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Review of  Writing With, Through, and Beyond the Text


Reviewer: Joseph Benjamin Archibald Afful
Book Title: Writing With, Through, and Beyond the Text
Book Author: Rebecca Luce-Kapler
Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Writing Systems
Book Announcement: 16.2918

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Date: Fri, 7 Oct 2005 05:21:41 -0700 (PDT)
From: Joseph Afful <jbafful@yahoo.com>
Subject: Writing With, Through, and Beyond the Text: An Ecology of Language

AUTHOR: Luce-Kapler, Rebecca
TITLE: Writing With, Through, and Beyond the Text
SUBTITLE: An Ecology of Language
PUBLISHER: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
YEAR: 2005

Joseph Benjamin Archibald Afful, Department of English Language &
Literature, National University of Singapore

DESCRIPTION

Rebecca Luce-Kapler's 185-page book draws on insights from feminism, post-
structuralism, and various writing pedagogies to explore how an
understanding of writing as a system, circumscribed by social context and
interpretations of experience can lead to an exciting process of learning
and meaning-making. To achieve this goal, the book is organized in six
chapters, with each chapter introduced by a thought-provoking epigraph.
The peripheral aspects of the book include a table of contents, preface,
references, and index.

SYNOPSIS

Chapter 1: The Kitchen of my Imagination
The writer begins the chapter by alluding to how she came to be interested
in writing and her early experience with teaching writing, which basically
excluded the ordinary experience of humans. In broad strokes, she
describes how her working with women and her introduction to feminist
theory enable her to see writing as a) embodied and psychological b)
socially constructed c) poststructural text, and d) complex. In the rest
of the chapter, she shows how these perspectives interact in varied and
revealing ways to inform the process of writing and issues even after
writing has been produced.

Chapter 2: A Coherence of Being
As though the previous chapter had been disparate, this chapter explores
the notion of coherence. Supported by an apt and cautious selection of
relevant texts, the writer specifically argues that the coherence of
rhythm, granted its significance in lived human life, manifests in three
ways in writing The first, according to the writer is "the character of
rhythm", which is further exemplified in the connection between language,
rhythm, and lived experience. In elucidating "the rhythm of writing",
Luce-Kapler demonstrates that writing proceeds as a concrete realization
of life experience and a valuable interpretation. Lastly, explaining "the
rhythm of subjectivity", she contends that writing issues out of different
experiences located in different spatio-temporal contexts, leading to
diverse and enriching subjectivities of the individual.

Chapter 3: The Language Connection
Chapter 3 focuses on specific writing practices that the writer engages
the members of her writing group. These writing practices, Luce-Kapler
explains, are underpinned by three key notions of language. First, she
underscores the fact that writing allows the interaction of
intertextuality and creativity, two very valuable aspects of language use.
Second, she intimates that language can be limiting but agrees with
Mikhail Bakhtin that it offers endless possibilities for interpretation
and reinterpretation, and thus in the process can become liberating.
Finally, as a corollary of the above, and drawing on Derrida, the author
demonstrates that this two-pronged quality of interpretation and re-
interpretation that language possesses is realizable at various
levels: "research re-textured", "con-text", "pre-text", "sub-text",
and "re-text". The full benefit of writing, the author suggests, is
attainable when writers shift from one level to another.

Chapter 4: The Subjunctive Cottage
Chapter Four highlights the possibilities that texts offers for change or
what the writer boldly calls "disruption". Some of the avenues through
which change can be effected include writing structures such as
narratives, the imaginative (as-if world), and side-showing. Experimenting
with these structures can lead to the complexity of writing, Luce-Kapler
suggests. But the author demonstrates through her interaction with the
women in the writing groups that these structures can be rewarding. She
suggests that engaging in such writing practices leads to individuals
experimenting with the "forbidden"; but more importantly, it achieves
three main things: challenging the patriarchal order, enriching women's
subjectivity (that is, meaning-making), and empowering women to act in the
world.

Chapter 5: In the Company of Writers
In Chapter 5 the significance of the Canadian artist, Emily Carr, to the
author is not lost on the reader. Luce-Kapler draws on both the experience
of Emily Carr and her own dialogue with her to explore and understand the
influence of her own writing. Specifically, the author utilizes the
insights she gains from her interaction with Emily Carr to construct a
picture of her work as a writer and to relate those issues to her work in
writing groups. Continuing, she recounts how engaging the writing groups
in different writing practices such as narratives, changing narratives
into poetry, grouping several poems under similar theme, and discussing
readings brought home cogently the inextricable link between heteroglossia
and intertextuality.

