5365: Working Toward a Paper (Deux)

(Pardon my partially-fragmented syntax; I’ll refine and revise this)

The ubiquity/popularity of writing technology influences stylistic values; a key (false) value is  “naturalness,” as this stylistic value has a great deal to do with which texts we accept as valuable (or “appropriate”). The complaint is always “Johnny can’t write sentences/essays/anything.” One part of this  call is our own use of “natural” as a value judgment, because ubiquitous writing  technologies change; what’s natural in one context is unnatural in another.

I need to carefully define natural, establishing it as an oft-cited stylistic value (in one version or another).  Textual styles, such as a voiced style, are never natural, are always technological, because tech influences language, writing, style.   It can have the appearance of naturalness (which means we judge it through the glass, darkly, of our ‘natural’ context), but it can never have anything more than that.  (Wahoo, Plato.)

Context: In the writing classroom, the FYC classroom, where style is unevenly taught; sometimes taught solely from the perspective of C-B-S humanism (maybe some C-B-S empiricism).  Why do we do so? It’s our “natural” style (the style that forgets it’s A style).  What, then is the source of the FYC teacher’s struggle with teaching style? (That is, beyond grammatical/syntactical/terminological frustration and student accusations of drudgery.)

  • With the “natural” textual situation (txt, social networking, etc) our students bring with them.  (Which has wrought real, but not doomsdayesque stylistic changes–point to Lunsford &Lunsford’s error study, for example).  How does the limited, discrete population of “Digital Natives” and the rhetoric abounding around this group play into understanding this version of “natural”?
  • Or we struggle with our own cognitive dissonance wrought of a recognition that a) many of our students will write in situations with different style values than our own, or b) that there is no one ‘natural.’

Okay, so what? Stylistic Relativism? or System-Cognizant Graff-esque Formulae?  (See also Wilder & Wolfe re: genre conventions)

A contextual, technological definition of style is important. Can help us make a decision about style values.  Can bring both openness to real change and wariness of the impulse to commodify.

I think having the question to fiddle around with will be fruitful, pointing towards the importance of studying, describing, and defining style or elements of style in different, specific contexts (such as Dilger does, in his recent C&C article).  I’ll need to make the point that there’s little out there (that i’ve seen thus far) that really talks about elements of style beyond problematic CBS treatments and Style Guide X.  (I think that Butler, in Out of Style, argues the same thing, but for a different purpose: that style is absent in the field’s theoretical conversations.)


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