research and writing III: engagement

Monday, December 22nd, 2003

I could generalize that most people dont know what light is. They know it as illumination, brightness, awareness, but its physical nature is a mystery. Its that thing that comes out of a light bulb. Is it matter? Is light shot out of the eye? Is it a beam of corpuscles? What did al-Hasan have to say about this? Who figured the speed of light and how was it figured? Whats Snells Law?

I want people to understand the research process (I want to understand it better as I develop essays on memory and other things) in a composition sequence, whether the course runs through the modesdescription, narration cause and effect, for exampleor a combination of modes, argumentation, with some amount of rhetorical approach. But theres also another issue: communicating findings in an elastic, flexible manner that makes sense and establishes authority for the writer. Authority: this writer knows what theyre talking about; they know how to get ideas across to a reader. Its one thing to know about light, its another thing to explain and interpret al-Hasan, to summarize an article from a periodical, to avoid plagiarism, to synthesize what others say in ones own work, to write cogently about a subject. Writers are surrounded by texts; they need to be engaged with them.

In a way people who are connected to institutional learning must be information managers, however one wants to define information, and they have to learn to distinguish between the different ways that sources can be used and when to use them effectively. They have to be able also to handle their own ideas and to keep control over them using alphabetical trowels. But how? In what form? Then why that form (this, in my mind, is a question of media)? I could simply claim that people will use the methods of the Modern Language Association and leave it at that. I could expect people to learn about Snells Law and to express what theyve found.

The question is why. Is it all about textual engagement? Is my mind a text?


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