Care, Community Engagement, and Disciplinary Decision Making


Creative Writing, Editing and Publishing / Pedagogy & Professional

Matthew Ussia (Duquesne University)

This roundtable discussion will explore the tensions between the aesthetic, disciplinary demands of the roles of editor and teacher versus a desire to democratize creative expression and promote writing as a tool of healing and community building. As the fields of Composition and Creative Writing Pedagogy have evolved, there has been an uneasy tension between the disciplinary demands of what makes good writing versus a keen eye towards understanding the exclusionary legacies of the English academy. This tension is further amplified when one considers how meaningful scholarship is often hidden behind paywalls limiting social engagement outside of the academy. Writing is often seen as a process for community building and as a tool for healing; however, those of us who practice as teachers, writers, and editors still enforce discursive boundaries and aesthetic conventions within the practice of our craft. It is commonplace to see calls for submissions for edited collections and special issues of publications dedicated to trauma and social justice, but what does it mean to make an editorial decision about someone else’s testimonials and trauma? The basic question of this round table is how can we balance care for our disciplinary demands with care for those who make themselves vulnerable to us by sharing with us their writing?

This roundtable seeks input from teachers, writers, and editors looking to explore these contradictions. The chair is looking for papers that discuss: editorial decision making from the perspectives of editors and publishers, as well as the difficult task of compassionate rejection; scholars questioning the boundaries of disciplinary conventions when it comes to expanding one’s commitment to social justice and diversity; the experiences of those who practice writing as community engagement outside of the academy; and the impact of the emerging focus on trauma on the discipline of Creative Writing Pedagogy.

How can we balance care for our discipline with care for those who make themselves vulnerable to us by sharing with us their writing, especially in our era of socially engaged writing?