Russ Hunt
St. Thomas University
Inkshed 18
Canmore, Alberta
14 May 2001

contexts of reading

(and writing)

the theory:

In this theoretical presentation, I propose to illustrate with examples of student and other writing the richness of nested contextual pressures which shape the writing and reading of students and others working with texts in situations where the texts actually have consequences, and are not isolated in the glass case of "school writing."

I will use examples primarily drawn from my current courses, in which student writing is the basis for real decisions about what gets studied and investigated, and in which students research and prepare "playgoer's" guides (which are actually printed and distributed at the theatres before performances) for local theatre productions. How such texts are written and read is shaped by a nested complex of situational pressures, beginning with the larger social issues around school and learning, and ending with the local and immediate situation in which one student's writing is read by another as they prepare a playgoer's guide or make a decision about which text or issue to investigate further.

The fundamental purpose will be to compare the rich, productive complexity of authentically situated writing with the less rich and less productive writing which is written in order to demonstrate or improve writing ability or substantiate individual knowledge before an authority.

the practice:

I'm going to ask people to participate with me in thinking about the immediate rhetorical contexts and motives of people engaged in producing, and reading, a range of texts. We will probably not have a chance to talk about all the texts I will invite participants to consider, but they will all be open for discussion on my Web site after the conference. They are not up yet (as of May 17) but will be soon.

There will be, at that same location, links to the student texts I'm working with in their original contexts, and opportunities for further discussion.