The Writing Space as Dialectical Space

In “Dialectic in General,” from A Grammar of Motives, Burke writes, “By dialectics in the most general sense, we mean the employment of the possibilities of linguistic transformation. Or we mean the study of such possibilities” (402). In contrast to a more classical treatment of the dialectic, Burke’s dialectic operates in the realm of both/and rather than either/or; the dialectic is for Burke, the ‘margin of overlap’” and it is in this overlap that worlds are both dismantled and expressed (Williams). According to Burke, language functions via a process of “merger and division,” to bring about a kind of “transcendence,” understood not as a state but as a kind of “spiraling” development” (403). In other words, ideas and assumptions are carried into the writing space; they merge with others, both familiar and new. Via the word, they intersect, conflate, modify, divide, and reassess new ideas encountered there (Preston).

To regard the dialectic as a process of vagueness, overlap, intersection, and contradiction is to envision the writing space as quite literally a “series of terms in perpetual transformation” (RM 38). To regard the writing space as a dialectical space replete with ambiguity and change is to see writing not as a contribution to culture but culture making itself. The writing space is a layering of attitudes, experience, words, and motivations, a space wherein the writer transects the familiar rhetorics, ideas, and events of the recent and distant past with emergent ideas and fresh encounters, rerouting these resources into moments of interpretation, expression and consequence.

The overall assemblage and the other assemblages it plugs into function as the necessary tools, the required equipment for writing. In his article, “Reassembling Post-process,” Byron Hawk writes, “The overall assemblage sets the conditions of possibility for particular acts, processes, or products, which are experienced as equipment for writing” (83).  From this perspective, no longer do we regard merely skills and processes, but rather, the events, experiences, and products constituting an overall assemblage as the necessary equipment for writing. It is through this lens that we can begin to build a theory of the writing space that helps us not only understand the complexities and multiplicities inherent to writing, but also take up these theories in the classroom in a way that is useful to the writer.

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