Expository Writing, Postpedagogy, Summer 2013

This summer I find myself teaching another section of Expository Writing, an upper-division writing course and graduation requirement. For the past few years I have taught the course in a fairly eccentric way, one that matches up with my proclivities for postpedagogy. Students choose a topic in which they have a personal investment and read and write about that topic for the entirety of the course.

This semester, spurred a bit by boredom and a bit by fresh research interests, I decided to add in a wrinkle. In addition to their topics, students would write in-class on some assign readings. These readings all deal with the history of the essay, and on whether it is a viable form for digital writing. We read a short piece (perhaps a list of which will follow) and craft responses. We started with Christy Walpole's "The Essayification of Everything." That essay led me to Montaigne's "On the Education of Children," and my students first in-class writing prompt: to craft a post that uses Montaigne as a relay for thinking through the idea of "On Writing."

I appreciated Walpole's characterization of Montaigne (who she contrasts with Bacon) because of her emphasis on how his trepidatious style can be used as an ethic for life--an ethic that shares much with my interest in Levinas and his ethical prioritization of the other. So I approached his essay on education with enthusiasm.

While the name "Montaigne" resonated on the back of my memory, I couldn't remember reading anything of his. I was happily surprised to find my favorite quote from Cicero near the start of his essay:

The authority of those who teach, is very often an impediment to
those who desire to learn.

Postpedagogy in a nutshell. I also appreciated Montaigne's analogy between learning and eating--that the brain of the student resembles her stomach. Both must be given time to digest. Both should avoid regurgitation.

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