Common Theme Reading/Activity 2


University of South Florida

Question Description

i have homework and someone to help me to do it. you need to read the article and write about 250 words.

this is what you need to do :

( Read Fan Shen's (1989) articleView in a new window about how different cultures produce different writing identities. Respond to some of Shen's main points in a well-thought-out discussion board post. Your response can take the form of structured paragraphs (around 250 words) or it can be more creative (personal narrative, poetry, comics, music, video, collage, etc). Use whatever genre best makes your point.

Feel free to include any anecdotes that have informed what it means to be a writer for you in your culture and how this might be different for someone of a different background. Consider elements of identity like Shen mentions (nationality, political ideologies) as well as other factors (gender, generation, socioeconomic status). Post your response in this discussion board.)


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The Classroom and the Wider Culture: Identity as a Key to Learning English Composition Author(s): Fan Shen Source: College Composition and Communication, Vol. 40, No. 4 (Dec., 1989), pp. 459-466 Published by: National Council of Teachers of English Stable URL: Accessed: 20-06-2017 16:59 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at National Council of Teachers of English is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to College Composition and Communication This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Jun 2017 16:59:12 UTC All use subject to Staffroom Interchange The Classroom and the Wider Culture: Identity as a Key to Learning English Composition Fan Shen, Marquette University One day in June 1975, when I walked into the aircraft factory where I was working as an electrician, I saw many large-letter posters on the walls and many people paradin around the workshops shouting slogans like "Down with the word 'I'!" and "Trust in masses and the Party!" I then remembered that a new political campaign calle "Against Individualism" was scheduled to begin that day. Ten years later, I got back my first English composition paper at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The pro fessor's first comments were: "Why did you always use 'we' instead of 'I'?" and "Your paper would be stronger if you eliminated some sentences in the passive voice." The clashes between my Chinese background and the requirements of English composition had begun. At the center of this mental struggle, which has lasted several years and is still not completely over, is the prolonged, uphill battle to recapture "myself." In this paper I will try to describe and explore this experience of reconciling my Chinese identity with an English identity dictated by the rules of English composi- tion. I want to show how my cultural background shaped-and shapes-my approaches to my writing in English and how writing in English redefined-and redefines-my ideological and logical identities. By "ideological identity" I mean the system of values that I acquired (consciously and unconsciously) from my social and cultural background. And by "logical identity" I mean the natural (or Oriental) way I organize and express my thoughts in writing. Both had to be modified or redefined in learning English composition. Becoming aware of the process of redefinition of thes different identities is a mode of learning that has helped me in my efforts to write in English, and, I hope, will be of help to teachers of English composition in this country. In presenting my case for this view, I will use examples from both my composition courses and literature courses, for I believe that writing papers for both kinds o courses contributed to the development of my "English identity." Although what I will describe is based on personal experience, many Chinese students whom I talked to said that they had had the same or similar experiences in their initial stages of learning to write in English. Two kinds of articles make up "Staffroom Interchange": compact descriptions of specific instructional or administrative practices and fuller essays of application, speculation, and introspection. "Staffroom Interchange" essays (normally under 3,000 words) should be written in a direct, personal style, and should use in-text documentation. Since submissions are sent to Con sulting Readers for review, authors should follow the guidelines for anonymous submission out- lined on the back of the title page. Fan Shen thanks Michael Wreen for his comments on an earlier draft of "The Classroom and the Wider Culture." College Composition and Communication, Vol. 40, No. 4, December 1989 459 This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Jun 2017 16:59:12 UTC All use subject to 460 College Composition and Communication 40 (December 1989) Identity of the Self: Ideological and Cultural Starting with the first English paper I wrote, I found that learning to compose in En- glish is not an isolated classroom activity, but