New Histories of Writing I:
Inver Hills Community College
Phenomenology of Composition's Fifty-Year War of the Paradigms
Husserl, the founder of phenomenology in the early twentieth century,
asks us in his Cartesian Meditations to accept "any judgment as scientific"
only if it is "derived from evidence, from 'experiences'...present
to me." Spellmeyer calls such evidence "ordinary sensuous life,
which is...the ground of thought itself...." It is this sensuous
life--the real writing experiences of real writers--that suggests no one
system alone is right and the interregnum that now exists--what Kathleen
Blake Yancey calls our "plural commons"--might be the best situation
possible in the field of writing practice. Fifty years ago, there was
no understanding, let alone acceptance of, Spellmeyer's "sensuous
life" in student writers. Thirty years ago, Peter Elbow's books helped
set the cultural stage for the process movement. Ten years later, social
epistemic theories began gaining power. We now seem to be in the midst
of a great and continuing pause, a time when no one system dominates.
The phenomenological experience of writing, in itself, thus has become
the concrete ground in which we submerge ourselves each day to discover
which theories truly work.