“The Good Writer” by John Duffy
I appreciate the openness to something as potentially divisive as ethics and virtue, especially when, as the author rightly points out, there is already an implicit ethics in operation.
I also appreciate on 233-4 his explanation of Aristotle’s teleology; that is to say, eudaemonia is achieved when one does well what one is made to do. (I am reminded of several recent articles talking about the importance of, rather than telling a child they can do anything, you might want to help them discover their gifts and use that as a starting point for exploring their best options. Example: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2016/02/18/no-honey-you-cant-be-anything-you-want-to-be-and-thats-okay/) I do think that developing a culture of purpose based on natural gifts can be freeing and ennobling.
It’s interesting that, in discussing the Christian association that many people have when they think of virtue, he glosses somewhat over Aristotle’s understanding of how we acquire virtue: “good conduct arises from habits that in turn can only be acquired by repeated action and correction, making ethics an intensely practical discipline.” (Source: http://www.philosophypages.com/hy/2s.htm)
The habitual aspect of becoming virtuous has formed a consistent aspect of Christian/Catholic understanding of virtue and vice, and is, in turn, something that is not tied to a specific set of ethical values. That is, you can practice building good habits regardless of what your definition of “good” is. This comes in handy when you think of productivity or self-control as “empathy for your future self.” (https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/12/self-control-is-just-empathy-with-a-future-you/509726/)
I further appreciate the idea of exploring the virtues behind a particular set of practices (or pedagogical practice). This can be useful in, for example, asking why we spend so much time on grammar, for example, and so little time on formal logic or critical thinking.
“Don’t Call It Expressivism” by Eli Goldblatt
I love the idea on 441 that “the current ‘writing about writing’ pedagogy movement, and the contemporary conversation about teaching to transfer, have oriented the discussion about writing instruction too narrowly around school success and professional preparation”.
442: The desires to speak personally and connecting with those in need “can seem quaint and inessential at a moment when politicians and parents clamor for the young to be as competitive as possible on the job market”.
Something that fascinates me is that specific “dialectic drama” that he talks about on 443: “writers write along but within a charged social space shaped by contemporary culture, ethnic and erotic identities” and so on.
Something I hope to do in my teaching is to find a way to build up and explore the relationship between the two. Expressive writing, or even expressive speech, is frightening for some people. While the Internet has opened up niches that allow people to connect with those of similar interests (effectively removing the aspect of space from community), it still takes boldness to seek out those niches. And even if someone finds an online community, most of us will need to find in-person relationships. And I have found that the more open and expressive we can be, while also making sure to build up active listening skills, the more fulfilled we can be in our relationships. Especially in marriage, for example, if I only ever watched movies that my wife wants to watch, only talked about things she wanted to talk about, only ate what she wanted to eat, then I’d get resentful and she would feel my feel alone. She wants to see me, to hear my expressive voice, and to know who I really am and what I think. And I have found, even though I got married at 30, that for much of my life, I hadn’t been working those expressive muscles, even though I enjoyed some of the things that I studied in school. So I, too, want to reinforce the importance of passion in the schoolroom so that, before focusing too much on form, we could help students begin to identify their own voice, what topics and positions they find compelling. Once that starting point is established, even if only provisionally, then finding ways to refine that voice, how to build arguments, how to build a case or refer to other voices in your own composition.
I’m concerned, however, that on 447, that he’s assuming writing that helps the writer achieve self-actualization is necessarily good writing. I think it is totally legitimate to address a poem’s form, even if it contains strong emotion. If a piece of emotionally-charged writing can’t survive some criticism of form, then it might not be substantive to communicate its emotion to anyone else other than the author.