Writing-about-writing and Joan Didion: creating a space for emotion as epistemic tool in first-year composition

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


This project considers the problem of the cultural binary created between emotion and reasoning as ways of knowing. I address this binary within the context of first-year composition (FYC) by developing three central tenets for emotion as epistemic tool through a review of emotion scholarship in rhetoric and composition. These include: 1) emotions must be specific and nameable; 2) emotion challenges cultural assumptions and beliefs; and 3) we use the connection between emotion and experience as a method of inquiry. Having established these tenets, I situate emotion as epistemic tool in a writing-about-writing (WAW) approach to FYC and argue that this pedagogy is an effective site for emotion as epistemic tool, though it lacks concrete examples for how this works in writing. To address that, I suggest Joan Didion's memoirs as an access point for students to see emotion working as epistemic tool outside academic writing. Finally, I connect these agendas in a curriculum design for a WAW course in FYC on emotion as epistemic tool that includes a course schedule, assignment sheets, and unit rationales.




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