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Bridging the Gap Between Intradisciplinary and Interdisciplinary

Writing
William McKenna and Michael Bizzaco
University of Rhode Island

In order to bridge the gap between scholarly texts and non-scholars who are academically
unequipped to access such texts, this work uncovers the distinction between
intradisciplinary and interdisciplinary audiences. Furthermore, this piece explores the
ways in which scholars compose for online journals, in addition to the methods by which
institutions administer and engage students with scholarly texts.

Popularly referenced and spurring conversation in the writing studies community,


Ede and Lunsford in Audience Addressed and Audience Invoked, demarcate
audience as either known by the writer, thus becoming the audience for which the
writer writes, or as fictionalized by the writer. Later theorists, however, have criticized
this conception as being too narrow. Admonished by Mary Jo Reiff in Rereading
Invoked and Addressed Readers Through a Social Lens: Toward a Recognition of
Multiple Audiences, writers should rather embrace a social model of audience that
accounts for the multiple shifting roles of readers as they participate in social groups
(414). Reiff references Jack Selzer who suggests in his article, More Meanings of
Audience a calling of attention to the multiplicity of readers inside and outside the text
(414). Reiff notes that social hierarchies and communities affect a writers choices. In
order to meet the needs of the audience, then, Reiff encourages writers to factor in the
vast array of possible readers and their varying and changing relationships to the text.
Counterarguments to Reiffs multiple audience consideration reveal the strain that such

a model imposes on the writer. Not only must scholars labor to find ways to make their
text easier to grasp, theyre challenged with separating inventive writing from
explanatory writing.
Our original focus was on the remediation of scholarly publications for
subordinates; the idea that scholars should revise the language and approach of their own
texts to suit a generalized awareness of multiple audiences. Revision in this manner
would primarily focus on the timing and delivery of certain textual elements. Examples
of these types of remediation may include: the writer taking time to follow challenging
terminology with complete definitions and examples of these terms in action;
multilayered concepts and theories being broken down into step-by-step form,
chronicled in a straightforward, non-allusive fashion; text blurbs being placed throughout
multiple points in an article to command reader-awareness at key moments in throughout
the text (Remember this concept from the beginning of the passage? What other
writers can you think of that share these same ideas?) The contents of an esotericist,
scholarly publication like College Composition and Communication would feature the
type of rhetorical lexicon and complex exchange of ideas expected of the academic
journal, in addition to these new, re-mediated author edits which explain the authors
rhetorical choices. This simplification of the scholars prose certainly leaves less critical
evaluation to the reader, moving past academic lingo and arrangement, and straight to the
heart of the writers ideas. However, such a process of textual reworking seems unfair to
the writer. Scholars would be tasked with upholding their own credibility as advanced
writers, theorists, and instructors, but also while taking the time to consider sections of
their own work that they believe requires further reinforcement, based on their

perceptions of multiple audiences. We believe that straining to satisfy a multiplicity of


audiences, throughout the composition of a text, is a roadblock along the writers path of
invention.
An issue with audience generalization, as noted by Ede and Lunsford, is that the
invoking writer must fictionalize their readership, conjuring audiences for their text and
electing semantic and syntactic resources of language to provide cues for the reader
(Ede/Lunsford 160). It may be difficult for the scholarly writer to consider the needs of
readers who are at an academic distance to their texts, mainly because these subordinate
readers are not regular members of the writers advanced discourse communities.
Conversely, the academic communities for which scholars compose usually consist of
like-disciplined academics, colleagues, their respective institutions, numerous
publications; these entities are the audiences that scholars may most directly and
consistently address. Filling the volumes of publications like College Composition and
Communication and College English, these advanced discourse communities marshal
adroitly the exclusive language of the discipline. Fellow scholars exchange and revise the
very language theyve adopted and helped cultivate. The scholars exigency becomes
largely self-explanatory, and the style by which the scholar weaves her texts is meant to
challenge and satisfy colleagues, inspiring them to continue the academic conversation
with evolved meaning and implications (Mirel).
Ultimately, when scholars fictionalize subordinate audiences, they risk reducing
composition to an act of training and retraining, because subordinates are constantly
unfamiliar with the nature of the academic conversation. The writer, responding to a
colleagues intellectual post on, for instance, the topic of ESL composition, would be

