Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Emotions and writing (blog five)

Perhaps thankfully, I have not yet had an outwardly emotional student come in to be tutored, nor have I had a particularly emotional paper come by. There seem to be intuitive reasons for the absence of much emotion in papers coming through the writing center's doors. First of all, students don't generally invest much emotion into the papers they're writing for classes (many of which are not classes they've chosen, but are taken to satisfy necessary credits) because they are papers based on assigned reading, and one is far less likely to have a very intimate response to a text which has been assigned. That's just my experience, of course; but again, it seems intuitively to preclude much emotion from finding its way into  the student's resulting work. Secondly, the student knows that she or he will be reading it with someone if they plan to take it to the writing center, and I would confidently guess that people are much more reserved emotionally when they will have someone -- right before them -- reading it out loud. What's more, I am probably less likely than others to be sensitive to emotionally charged papers, so even it were there, I may not "pick up on it," so to speak. Instead, I would deliberately try to view the paper in terms of effectiveness, emotion notwithstanding.

That stated, I have been met with emotion in writing I've looked over outside of class. One experience I think of was a friend's personal essay on gay marriage. I remember it being very difficult for me to critique; although I agreed with his position, I remember being uncomfortable with his characterizations of the opposing arguments. They were riddled with unfair ad hominem attacks, and I found his approach downright tasteless. This was something of an internal struggle for me: on one hand, I didn't want to offend him, or come across as an apologist for the contrary position. On the other hand, I felt like I had to be honest and let him know that I felt his tone really had a negative impact on the piece. He took it better than I thought he would. However, he didn't end up taking my advice -- which is kind of the thing about emotion, it unfortunately muddles rational discourse.


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