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Book: Creativity and Discovery in the University Writing Class

Chapter: 8. Reconsidering the Essay's Definition in the University Classroom: Writing, Disjunction and the Active Nature of Thought

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.27773


Are there other writing forms and writing styles – forms and styles other than the standard thesis-supported essay – that can be viewed as legitimate in higher education? In other words, can students present evidence, and reflect on, analyze, or play with that evidence through writing forms and writing styles other than the conventional thesis essay in the university classroom? My answer to such questions is a fervent “yes.” Defining the university essay beyond standard thesis+support forms unlocks the potential for writing assignments that represent the Montaignian tradition of the essay. The disjunctive essay is one way to bring Montaignian forms of the essay into the university classroom, and adding it to my teaching has offered me new dimensions for using writing as a tool for learning and discovery in my university classes. I have found the disjunctive essay so flexible in form and style that I have been able to successfully use it in many of my courses, much because of its ability to encompass both traditions of the essay while providing students with an open structure to encourage and also make it possible for them to demonstrate their discoveries and creativity. In the spirit of Dewey’s social ideals for education, I have discovered that the disjunctive essay is rich in possibilities to foster reflection and transformation through deep learning.

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