“Inventing the University”

Hattie recommended David Bartholomae’s “Inventing the University,” in Rose, Mike (ed.), When a Writer Can’t Write (New York: Guilford, 1985) 135-165. The book was not in the library so I ordered a used copy, often the cheapest thing to do. It was not a good copy so I am giving it away and ordering another.

It is a good article on how students, as they acquire the skill of writing for and in a particular discipline, have to speak in a false voice, bluff, at least at first. To write as a student is to write without authority in the voice of one who has. One must do this so as to pass courses, get degrees, and so on.

This way learning “becomes more a matter of imitation or parody than a matter of invention and discovery” (143). The writer needs to “get inside of a discourse that he [can] in fact only partially imagine” (160).

That is why I say that, once one has in fact learned to write, the Boicean imperative to start writing before you feel ready, is so wrong.


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