Saturday, April 12, 2008

Emotions and the Writing Process

DeAnna Pretty-Jones

This bibliography deals primarily with emotions and the writing process. The purpose of this article is to provide a scope of materials, which deals with emotion, and the importance of research in this much-neglected area, as it pertains to the writing process. This is an information-gathering project. By looking at the various discussions, which have occurred in the last twenty years, I was able to gather a rather eclectic yet cohesive collection of relevant materials. I included scholarly sources from various disciplines, though the sum of my research resides within the field of composition studies. My findings began in the mid to late eighties and concluded as recently as last year.

Brand, G. Alice. “The Why of Cognition: Emotion and the Writing Process.” College Composition and Communication 38.4 (1987): 436-443. JSTOR. Roesch Lib., U of Dayton, Dayton, OH. 4 Mar. 2008. . Alice Brand, Director of Writing at Clarion University, shows how a completely realistic psychology of writing has to include both affective as well as cognitive occurrences. In a brief discussion, she suggests that the current research “stops too soon and leaves too much out” when looking at the emotional components of the writing process (437). Brand addresses the factors, which exist between writing and thought: critical thinking, the capacity to identify, categorize and manipulate relationships systematically. She also points to the limitations of current research concerning language use by encouraging researchers to push beyond the literal meaning of words in order to access their “pure meaning.” She writes that the “thinking we do in pure meaning is saturated with sense,” and that though cognitive processes are part of psychological events, they do not constitute the entire space. Brand asserts that what has been left out of writing theories is the why of writers choices as well as the how.

In her examination of emotion and the writing process she highlights the works of various theorists such as Piaget, Erickson and Kohlberg. Brand reminds readers that writing is not an objective act. Touching on the limitations of Flower and Hayes cognitive theory of writing, she challenges researchers to consider what could be lost through modes such as data reduction. The driving force of this research is a great concern for the effects the cognitive model has on students. Brand introduces the potentials of learning the affects of emotions on the writing process and asserts that the study of composition is heading towards looking to the affects of personality and how it influences the function of writers. She concludes that looking to both emotion and cognition in writing is essential to the field. This article is crucial to my research in that it provides the bases of the initial study of emotions in writing.

--“Writing and Feelings: Checking Our Vital Signs.” Rhetoric Review 8.2 (1990): 290-308. JSTOR. Roesch Lib., U of Dayton, Dayton, OH. 4 Mar. 2008. . In this article, Brand discusses the role of emotion in the writing process. The aim of her research is to show how intertwined writing and emotion is. This article would be useful for any one concerned with the processes of writers. Brand starts off by pointing to the two main issues that arise where the discussion of emotions are concerned, issues of social implication and definition. She asserts that because of researchers’ misguided treatment of emotion, it has been cast aside. In this work, Brand compiles data, which will inform the affects of emotions in the writing process. She asks a series of general questions, followed by more specific ones, regarding emotion in terms of affects on writing in relation to the writer: which emotions most frequently accompany writing in general, which resist change and which intensify, to name a few.

Brand offers definitions for terms and provides specifics concerning the participants of her study. She studied 191 writers from various groups: professional, student, etc. She goes into great detail about the methods used to conduct her study and gives a general overview of pertinent terms to know or recognize in the study. This is followed by a brief description of emotion classification. Brand also makes clear the similarities and differences between groups of writers and points out various characteristics of skilled and unskilled writers, touching on the satisfaction of writers with their writing. She highlights the finding of the study and then follows up with brief explanations. The research also addresses how studies of emotions in composition have been limited to mainly discussions concerned with anxiety; but even in this aspect Brand challenges that there always exist primarily a negative connotation.

She is greatly concerned with what confuses writers and what lends to their better performance. This discussion on emotions and writing exposes issues of authority and confidence in terms of relationship between the writer and the writing situation as well as between the writer and the instructor. Brand uses tables and writing samples to support her findings as well as sample assignments to illuminate the levels of emotions before and after writing exercises. This aspect of the discussion touches on environment and other situational variables, which may influence the writing process.

She concludes her research with a discussion on the three types of assignments used to examine the emotions of particular groups of writers. Brand asserts that “feeling and thought both supply information” (305). She warns that understanding the emotions and the writing process is complex and that her research is simply a starting point from which a series of hypotheses might be generated and ultimately tested. This article was very organized and will prove useful when I need to analyze various studies concerning emotions.

Brand, G. Alice and Phoebe A. Leckie. “The Emotions of Professional Writers.” The Journal of Psychology 122.5 (1987): 421-439. This study consisted of 24 professional writers. Brand and Leckie were concerned with the emotions of these writers in relationship with their writing and their perceived emotionality as well as writer types in terms of skill and educational status. They felt as though little attention has been given to affect and composing; the attention that it does receive often only focuses on the negative aspects of emotion. This article would be interesting to any one who is concerned with the psychological affects of emotions. The article starts off with a detailed account of the study itself, followed by a definition of affect—for the purposes of this research—the authors also describe the various kinds of writing/writers: professional, self-sponsored and required writing.

