difference in the Electronic writing workshop is really in degree not kind. One of the strengths we know of writing workshop is the peer and collaborative nature of the classroom ecology. Students don't just feed all their writing to the teacher but share their writing with their peer or response group. This peer influence is crucial to the difference writing workshop makes for student writers. The electronic writing workshop heightens this peer and collaborative influence significantly. I believe sharing and responding to writing within an e-Rhetorical forum--a recurring place for posting and sharing writing--positions student into a unique dual role I call the "role of the spectator-participant." My meaning, however, does not imply the objective distance that term implies from ethnographic methodology. Within a learning context where students are posting and responding to each others writing over an online network, the students posting writing are all participants; however, at the same time they are spectators because they are reading and watching the posts of their peers. Each role has what we might consider a symbiotic relationship to the other role. The knowledge that one's writing will be going in front of the entire class influence our participation; likewise, since we are observing the performance of others we see things that influence what we decide to do when it is our turn to perform and put our writing in front of the group.

I have defined six key influences that this role of the spectator-participant has on student writings within an electronic writing workshop:

Peer Influence/Membership: Students experience a sense of common identity and common activity. Within this group they look to each other for support, ideas, and examples. The sense of membership fosters an interest for the spectator in the activities of the other members and stimulates the participant into more engaged participation in the group.

Audience: Because students know that their writing sent to the group in the network will be read by the others in the group and that their writing will be compared to the writing of their peers, students experience a greater sense of audience. Although participants don’t have a uniform reaction to this awareness of audience, many student/participants experience a feeling of engagement, an openness and comfort to try more things with their writing, and a pressure to make their writing better and fit more into the “normal discourse” of the group.

Multiplicity: One of the chief experiences for the spectator is a sense of multiplicity. They are exposed through the network to many viewpoints and ideas. Through the exposure to different ideas and perspectives (the “other”), students are given an expanded base of information and they experience a sense of displacement from their original viewpoint.

Comparability: Multiplicity stimulates an experience of comparability for the spectator. The students compare their writing to the writing of their peers and they compare the writing of their peers to each other.

Orientation/Perspective/Normalizing: What the spectator experiences and then the participant attempts to incorporate into their participation is a sense of orientation or perspective. If multiplicity exposes the spectator to new ideas, comparability and evaluation of that multiplicity help to form a new sense of where they fit in to the larger discourse of the group.

Disembodiment/Virtual Time/Objectivity: The computer interface makes the sharing and responding to texts different. Because the spectator-participant reads and shares writing through the computer (disembodied and in virtual time), participants experience distance from the person they are responding to, free from the social dynamics of face-to-face communication. For spectators and participants, the computer interface also can lead to more deliberative communication.

Students placed into the learning context of the electronic writing workshop are placed into a different position, a different dynamic than the traditional classroom writing workshop that influences their learning and engagement in the writing classroom. I'd like to say this context is qualitatively better, but I can't. I energy of a face-to-face writing group is very powerful, so I think we need to take a critical look at the electronic writing workshop to see the gains and losses. My belief is that the electronic writing workshop is broader and potentially deeper, but not necessarily so (just as the traditional writing workshop is no guarantee). The greatest loss is the body--the voice and flesh of face-to-face interaction. The impact of this loss should not be slighted; however, there are gains in the online setting, especially regarding multiplicity and comparability.

"as participants we APPLY our value systems, but as spectators we GENERATE and REFINE the system itself." --James Britton, "Spectator Role and the Beginnings of Writing"

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Choice and Writing Instruction

Who likes to be told what to do? Who likes to have little or no choice in what we do? No one, of course. What did William Blake say? Why is it that everyone is born free but everywhere in chains.

Choice has the connotation of "freedom" while the lack of choice gets lumped into slavery or oppression. I don't think this dichotomy fully gets to the matter of choice. If we once admit that by definition and by nature we live within structures (variously called ideologies, genres, terministic screens, conventions, traditions), then we can see that choice in an ultimate sense is a fiction. Our choice to a degree is always circumscribed by limits we may not be aware of. Yet, we have choice. Choice exists, even if it is only a choice between this and that.

As I examine the subject of choice in writing, I believe it is essential to make choice a substantial option available for writing students. Perhaps it is a strawman argument, but many teachers offer little or no choice to their students just as teachers often limit the kinds of audiences and purposes for which students write (i.e. only to them and only to be graded). See Elbow's Map of Writing:
Thinking in parallel to Elbow's assertion that writers need to write all across this map of different locations related to audience and response, I came up with what I refer to as the Continuum of Choice and Writing

----- Student choice of subject, form and purpose
----- Student choice of subject and purpose;
Teacher choice of form
----- Student choice of subject;
Teacher choice of form and purpose
---- Teacher choice of subject, form, and purpose

I know that I tend to reside in the middle with my writing assignments. I may choose the form and the purpose, but let students find their own topic to write about. Or perhaps I come up with the form (say the Illustrative Essay) but let students determine their own subject and the purpose for why they are writing. What would it be like to let students entirely choose their own subject, form, and purpose? I don't know. I know it would have me think more deeply about the ultimate goals of what I wanted to teach (probably in a positive way).