a social and cultural experience. Th rules of English composition encapsulate values that are absent in, or sometimes contradictory to, the values of other societies (in my case, China). Therefore, learning the rules of English composition is, to a certain extent, learning the values of AngloAmerican society. In writing classes in the United States I found that I had to reprogram my mind, to redefine some of the basic concepts and values that I had abou myself, about society, and about the universe, values that had been imprinted and reinforced in my mind by my cultural background, and that had been part of me al my life. Rule number one in English composition is: Be yourself. (More than one composition instructor has told me, "Just write what you think.") The values behind this rule, it seems to me, are based on the principle of protecting and promoting individuality (and private property) in this country. The instruction was probably crystal clear to students raised on these values, but, as a guideline of composition, it was not very clear or useful to me when I first heard it. First of all, the image or meaning that I attached to the word "I" or "myself' was, as I found out, different from that of my English teacher. In China, "I" is always subordinated to "We"-be it the working class, the Party, the country, or some other collective body. Both political pressure and literary tradition require that "I" be somewhat hidden or buried in writings and speeches; presenting the "self" too obviously would give people the impression of being disrespectful of the Communist Party in political writings and boastful in scholarly writings. The word "I" has often been identified with another "bad" word, "individualism," which has become a synonym for selfishness in China. For a long time the words "self" and "individualism" have had negative connotations in my mind, and the negative force of the words naturally extended to the field of literary studies. As a result, even if I had brilliant ideas, the "I" in my papers always had to show some modesty by not competing with or trying to stand above the names of ancient and modern authoritative figures. Appealing to Mao or other Marxist authorities became the required way (as well as the most "forceful" or "persuasive" way) to prove one's point in written discourse. I remember that in China I had even committed what I can call "reversed plagiarism"-here, I suppose it would be called "forgery"-when I was in middle school: willfully attributing some of my thoughts to "experts" when I needed some arguments but could not find a suitable quotation from a literary or political "giant." Now, in America, I had to learn to accept the words "I" and "Self' as something glorious (as Whitman did), or at least something not to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. It was the first and probably biggest step I took into English composition and critical writing. Acting upon my professor's suggestion, I intentionally tried to show my "individuality" and to "glorify" "I" in my papers by using as many "I's" as possible--"I think," "I believe," "I see"--and deliberately cut out quotations from authorities. It was rather painful to hand in such "pompous" (I mean immodest) papers to my instructors. But to an extent it worked. After a while I became more comfortable with only "the shadow of myself." I felt more at ease to put down my thoughts without looking over my shoulder to worry about the attitudes of my teachers or the reactions of the Party secretaries, and to speak out as "bluntly" and "immodestly" as my American instructors demanded. But writing many "I's" was only the beginning of the process of redefining myself. Speaking of redefining myself is, in an important sense, speaking of redefining the word "I." By such a redefinition I mean not only the change in how I envisioned my- This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Jun 2017 16:59:12 UTC All use subject to Staffroom Interchange 461 self, but also the change in how I pe only one set of values, but now it had "myself," which I knew was a key to meant not to be my Chinese self at all. wrestle with and abandon (at least tem previously defined me in myself. I ha not see myself as a Marxist by choice) familiarize myself with a system of c ideology of collectivism and adopt the as in literature classes, I had to make society and literary materials through rialism and historical materialism, I now the other way around, i.e., to learn t point of view of "idealism." (I must ad use a Marxist approach in their teachin The word "idealism," which affects m loaded with social connotations, and ca key word can be a pivotal part of redef To me, idealism is the philosophical f tion: "Be yourself." In order to write which actually meant not to be my Ch glish self and be that self. And to be t accept idealism the way a Westerner Westerner sees himself in relation to knew a lot about idealism. But on the knew a lot about idealism through th Marxism, but I knew little about it fr the word "materialism"--which is a m edly been "shown" to