There is a section on the method used to conduct the research, which addresses the use of the Brand Emotions Scale for Writers (BESW). The authors explain how the scale assists in assessing emotional state at various points in the writing process. In conjunction with the BESW, Brand and Leckie used Davit’s three-factor typology to gauge both the positive and negative factors of emotion. There is a detailed description of the studies participants in terms of: gender, age, profession, education and what they write. Also, there is a section, which discusses the results of the research and the inconstancies with some aspects of the study; tables and descriptions of the change in the state and trait of emotions follow this.

The article concludes with an analysis of three emotion clusters and more discussion on the findings. Brand and Leckie’s research did find that Anxiety was the most frequently experienced negative trait which may explain why it receives a great deal of attention in terms of research; however, the research also indicates that between the two groups of writers, there were no considerable differences. And that the “closer an event is perceived to relate to the self, the more intense the affective experience” (437). This article has proved useful to my research on emotion because it provides definition and examples of the emotional aspect of the writing experience.

Chandler, Sally. “Fear, Teaching Composition, And Students’ Discursive Choices: Re-Thinking Connections Between Emotions and College Student Writing.” JSTOR. Roesch Lib., U of Dayton, Dayton, OH. 14 Mar. 2008. . From Kean University, Chandler offers a discussion on the affects of emotion on the composing process. She argues that by studying emotion as discourse, researchers not only eradicate the neglect of individual psychology of students but also, it would push for research methods to move beyond current cognitive models. This study utilizes a student/tutor project. By looking at students and their writing in a challenging composition course, Chandler pays careful attention to the high levels of continual anxiety in her subjects.

The writing that is analyzed comes from a writing practicum at Detroit’s, Wayne State University. She was concerned with the “fear” which she was convinced influenced the students writing. Chandler maps out an emotional landscape, illustrating the discursive nature of the composing process. She uses samples of student writing and their response to the tutoring experience in order to discuss focus and process and to look at what happens when students are willing to “re-imagine” their approaches to writing. Ultimately, Chandler found that the writing did reveal developmental properties related to the experience of various emotions. She goes on to consider why it seems hard for student writers to engage academic language when they are fearful or are experiencing anxiety.

In step with the ideas of Nancy Sommers and Laura Saltz, Chandler thinks about the qualities that assist the novice writer’s development in terms of a willingness to be guided through the process and being opened to change. She goes on to address issues of self-perception and the fears associated with mastering college writing that students experience. Chandler then proceeds to ask several questions about student’s tendencies toward cliché or conversation narrative writing. She concludes her research by stating her findings that students will resort to particular—subconscious—strategies when they feel uncertain about their identities as writers, even if that means utilizing incorrect practices; Chandler asserts that this is necessary in order for students to engage in the writing process.

Finally, she offers a brief discussion about choosing assignments and helpful instruction, which may assist students in making the connections between “emotional positioning and writing” thus allowing for smoother transitions between discourses (66). She challenges instructors and composition theorist with questions and ideas about what is still needed in terms of research in the field. This article was very informative but Chandler’s conclusion was a bit elusive.

McLeod, Susan. “Some Thoughts and Feelings: The Affective Domain and the Writing Process.” College Composition and Communication 38.4 (1987): 426-435. JSTOR. Roesch Lib., U of Dayton, Dayton, OH. 14 Mar. 2008. . McLeod, associate professor of English at Washington State University, claims that writing is both an emotional and cognitive function; however, research has neglected the affective domain in relation to the writing process. In this article, McLeod offers a few suggestions as to how affect is necessary when thinking about the writing process. She goes on to propose a theory of emotion for which to guide the reader. McLeod provides what researchers should be concerned with as well as defines pertinent terms as they are used within the context of this article.

Her primary concern is for student writers and how their emotions influence their writing. Initially, McLeod offers a brief discussion on various findings by researchers in the field. She challenges the popular notion that emotions stemming from writing are only negative. She then goes on to give suggestion for further study in the field by, encouraging researchers to look to emotions for both their negative as well as positive qualities. McLeod argues that researchers and instructors need to know more about emotional engagement with writing tasks because there is a need to design more challenging tasks to insure that this engagement takes place.

As an important aspect of this study because of its hindering factor, McLeod points out that students come to the table with diminishing beliefs about their own ability to write; therefore instructors need to know more about how to help students access their writing abilities. Ultimately, in terms of belief, research indicates that success is directly linked to how students view both their successes and failures. In the section on theory of affect, McLeod looks to writing anxiety, motivation and beliefs and builds upon this discussion using Mandler’s constructivist views to guide her conversation on the further study of affect and the writing process.

