The Center for Writing Studies

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Colloquium Archive

Samantha Looker

Name: Samantha Looker, Department of English

Presentation Title: “Interrogating the ‘Academic’ With Undergraduate Writers”

Date: April 2, 2009


My dissertation project responds to questions about the place of multiple languages and dialects in academic writing by questioning the very category of “academic.” I argue that what we have is not a question of diversity (multiple languages, dialects, and registers) versus homogeneity (standard academic writing), but simply different types of diversity: What qualifies as “academic” is already shot through with a multiplicity of genres, voices, and textual histories that make the category’s borders far more blurry than typical representations suggest. Most importantly, I argue for incorporating a theoretical understanding of academic writing’s heterogeneity into pedagogical practice and everyday representations, in order to cultivate an understanding of academic writing that makes room for historically marginalized language groups rather than further privileging the already privileged. In my colloquium talk, I use interviews with undergraduate students and examples of teacher responses to their work to show how prevailing representations of academic writing can have significant repercussions for students’ perceptions of themselves as academics. I argue that writing studies scholars are in an ideal position to bring undergraduate students into professional discussions on the nature of academic writing and support those students in negotiating, meeting, and challenging academic writing expectations.