forced to blatantly enunciate their particular reasons for response, while providing an
engaging history on the nature of this ESL conversation, all the while looming under the
ominous awareness that their audience may fail to comprehend the depth of conversation
to which the texts references pertain. Of course, a certain amount of history is revisited
in most scholarly articles, but the delivery of this historical information requires preexisting knowledge to some extent. In order to meet the needs of subordinate audiences,
scholars, then, must dilute their work. However, such remediation by nature may fail to
satisfy members of the authors direct discourse community, creating a fundamental
shortcoming within the scholars text; such a shortcoming arising from the imbalance
between primary and subordinate audiences.
By means of encouraging ubiquitous scholarly-level composition in academic
journals thats suited to ideally shock the seasoned palates of like-minded scholars, we
propose that scholars redefine their exigency as one that demands scholarship in its purest
form, despite the fact that this ideal excludes multiple audiences and subordinates.
Scrupulously studied phenomena are the cognitive processes leading up to composition.
Specifically, the many metaphysical concepts that delve into the writers connections to
idea development, which have long intrigued noted academics. Linda Flower, in her
essay, Writer Based Prose: A Cognitive Basis for Problems in Writing, offers an
engaging look at the unique egocentrism that defines writer-based prose.
...[Writer-based prose] may even be closely related to normal verbal
thought. It is clearly, a natural, less cognitively demanding mode of
thought and one which explains why people, who can express themselves

in complex and highly intelligible modes, are often obscure. Egocentric


expression happens to the best of us; it comes naturally (Flower 22).
Scholars, then, may begin their writing process by employing a less reader-friendly
type of composition one that is motivated specifically to help the writer locate and
define ideas related to the total outcome of their article. This assumption of the writers
most personal language may elicit the best origins of ideas. Honed in the educated
mind of the scholar is the extensive lexicology to which he/she is oriented. Its fruitful for
scholars to readily employ the egocentric dialect of their respective communities.
When relating complex concepts that are difficult for even the scholar to articulate,
academics must resort to ad hoc lexicological applications, because seminal concepts
may not yet foster their own lexicon. Thus, these authors of academia aggressively
marshal existing discourse lexicon, while sometimes extemporaneously conjuring their
own. Some scholars would argue that such uniquely personalized modes of composition
should be practiced extensively throughout the writing process. Such a method is an
effective catalyst, particularly when ideas of audience become overbearing for the writer
(Elbow). Inevitably, scholars revise their work based on expectations inferred from texts
and responses from their community of peers. In many cases, the vernacular that writers
select during these early writing stages is a language theyre most familiar with, likely
their respective discourse lexicon, supported by their unique education and subsequent
vocabulary, coalesced with a style of their own.

This unique production-style of prose, from which the writers ideas originate,
cannot simply be captured by the essence of early writer-focused composition; the

scholars production of complex and challenging texts, rather, may be linked to a much
less-grounded, non-textual plain of ethereal awareness, a field of thinking and creation
where words and images are only the most superficial aspects of fruitful cognition.
Sondra Perl, in her essay, Understanding Composing, examines the mystique surrounding
this high level of cognition. In her study of say aloud cognition, Perl closely examines
the phenomenon of non-linear recursive-writing as it occurs amongst a group of
teachers in a basic-writing course. This recursive type of composition may best be
defined as short successions of steps that yield results on which the writer draws in
taking the next set of steps (Perl 364). Explaining the types of writing-mannerisms
associated with recursive composition, Perl alludes to philosopher, Eugene Gendlins,
concept of felt sense as, ...Feelings or non-verbalized perceptions that surround the
words, or to what the words already present evoke in the writer (365). Furthering Perls
dissemination of metaphysical cognition, Linda Flower and Christina Haas, in their essay,
Rhetorical Reading Strategies and the Construction of Meaning allude to the
implications and appearance of recognized felt sense considering both writers and
readers in their theory. Readers and writers mental representations are not limited to
verbally well-informed ideas and plans, but may include information coded as visual
images, or as emotions, or as linguistic propositions that exist just above the level of
specific words (Haas, Flower 169).
We believe that scholars, during woodworking stages of composition, may best
allocate themselves to this strictly individualized realm of thinking and understanding,
one governed by less-grounded non-textual cues that will inevitably bring these writers
closer to the ideas they wish to convey. The scholars connections to this felt sense of

