First, I just want to say that I really enjoyed this article – it was well researched, thought out, and most importantly, interesting.
Of particular interest to me was when he talks about how women may actually have been the genesis of the novel. It’s such an interesting point to make. He rationalizes this claim by explaining that men were traditionally the ones to receive educations in rhetoric at schools and universities, while women, if they went to school at all, were taught subjects conducive to running an effective home or business. So, when women start coming to the academy, they bring a completely new perspective to language and particularly writing – they’ve not been trained in traditional rhetoric, and thus it doesn’t hold as much importance for them, which is why the novel starts to rise as a legitimate form of writing; it allows for more freedom of form. You can still kind of see the echoes of this today, in that many popular or well known authors of novels are females: JK Rowling, Jodi Picoult, Barbara Kingsolver, Audrey Niffenegger, Suzanne Collins, and (*cringe*) Stephenie Meyer. Obviously, if Ong’s argument is true, then women have given to humanity a great artform.
So then, it’s curious to me as to why academic institutions still favor a fairly patriarchal view on writing; non-academic writing still seems to be thought of as somehow “less” in an university setting. In my peer tutoring seminar, we’re learning about different approaches to writing as well as how to tutor writing. We recently read an essay that applied Feminist critical theory to the idea of writing, which aims to equalize the role of tutor and the student; the practice attempts to dismantle the power hierarchy present in the traditional student/teacher paradigm, which the academy perpetuates by often times forcing students to learn “good” writing by making them conform to the abstract standard of an “ideal text” as imagined by academia. Since this “ideal text” is often a traditionally academic paper, filled with classical rhetoric, and since rhetoric is a subject that was created by men, for use by men, this ideal text is inherently patriarchal; it makes the writer conform to invisible, “acceptable” standards envisioned by men and only men years and years ago.
Ong’s text got me thinking about writing a lot more about what writing is, and more specifically, what “good” writing is. Is it this generally agreed upon standard, or can it be something more? Why is it so difficult to break away from the academic form instilled in writers from the time they’re taught to write? Why can’t fiction be just as effective a mode for delivering an argument? Why did I just make fun of Stephenie Meyer, if in fact, she may have written a very good piece of writing, and I’m just not seeing it fromt he correct perspective (this pains me to write, fellow writing minors; I just need you all to know that)? I’m not sure I have any answers to any of these questions, but the article definitely got me thinking about them.