Between Convention and Invention: Toward a New Rhetoric of Form in Writing Instruction
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In this dissertation I argue a rhetorical-poetic conception of form is useful in language arts classrooms focused on the writing formulas associated with high-stakes testing because of its a) groundedness in the productive tension between convention and invention; b) complex relationship to content; and c) expression of the exchange between writing as verb and noun. To demonstrate how writing teachers can resist reductive binaries between skills-based and creative writing-based pedagogies, formula and form, I draw on interviews with and observations of writers and teachers collaborating (on writing, teaching, lessons, and reflection) through the Houston Writers in the Schools (WITS) Collaborative program. I identify parallels between restrictions on student writing and restrictions on writing instruction in classrooms impacted by high-stakes tests, arguing fear and a lack of agency in both contexts lead to a reliance on [writing and teaching] formulas. I theorize form as a productive tool for reframing both how students write and how teachers teach because of the possibility it offers for movement in the face of stasis, self-formation in the face of conformity, and invention in the face of strict adherence to convention.