Joesph Harris: Community in the Study of Writing

Joseph Harris writes about his idea of community in regards to writing. He decides to take a more critical look at the term community and create a better understanding of it. One of the ways he critically analyzes it is through Raymond Williams explanation of it. Harris suggests that Williams shines light on the fact that the word community  has become “an empty and sentimental word” (13). The use of community in this sense, especially in classrooms, means only a little bit better version of the community before it. However, Harris also believes that Williams hints at the great rhetorical power that is gained through using community in writing and speech. It offers “a view of shared purpose and effort,” and when used correctly, the power of the community can cause the audience to act a certain way (13). Depending if you are an “insider” or “outsider” of the community, you will want to stay true to beliefs on the side of the community that you are on.

In response to this, Harris mentions the power of using community in the classroom and more specifically, writing. His main point is that students should not have to fully conform to university language, but rather combine their individuality to the preexisting community. Harris believes that student language is essential and shouldn’t be restricted so that students lose their individuality. It is not beneficial to force students to only be in the old, academic community but once they crossover and learn how to connect the two, it can be very rewarding.  To show this idea, he emphasizes that a community is like a city: “competing beliefs and practices intersect with and confront one another” (20). He is suggesting that there shouldn’t be threats of coexisting. Instead, there should be the acceptance that natural adjustments will be made but the community of the city, the classroom, will not end.



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