Trajectories of Persons and Practices: Sociohistoric Perspectives of Disciplinary Development. The Case Study of Charles Scott, Jr

Chapter 1 | Re-Mapping Disciplinary Writing, Learning, and Enculturation


"[I]n order to understand writing and disciplinarity from a developmental perspective, it is important to take up perspectives that are longer in term, more diverse in settings, and, not incidentally, less grounded in dominant institutional perspectives” (Prior, 1998, p. 134)

We offer two brief videos of young women describing the textual and richly multimodal practices that texture their participation in graphic design and writing fan fiction, respectively. As you will see, we will use these videos to raise a number of issues regarding writing studies’ dominant perspectives of disciplinary writing, learning, and socialization.

Video Transcript

In this brief video clip, assembled from two different interviews we conducted, Lindsey Rachels describes the discursive practice she used to invent and arrange a series of visual designs for an undergraduate graphic design class. As Lindsey describes it, that practice involved sketching initial figures, then cutting or tearing some of those figures out of her sketchbook, and then physically manipulating those portions on the pages of her sketchbook as well as on the tables, walls, and mirrors of her apartment as she experimented with various orientations, sequences, and color combinations.

Video Transcript

In this brief video clip, assembled from three of the many interviews we conducted, Alexandra Griffin describes an invention practice and memory aid she uses to create characters for the many fan novels she has written since her early childhood. As Alexandra indicates, that practice involves drawing handwritten lines on a page of her notebook to generate a series of columns and rows where she can indicate each character’s first, middle, and last name; age, hair color, and eye color; and other relevant information depending on the novel. As Alexandra states toward the end of the clip, she has been using this inscriptional practice since the very first fan novel she wrote as a child.

These practices seem likely to be worlds apart from the disciplinary demands Lindsey and Alexandra will encounter in their graduate and undergraduate majors, respectively. Lindsey’s shuffling of visual images seems far removed from the lyric essay she would write four years later for the graduate creative writing class she took while pursuing her master's in middle school language arts. And yet, as Lindsey indicated, and as we’ll elaborate in Chapter 5, this physical manipulation of images figures prominently in the development of the invention and arrangement practices she’ll employ for her creative writing, and, ultimately, in her identity as creative writer. Alexandra’s inscriptional practice for her fan novels seems radically removed from the work of reporting and analyzing numerical data for the undergraduate engineering class she attended a few hours after our interviews, the first of many classes she would take as a civil engineering major. And yet, as we’ll elaborate in Chapter 7, Alexandra’s arrangement of information about her fictional characters is also a critical link in the development of her ability to act with tables for her engineering projects, and, ultimately, in claiming her identity as an engineer.

Understanding the textual engagements Lindsey and Alexandra describe in these videos as relevant to creative writing and engineering poses a considerable challenge to our dominant mappings of disciplinary writing development. Those maps locate writers and their writing within a particular disciplinary world and chart development along a pathway that begins on the periphery and leads toward some central core of disciplinary knowledge through increasingly richer, fuller participation with that discipline’s shared activities and genres. According to such maps, Lindsey’s engagement with graphic design would be situated in an entirely different disciplinary territory than creative writing, and Alexandra’s participation with writing fan fiction would be located on an entirely different landscape even further removed from engineering.

We argue here that such maps sever the strong historical trajectories that weave together Lindsey’s participation with graphic design and creative writing and Alexandra’s engagement with fan fiction and engineering, trajectories that trace key developmental pathways for their disciplinary writing, learning, and socialization and that ultimately stitch together the tapestry of their richly literate lives. We argue in this book that we need to reconceive our maps of disciplinary development, as well as our practices for making such maps, in order to account for those histories.

Central Claims

Based on the analyses we present in this book, we make a number of central claims:

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