Wednesday, September 5, "Inventing the University" Summary David Bartholomae writes about different conflicts students face while writing. One of the most important points he wants to get across to the reader is how students have to invent the university. In the same process of learning how to write he also has to learn how to speak the language that expert writers use. This new language and vocabulary is not going to be the same you use when you speak to your family or friends. Common places are a reference point which helps and guide us to know the type of language or vocabulary we need to use in every specific situation. These situations could go from writing an essay in english class to writing an email to your best friend.

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This post is about his most cited work, "Inventing the University. But we well know that in its distribution, in what it permits and in what it prevents, it follows the well-trodden battle-lines of social conflict. Every educational system is a political means of maintaining or of modifying the appropriation of discourse, with the knowledge and the powers it carries with it. As far as I can tell this is creating a kind of warrant between the reader and Bartholomae: what and how we teach is governed by our politics or those above us and is used to control how people talk.

I believe he claims here also that how people talk controls how they think a Burkean idea of terministic screens , which I find suspect. Too, there is in quoting Foucault a kind of endorsement of cultural Marxism, the idea that everything is about power and dominance, and that "merit" is a word the powerful use to mean "like me. When Bartholomae says "inventing the university," he means that students must understand their professors as their audience.

The language of the discourse community with all its jargon and bafflegab. They are pretending to be experts in the field they are writing in. Bartholomae explains on page 6: It is very hard for them to take on the role-the voice, the person-of an authority whose authority is rooted in scholarship, analysis, or research.

They slip, then, into the more immediately available and realizable voice of authority, the voice of a teacher giving a lesson or the voice of a parent lecturing at the dinner table. They offer advice or homilies rather than "academic" conclusions. As an aside, Bartholomae implicitly claims here that academic scholarship is rooted in "analysis or research," and I find that "or" to be slightly too intentional.

They must, that is, see themselves within a privileged discourse, one that already includes and excludes groups of readers. They must be either equal to or more powerful than those they would address.

The writing, then, must somehow transform the political and social relationships between basic writing students and their teachers. And here we have the reason the Foucault led us off. The argument here is that successful composition is not a matter of skill, practice, or knowledge of anything real, but rather it is an expression of power.

The parenthetical here is ironically louder than it would be outside those marks. Is this article by Bartholomae famous for only arbitrary reasons? Still, to reduce all competence to something arbitrary is the most naive kind of post-modernism.

I would agree with Bartholomae if he were to claim that the utterances of his students were equally as meaningful as his in the sense that they are the expression of human minds and, because of incalculable value of human consciousness, things to be respected and treasured.

But to claim that the difference between two pieces of writing is arbitrary is so obviously false that no students would take him seriously were he to claim it. Despite our fundamental disagreement on the ways of valuing writing and seeing the world, the pedagogical path that Bartholomae lays out is, I think, a good one.

Break down what makes academic discourse academic discourse, then have students adopt the identity of someone who can write that way.

Adjust their failures slowly and consistently until they arrive at a better academic mask. Teachers, as a result, could be more precise and helpful when they ask students to "think," "argue," "describe," or "define. If we look at their writing, and if we look at it in the context of other student writing, we can better see the points of discord when students try to write their way into the university I believe this sounds like a good idea, but it also seems slightly prescriptive.

What are we to do of the mechanical attention to detail within a given discourse community? Following this, he gives three examples of student writing. The first is a jazz piece unsuccessful , the second a football piece okay but not great , and the third is a piece on composing music very successful. Bartholomae explains how identity and access to discursive practices are the primary issue. His analysis of the student text is impressive. I mean that completely seriously. You should read it pages But I believe there is a simpler way to differentiate between these three pieces, something the unsuccessful ones do less and the successful one does more: connect ideas.

The sentences in the third piece move from the known to the unknown, then take the now-made-known and use it as the foundation for the next sentence. When we read this piece, it constructs something for us, it builds meaning like so many bricks laid together just so. Of course, my reading of these essays posits an absolute value in a certain type of structure, which basically makes me a fascist.

For all our points of disagreement, though, we agree on this extremely important point In fact, one of the problems with curricula designed to aid basic writers is that they too often 17 begin with the assumption that the key distinguishing feature of a basic writer is the presence of sentence level error. Students are placed in courses because their placement essays show a high frequency of such errors and those courses are designed with the goal of making those errors go away.

This approach to the problems of the basic writer ignores the degree to which error is not a constant feature but a marker in the development of a writer I am of the opinion that the nepenthe for sentence level errors is reading in heavy doses. Sentence level errors do not a basic writer make. And for all my complaints about the Foucaultian warrant, perhaps there is something to the idea of identity and authority playing a role in composing.


Bartholomae’s “Inventing the University”

They cannot sit through lectures and read textbooks and, as a consequence, write as sociologists or write literary criticism. There must be steps along the way. Some of these steps will be marked by drafts and revisions. Some will be marked by courses, and in an ideal curriculum the preliminary courses would be writing courses, whether housed in an English department or not.


David Bartholomae

In order to "invent the University," students have to assemble and mimick the language of the specific discourse community that they want to join. Bartholomae emphasizes with the fact that it is often difficult for students to take on authoratative roles in their papers because they may not feel like they are qualified to do so. After all, reading a few books does not give someone the confidence of an expert. Bartholomae is very clear when he says that students do not have to be experts, they just have to act like experts. By engaging in this facade, writing students will finally be allowed to immerse themselves in the a new discourse community.


That is what Bartholomae means by "inventing the university," "learn to speak our language," and "carry off the bluff". An example that he used to prove his point was the essay of a college freshman. The reason why Bartholomae used the essay as an example was because it clearly shows the reader what he is trying to get out to them. If Bartholomae did not state that the writer of the essay was a freshman, then I would have believed that it has been written by someone of a higher status. Something that Bartholomae mentions are commonplaces, which are thoughts that are self-explanatory.

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