Chapter 6: Writing Otherwise
The author underscores four salient points in the final chapter. First,
the writer shows how the embodiment of writing, its social influence, and
the fluidity of language interact in varied ways to create a context for
writing. Second, the author views ecology of writing as embedded in a
system or relationship with both the human and non-human world; this point
is aptly illustrated in how the author came to write a poem about the
American author, Kate Chopin. Third, the author offers three suggestions
in utilizing the notion of ecology of writing: introducing writing
practices, developing critical awareness, and creating opportunities to be
heard. Finally, on an optimistic note, Luce-Kapler argues that despite the
unpredictable future as well as the gaps and constraints of writing,
the "ecology of writing" nonetheless offers an endless and exciting
opportunity for meaning-making, an essential aspect of subjectivity.

CRITICAL EVALUATION

Luce-Kapler's book is appealing to the reader on several fronts. The first
point to note is the clarity of the language that is used throughout the
book to elucidate ideas such as symbolic order, complexity, subjectivity,
intertextuality, and heteroglossia. The effortlessness and ease with which
the writer explains and elaborates on these attests to the author's
adroitness of language use and makes them stick in the reader's mind. A
related issue to the writer's use of language is the cautious balance she
maintains in the use of homely images and abstract language (in both the
chapter headings and the main text). The second merit to note about the
writer's work is the structuring of the entire work. It is to the credit
of the author that minimal visual features are used, while using to a
great effect headings, sub-headings, and appropriate metatextual elements
(in various parts of chapters) to make the book easily comprehensible. The
reader is thus not distracted in his/her attempt to follow the writer's
trend of argument. A third strength of Luce-Kapler's work is the effective
use of illustrative materials: anecdotes, samples of poems and other
literary pieces, and recount of personal experiences. These illustrative
materials serve usefully to reduce the dense nature of prose that would
have resulted if only elaborations of theories of writing and writing
pedagogy had been used in the text. The cumulative effect is that we see
the author skillfully combining theory and practice of writing. Finally, I
find the bibliography offered by the author very helpful. They contain
very useful references that any curious reader of writing pedagogies,
feminism, women's studies, and creative writing would find helpful to
follow up. A similar purpose is served by the writer's use of notes at the
end of each chapter without making the chapters tedious.

Notwithstanding these admirable aspects of the book, a few points, though
debatable, are likely to catch the attention of readers. The first
concerns the nature of illustrative materials used. It would appear that
the book is mainly directed to a western audience. This would appear to be
an ideological issue as the book seems to espouse mainstream academic
thought, practices, and way of doing things without catering for scholars
in so-called developing countries. This point is worth making in light of
the emerging literature on geo-politics in academic writing (e.g.
Canagarajah, 2002), and for that matter other forms of writing programmes
in academia. Nonetheless, rather than say that readers from the developing
world are not likely to appreciate the illustrative literary texts, I
would say that intellectual challenge for them is likely to be immense and
daunting. Another point, really minor, concerns the title of the book. On
merely reading the title of the book, the reader who approaches Luce-
Kapler with the intention of discovering further insights into academic
writing is likely to be disappointed. My candid opinion about the title is
that as a teaser, it is too broad to achieve the desired effect. The sub
title does not help either.

Overall, despite the few concerns expressed above, Luce-Kapler's book is
worth recommending as an intellectually stimulating book for readers
(students and scholars) interested in Women's Studies, Feminist Theory,
English Studies, Creative Writing, and Writing Pedagogy. It combines both
theories and practices in a very engaging manner.

REFERENCE

Canagarajah, A. Suresh (2002). A geo-politics of academic writing.
Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh.




 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER


Joseph Benjamin Archibald Afful is a research scholar at the last stage of
his doctoral studies at the Department of English Language and Literature
at the National University of Singapore. He recently submitted his
doctoral thesis on the interface between rhetoric and disciplinary writing
at the undergraduate level. Prior to the commencement of his higher
studies, he had taught various courses in Applied English Linguistics and
general academic literacy at the University of Cape Coast and University
of Education of Winneba (both in Ghana) and tutored at National University
of Singapore. His teaching and research interests include (critical)
discourse analysis, sociolinguistics, academic writing/literacy, general
linguistics, and the interface between linguistics and literature. He has
presented papers at international conferences in the United Kingdom, the
USA, Australia, and Singapore and has papers that are currently being
reviewed for publication.


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