The Clark and Ivanic Turn

Clark , Romy and Roz Ivanic.  “Ch. 4: Writing Processes and Practices.” The Politics of Writing. New York: Routlage.  1997.  Print.


One Sentence Summary

Writing practices and processes are too often lumped together under the umbrella term of skills, a term that is problematic in itself due to the prescriptive and transferable assumptions it implies; the authors problematize those conceptualizations as they emerged from previously supposed models of writing (e.g., Flower and Hayes) and turn toward more complex explanations of writing and literacy that are situated in the social, cultural, and political domains.

Key Terms

Writing, Reading, Cognitive Processes, Social Practices, Skills


Clark and Ivanic begin by problematizing the casual lumping together of cognitive processes of writing and social practices writing is situated in. This totalizing is problematic because it promotes the idea that writing is a kind of skill that, once learned (and it is teachable in this model), can be transferred to other domains.  Why is this problematic?  Clark and Ivanic point out that such a conceptualization accepts writing as a technology rather than a meaning-making activity: if it’s merely a technology, writers will be unable to recognize the social and cultural situatedness they compose in; if it’s a meaning-making practice, writers become aware 0f (and perhaps challenge, critique, or alternatively compose) the context in which they are situated.

Clark and Ivanic seem to be making a move toward Berlin in their critique of earlier conceptualizations of writing as liner processes and as proposed in cognitive models from the likes of Flowers and Hayes.  I don’t see expressivism (Elbow et al.) or vitalism (per Hawk) make an appearance in Clark and Ivanics critique and wonder what they would have to say about those models.  I wonder if they become problematic because they seem to push forcefully at the idea that writing is potentially “unteachable”.

Clark and Ivanic move on to present an alternative view of writing processes and practices along with an alternative representation (via diagram) of writing practices and processes.  What’s interesting to me is that the model, as viewed in relation to the Flower and Hayes model and even simpler, linear models that came before Flower and Hayes, seems to be moving, visually, toward a networked representation of writing, yet I’m not sure I read the word network anywhere in the piece.  This would be an interesting etymology to trace in the field; when does the word “network” first show up in composition studies?


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