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About This Blog

Welcome to the class blog for Dr. Boyd’s English 101-21 class, Doing Writing.

The first thing you might notice is that “Doing Writing” isn’t exactly the most elegant of expressions. It’s the kind of thing that a professor might mark as “awkward” in the margins of a college essay. I’ve chosen this title, however, to emphasize the fact that writing isn’t simply a matter of putting words on a page (or a screen). Nor is it purely a matter of inspiration and creative genius. Writing is most often a way of doing things. Whether we’re writing for a private audience (in a ourbooksjournal, for instance), as an act of creative expression (a poem or story), or for public consumption (a letter or a report or an essay), we usually have a purpose in mind. We’re typically trying to achieve some goal — to change someone’s mind, to work through a problem, or to express something that has never been said or written in quite the way we think it should be.

It’s also worth noting that the title I’ve chosen for this blog isn’t entirely original. A quick search online will reveal a number of books with similar titles, most of them having to do with professional or intellectual work: Doing History, Doing EthicsDoing Feminist Theory. This semester, we’ll talk more about what titles like these reveal about the nature of originality and the way academic texts tend to re-circulate the ideas of others. However, the title I’ve chosen for this blog is meant to echo most directly the title of one of the books we’ll be using, Joseph Harris’ Rewriting: How to Do Things With Texts. In his introductory chapter, as a means of explaining his own choice of titles, he encourages us to think of writing as a kind of “social practice”:

In this book I approach rewriting as what the ethnographer Sylvia Scribner has called a social practice: the use of certain tools (paper, pen, computer) in a well-defined context (the academy) to achieve a certain end or make a particular product (a critical essay). There are practices in all walks of life […]. A practice describes how the members of a particular craft or trade get their work done. (2-3)

In this class, then, I’d like us to spend time thinking about how academic writers get their work done. In the process, my hope is that you’ll gain some knowledge you can continue to put to use as you move on to other courses and contexts. I encourage you to begin this class with Harris’s notion of actively working with texts in mind — and I hope you’ll begin setting some goals for what you’d like to do with your own writing.

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