Thursday, February 25, 2010

Inventing the University

Once, I had a friend who would often throw little shindigs at her house that would include a wide range of people. Since she was kind of a social butterfly you would go to one party and see a line of 'cool' kids drinking and dancing and the next time you would see the 'calmer' kids cracking jokes and talking about school. Both were equally as fun and since I frequented both groups I was always invited to both. However one night these groups collided. My friend had thrown a quiet get-together with a group of the quiet kids when all of the sudden one of the pretty girls from the faster group burst through the door shouting obscenities and sexual innuendos, all in good fun, and put a blush on all of the pristine faces. I laughed uncontrollably. Later when things had quieted my friend and I reflected upon the vivacity of the pretty girl. My friend said that it was a bit embarrassing but still hilarious. She said something that night that stood out and stuck with me. She said "You've got to know your audience..." I realized that no matter who you are or what you're doing you have to be aware of your surroundings and if you wish to appease them you have to learn what they are looking for and what they find interesting. If you can learn this and somehow fix yourself to their mold you will often find success when looking to get something out of them. Knowing your audience is especially useful when writing academic essays and this is one of the main ideas seen in Inventing the University. Bartholomae hints that good writers are mercurial and are able to find ways to quickly shift from "literary critic one day and an experimental psychologist the next". It seems like cheating and treachery to your unique You-ness but in this world it is more often than not the chameleon that catches the prey. The camouflage we shift into to try to impress or prove ourselves with depends completely upon what we expect the reader wants. Bartholomae states that the audience we are performing for with our writing does not want to be talked down to or hustled into feeling stupid. They want what they read to come "from" the writer not "through" the writer. Basically the message I received was to know who you are writing for and try as best as you can to lick their boots while remaining down to earth and not seeming to desperate.


  1. I'm so glad I had you guys read Bartholomae right after the stuff about the performance vs. the authentic self -- you're helping me to see the Bartholomae article in a whole new light! Very cool.

  2. Haha- sounded like an awesome night!
    "You've got to know your audience." Indeed you do(; My group discussed about audience awareness and a reader-based prose, so it is stressed that knowing who you're writing to and how is imperative.
    Ooh, and I like how you see it as a chameleon with the camouflage and what not.