Genre, Diversity, and Disorder in the Writing Center
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"I hadn’t met her before, but surely I had met women like her. Louise had gone back to school when her children were grown. She told me she didn’t write well, she wasn’t organized, she needed help. Don’t worry, I said. Hadn’t I helped someone like her just that morning? You don’t understand, she said. I really can’t write. She had a proposal to put together, for a research project. I knew how to help her. She said she didn’t like the bulleted list of instructions. Many people can’t deal with those, I said. I have some model proposals, from this same program. We’ll look at these together. Much writing center work deals with genre. We can think of genre in a more or less static way, as texts that conform to certain patterns. We can easily describe the textual features of so-called genre literature, such as the nurse novel. Dell, Ace, and Harlequin published many of these in the 1960s and 1970s: Ski Resort Nurse, Dude Ranch Nurse, Arctic Nurse, Wayward Nurse. They all tell essentially the same story. Nurse loves doctor, doctor appears not to love nurse, nurse and doctor overcome obstacle together, wedding. Or take a genre closer to hand, the freshman English essay: some kind of argument, developed in paragraphs, with an underlined thesis statement, topic sentences, and a grand and hasty conclusion. Much of our work with novice writers involves making the requirements of the genre clear. Louise’s research proposal needed to begin with a glance through relevant literature, relate the project to the values of the college, and explain what steps she would take next."