Friday, October 12, 2012

Writing as Such

When you think about it, it's strange that I ask scholars to think of their writing on the model of activities like music and sports. Why should they be more familiar with these activities? Shouldn't I be able to get my point across entirely without analogies? Aren't we all familiar enough with what writing is like to talk directly about how to do it most effectively?

Next week, I'm taking a scheduled break from the blog; when I return I will try to write about writing as writing, not as something that is somehow like some other activity, like running or playing the piano. I will assume familiarity and even a little facility with the business of putting words together into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into papers and chapters.

Since I'm interested in scholarly writing, not just any composition of words will do. I will also assume you are familiar with the act of writing down something you know. Scholarly writing is writing that represents your knowledge on a particular subject before an audience (a readership) of epistemic peers, i.e., people who know a great deal about the subject too.

This, in fact, is the problem with using music and sports as analogies. (I'm not going to stop that practice altogether. I'm just going to try not appealing to them for a week or so.) I end up talking about something I don't know very much about. Unless I'm very superficial, I'm out of my depth. Scholarly writing, by contrast, I know a lot about. I want to see what happens when I write about it for people who I presume also know a great deal about it. I.e., people who do it for a living.

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