Constructing Experience

Constructing Experience

Constructing Experience

Constructing Experience


Charles Bazerman's newest book, a selection of both his published and unpublished essays from recent years, ranges from pedagogy to research to theory, exploring how all three levels are motivated by common concerns and how they are integrated through similar concepts and approaches. From this integrative perspective, Bazerman reveals his life-long inquiry into the nature of language- why it exists and what place it holds in the social world.

Presenting a powerful, action-oriented view of language that finds meaning in local circumstances and local uses, Bazerman divides his essays into four parts, beginning with an examination of the classroom experience. In describing the dynamics of the classroom and the relationship of the classroom to surrounding social arrangements, Bazerman notes how reading relates to writing, how interpersonal relations influence and structure acts of reading and writing, and how reading and writing are themselves forms of social action.

Bazerman, in parts 2 and 3, explains how larger forms of social structure are in dialectic with local acts of literacy, how experience of the world influences both everyday writing and empirically driven research, and how individuals conceive of social situations and actions to think about and plan activities. As he admittedly puzzles through conceptual obstacles, Bazerman explores many of the terms and theories evoked in rhetorical studies and provides a critical examination of the theories of James Kinneavy as well as more general thoughts on the nature of rhetorical study.

In part 4, Bazerman reinterprets the classical rhetorical concept of kairos in the light of theory and research in the social sciences, analyzes intertextuality in a scientific text, and offers a rereading of the writings of Adam Smith.

Throughout this book, Bazerman maintains that research into writing is the examination of what people do and have done, what influences what they do, and what texts do to people who write and read them. In addition, he reiterates the importance of literacy as a connecting device, essential to survival, growth, and change. Lack of literacy cuts people off from the institutions and means of life in a society.


The texts presented here were improvised for various occasions. in each instance they were constructed out of the resources at hand-- a repertoire of shards and habits gained by encounters through language, a history of experiences of making meaning. Because reading and writing have been recurrent concerns of mine, I found myself making many different statements on the subject as I spoke with different people on different occasions. As I made these statements, I sensed the continuities among them and the way each made the next possible. But these continuities, though they were both transparent and important to me, were not obvious to others, even my best of friends. Now, by placing some of the variety side by side in a single volume, perhaps I can make that coherence more evident.

This volume contains some of my written statements and scripted talks of the last decade (with one slightly older exception). But my puzzling over literate activity has a longer history. the earliest conversation I can remember about constructing texts was in December 1950. Mrs. Curb had told us kindergarteners that we would be making holiday calendars for our parents. We were first to draw an appropriate winter scene, and then she would help us turn it into a calendar. After making a hurried drawing, I ran up to Mrs. Curb's desk, asked for a new sheet of paper, and inquired how many days were in January. By my fourth trip to the desk, asking about more paper and the days of April, the teacher finally realized what I was doing, and she told me to wait until she gave preprinted calendar pads to the whole class to be glued to our pictures.

Ever since then I have been trying to understand the writing tasks I have had and the reading texts people have handed me. I have generally been too dense or obstinate to see the shortcut-- the shortcut that would bypass revealing questions. But since no more than the shortcut has usually been expected, I have often had to work with . . .

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