WAC/WID and Expressivism

In reading the GCP piece for today, I thought I saw some nods and some shrugs to expressivism.

Elements of WAC—especially writing to learn—struck me as somewhat expressivist. This segment of WAC encourages students to do things like journaling, quick writing, and make mistakes—to even sometimes even create something “comprehensible only to the writer” (Thaiss and McLeod 285). The teacher also acts as a facilitator, not “as a judge” (285). Here we might see something like the “Adopting the Practices, Not the Theory” approach found in the expressive pedagogy chapter (Burnham and Powell 122).

This contrasts greatly with my understanding of WID, which I’ve augmented by returning to Bartholomae’s “Inventing the University.” WID “focuses on writing to an audience outside the self,” places more heft on the product of writing, and is intimately tied to notions of discourse communities (Thaiss and McLeod 286). Though he doesn’t get a direct shout-out in this chapter, Bartholomae certainly forecasts much of the WID discussion here. Bartholomae writes that “the movement toward a more specialized discourse begins (or perhaps, best begins) when a student can both define a position of privilege…and when they can work self-consciously, critically, against not only the ‘common’ code but their own” (17). Most importantly, students must realize that “there is a context beyond the reader that is not the world but a way of talking about the world” (8). If we want to communicate in specialized discourse, a way of talking about the world (i.e., a discipline), Bartholomae says that we must remove ourselves to the point that we can. This sounds like it could be contrary to some of the methods of writing to learn—though perhaps this is simply the desired destination of those methods?

I’m thinking about expressivist notions acting as a possible wedge between WAC and WID. Do you see any more expressivist differences between the two?

Thaiss and McLeod describe them as being intimately connected, but would an expressivist wedge be problematic at all for WAC or WID?


2 thoughts on “WAC/WID and Expressivism

  1. An interesting connection between WAC and expressivism. WID usually shares a connection with discourse communities for me, and the quotes from the article by Bartholomae confirms the connection for me. Maybe expressivism serves as change in focal point — I am not quite accepting the wedge metaphor, but an expressivism lens does indeed cause problems for people who might want to treat WAC and WID as very similar if not identical. To press the problems further, perhaps returning to questions about how WAC and WID might include or exclude instructors or, as you note, certain activities might refine the distinction.


  2. So, are you saying that expressivist notions can only be applied between the two, WAC and WID? I believe both WAC and WID have room for expressivism, although it may appear to be more geared towards WAC. However, one could have journaling and free writing activities incorporated within the classroom for WID as well. The tailored journals could pose questions about what it means to be in their specific discipline or what the student thinks it means to be in that discipline. I don’t necessarily believe that only WAC has room for expressivist writings.


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