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The Everyday Writing Center

by Meg Carroll Anne Ellen Geller Elizabeth H. Boquet Frankie Condon Michele Eodice

The Everyday Writing Center challenges some of the most comfortable traditions in its field, and it does so with a commitment and persuasiveness that one seldom sees in scholarly discussion. The book, at its core, is an argument for a new writing center consciousness--one that makes the most of the writing center's unique, and uniquely fluid, identity. Writing center specialists live with a liminality that has been acknowledged but not fully explored in the literature. Their disciplinary identity is with the English department, but their mission is cross-disciplinary; their research is pedagogical, but they often report to central administration. Their education is in humanities, but their administrative role demands constant number-crunching. This fluid identity explains why Trickster--an icon of spontaneity, shape-shifting, and the creative potential of chaos--has come to be a favorite cultural figure for the authors of this book. Adapting Lewis Hyde and others, these authors use Trickster to develop a theme of ordinary disruptions ("the everyday") as a source of provocative learning moments that can liberate both student writers and writing center staff. At the same time, the authors parlay Etienne Wenger's concept of "community of practice" into an ethos for a dynamic, learner-centered pedagogy that is especially well-suited to the peculiar teaching situation of the writing center. Through Trickster, they question not only accepted approaches to writing center pedagogy, but conventional approaches to race, time, leadership, and collaboration as well. They encourage their field to exploit the creative potential in ordinary events that are normally seen as disruptive or defeating, and they challenge traditions in the field that tend to isolate a writing center director from the department and campus. Yet all is not random, for the authors anchor this high-risk/high-yield approach in their commitment to a version of Wenger's community of practice. Conceiving of themselves, their colleagues, student writers, and student tutors as co-learners engaged together in a dynamic life of learning, the authors find a way to ground the excess and randomness of the everyday, while advancing an ethic of mutual respect and self-challenge. Committed to testing a region beyond the edge of convention, the authors of The Everyday Writing Center constantly push themselves and their field toward deeper, more significant research, and more reflective, dynamic teaching.

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