What I Learned from the Second Edition of a Short History of Writing Instruction

Woods, Marjorie Curry

A Commentary on "Chapter 4: The Teaching of Poetic Composition in the Later Middle Ages" in A Short History of Writing Instruction: From Ancient Greece to Modern America

Revising my essay in the Short History was a rather painful process. Some people liked my essay in the first version, while others couldn't figure out what it was doing there. Some really liked the critique of primary and secondary rhetoric at the beginning, others really hated it. It was suggested that I tone down the politics and take out the sex. I disagreed with both suggestions and asked Jerry Murphy if he would be willing to revise the essay himself along the lines that he wanted or get someone else to do it or remove it from the collection because I could not write what was wanted. Eventually I compromised: I took out the "political" critique of primary and secondary rhetoric but added more sex. I also added some of my own archival work on manuscripts and a description of a rhetorical exercise that I have used in my classes. One of the most useful things to me turned out to be the suggestion that we put headings on the parts. Although I first found this hard to do, in the end it was very helpful, and I have used the same technique in the book I am writing on the commentaries on the Poetria nova. I feel that my essay as it stands is less idiosyncratic than before, which is probably good, and that its synthetic quality is a good complement to the new essay added by Carol Dana Lanham.

This text was an invited submission reviewed by TWI editors prior to publication.
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