Teaching Reflections

The Essence of Writing

Writing Speaks

The concept that writing is speaking to situations through recognizable forms is most definitely a multi-faceted concept. As a society, we can only learn and understand information within the limits of language through human communication. Think about that for just a second. Our minds have the ability to dream so much, to analyze, and to understand multi-dimensional structures. We also have the capability of feeling emotions such as love and sadness, as well as other sensory notions that are innately human. But, to express what we are thinking or feeling with someone else requires language; a means of sharing and expressing knowledge with others.

Charles Bazerman, an American university educator, has explained this connection between writing and communication, “Through long practical experience we learn to recognize spontaneously what appears to be going on around us and how it affects us … conscious thought is warranted only if we have reason to believe things are not as they appear to be, if confusions arise within the situation, or if we want to suppress our first impulse and pursue a less obvious strategic path — laughing to appear congenial though we find the joke offensive” (35). In other words, communication is so ingrained in human nature that often times we don’t need to think or analyze our actions in response to verbal cues. However, as our instincts detect a disconnection between what our brain is thinking as our ears are hearing, we then begin to consciously decide our verbal response.

Going further, Bazerman states, “With writing, the need for understanding the rhetorical situation is even greater than in speaking because there are fewer material clues with which to locate ourselves spontaneously” (36). One way the reader can garner these clues that Bazerman references are through the use of genres. Explaining his stance on genres, Bazerman stipulates, “It is through genre that we recognize the kinds of messages a document may contain, the kind of situation it is part of and it might migrate to, the kinds of roles and relations of writers and readers, and the kinds of actions realized in the document.” In layman’s terms, genres could be considered stereotypes to some degree. Through years of communication and experience, readers begin to expect certain formats and criteria found within different types of genre literature. For example, one would expect to find historical facts within the pages of an academic college history textbook and therefore, would be able to process the information within this context. For more information regarding genres, read here.

Another American university educator, Bill Hart-Davidson, further clarifies the concept of genres stating, “ … Genres are habitual responses to recurring socially bounded situations … genre is not something an individual writer does, but rather is the result of a series of socially mediated actions that accumulate over time, genres are only relatively stable” (40). As writers compose literary works, they often adhere to these recognized social constructs as a means of communicating with readers. Over time, slight changes are inevitable, but throughout literary history, many of the classic frameworks still have a prominent place in academic discourse communities.

Mometrix Academy has produced an informative video describing the various literary genres of today; pay special attention to how many of these written works were originally meant to be sung or performed, not just read.

Personally, I find this video to be extremely instructional in regards to the specific types of literary genres found in our culture, and upon viewing, I was able to understand Andrea A. Lunsford’s perspective that, “ … writing is performative … ” (43).

Building upon the concept that writing is a performative act, Lunsford suggests that the performance of writing can go so far as to elicit “spontaneous donations” (44). As I think about the heart-felt stories that have been shared and read on social media sites in forms of Go Fund Me accounts or Caringbridge updates, I begin to truly comprehend the performance dynamics that writing may invoke. I, myself, have made instantaneous monetary donations based upon emotional reactions to various types of written prose. Therefore, I must conclude and as Bazerman mentions, writing most definitely represents the world, events, ideas, and feelings (37), lending to my conclusion that writing is a complex and layered tool of communication.

Works Cited

Altmann, Gerd. Pixabay. 2019, pixabay.com/illustrations/face-faces-dialogue-talk-psyche-3189811/

Bazerman, Charles. “Writing Speaks to Situations Through Recognizable Forms.” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, Classroom Edition, edited by Adler-Kassner, Linda and Elizabeth Wardle, Utah State University Press, 2016, pp. 35-37.

Caring Bridge. CaringBridge, 2019, www.caringbridge.org/. Accessed 9 Sept. 2019.

Charles Bazerman: The Gevirtz School of Education. The Regents of the University of California, 2014, bazerman.education.ucsb.edu/. Accessed 9 Sept. 2019.

GoFundMe. GoFundMe, 2010-2019, www.gofundme.com/. Accessed 9 Sept. 2019.

Hart-Davidson, Bill. “Genres are Enacted by Writers and Readers.” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, Classroom Edition, edited by Adler-Kassner, Linda and Elizabeth Wardle, Utah State University Press, 2016, pp. 40.

Literary Devices: Definition and Examples of Literary Terms. Literary Devices, 2019, literarydevices.net/genre/. Accessed 9 Sept. 2019.

Lunsford, Andrea A. “Writing is Performative.” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, Classroom Edition, edited by Adler-Kassner, Linda and Elizabeth Wardle, Utah State University Press, 2016, pp. 43-44.

Mometrix Academy. “Types of Literary Genre.” YouTube, uploaded 21 May 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxbDGyLZttA.

William Hart-Davidson: Associate Professor, Associate Dean of Graduate Education (College of Arts and Letters). Michigan State University, wrac.msu.edu/people/faculty/william-hart-davidson/. Accessed 9 Sept. 2019.


  • Nikki


    When you mentioned not thinking about our automatic responses to verbal cues, I have embarrassing flashbacks to laughing at bad TV shows, etc., because of some verbal cue telling me to. I wonder though, if it might be fun to really nail down what those cues are, and then to play with them in the form of a script, perhaps to make people more aware of their reactions.

  • Danny Madore


    Your take on writing as a performative act really helped me understand this concept better. It certainly is strange to consider that writers go in to writing a piece with that performative aspect in mind, whether they realize it or not. I think a lot of students write as a performative act in lower level English classes. Students may write in a way that they think will please their teacher and garner a high grade. Unfortunately, this leads to uninspired writing that only has the goal of performing in a certain way that they think their professor will like.

  • Miro Jefferis-Nendick


    I was struck by Lunsford’s piece as well. I hadn’t really thought about Kickstarters or Go Fund Mes as being performative, but I suppose that’s exactly what they are. And I don’t know if that makes me trust them more or less haha. I guess they have to be performative otherwise they wouldn’t get the funds that they needed. Now I’m thinking about all the other ways that people or companies use that kind of language … uh oh.

    The genres topic also peaked my interest. I always am so fascinated by genres. Why do we gravitate towards certain ones? Why do people end up writing them “perfectly” even when they’ve never read anything from that genre? It’s like genres are built into our DNA. It’s kind of spooky, but also really cool!