(This was posted to my course blog that I do alongside my students, but I thought it would make a nice addition here.)
As some of you may know, I am a doctoral student. I’ve finished all of my coursework, and I am now preparing for the daunting task of comprehensive exams. To prepare for these exams, I must put together three lists of 20+ sources on different areas of interest that, in theory, will get the ball rolling on my dissertation research. While previous classes had to take a written exam, I was given the option to take the oral examination, so for two hours, I will have to speak on my three lists, which are are Composition and Rhetorical Theory: A General Overview, Digital Literacy and New Media Studies, and the Politics of Writing Spaces.
In particular, I’ve been working hard on the Politics of Writing Spaces list. It’s the one that I touched on the least in my coursework, but is the foundation of what I think will be my future dissertation. I am interested in how writers classify spaces: public versus private; “real world” versus “for school”; collaborative versus individual; business versus pleasure; creative versus academic. I can see how these little labels greatly influence the way that writers compose their work, and to me, that is simply fascinating!
Lately, I’ve been tapping into the public versus private vein. There are so many definitions of these spaces. I never realized how slippery or affected by social constructs they were. For instance, in his book Moving Beyond Academic Discourse: Composition Studies and the Public Sphere, Christian Weisser explains how some theorists consider the public as a space that includes everyone while others consider it simply a place where voices that debate political issues can be heard. In the classroom, this means that some teachers think that public writing needs to address huge, diverse audiences while other see it as simply going beyond the classroom to a place where voices come into contact with one another. That’s a big difference. According to Weisser, it's the difference between what he sees as empty public writing assignments, such as letters to the editors of big newspapers, and public writing that affects change, which seem to take place on a more local level.
I wonder, though, how my own students and other writers define these spaces. When do you consider your writing a public thing, and when is it private?