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Vernacular Eloquence: What Speech Can Bring to Writing, by Peter Elbow

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 17, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 18, 2013

May 17th, 2012

Peter Elbow will lead a 3-hour workshop on Monday, July 16 at AAEEBL's annual conference. This workshop is just one reason why you should join us at our conference.

Elbow’s latest book, Vernacular Eloquence, published this year by Oxford University Press, helps us understand how spoken and written language are changing in our new digital culture.

Peter Elbow has helped shape our understanding of writing since the early 1980s (at least) with his publications, Writing Without Teachers, Writing With Power, Embracing Contraries, and Everyone Can Write.

As a writing teacher myself, sometimes I only needed to read a phrase from Elbow and my world would open up. He has a knack for seeing both the obvious and what no one else sees.

Peter Elbow, an early influence on eportfolio practices and theory, is leading a 3-hour workshop at the AAEEBL Annual Conference in Boston, July 16 – 19 at the Seaport World Trade Center. His workshop is on the Monday pre-conference day, 8:30 to 11:30. You need to register for the conference to then register for this pre-conference workshop: http://aaeebl.org/2012conference

Everyone involved with eportfolios should attend this workshop. It is a rare chance to spend time with a legend. Using eportfolios necessarily requires students to write and to write in different contexts, both formally and informally. In any course, no matter the field, using eportfolios increases opportunities for students to write; the value of good written communication is amplified in an eportfolio-based learning design. Elbow explores how our concept of "literacy” and our actual literacy practices are changing quickly, and he sees these changes as positive.

I have started reading this book and keep saying to myself "finally! Someone has thought through these issues and is making sense.” We now "speak” in writing in forms such as Twitter and Facebook, blogs, email. The controversies around how technology is altering our communication forms leave us grasping for appropriate terms or reasonable perspectives to understand these changes. Having just read a part of this magnificent book, I already feel better. I have somewhere to turn for a better understanding and for the realization that the popular issues around writing at this moment actually have a long history. Reading this book, we not only learn more about current changes but about the whole nature of writing over time.

Rarely do conference-goers experience a plenary workshop. Usually, a plenary speaker would just speak for an hour. In this case, Peter Elbow has been generous enough to do a 3-hour workshop and then spend another hour with us on Tuesday afternoon in an informal "conversations” session. You’d have the chance to attend his workshop and then, the next day, join with him again to discuss your thoughts or questions from the workshop.

Ideally, you would read Vernacular Eloquence between now and July 16, and then have a chance to engage in conversation with the author from an informed viewpoint during the workshop and the next day during the Conversations session.

One of the most pointed criticisms employers make about college graduates is "they can’t write.” Ouch. In Vernacular Eloquence, we find out possible reasons why this is true.


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