Fletcher and Portalupi in the 2001 Writing Workshop: The Essential Guide say this about the importance of choice in writing (which is how writing workshop operates in its orthodox form):

“Why is choice so important? ...while teachers may determine what gets taught, only students can determine what will be learned. This is true for learners of any age. We learn best when we have a reason that propels us to want to learn. When students have an authentic purpose for their writing—whether to document an important event in their lives, get classmates to laugh, or communicate a message that matters—they pay attention differently to instruction. Our students know best which topics and purposes for writing matter most to each of them. Letting them choose their own topics and set their own purposes makes it a lot more likely they'll be engaged and receptive.”

I think the key here is when students take ownership themselves of their learning. This is often a rare phenomenon in a school setting, so to find a way to broaden and deepen this kind of learning I think is fabulous. Isn't that what we want? But is this self-sponsored learning what students want or are ready for? This question reminds me of Sheridan Blau's notion of "interpretive dependency" where students come to lean of the teacher to interpret for them and give them the answer. The same holds true for writing instruction and what we might call "productive dependency." Students depend upon their teachers to do the writing for them, to fix it to make decisions about what makes the writing good or bad.

Choice then puts a responsibility on the student's shoulders. It makes them responsible for their own decisions and work. The teacher, then, has the tough job of supporting this growing responsibility without squashing it with criticism. All of this thinking on choice in writing is pushing me toward incorporating it into my curriculum in a more radical way.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Genre and the Invention of the Writer

Bawarshi, Anis. Genre and the Invention of the Writer. Logan: Utah State Press, 2003.

It has been my contention that when writer's reflect between drafts that the predominant thing that they do is “negotiate their rhetorical stance.”  Bawarshi's book is a significant support for this theory. She looks to Richard Young, Alton Becker and Kenneth Pike's assertion in Rhetoric: Discovery and Change (1970) that “invention involves a process of orientation rather than origination” (6). For Bawarshi, genre's represent one of the most (if not the most) important factors writers consider as they examine a rhetorical situation and write. 

Bawarshi's book reads as if it had been a dissertation. It has a beautiful laser-like focus on an idea that gets repeated over and over again as that idea is considered in multiple ways. To her credit and to the credit of her main idea, she never gets old or uninteresting in her discussion of this idea.  Her basic assertion is this: “Writers invent within genres and are themselves invented by genres” (7). But what is a genre, in her view?  She builds from Carolyn Miller's notion that genre's are not predominantly forms but are typified rhetorical ways of acting in recurring situations.  Bawarshi would give a large degree of agency to genre's themselves.  She looks to Pierre Bourdieu's notion of “habitus” as a parallel definition for genre's.  “Habitus” for Bourdieu are “structured structures predisposed to function as structuring structures” (qtd. in Bawarshi 8). As such, genre's function as a kind of “topoi” plus: “Like habitus, genre both organizes and generates the conditions of social and rhetorical production” (8). It isn't that genre's structure and to a degree determine rhetorical action alone; genre's also have an epistemological or ideological component. Using the notion of the “rhetorical ecosystem,” Bawarshi argues that “genre's maintain rhetorical conditions that sustain certain ... ways of discursively and materially organizing, knowing, experiencing, acting, and relating in the world.”  Bawarshi interestingly moves in the same direction as Louise Cowans in her essay “Epic as Cosmopoesis”  
( where Cowan asserts that genres present an ontological position, a kind of way of being that each form of literature presents to the reader. We recognize a genre, she says, not so much by its form, but by this ontological position.  Bawarshi's point is that genres are “discursive and ideological conditions that writer's have to position themselves within and interpret in order to write” (170).  As ideological structures they generate a particular knowledge, world view, motive to act or desire, as well as particular kind of articulation: “Genres are places of articulation. They are ideological configurations that are realized in their articulation, as they are used by writers (and readers). Genres also place writers in positions of articulation” (9). Cutting to the chase, we can use Bawarshi's own ending to summarize her main thesis: “By encouraging student writer's to recognize beginnings as genred positions of articulation, and by teaching students how to inquire into these positions, we enable them to locate themselves more critically and effectively as writers within those beginnings” (170).  What a beautiful quote! I would agree with everything she says here.

Let me add to her thinking my own thoughts related to reflection. If invention is a form of orienting and positioning (as well as being oriented and positioned by the genre), we would both agree that this dialectic process of invention doesn't just happen within pre-writing but is an on-going dynamic that occurs throughout the activity of writing.  As teachers, then, how do we “teach students how to inquire into these positions” and “enable them to locate themselves more critically and effectively as writers” within these genres? Of course, we would do multiple things like the heuristic exploring of a genre that she includes at the end of the book. We would model a critical examination of a genre. We would make considerations of genre part of the language of our course. In peer response we would ask students to consider notions related to genre in students' examination of each others' writing.  But if this orienting and locating is as she repeatedly discusses, a form of negotiation (similar to Flower's construction of negotiated meaning), then where and when does this negotiating happen.  Bawarshi answers this question, in part, herself: “The rhetorical art of adaptation or repositioning should become central to our teaching of writing, especially our teaching of invention, which would then become the art of analyzing genres and positioning oneself within them” (156). By highlighting adapting and repositioning” as the essence of the rhetorical art (finding the available means, but more), she is touching on the ancient notion of to prepon, appropriateness, as well as decorum.  