be the absolute and words like "right," "true," etc., word "idealism" always came to me w like "absurd," "illogical," "wrong," et cious and ridiculous enemy of Marxist tion imprinted in my mind had it, is that all that exists is the mind and its tical materialism which sees the mind difficult to see that idealism, with its vides a philosophical foundation for th human minds, and hence individual hu myself as of primary importance--an im figures idealism. in English composition-wa My struggle with idealism came mainl about works such as Coleridge's Literar long time I was frustrated and puzzl Emerson-given their ideas, such as "I borrowed from Descartes) and "the tra because in my mind, drenched as it w little voice whispering in my ear "You human consciousness, which is not ma lectual conscience refused to let me beli and the material world secondary. Fi This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Jun 2017 16:59:12 UTC All use subject to 462 College Composition and Communication 40 (December 1989) world with my head upside down. When I imagined that I was in a new body (born with the head upside down) it was easier to forget biases imprinted in my subconsciousness about idealism, the mind, and my former self. Starting from scratch, the new inverted self-which I called my "English Self" and into which I have transformed myself--could understand and accept, with ease, idealism as "the truth" and "himself" (i.e., my English Self) as the "creator" of the world. Here is how I created my new "English Self." I played a "game" similar to ones played by mental therapists. First I made a list of (simplified) features about writing associated with my old identity (the Chinese Self), both ideological and logical, and then beside the first list I added a column of features about writing associated with my new identity (the English Self). After that I pictured myself getting out of my old identity, the timid, humble, modest Chinese "I," and creeping into my new identity (often in the form of a new skin or a mask), the confident, assertive, and aggressive English "I." The new "Self" helped me to remember and accept the different rules of Chinese and English composition and the values that underpin these rules. In a sense, creating an English Self is a way of reconciling my old cultural values with the new values required by English writing, without losing the former. An interesting structural but not material parallel to my experiences in this regard has been well described by Min-zhan Lu in her important article, "From Silence to Words: Writing as Struggle" (College English 49 [April 1987]: 437-48). Min-zhan Lu talks about struggles between two selves, an open self and a secret self, and between two discourses, a mainstream Marxist discourse and a bourgeois discourse her parents wanted her to learn. But her struggle was different from mine. Her Chinese self was severely constrained and suppressed by mainstream cultural discourse, but never interfused with it. Her experiences, then, were not representative of those of the majority of the younger generation who, like me, were brought up on only one discourse. came to English composition as a Chinese person, in the fullest sense of the term, with a Chinese identity already fully formed. Identity of the Mind: Illogical and Alogical In learning to write in English, besides wrestling with a different ideological system, I found that I had to wrestle with a logical system very different from the blueprint of logic at the back of my mind. By "logical system" I mean two things: the Chinese way of thinking I used to approach my theme or topic in written discourse, and the Chinese critical/logical way to develop a theme or topic. By English rules, the first is illogical, for it is the opposite of the English way of approaching a topic; the second is alogical (non-logical), for it mainly uses mental pictures instead of words as a critical vehicle. The Illogical Pattern. In English composition, an essential rule for the logical organization of a piece of writing is the use of a "topic sentence." In Chinese composition, "from surface to core" is an essential rule, a rule which means that one ought to reach a topic gradually and "systematically" instead of "abruptly." The concept of a topic sentence, it seems to me, is symbolic of the values of a busy people in an industrialized society, rushing to get things done, hoping to attract and satisfy the busy reader very quickly. Thinking back, I realized that I did not fully understand the virtue of the concept until my life began to rush at the speed of everyone else's in this country. Chinese composition, on the other hand, seems to embody the values of a leisurely paced rural society whose inhabitants have the time to chew and taste a topic slowly. In Chinese composition, an introduction explaining how and why one chooses this topic is not only acceptable, but often regarded as necessary. It This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Jun 2017 16:59:12 UTC All use subject to Staffroom Interchange 463 arouses the reader's