“Nobody is capable of free speech unless he knows how to use language”

“Nobody is capable of free speech unless he knows how to use language, and such knowledge is not a gift: it has to be learned and worked at.”

— Northrop Frye, The Educated Imagination 149.


what feels natural, what feels artificial about writing

Something to think about when I have more time:

What about talking in class about “what’s natural” and “what’s artificial” about writing?


We speak already, we think already


We don’t speak naturally only on one topic (we ramble, our minds are fertile with ideas, so one thing reminds us of another)

We don’t speak in coherent order, necessarily. We get ideas the order we get them. We have to go back and artifically impose an order, depending on our audience.

Might help students 1) understand writing in general, and 2) understand why some things come more easily to them and others not.

It’s the canon of invention that gives rhetoric its substance

It is, however, the canon of invention that gives rhetoric its substance; without it, rhetoric merely arranges, clothes, and dispatches the arguments and observations other disciplines have discovered. Without invention, rhetoric is not an epistemic activity, and as such it can never hold anything but a secondary place in the English department (to say nothing of the academy at large).

George L. Pullman,  “Rhetoric and Hermeneutics: Composition, Invention, and Literature,” JAC 14.2 (Winter 1994)

Yes, yes, yes. Invention is the juiciest, funnest, deepest part of writing and teaching to write.

Peter Elbow: “believe everything, particularly what seems strange or unpleasant”

The doubting muscle’s sensitivity to dissonance is not so trustworthy till you work out the rules of logic, transform assertions logically into as many forms as possible, extricate the self, doubt particularly those assertions that seem reasonable, and get opposing propositions to fight each other. Similarly, the believing muscle’s ability to project isn’t so trustworthy till you build its use into an orderly game and follow the rules: never argue; believe everything, particularly what seems strange or unpleasant; try to put yourself into the skin of people with other perceptions; make metaphorical transformations of assertions to help you enter into them. Most important of all, you must get other people to do it with you, and do it for a long time.

— Peter Elbow, from “Believing and Doubting as Dialectics” (Writing Without Teachers, pp. 169-170)

I am a little bit in awe of how simply-stated but true to reality these sentences are. I especially like the parts about the need to practice believing “what seems strange or unpleasant” and making “metaphorical transformations of assertions to help you enter them.” It’s almost as if I could take these sentences and expand them into steps for my students to follow while researching or thinking about something.

“You’ll have more tolerance for people [if you use] your mind correctly”

Lately, I’ve been coming across brain researchers talking about the personal/spiritual growth involved in self-reflection. Nothing new there, but sometimes I want to collect those kinds of statements, since together they’re more persuasive. This morning, I watched part of a Joyce Meyer interview with Caroline Leaf, PhD. She goes one step further when she mentions that “[T]he isms come from a lack of using your mind correctly. The minute you use your mind correctly and you think more deeply, those will go away.” Very cool.

That’s almost common sense (or should be), but I’d be curious to see if she has specific scientific research to back it up. That would be exciting.

Here’s the context of the quote [begins about 4:00 in the video]:

[…] as you enjoy your life, you actually become more intelligent. They’ve proved it scientifically. That[‘s why] one of my detox steps is play and laugh a lot. And it’s part of that whole process, your attitude, the state of your mind, the state of your neurological trees needs to be detoxed. You need to be in a happy, positive attitude because that causes a release of chemicals that will actually make you function in a more healthy way. So it’s a very real thing.

[… ]the minute that you release your gifting, the minute you get into your gifting and you start releasing intelligence through applying the principles of God, through enjoying your life, through all the chemicals flow, and you’re going to become brilliant. If you’re intelligent, you can think; if you can think, you’ll go back to the Word. You’ll have more tolerance for people. People, the isms, come from a lack of using your mind correctly. The minute you use your mind correctly and you think more deeply, those will go away.