But where and how to we encourage this “adaptation and repositioning?”  Surely all this positioning doesn't just happen at the beginning of writing, but must be encouraged throughout the activity of writing. It is my belief that reflection is one powerful way that teachers in a structured and prompted way can encourage students (novice) writers to “adapt and reposition”--to invent their rhetorical practice as they negotiate their rhetorical stance.  Where we as teachers can help these student writer's become more adept at this negotiation and positioning until it becomes a tacit skill in their own rhetorical practice. Where Bawarshi and I might diverge is the degree to which she considers that genre dominates this rhetorical stance. Perhaps she is right, but I think the writer is also negotiating a whole host of complex considerations that might fall outside the world of genre including the task, their self-image, their knowledge, their audience, the text they have on the page vs what they intend. Bawarshi argues for a BIG GENRE (like Big Rhetoric) such that everything folds into the world of genre—everything is a genre—so from her perspective she may be right.  

Below will follow a number of snippets or jewels from her text.  

“I am interested in the synchronic relationship between genres and writers, especially the ways this relationship gets enacted during the scene of invention, where genre knowledge becomes a form of what Berkenkotter and Huckin call 'situated cognition'” (10). 

“Genres themselves take place within what Bakhtin calls larger 'spheres of culture' (1986), what Freadman calls 'ceremonials' (1988), and what Russell, borrowing from activity theory, calls 'activity systems' (1997). Within these larger spheres of language and activity, writers negotiate multiple, sometimes conflicting genres, relations, and subjectivities” (11). 

“We cannot, I argue, full understand or answer the question 'what do writers do when they write?' without understanding and answering the question 'what happens to writers when they write?'” (13).
production of the text – production of the writer

A Burkian definition of genre: “Genres are discursive sites that coordinate the acquisition and production of motives by maintaining specific relations between scene, act, agent, agency, and purpose” (17). 

“genres are not only typified rhetorical responses to recurrent situations; they also help shape and maintain the ways we rhetorically know and act within these situations. In other words, as individuals' rhetorical responses to recurrent situations become typified as genres, the genres in turn help structure the way individuals conceptualize and experience these situations, predicting their notions of what constitutes appropriate and possible responses and actions. That is why genres are both functional and epistemological—they help us function within particular situations at the same time as they help shape the way we come to know and organize these situations. ... To argue that genres help reproduce the very recurring situations to which they respond (Devitt 1993) is to identify them as constitutive rather than as merely regulative” (24).

“It is the genred positions, commitments, and relations that writers assume, enact, and sometimes resist within certain situations that most interest me. In particular, I am interested in the way these positions, commitments, and relations inform the choices writers make during the scene of invention” (45)
---and I would add “during the scene of reflection”

“We can learn a great deal about how and why writers invent by analyzing how writers get positioned within genred sites of action” (48).

“By focusing mainly on the writer as the agent of his or her cognitive processes, the writing process movement has provided only a partial view of invention. While the writer is certainly an agent of writing, to locate him or her as the prime agent of writing is to ignore the agency that is already at work on the writer as he or she makes decisions, shapes meaning, and reformulates it” (68).

“Following Ernst Cassirer, LeFevre argues that language does not mirror or copy an external reality; it helps constitute that reality” (70).
“Le Fevre calls for a continued inquiry into 'the ecology of invention--the ways ideas arise and are nurtured or hindered by interactions with social context and culture'” (71).

“it is perhaps more accurate to say that invention does not so much begin in the writer or even in some abstract social collective as it begins when a writer locates himself or herself within the discursive and ideological formation of a genre and its system of related genres” (72). 

“Each textual instantiation of a genre is a result of a unique negotiation between the agency of a writer and the agency of a genre's conditions of production. ... It is within the discursive and ideological space of genre—which I will later describe as the intersection between a writer's intentions and the genre's social motives—where agency resides” (79).

“Every time a writer writes within a genre, he or she in effect acquires, interprets, and to some extent transforms the desires that motivate it. As such, every articulation necessarily involves an interpretation” (91).

This quote about says it all:
“invention does not involve an introspective turn so much as it involves the process by which individuals locate themselves within and devise ways of rhetorically acting in various situations. In this way, invention is a process that is inseparable from genre since genre coordinates both how individuals recognize a situation as requiring certain actions and how they rhetorically act within it. Genres, thus, are localized, textured sites of invention, the situated topoi in which communicants locate themselves conceptually before and rhetorically as they communicate” (114).

“The primary goal of such a FYW course would be to teach students how to locate themselves and their activities meaningfully and critically within these genred positions of articulation. ...It is in the ability to teach students how to locate and invent themselves rhetorically within various sites of action (a rhetorical, metacognitive literacy)--an ability to heighten awareness of disciplinarity and rhetoric—that the future of FYW is most promising and justified” (154).