The impossibility to write without some level of emotion ties Mandler’s explanation of interruption with Flowers and Hayes’ range of ideas about thinking, writing and interruption. By linking her personal emotional experience—of writing this article—McLeod found that though agitated, she was also intrigued and this was an enabling experience in terms of her own writing. McLeod goes on to discuss why affect is an issue for both skilled and unskilled writers. She concludes her article with some pedagogical applications; suggesting that by acknowledging the inextricable relationship between affect and writing, students can be better assisted with learning how to make emotion enable instead of restrict their process. This article is very useful for any study of the writing process, affect and pedagogy.

Neidenthal, et al. “Embodying Emotion.” Science 316 (2007): 1002-1005. AAA. JSTOR. Roesch Lib., U of Dayton, Dayton, OH. 14 Mar. 2008. . French social psychologists, Niedenthal, researched the process of emotional information. Although this article deals primarily with cognitive concerns I found that it assisted in understanding the ways in which various disciplines look at this particular area of study. Niedenthal’s article does in some ways help to inform a discussion on the importance of studying emotion; it also shows different views of imitation as a form of process—something often discussed when addressing the writing process.

Neidenthal also touches on similar findings discussed in the previous mentioned articles pertaining to the lack of investment cognitive science puts into the study of emotion. She proceeds with a discussion on memory, information-processing models and reenactment; these terms are very familiar in the study of the writing process. This article would be helpful to anyone interested in getting a better understanding of the effects of emotions and how they are viewed in scholarship. In terms of my own research, the article really only provided definition and clarity toward my deeper understanding of emotion as a psychological characteristic.

Shafer, Gregory. “Composition and a Prison Community of Writers.” The English Journal 90.5 (2001): 75-81. JSTOR. Roesch Lib., U of Dayton, Dayton, OH. 4 Mar. 2008. . Shafer, composition instructor and author, guides readers through the writing experiences of inmates from a women’s correctional institution. Shafer organized his research using the various stages of writing an essay: writing, revision and drafting, and the final draft. This article would appeal to several groups of researchers concerned with the social, emotional and cognitive processes of writers. I looked at Shafer’s experience with the women as a field approach to learning more about emotion, identity and the social implications these have on the writing process.

Shafer’s article provides the reader with both an emotional as well as practical illustration of the ways in which writing enabled the prisoners to write. He also challenges instructors about remembering the value of writing when developing “intractable” class polices (76). While acknowledging his restrictions in terms of changing the curriculum, Shafer discusses the ways in which he managed to work within the constraints and still provide the prison students with a meaningful, engaging experience. Borrowing from Henry Giroux, Shafer suggests that students should be empowered by a pedagogy, which allows them to utilize language in such a way as to better operate in the world.

In step with Bell Hooks ideas of language as a source of power, Shafer was inspired to meet the needs of the prison writers. He goes on to address the role of emotions in the academic classroom and discusses his approaches to traditional assignments. He concludes this discussion by touching on issues of editing in terms of Standard English use and how engaged students are when writing is pertinent to their lives. This article was very interesting and could be profitable on so many levels in terms of pedagogy as well as social, identity and emotional issues as they pertain to the writing process.

Taylor, Hill. “Black Spaces: Examining the Writing Major at an Urban HBCU.” Composition Studies 35.1 (2007): 100-112. Taylor, an instructor at an HBCU in Washington, D.C., writes about the writing major at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and though her article does not address emotion directly, Taylor explains with great care the role of identity and culture—which is not free from the influence of affect—as pertaining to issues of writing. I use this article to better understand curricular and pedagogical issues as well as for the social implications that may inform affect in writing. Although Taylor deals specifically with the writing major, her discussion correlates with Shafer’s idea of a student-centered classroom, which supports and engages students writing.

Taylor’s article also continues to build upon the pertinent theologies of composition theorists such as Peter Elbow and Derek Owen to name a few. She directly deals with issues of misrepresentation and the lack of diversity in college curriculums. Taylor pulls from Elbow’s ideas about the problems of looking at pedagogy as not only “fixing” issues of language but also ending up “fixing” problems of identity—she goes on to address how this is problematic. Taylor also borrows from Derek Owen’s idea that our identities are “interwoven” with our environments, she asserts that this discussion cannot leave out ideas about the kinds of emotions our environments inspire.

Taylor asserts, “ curriculum design is a political act,” she pushes for the consideration of both identity and culture in that design (108). The article concludes with a statement about the current issues for English departments to consider; such as falling victim to assumptions, which may hinder the progress of better writing. Again this article, though not addressing emotions directly, has added to my over all knowledge of student-centered pedagogy and issues of identity which I now know to be intricately tied to emotions and the writing process.

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