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Review of  Why Writing Matters

Reviewer: Luna Bergh
Book Title: Why Writing Matters
Book Author: Awena Carter Theresa Lillis Sue Parkin
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Book Announcement: 21.2455

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EDITORS: Carter, Awena; Lillis, Theresa; Parkin, Sue
TITLE: Why Writing Matters
SUBTITLE: Issues of access and identity in writing research and pedagogy
SERIES TITLE: Studies in Written Language and Literacy 12
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins Publishing Company
YEAR: 2009

Luna Bergh, Unit for Development of Rhetorical and Academic Writing (UDRAW),
University of the Free State, South Africa


''Why Writing Matters'' is a festschrift in honour of Roz Ivanič comprising 22
contributions written by colleagues and students on the themes Creativity and
Identity, Pedagogy, and Methodology. Each of the three parts, in turn, includes
three brief reflections and four chapters. The three parts are outlined in the
Introduction by the editor most concerned with research in the respective area
of writing.

The 12 chapters are united by varying social practices perspectives (xvi) and
the threefold purpose (xvii) of celebrating Roz Ivanič, indicating how she
inspired individuals through her thinking, teaching and research, and recording
the projects that developed from what she initiated - especially as far as the
theme of writing and identity is concerned.

Courtney Cazden, in recalling a lecture by Roz Ivanič, introduces Part I,
Creativity and Identity, by reflecting on the manifold voices that a writer
carries into a text. Mary R. Lea continues the discussion in Chapter 1 of Part
I by focusing on two key aspects of academic writing, namely ''ownership and
authority'' (10) in the meaning-making process of students - here specifically in
the topical context of online writing. Chapter 2, by Sue Parkin, touches on the
theme of creativity, also in student writing. She illustrates Ivanič's term
''wrighting'' in the textual patterns employed by an art student.

Chapters 3 and 4 are preceded by James Paul Gee's reflection on the thorny issue
of ''identity without identification'', faced by so many potential writers.
Richard Edwards expands this theme in Chapter 3 by contemplating the danger of
self-plagiarism. The same pattern as in the previous combination of chapters
then unfolds as Chapter 4 also deals with creativity, here specifically in
academic writing and in respect of working within the delineations of the genre.
The first section of this chapter, written by Mary Hamilton and Kathy Pitt,
describes how ''power, identity and convention'' (63) can ''bind the writer into
particular straightjackets'' (63). This is counteracted by the second section, in
which they indicate ''some of the ways these bindings have already been broken,
or stretched into new shapes'' (63). Min-Zhan Lu and Bruce Horner complement the
views on writing by their acknowledgement of aspects of Ivanič's non-written
contribution in Reflection 3 at the end of Part I.

Part II, Pedagogy, opens with Denny Taylor's Reflection ''Writing pictures,
painting stories with Roz Ivanič''. Chapter 5 by Awena Carter extends this child
language focus and deals with discourses of learning and teaching in dyslexic
primary school learners. The conceptual framework was developed by Ivanič,
Carter's PhD supervisor, and is applied to the writing practices of Chris, a
nine-year old learner. The focus of Chapter 6 is on English written in a Korean
context. As in Chapter 5, the term 'practices', which Ivanič prefers rather
than 'skills' or 'procedures', comes to the fore as Youngwa Lee describes
Accommodation as a strategy used by EFL (English as a Foreign Language) students
learning to construct arguments in English. In the subsequent Reflection, Karin
Tusting shares her experience of Ivanič as far as ''Collegiality and
collaboration'' (127) is concerned.

Both Chapters 7 and 8 focus on forms of rewriting in the work of students. In
Chapter 7, David Camps concentrates on revision practices in the writing process
undertaken by advanced EFL students at a private university in Mexico City.
This is followed by the contribution of Mary Scott and Joan Turner in Chapter 8
entitled ''Reconceptualising student writing: From conformity to heteroglossic
complexity''. This chapter is related to Chapter 4 in that it deals with
academic conventions, but here the focus is more strongly on implications for
the teaching of academic writing. Norman Fairclough closes off the teaching
focus in Part II with his brief reflection on Ivanič's role in the establishment
of critical language studies at Lancaster University.

