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«Spring, 2012 Dear Potential Writing Fellow: This letter is aimed at clarifying for you, from the very outset, what it means to become a part of the ...»

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Spring, 2012

Dear Potential Writing Fellow:

This letter is aimed at clarifying for you, from the very outset, what it means to become

a part of the Writing Fellows Program.

Writing Fellows are specially selected and trained Barnard undergraduates who work

with their peers to strengthen student writing in all disciplines. Students in all majors are

encouraged to apply. We are of course looking for strong readers and writers, but equally

crucial to being a Writing Fellow is an ability to connect with other people.

Writing Fellows staff the Barnard Writing Center (for a minimum of an hour every week) and, in addition, work in different courses across the curriculum. They are/have been attached to courses in Anthropology, Architecture, Art History, Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures, Biology, Dance, Economics, Education, English, Environmental Science, History, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Religion, Sociology, Theatre, and Women’s Studies.

The onerous part of being a Writing Fellow occurs during the week that rolls around three times in the course of the semester when each Writing Fellow must find the time and energy to read and confer with (up to) fifteen students on their papers.

This can be done. Writing Fellows have been doing it, and doing their own work, and flourishing in each, since 1992. But the commitment of time and energy—of mind and heart—is a serious one; current Fellows say it is the equivalent of taking another course. If you feel that you cannot make such a commitment, please do not apply to the program. We ask of Writing Fellows, moreover, that they commit to working for at least three semesters, one of those being the semester immediately following the training workshop. Please take this into consideration as well.

Once training is completed, the salary for working as a Writing Fellow is $910 per semester.

A word about the training course: “The Writer’s Process” is a semester-long workshop (3 credits), taught by Pam Cobrin (Director of the Writing Program), in the teaching of writing. It is an intense experience (which does not mean we don’t laugh a lot). Students write a minimum of three essays and an ongoing journal; They also work with each other’s writing and with that of First-Year students in First-Year English and First-Year Seminar. Toward the middle of the semester, they begin to help staff the Writing Center. And of course, they read a great deal— not only Strunk & White on grammar and style, and nuts-and-bolts articles on how to talk with students about their writing, but also a significant amount of theory: about what constitutes a text and who constructs it (the writer? the reader?), about how we make meaning, how race, ethnicity and gender influence our writing and reading, etc.

All of us in the program believe that becoming a Writing Fellow is a privilege, as well as a responsibility. If you are still intrigued by the idea, we urge you to join us.

–  –  –

Deadline: Thursday, April 5, 2012 by 1pm. Please submit your completed application to Prof.

Pam Cobrin’s office in 216 Barnard Hall (can leave on her door if she is not there).

–  –  –

Projected Major:

Instructor in First-Year English:

Instructor in First-Year Seminar:

Faculty member whom you have asked for a recommendation:

(The Faculty recommendation form appears at the end of this application. Faculty recommendations are due no later than Monday, April 4 by1pm. They should be sent to Pam Cobrin, Writing and Speaking Programs, 216 Barnard Hall or emailed to pcobrin@barnard.edu.) Please indicate below the courses you have taken at Barnard/Columbia and the grades you

received:

Please list your work experience, including volunteer work (including the dates), or attach a resume.

Please list your prior experience in tutoring or peer counseling:

–  –  –

1. Please tell us, in a page or so, why you would like to be a Writing Fellow, how you yourself go about writing, and how that might relate to your interest in working with other people’s writing.

2. Please include in your application a 3-5 page sample of your own recent writing, preferably for a Barnard class. It should include, if possible, your instructor’s comments.

3. Attached to this form is a paper written for an actual college course. Imagine yourself as a Writing Fellow – write comments aimed at helping the writer revise. You may write in the margins or on the back of each page, and include an endnote at the end of the paper. What are the strengthsn of t? What still needs work?

Please return this application by Thursday, April 5th (by 1pm) to: Pam Cobrin, Writing and Speaking Programs, 216 Barnard Hall.

Applicants whom we wish to interview will be listed outside of 216 Barnard Hall on Monday, April 9, at 3pm. If you are on the list, please sign up for an interview.

–  –  –

As I was reflecting back to the time I went to Niagara Falls I started to wonder if my experience was authentic. Although I have never seen pictures of it I have heard of it from other people. When I went there I was captured by its beauty but did I see it through my own eyes or through the vision of others. Percy tells us preconceived notions prevent a person from getting “it”, the true experience. Percy’s writing is a key which unlocks Mair’s “On Being A Cripple.” We see Mair’s writing in a deeper level which we may not have been able to do so without Percy. According to Percy only the rare man can have the authentic experience. The rare man has total sovereignty and has no preconceived notions. The rare man does not take in whatever society gives. As we unlock Mair’s writing we can see she has qualities that would define a rare man but she is not the rare man.