interest in the t composition) and gives him/her a se "noodles" contrasting a spiral Orien approach ("Cultural Thought Pattern glish as a Second Language, Ed. Ken may be too simplistic to capture th think they still express some truth clears the surrounding btishes before tern in Chinese writing goes back t fore doing anything, Kong says in hi by their proper names (expressed by before touching one's main thesis, on tion: how, why, and when the piec proper foundation on which to buil years after Kong, this principle of through the formal essays required "Ba Gu," or the eight-legged essay. T the eight-legged essay, is like the pee til the reader finally arrives at the ce Ba Gu still influences modern Chin discussion of this logical (or illogical dents' efforts to write in English ( Teacher in China," College English textbook for composition lists six ess steps to be taken in this order: tim (Yuwenjichu Zhishi LiushiJiang (Sixty Beijing Research Institute of Educa Most Chinese students (including m tion. The straightforward approach to co logical. One could not jump to the t topic. In several of my early paper clearing approach-persisted, and I h understanding) topic sentences. In w gave out themes. Today, those paper false English openings. For example wrote the forced/false topic senten the next few paragraphs, I talked ab and so on, before I talked about wha one could always learn something ev The Alogical Pattern. In learning E another cultural blueprint affecting m that very often I was unconsciously called the creation of "yijing," which the word "yijing" is: yi, "mind or cient approach which has existed in of much discussion, yijing is a comp But most critics in China nowadays se ical approach that separates Chinese and criticism. Roughly speaking, yij ment while reading a piece of literat creative process of inducing oneself, This content downloaded from on Tue, 20 Jun 2017 16:59:12 UTC All use subject to 464 College Composition and Communication 40 (December 1989) piece of art, to create mental pictures, in order to reach a unity of nature, the author, and the reader. Therefore, it is by its very nature both creative and critical. According to the theory, this nonverbal, pictorial process leads directly to a higher ground of beauty and morality. Almost all critics in China agree that yijing is not a process o logical thinking-it is not a process of moving from the premises of an argument to its conclusion, which is the foundation of Western criticism. According to yijing, th process of criticizing a piece of art or literary work has to involve the process of creation on the reader's part. In yijing, verbal thoughts and pictorial thoughts are one. Thinking is conducted largely in pictures and then "transcribed" into words. (Ezr Pound once tried to capture the creative aspect of yijing in poems such as "In a Station of the Metro." He also tried to capture the critical aspect of it in his theory of imagism and vorticism, even though he did not know the term "yijing.") One charac teristic of the yijing approach to criticism, therefore, is that it often includes a description of the created mental pictures on the part of the reader/critic and his/her mental attempt to bridge (unite) the literary work, the pictures, with ultimate beauty and peace. In looking back at my critical papers for various classes, I discovered that I unconsciously used the approach of yijing, especially in some of my earlier papers when I seemed not yet to have been in the grip of Western logical critical approaches. I wrote, for instance, an essay entitled "Wordsworth's Sound and Imagination: The Snowdon Episode." In the major part of the essay I described the pictures that flashed in my mind while I was reading passages in Wordsworth's long poem, The Prelude. I saw three climbers (myself among them) winding up the mountain in silence "at the dead of night," absorbed in their "private thoughts." The sky was full of blocks of clouds of different colors, freely changing their shapes, like oily pigments disturbed in a bucket of water. All of a sudden, the moonlight broke the darkness "like a flash," lighting up the mountain tops. Under the "naked moon," the band saw a vast sea of mist and vapor, a silent ocean. Then the silence was abruptly broken, and we heard the "roaring of waters, torrents, streams/Innumerable, roaring with one voice" from a "blue chasm," a fracture in the vapor of the sea. It was a joyful revelation of divine truth to the human mind: the bright, "naked" moon sheds the light of "higher reasons" and "spiritual love" upon us; the vast ocean of mist looked like a thin curtain through which we vaguely saw the infinity of nature beyond; and the sounds of roaring waters coming out of the chasm of vapor cast us into the boundless spring of imagination from the depth of the human heart. Evoked by the divine light from above, the human spring of imagination is joined by the natural spring and becomes a sustaining source of energy, feeding "upon infinity" while transcending infini ...
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