Reinventing the University

University students are assigned papers and essays about certain subjects all the time; but what they don’t realize is that the assignment does not stop there. They are at the same time being instructed to consider who the audience to their paper may be and then writing accordingly using the discourse and knowledge at their disposal. But what if the students aren’t very well versed in the subject they are assigned to write about? The answer is very straight forward: fake it ’til you make it. The days of high school that writing 2 pages of solid material and 3 pages of fluff are over; now are the days of actually knowing what you’re talking about, even if you have to pretend like you do.

It seems so tedious, this idea of pretending to be an authority on all things insert-subject-here; however, it can be taught. In Bartholomae’s “Inventing the University”, he explains that basic writers seem unable to mask their true novice standing and instead take upon themselves the persona of the most easily accessible and familiar authoritative figures: teachers. Because of their apprenticed skill set in writing, rather than making “academic conclusions” as a legitimate authority on the matter they make statements more as a parent lecturing at the dinner table. But as long as the writer can acknowledge the audience as members of the academy that have already entered the conversation, their almost talking down at the audience may be able to be overlooked.

Bartholomae continues to point out that because readers can’t telepathically sense the contexts behind the writer’s theses and points of view, it’s necessary to build bridges between the two parties to more successfully get the ideas across being presented in the piece. This exemplifies Bartholomae’s theses in Inventing the University of using discourse to communicate in a writer-to-reader setting through specific discourse to see eye to eye with the reader.

As Bartholomae explained well in depth, sometimes “general commonplaces” and “readily available utterances” just won’t cut it when writing with a certain kind of audience in mind. Because of this, you have to take on the voice of an expert on the matter with all of the discourse and confidence of such. Although basic writers may not be able to take on the task of becoming an expert overnight, it can definitely be learned. After all, every expert started out as something small to begin with.


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