Learning to Write: Plowing and Hoeing, Labor and Essaying

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Amanda Fulford
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519 - 534
Number of pages15
JournalEducational Theory
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2016
In this paper Amanda Fulford addresses the issue of student writing in the university, and explores how the increasing dominance of outcome-driven modes of learning and assessment is changing the understanding of what it is to write, what is expected of students in their writing, and how academic writing should best be supported. The starting point is the increasing use of what are termed “technologies” of writing — “handbooks” for students that address issues of academic writing — that systematize, and smooth the work of writing in, Fulford argues, an unhelpful way. This leads to a reconsideration of what it means to write in the university, and what it is to be a student who writes. Fulford explores etymologically the concept of “writing” and suggests that it might be seen metaphorically as physical labor. Writing as physical labor is explored further through the agricultural metaphors in Henry David Thoreau's Walden and through Stanley Cavell's reading of that text. In making a distinction between writing-as-plowing and writing-as-hoeing, Fulford argues that some technologies of writing deny voice rather than facilitate it, and she concludes by offering a number of suggestions for the teaching and learning of writing in the university that emphasize the value of being lost (in one's subject and one's work) and finding one's own way out. These “lessons” are illustrated with reference to Thoreau's text Walden and to American literature and film.


  • ETSI Paper_SUBMISSION_26 Feb 16

    Rights statement: © The Author 2016. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Educational Theory, 66(4) pp. 519-534. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/edth.12186

    Accepted author manuscript, 576 KB, PDF document

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