composition (... Just above the level of specific words) is later transformed into a
grounded type of prose that primary discourse-readers may communicate with (Haas,
Flower). Scholars, drawing upon higher-levels of metaphysical cognition, are able to use
their felt sense to construct the framework for an academic essay; then, the framework
is broken down into a navigable text for members of the scholars intradisciplinary
community. Above all, we wish to impart that the scholastic writers processes of
cognition (which later translates to composition) is a deeply involved, yet unique
experience for any writer; but for scholars, the bar is raised even higher. Responsible for
maintaining their own academic credibility, while upholding and expanding their
discipline, scholarly cognition must yield the best results; metaphysical attachments to
words and phrases must be appropriately transformed into readable and workable texts,
complete with expansive ideas for the discourse. With these rigorous demands in place, it
seems largely unfair for scholars to also consider the needs of interdisciplinary audiences,
while dealing with such exclusive academic-efforts.
We acknowledge Reiff and Selzers conception that multiple audiences exist, but
we now believe that when scholars make textual choices that grant subordinate access to
their texts, they are progressively diluting their work, which may inhibit deeper cognition
and exploration. Scholars, when writing in academic journals that further their discipline,
should write and structure their texts according to the needs of their discourse
community, because the exigency of their texts is to expand knowledge within their
discipline, not to acculturate subordinate audiences. Scholars who practice as such will
reinforce their unique lexicology, challenge their equals, and reach deeper levels of
cognition, which may fulfill their exigency. Such an exclusive writing style may have

certain implications; however, its purpose is exponentially more grounded.


Appropriating the term intradisciplinary for such a writing style, we propose the
definition of intradisciplinary as: the study, research, and dialogue exchanged between
communities of scholars, professors, graduate students, and researchers who coexist
within institutions and who are qualified to study and formulate concepts that further
their fields. It is writing for discipline members, by discipline members. Its the type of
conversational writing exchanged between scholars in esteemed academic circles, such as
College Composition and Communication and similar publications. One problematic
implication from such exclusivity involves the limitation of subordinate access to
scholarly texts.
Thus, discovering a solution to this dilemma requires an understanding of
interdisciplinary parties and their needs. We propose that interdisciplinary audiences
include: scholars outside the field of writing theory/composition, undergraduate students,
businesses, publications, and/or non-exclusive authors and other parties seeking
information or reference. When we suggest that scholars write exclusively to
intradisciplinary audiences, we are suggesting that scholars abandon their responsibility
for disseminating knowledge from their disciplines to interdisciplinary audiences,
because the very nature of intradisciplinary writing is to employ the most academic of
styles. Consequently, subordinates of varying relationships to academic texts may be
exiled from the endless applications administered by the larger writing studies
community. To be specific, even the upperclassmen of these writing majors may have
difficulty entering scholarly conversation, thus, limiting their chances for academic
initiation. First and second-year potential writing students, who are given

intradisciplinary texts, may even be dissuaded to pursue a writing degree. Certainly


interdisciplinary audiences, those of other disciplines who are unfamiliar of the inner
workings of writing studies, may have great difficulty accessing intradisciplinary texts,
making using or referencing certain theories difficult.
Subordinates of all relationships to intradisciplinary texts, then, when challenged
with such deep cognition, may take from the writing community, many possible negative
impressions, due to an inability to productively comprehend writing theory. We believe
that this is due to the lack of distinction between intra and interdisciplinary audiences,
and each sects relationship to scholarly texts. Writing theory devoid of this distinction
inadvertently drives a wedge between scholars and subordinates, creating a gap in
communication. In order to maintain the integrity of intradisciplinary writing and initiate
subordinate audiences, a bridging of this gap must be erected.

