About this course
See the course outline [Cecil Knowledge Map Course outline] for information about: classes readings timetable goals/aims the exam key terms
What is writing?
This course is concerned with writing on the level of the sentence, paragraph and essay. It also begs some larger questions connected with what writing is, where it came from and what it is for.
We can say that writing is:
1. Bound up with orthography, which is to say it’s a matter or rules (orthography means straight or proper or correct writing). The course will consider what it means to write ‘properly’—and since writing is largely rule-governed, one of the key ways to find out what rules are operating is by making mistakes or becoming conscious of instances of ‘error’.
2. Graphematic, because it involves marks or materials. Whether it is a newspaper page or a webpage or an essay or a course outline, writing is something that you see, or touch, or that appears in some way.
3. A matter of construction. Our world is made out of writing, and writing gives our world to us. It makes and shapes our world and it mediates how we think and act, and what we feel and perceive.
This is important to our purposes in this course because:
1. It starts to supply a vocabulary for talking about writing.
2. It reminds us that writing is a technical and theoretical object.
3. It helps us to think about imprinting. The more texts you read and write, the more you think and write like those texts. Writing writes us—it imprints itself upon us—and a key purpose of this course is to empower your sense of this. Once we know about the rules or the operative script, we are empowered relative to that script to change what it is—to reconstruct or repurpose it.
4. It has implications for reading. Reading isn’t simply a matter of saying what something ‘means’. Rather, it’s a matter of understanding what it is and does, and how it operates as a script of some kind. This means that reading is a matter of extrapolation: it’s about working out how something is supposed to hang together, and what you think about it. This independent critical or creative thinking is what will drive your essays and assignments.
When you read the texts for this course, consider:
Why does it matter that someone is talking about this thing in this way?
What do I have to say about this thing? How can I develop or apply or rework these ideas?
What is a text?
We might refer to the course readings as texts but the term text is much broader than this too.
Any object, event or experience that is legible or ‘readable’ is a text.
A lecture theatre, for instance, can be treated or read as a text:
It is a climatically-controlled, bunkered room
You sit in orderly rows and you are bodily constrained to face ‘the front’, and the room is designed on the premise that there IS a front
You are slightly elevated, and whoever is standing at ‘the front’ is slightly de-elevated—this is to do with acoustics, and lines of vision, and it produces an authority effect
It is expected that something will be delivered to you by the person at the front. The presenter will bring props, like a PowerPoint or a pen and some paper, so that it looks like they’re delivering a ‘programme’ of teaching of some official kind
You are expected to look as though you’re paying attention: you’re not supposed to throw things around or talk loudly amongst yourselves or on your phones.
When we start to read these aspects of the room, we can see that the design principles of a lecture theatre are tied in direct ways to institutional programming (goals-and-aims, codes of conduct, etc.). The better we understand how this programming works (how it seeks to ‘operate’ us), the better equipped we’ll be to