“Felt Sense” and Expository Writing

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I just finished rereading Sondra Perl’s essay “Understanding Composing” reproduced in the excellent Bedford resource Teaching Composition: Background Readings. I’m teaching Perl in our pedagogy course for new graduate teaching assistants, ENC 6700 Introduction to Composition Theory and Methodology; the essays forms part of a cluster of readings on drafting and audience. I’ve been thinking about Perl’s use of “felt sense,” the internal, somatic feelings that exist prior to and result in a piece of writing.  Perl’s use of the term certainly resonates with me as a writer when I am writing things such as this blog.  But I am wondering how (or if) I can use it in the composition classroom for expository, academic writing. That is, I am wondering to what extent felt sense relies on a writer’s investment in the project.  Does felt sense only come into operation when the writing matters to a writer?  Do we have to care to evoke a felt sense?  Or what happens when our felt sense in relation to a writing project involves procrastination, distaste, revulsion, disdain, or any number of non-generative emotions I imagine students in the classes I teach might have? I’m thinking I might explore the affective dimensions of composition in my classroom, perhaps by having students follow an exercise like the one that opens Perl’s essay: recording out loud what they are thinking, doing, and feeling as they write.  It might help some students connect to the class but more importantly it might help students who are struggling identify (and then perhaps divest) emotions related to the composing process. Have you considered the emotional dimensions of writing in your classes?  What works?
About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.