Theorizing Composition: A Critical Sourcebook of Theory and Scholarship in Contemporary Composition Studies

By Mary Lynch Kennedy | Go to book overview

V

VYGOTSKIAN THEORY

Summary

Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky (1896–1934), psychologist of the early Russian Soviet period, has had continuing (though politically troubled) influence in Rus- sia since the late 1920s, and since the mid-1960s has been gaining increased attention in the United States and throughout the world. Particularly relevant to writing is his interest in the higher psychological functions, developed in the use of symbolic tools.

Starting out as a teacher of language and literature prior to the revolution, Vygotsky became interested in how structured texts can foster particular com- plex states of mind in the reader. The revolution, perceived to offer a radical break in human history by providing new conditions for the development of human personality, oriented his inquiry into the social formation of mind. This work appeared in its matured form in the last four years of his life, and is best known in the English-speaking world in the translated volumes Thought and Language and Mind in Society.

Vygotsky examined how minds develop within social interaction, transform- ing the individual's biological legacy through the group's cultural legacy. Ex- ternal forms of activity and social relationships he saw internalized as human mental activity; with the social nature of any psychological function preserved when it becomes internalized. Symmetrically, he saw culturally transmitted tools as the externalization of psychological functions. The cultural legacy he found expressed in tools developed to aid us in activities, which we deploy purpose- fully in tasks at hand. These tools are symbolic tools as well as material. A string around the finger or an alarm clock can act as an aid to memory. An

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Theorizing Composition: A Critical Sourcebook of Theory and Scholarship in Contemporary Composition Studies
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • A 1
  • B 9
  • C 15
  • D 77
  • E 103
  • F 117
  • G 131
  • H 149
  • I 157
  • L 169
  • M 181
  • N 195
  • P 213
  • R 255
  • S 269
  • T 321
  • V 333
  • W 339
  • Selected General Bibliography 377
  • Index 379
  • About the Contributors 393
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