Robert Johnson, author of Audience Involved: Toward a Participatory Model of


Writing, successfully refutes Reiff and Selzers indication for a needed awareness of a
multiplicity of readers. After thoughtful discussion of our own, the value became more
lucid within Johnsons refutation and subsequent suggestion for involving audience in
the crafting of texts, rather than strenuously considering multiple audiences. Allowing
audience participation in the creation of texts may generate writer-user interactions,
which may lead to stronger user-centered design (373). We propose that this sort of
interaction is pervasive amongst scholarly journals, where agents write, refute, critique,
and respond. Active conversations engage forum members, providing authors with user
feedback. Revealed in academic responses are user perceptions of textual elements and

their interaction with these elements, in addition to their interaction with the authors
concepts. Such academic feedback exchange lends authoring academics the sort of
reader participation that Johnson prompts. When the author receives feedback from the
journal community, their revise their own rhetoric according to their responders
message. The realistic likelihood of user centered responsorial consideration by
writers, buttresses the claim that academic conversation contain elements of Johnsons
involved audience (Johnson.)
As discussed above, and stemming from our own chronicling of the involved
audience interactions that permeate academic journals, it became apparent that such a
forum produces knowledge and encourages further study through involved conversation
between scholars dedicated to furthering discourse. However, the level of academia in
which the journal requires will most likely exclude subordinates. In their response to
Downs and Wardles ideas on writing studies as a part of first-year composition
curriculum, Libby Miles et al. argue that the immersion of freshmen students into
scholarly discourse at such an early stage may be too cumbersome; and in fact, a focus on
the study of writing concepts may ultimately dissuade first-year students from joining the
writing discourse (Miles et al.) Like Miles, we welcome the idea of writing studies
through a progressive approach. We propose, as a companion piece to classroom
instruction on such theories and practices, the creation of an interdisciplinary writing
forum; one where students can be introduced to scholarly texts in a planned fashion, and
converse with community members in an involved audience manner, similar to a
scholarly journal/publication.

Published academic texts would likely be included in this interdisciplinary forum;


however, articles would be supplemented by comments and pointers from the authors, to
help subordinate readers uncover the articles deeper meaning and concepts. These
guided texts would not be prescribed outlines that gratuitously grant subordinates
access to information expediently, while teaching them little about the material; rather,
these build-off materials may indicate what concepts to study prior to analysis of the
intradisciplinary model; or texts may describe what certain lexicon mean; or where to
find online explanatory information concerned with a certain section of an essay. As
mediators of this forum, scholars may engage with subordinates by clarifying,
elaborating, posing questions, or offering examples. In this way, subordinates may
become involved with the audience/community into which they are attempting to
assimilate.
A remedy may be discovered for these potentially imposing regiments, in that
students can acculturate themselves into the world of writing studies through intentional
means carefully crafted by the scholar. Rather than academic bombardment, first year
students may enter a venue of forms that solidifies a concrete foundation through
supplemented academic conversation. Specifically, first year students may learn writing
concepts in lecture, while brick-by-brick analyzing the very scholarly texts from which
these concepts derive. The implementation of such an interactive venue may be a
solution to the perplexing issue of scholarly texts and how they should be delivered to
students by institutions.

Works Cited

Elbow, Peter. "Closing My Eyes As I Speak: An Argument for Ignoring


Audience." College English 49: 50-69. Print.
Ede, Lisa, and Andrea Lunsford. "Audience Addressed/Audience Invoked:
The Role of Audience in Composition Theory and Pedagogy." College
Composition and Communication 35: 155-171. Print.
Johnson, Robert. "Audience Involved: Toward a Participatory Model of
Writing." Computers and Composition 14: 361-376. Print.
Mirel, Barbara. "Analyzing Audiences for software manuals: A survey of
instructional needs for "real world tasks" ." Technical Communication
Quarterly 1:1: 13-38. Print.
Reiff, Mary Jo. "Rereading "Invoked" and "Addressed" Readers through a
Social Lens: Toward a Recognition of Multiple Audiences." JAC 16: 407424. Print.
Perl, Sondra. "Understanding Composing." College Composition and
Communication 31: 363-369. Print.
Miles, Libby et al. "Commenting on Douglas Downs and Elizabeth Wardle's
"Teaching about Writing, Righting Misconceptions"." College Composition
and Communication 59: 503-511. Print.
Haas, Christina, and Linda Flower. "Rhetorical Reading Strategies and the
Construction of Meaning." College Composition and Communication 39:
167-183. Print.

Flower, Linda. "Writer Based Prose: A Cognitive Basis for Problems in


Writing." College English 41: 19-37. Print.
Booth, Wayne C. The Rhetoric of Fiction. Print.