Hilary Janks introduces Part III, Methodology, with a reflection on Ivanič's
shared writing with students and her influence on academic literacy and teaching
in higher education in South Africa, especially in the context of first
generation university students. Chapter 9 by co-editor Theresa Lillis
illustrates the method of ''talk around texts'' developed by Roz Ivanič, and its
contributions to writing research. What is of particular importance here is
that this method makes the writer the focus of writing research (185), an
argument that also holds for the next chapter. In Chapter 10, Sue Sing and
Nigel Hall return to a younger audience in their description of how a study of
children's thoughts on punctuation was approached. What was new about the study,
and revolutionary at the time, was the fact that young writers were asked about
why they used punctuation marks the way they did in their texts.

In his Reflection, David Russell captures a rare feature of writing, namely joy,
and the way in which it was evident during his visit to the Lancaster writing
centre and in Ivanič's approach to teaching and research. As Zsuzsanna Walkó
points out (209), the aim of Chapter 11 is to show ''the value of combining case
study data about writers with a close linguistic analysis of their texts''. In
this chapter, she applies Van Leeuwen's notion of recontextualisation and the
coupled framework to the texts of two undergraduate teacher trainees. Chapter
12 gives a strong account of the problem of adherence to research methodology,
but then hesitance to write up the results. Samina Aman Qadir's contribution is
entitled ''Researcher identity in the writing of collaborative-action research''.
It is especially this chapter that emphasises Ivanič's role in the creation of
social awareness of the importance of writing as a process and not only a
technical product. The vision is broadened to include not only English-speaking

The last Reflection of the volume, ''Roz Ivanič: An appreciation'' by Brain
Street, revolves around the question students always ask in academic writing
classes, namely whether they should use the pronoun ''I'' or a more impersonal,
objective or passive form of reference in their texts - and how this relates to
probably the most characteristic theme of Ivanič's work: writing and identity.


''Why Writing Matters'' is a gentle and inspirational appreciation of Roz Ivanič.
The authors try to focus on professional and academic aspects, but seem to find
it difficult not to refer to her personal attributes. Roz Ivanič is repeatedly
and consistently portrayed as a supportive, enthusiastic and generous scholar.

Potentially contentious remarks such as ''the aim should be to provide
understandings not rules'' (152) are put in perspective by the two points Karin
Tusting makes: ''Roz has the gift of seeing first the strengths of her students'
work and developing these, rather than focusing on the flaws and limitations,
...'' (127) and ''However, to praise Roz' enthusiasm for students' and colleagues'
work is not to say that she overlooks problems with it either. Her forensic
attention to detail means that gaps in arguments and errors in reasoning cannot
be disguised with fancy rhetoric'' (128).

What is of particular value in Chapter 9 by Theresa Lillis is its relevance to
the challenge of keeping the balance between linguistic analysis and writing
concerns (179-180), here specifically the writer's voice, in examining a written
text and guiding the writer.

Why does writing matter? In the first place, because of its ''purposefulness''
(247) and specifically in the case of Roz Ivanič as a vehicle for helping people
identify who they are and who they want to become (31, 247). Writing is
essential for the acquisition of literacy (68), for joining in ''the great
conversation of literature'' (66), and in the ongoing process of creating one's
own voice (66), for the establishment of ''collective and individual writing
identities'' (67) and in ''developing a sense of authorship'' (67). Because ''texts
reveal physically and textually the tools that were used to create them and the
decisions that were made in their construction'' (85) and, ultimately, because
writing is ''something beautiful that connects us with our histories and with our
everyday lives'' (87).

Dr. Luna Bergh is a lecturer in the Unit for Development of Rhetorical and Academic Writing (UDRAW) at the University of the Free State, South Africa. She is mainly concerned with the MBA writing programme on campus. Her research focus revolves around reference points, punctuation, mental spaces and blending, and the speaking-writing interface.