The rare man has sovereignty physically, mentally, and emotionally. Nancy Mairs loses her sovereignty while gaining it at the same time. Mairs is a woman who is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She loses her ability to move her left hand and her right side. “My left leg is now so weak that I walk with the aid of a brace and a cane. I no longer have much use of my left hand.” Percy uses sovereignty to describe the loss of own ideas and the loss to discover the real thing. Nancy Mairs does not have physical sovereignty. She is not fully independent. She tells us her family supports her and she becomes dependent on her family to some extent. “But I’ve been limping along for ten years now, and so far George and the children are still at my elbow, holding tight.” She also mentions “I think they like me unless they are faking.” The reason she is thinking that her family may just be nice to her because of preconceived notions. Society probably tends to be nicer to those who have disadvantages. She “couldn’t bear the corroboration that those around [her] were doing in fact what [she’d] always suspected them of doing, professing fondness while silently putting up with [her] because of the way [she] is. A cripple.” The rare man will not worry about preconceived notions. Nancy Mairs has sovereignty to make her own decisions. She seems to be the rare man when she chooses to be the women who will not just lie in her bed. “I think of two women I know, both with MS, both enough older than I to have served me as models. One took to her bed several years ago and has been there ever since. The other woman, whose illness was diagnosed when she was eighteen, a nursing student, engaged to a young doctor, finished her training, married her doctor, travels with her husband, plays bridge, embroiders, and swims.” Nancy Mairs chooses to be the second woman. The woman who will go to bed is doing exactly what society preconceives but Mairs goes against it. She overcomes her illness by choosing not to be a cripple but her sovereignty becomes weaker when she has to depend on her family. She comes close to being the rare man.

In “Loss of the Creature” Percy gives us the example of the couple who went to Mexico and wanted to find “it” which is the true experience. They did find “it” but in trying to recover “it” they actually lost their sovereignty. They took their ethnologist friend with them to the place where they experienced “it” so that their friend can validate their experience. “They need the ethnologist friend to certify their experience as genuine...what they want from him is not ethnological explanations; all they want is his approval.” They unknowingly lose their sovereignty because they needed someone else to tell them that it was genuine. They did not get the true experience because they did not confront it. They did not try to learn anything from their experience. The woman who takes to her bed loses her sovereignty because she does not confront anything and does not live her life. Although Nancy Mairs is a cripple she does things that a normal person would do. She cooks, writes, teaches, and raises her children. But she is not the rare man because she does not confront society’s preconceived notions.

Percy and Mairs both notice society’s preconceived notions. In Percy’s writing the rare man realizes there is a loss of the true experience and tries to recover it. He gives the example of the Grand Canyon to show that in order to get the true experience you cannot have preconceived notions. “He visits his travel bureau, looks at the folder, signs up for a two-week tour. He and his family take the tour, see the Grand Canyon, and return to Boston...what he has done is one sure way not to see the Canyon.” The person in his example does not see the Grand Canyon because he already had preconceived notions about it. Because he goes to the travel bureau, and takes a tour he misses the Grand Canyon for what it is. He sees it from the planner’s point of view. So he becomes one of the consumers. He will already has ideas of what the Grand Canyon should look like and instead of seeing what is in front of him he will try to measure it up to what he already knows and in trying to do so he missed the whole picture. Percy writes one way in which “it” can be covered is to “see the Canyon by avoiding all the facilities for seeing the Canyon.” The person has to take the beaten track on his own without any tour guides in order to recover “it.” This leads to another idea of Percy’s in which you have to stumble upon the experience to really experience it. He gives us the example of the educational system. “A young Falkland Islander walking along a beach and spying a dead dogfish and going to work on it with his jackknife has, in a fashion wholly unprovided in modern educational theory, a great advantage over the Scarsdale high-school pupil who finds the dogfish on his laboratory desk.” The islander will have the true experience because he stumbled upon it. Nothing is prepared for him while on the other hand the student has the book and equipments that will prevent him from getting the true experience since he already has the whole package in front of him. The less you know about something the more you will actually learn about it than the person who has some type of experience with it. Nancy Mairs does realize there are preconceived notions that society creates of the ideal woman. The ideal woman is the symbolic complex which is the problem society creates which prevents people from getting the true experience. The laymen in Percy’s writings are the ones that create this preconceived notion and the rare man sees through it. Crippled women are not seen as ideal but the ideal woman does not exist. If a person tries to measure their selves or someone else up to the ideal woman they are missing what is already there. Nancy Mairs uses the word cripple to describe herself because it is straightforward but would not use the word cripple to describe others due to society’s preconceived notion because they may think the word cripple is harsh make judgments on a person. Mairs tells us “Moreover, I use them myself. Society is no readier to accept crippledness than to accept death, war, sex, sweat or wrinkles. I would never refer to another person as a cripple.” She uses a word which may seem harsh to describe herself which shows how tough and strong she is. She is facing reality yet going along with society by not calling others cripple and due to this she is not the rare man. By going along with society’s preconceived notions she is not confronting anything.

She notices that sometimes you have to live up to society’s perception. She tells us “In our society, anyone who deviates from the norm had better find some way to compensate. Like fat people, who are expected to be jolly, cripples must bear their lot meekly and cheerfully.” People give in to society’s notions and behave the way they are expected to because it is hard to be a nonconformist. Although the rare man is one against many he/she gets the true experience and the true value of things.

Mairs is dealing with her illness but she cannot fully accept it. She tells us “And a disease is not-at least not singlehandedly-going to determine who I am, though at first it seemed to be going to.” Mairs does not sound so sure about her illness determining who she is. Then she would not worry about her family being nice to her because she is a cripple. Mairs tells us “All the same, if a cure were found, would I take it? In a minute.” When she says she will take the cure the question is she doing it for herself or for society.



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