Monday, June 30, 2003

It's quiet here on June 30 in Bellingham, Washington. Our little Center is plugging along with two tutors--there is no funding for a director in the summer, so my role is as additional (emergency?) support only. Our WC's open just 8 hours a week this summer, mid-day Monday through Thursday. I was in there a while ago, and we had "no customers." Like I said, it's quiet. That's nice, though, after the hectic pace of the rest of the year! The trick, I guess, is to let the quiet help me make room for some new ideas rather than lull me to sleep.... But of course there's nothing wrong with a nice long nap, either.

Sherri Winans
Whatcom Community College
We had a staff meeting today and talked about methods to get student writers to make follow-up appointments. There were a lot of good suggestions--anywhere from having a "most improved paper" contest to changing our report form to emphasize making new appointments. I think, however, the most valid perception that one of the tutors gave was to make sure one is not in a "one shot" mindset. In other words, if the tutor is thinking that this is the only time that he/she will meet with the student, than that will probably be communicated to the student writer unintentionally. The best thing to do is to go in with the open mindset that the student will be coming back, and that this session is one of many to come.
Welcome to Peer Centered. Hopefully we can stir up enough interest to get folks posting here. We had a fitfull start last fall, but then when the semester hit, people forgot about it. We'll see how it goes for the summer. I have plans to heavily advertise in the fall.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Hello there everyone; I am Mark Jeremiah Boone, Writing Center peer tutor at Dallas Baptist University; I am new to the blog.

I want to talk about postmodernism/premodernism as it pertains to the reading/interpretation of a text. In my own experience here I have noticed little relevance of the issue except when perusing student's papers for English classes.

My knowledge of the subject includes several philosophy courses and the fact that I have read books on postmodernism by premodern authors (Francis Schaeffer), books I would simply describe as "premodern" (for instance, CS Lewis), books I would call "postmodern" (Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and a little Heiddegger), and books that have aspects of a Christian postmodernism (Gilbert Keith Chesterton). I have also taken classes with both premodern and postmodern professors.

The issue, as I understand it, is this: premodernism's creed regarding hermeneutics (of Scripture or any other text) is that there is one interpretation. Whereas postmodernism's creed is that there is one text, and many interpretations. The particular reader is isolated above the universal text. As far as our work in a Writing Center setting goes, the question is how our thinking should be, for instance, when a reader (a student) of a poem by, say, Robert Frost, has written in his/her paper an interpretation of the poem that probably has nothing to do with what Rober Frost meant when he wrote the poem.

In other words, is the author's intention more important or is what the reader gets out of it more important? When I think about my most distinctly premodern professor, who says that there is "one interpretation, many applications," and my most distinctly postmodern professor, who says that logical limits must be placed on the interpretation (EG, "Alice in Wonderland" will never be a manual for constructing spaceships), it seems to me that the problem is smaller than it looks. If the student's interpretation of Robert Frost is an absurd one when compared to the author's intention when writing the poem, I will try to explain the correct meaning of the poem. If the interpretation is certainly not what Robert Frost intended but is not in contradiction with the his intention either, I would consider the student's insight to be a legitimate application of the poem and may or may not suggest to them that it is such rather than an interpretation. The bottom line is, my proposed compromise/alloy of premodern and postmodern text theory is that the most important thing is the application any reader gets from the author's intention, that is: the many applications the various readers will get from the single correct interpretation.
I advertised PeerCentered on WCENTER the other day. Let's hope that more folks take interest in it. I suppose it didn't garner that much interest initially because of the shifting nature of writing center work.

The summer has been relatively quiet so far. We started a few weeks back, and things have finally started to pick up. People get antsy when there are few students to meet with, so we've been doing things for the web site.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

I had the opportunity to go up to the University of Utah the other day. They are starting up a writing center. Even in our tight budget times, they managed to swing fundingr. My friend and colleague Tif spent time talking to Raul Sanches, the person organizing it, discussing issues that tend to come up with writing centers at their inception, and, in general, discussing the prospects of a University Writing Center. We then went over to where the new writing center will be, and I will have to say I'm jealous. It is in the former card catalog room of the old part of the Marriott Library--a big old atrium that goes up 5 floors and (now) has a huge skylight at the top. The space borders on a big computer lab/reading room, as well as general reference--seemingly the center of that part of the library. I told them I was jealous of their set up, but then again, as Tif said, we have a pretty good set up as well. No marble, mind you, but we've worked hard with what we were given.