Memory and Freewriting – How We Integrate Reading into Research and the Classroom

In writing these blog posts, I find that I’m not doing the kind of simultaneous reading and quoting that I imagined I would be doing. Instead, I find myself doing free association, drawing in examples from memory that I’ve read over the past few years (or longer).  Clearly, the brain (as a technology) is capable of far more than I give it credit for.

Do we allow our students this kind of freedom in their own writing?  Allow it, sure – when it “works” and we’re happy with the results.  But how do we help our students actually learn to free associate productively?

This has been of critical importance to Peter Elbow, Ann Berthoff, Wendy Bishop, and others.  But controversy arises because the “free writing camp” has been so hostile to theory, and the “theory camp” of Gary Olson and others has apparently been very dismissive of free writing (but is that the case?  I need to re read the Olson article – he was exceptionally critical of Bishop, but did he also dismiss her notions of creativity?)

So, a research gap I’m seeing is the intersection of posthuman treatments of the brain as a technology/physical substrate for disembodied information (see Hayles) and creativity as a theorizable phenomenon (see Brophy).  Still acknowledging the dangers of positivism, imaging studies do now provide new insights into the connections between language, textual production, and geographic locations in the brain (see neurology studies______).  Further imaging studies reveal marked differences in brain activity when examining survivors of trauma (_____), particularly in regards to autobiographical memory (_____).  This indicates that neurological pathways are altered by emotional trauma – I would speculate that the observed “shutting down” of pathways may well occur in the classroom, particularly in regards to creative writing.  Pat Schneider  describes how audience responses to free writing can choke the creative process, and that such critiques become internalized as the “inner critic.”

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