SGarza.DonaldMurrayTheVoiceOfExperience History

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May 11, 2009, at 10:42 AM CST by 70.120.211.101 -
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[A writer] should focus as much on the process as the product; that we [as writers] should emphasize creativity and discovery and even invite accidents and contradictions; that we should de-emphasize, at least initially, rules, correctness, and caution; that we [as teachers] should encourage students to choose their own topics, forms, and strategies. (Tobin)
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''[A writer] should focus as much on the process as the product; that we [as writers] should emphasize creativity and discovery and even invite accidents and contradictions; that we should de-emphasize, at least initially, rules, correctness, and caution; that we [as teachers] should encourage students to choose their own topics, forms, and strategies.'' (Tobin)
May 10, 2009, at 08:51 PM CST by 24.167.86.156 -
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Although he did not invent the concept of voice, Donald Murray defined the concept of reaching voice by conveying the experience. Where Elbow revolutionized the way process was taught, Murray refined and built upon the new paradigm that formed during the and in the college classroom. Murray also influenced an entire generation of expressivist theorists, including Wendy Bishop, Lad Tobin, and Donna Qualley.

Lived experience represented an important part of voice to Murray. According to Tobin, Murray believed that the writer should embark on his own path of discovery to the writing process:

[A writer] should focus as much on the process as the product; that we [as writers] should emphasize creativity and discovery and even invite accidents and contradictions; that we should de-emphasize, at least initially, rules, correctness, and caution; that we [as teachers] should encourage students to choose their own topics, forms, and strategies. (Tobin)

general approach loosened and relaxed the old formalist techniques, which emphasized adherence to grammatical and other standard English rules. By relaxing these rules, an aspiring creative writer could, in theory, find voice by following the path of discovery that best suited the writer. The journey would, in turn, guide the writer to the voice that best suited the experience. In this way, the writer and the experience become a closed circle that evolves together.

Murray also advocated the idea that voice becomes its own authority. As a professional creative writer, Murray researched other creative writers to gain an insight into his own techniques, which he would in turn pass on to future writers. Through this research, he explored the debated idea that words gain life through the act of writing, gaining power over even the writer. To this end, Murray that words have a singular agency, one that behaves much like an unruly character in the first draft of a novel or short story, bossing the writer around, surprising her, and most of all, defying her (Ballenger). The voice, according to Murray, brings life to the words on the page, sometimes in ways that the writer cannot control; where this process might intrude upon composition, in creative writing, the idea of serendipity is a creative aid that enhances the individual voice. This concept builds upon idea of power, but to an extreme that defies the own control over the words.

Several points of convergence emerge between Murray and Elbow, although they deviated in other aspects. For instance, Murray accepted the continuum of process and embraced the multiple roles of the author. For Murray, an author was not unified but a divided one. Part producer of text, part generator, part (Newkirk). Because of this divide within the author, an author can possess many voices that can serve multiple functions within a creative work: character voice, narrative tone, and even symbolic language. However, for Murray, there was a certain importance in accepting the voice of the : that trusts in the generative possibilities of language to help us discover things we planned on (Newkirk). For Murray, the divided voice of the author contributes to the discovery of self, which then contributes to the voice of the story or poem. Where Elbow stressed control, Murray embraced the possibilities of serendipity in an work.

Like Elbow, however, Murray stressed the inherent power of revision over an draft. To Murray, the process of revision does not create a censor, but rather, a refinement of the discovery process:

When Murray separated internal revision from external revision, or the writing we do to make what we have said conform to the needs and expectations of others, he was looking into the old text of current-traditional rhetoric and entering it from a new critical direction. (Qualley)

To the expressivists, revision has the power of giving strength or focus to a piece of writing. For the student writer, revision gives clarity and meaning, and allows the writer to arrange the words to suit purpose and audience. The writer may discover new meaning from the act of revision, as much as through the process of composing. However, unlike the composition class, the storyteller creates layers of meaning through the act of writing, and thus real voice creates new discoveries as much as it uncovers them. Refining the experience leads to new discoveries for reader and writer alike. For Murray, this was the ultimate goal of the revision process.

One of major contributions to creative writing pedagogy is the goal of capturing experience through the prism of fiction. As a creative writer, Murray embellished many details into his own poems, while remaining true to a key experience that influenced his own life. Where the composition classroom often must capture experience literally in narrative, the creative writer may draw on as much or little experience as needed to write the story or poem effectively. However, because voice resonates through experience, the creative writing course teaches the student to channel only enough experience to make the writing believable to the average reader. Therefore, in the view of Murray, and thinking develop through an ongoing process of internal (Qualley).

If Murray could be considered a compositional philosopher, then the most primal element of that philosophy would be discovery through experience. While his approach to composition has been challenged since his death, Murray remains a formative figure in the creative writing classroom.