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Overview of the Continuum 4 A Continuum of Social Perspectives on Invention If we think of invention as a social act involving a dialectical relationship between individual and social spheres, what theoretical framework can we employ to study it? The scheme I propose is a four-part continuum of perspectives on invention: Platonic, internal dialogic, collaborative, and collective views. This continuum extends from a view of invention as an act of an atomistic individual, through intrapersonal and interpersonal perspectives, to invention as influenced by the supra-individual entity of a social collective. In its movement from the individual to the collective, the continuum is analogous to that used by James Moffett, whose categories of discourse include reflection (communication within one individual); conversation (two people speaking); correspondence (communicating between remote people or small groups who know each other somewhat); and publication (communicating over space and time to an anonymous large group). 1 Moffett's scheme, however, is concerned with the distance between writer and audience as related to the type ofdiscourse, while the continuum I present offers instead a range of ways to explore the social elements of invention. I classify these social elements in four main groups to arrest these dynamic processes temporarily in order to study them. Of course, there is not really such a neat separation of invention into types or Social Perspectives 49 phases. This is a continuum, not a set of categories. More than one of these social relationships may exist when a writer invents, and more than one of these perspectives may be operating in the work ofa single composition theorist. Indeed, it is perhaps to be expected that some composition theories and pedagogics will overlap perspectives on this continuum. S. Michael Halloran has pointed out that in terms of the history of thought, we are in a transition away from a positivist view of the world, and thus it is not surprising to find that a theory might include, for instance, a mixture of Platonic and dialogical elements, even though the assumptions underlying these perspectives differ.2 A theorist may have a foot in both camps, creating both real and apparent contradictions, while "trying out" a new approach. Given these transitions, it is also difficult in some cases to examine pedagogical practices or textbooks and deduce their underlying assumptions. A teacher who adds a few group activities to the composition classroom does not automatically have a dialectical view of invention. Reconceiving invention as a social act does not mean simply that we a group ofatomistic individuals- "add people and stir"-who later resume their private search for knowledge. On the other hand, a scholar whose focus of study is a single writer need not necessarily hold a Platonic view of invention; the study might regard that individual as a participant in a dialectical interchange with other people and with socioculture. Difficult though it may be to determine underlying assumptions, some type of analysis is necessary if we are to investigate the invention process, as well as existing theories of invention, to see what emphasis is or is not placed on social elements in invention. Rather than divide the field into adversarial and mutually exclusive camps, I prefer to use a continuum that allows us to recognize degrees of emphasis and overlapping views. To illustrate the main assumptions behind each of four perspectives on invention, I will describe in each case a model used by a major social thinker whose work is representative of that perspective. To illustrate the broad applicability of this continuum to the study of invention in both its rhetorical and senses, I have drawn examples of the devcl~ opment ofnew ideas from diverse areas: science, mathematics, business , literature, psychology, and art. l. Platonic perspective. Based on Plato's myth of the soul's journey to the realm of ideal forms, this perspective concerns invention 50 Invention as a Social Act as a private, asocial activity engaged in by an individual who possesses innate knowledge to be recollected and expressed, or innate cognitive structures to be projected onto the world. 2. Internal dialogic perspective. Illustrated by Freud's model of the psyche with its superego that internalizes social dictates in the individual, this view maintains that invention is largely a process of internal dialogue or dialectic with another "self," often involving internalized constructs influenced by external social forces and actual people. 3. Collaborative perspective. Based on George Herbert Mead's explanation of the making of meaning (as a result of the interaction...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780809390854
Related ISBN
9780809313280
MARC Record
OCLC
904791038
Pages
190
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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