UPCOMING CONFERENCE TALK: Facilitating the Art of Becoming-Scholar: Graduate Writing Support Within and Against Positivist Consensus
At the upcoming International Writing Centers Association conference in October, I will explore graduate writing centers’ potential to enable graduate students to both thrive within and innovate beyond the codes and conventions of their disciplines. Here’s the abstract:
In a graduate student’s development as a scholar and research writer, the push-and-pull between imitation and originality takes on particular urgency: how should one balance the need to demonstrate mastery and disciplinary fluency with the exigency of making an original research contribution that pushes a field forward, past its limitations? From a writing support standpoint, then, how should graduate writing consultants engage with this duality? As graduate research writers navigate methodological and epistemological tensions with their disciplines, what modes of writing support can attend responsibly both to the artisanal reproduction of disciplinary norms and codes and to the artistic rupture of that disciplinary stasis? Given the dominance of positivist epistemologies within the neoliberal academy, what is the role of a graduate writing center in enabling graduate students to put pressure on disciplinary ways of knowing and doing? Can a graduate writing center be a force for epistemic pluralism and against epistemic closure, while also supporting students in moving legibly within and around the confines of disciplinary codes? Should it?
Disciplines discipline, and given the centrality of disciplinary writing to graduate writing support, there is a particularly acute need for graduate writing consultants to avoid subordinating a writer’s vision to the discipline and its conventions. Theories of genres/fields/disciplines as communities of knowledge-building practice must reckon with the exclusionary force of these structures; graduate writing consultants must ask what a developing research writer can do, besides merely acclimate and assimilate, to develop autonomy and authority within disciplinary spaces. This presentation will explore these questions within the context of a graduate student’s becoming-scholar, situating the artisan/artist bind at the heart of graduate students’ development as writers and thinkers, and thus at the heart of the task of graduate writing support. In particular, I will ask what the theory and practice of graduate writing support stands to learn from a) non-STEM/non-positivist ways of knowing and doing and b) literary/critical-theoretical accounts of textuality as more than merely truth content, reportage, or persuasion.