Spring 1985, Volume 2
LaVon B. Carroll
LaVon B. Carroll is Professor of English and Editor of Weber Studies. She is active in the Utah State Poetry Society by which she was named Utah State Poet of the Year in 1982. Her book The Shrouded Carousel was published that year. She is President elect of the Utah State Poetry Society.
This is the second issue of Weber Studies, a juried journal sponsored by the School of Arts and Humanities, the original intention of which was to "encourage a broad exchange of professional work," as stated by Dr. Nikki Hansen in Volume 1, 1984. Dr. Hansen was able to gather material which more nearly fulfilled the criteria of reaching a general, college educated audience. Most of the contributions received this year in both my opinion and that of jurors selected to read articles outside their own field were generally too specialized in style (not subject matter) to reach further than those specifically interested in rather narrow aspects of knowledge. This issue of Weber Studies therefore reflects a more humanistic and creative bias. Although publication might have been deferred in an effort to gather material from a wider spectrum, it was my feeling that if we are to create an interest in a distinctive Weber State College publication, we would need to publish at least one issue a year. Weber Studies is a young journal seeking an identity and there are a number of possiblities to be explored.
I felt that my experience in editing the journal this year could be of interest to those who might wish to contribute or who are interested in writing in general. The manuscripts I received underscored a problem about which I have had considerable concern during my career in higher education. It is also one of national concern, if the numerous articles that have appeared in both professional and popular publications are any indication - that is the use and role of writing in our society.
As an English teacher for the past quarter of a century I have become increasingly frustrated and dispirited because of a growing sense that I am not speaking and teaching the language used by my colleagues in science, business, technology and other areas of endeavor reflected on this campus. My sense of organizaton, development, diction, mechanics, etc. seem incomprehensible, if not inconsequential to so many of my general students. Many manuscripts from faculty members reflected this situation. Perhaps some of the following observations may be of interest or use to those of you who would like to contribute to Weber Studies or even think about the problems of communicating. The majority of articles received were not suitable largely for the following two reasons:
(1) Quite a few of the manuscripts lacked a sense of composition. By this I mean that they lacked a strong central focus, adequate rhetorical development and coherence. There is a tendency among the scientific and technological disciplines to "catalogue" information, to use what I will call the "text book" or journalistic style which consists of isolated paragraphs of statistics and abstract statements with reference to professional (often obscure to anyone outside the field) studies. These clumps of information are separated by bold type headings, a practical convenience designed for easy acquisition of key topics by harried readers (students). Such parcels of information are not connected by traditional devices of langauge to a strong central thesis nor are they developed by means that would help the general reader to understand what significance, if any, this information has to human existence.
(2) Some of the manuscripts that we found unsuitable for publication were written not only in the style indicated above but in the professonal language devised by separate disciplines for their own convenience. Most of it is incomprehensible to anyone outside the field. Although it some cases it might be unfair to call it "jargon", I think it is still fair to question whether much of this is desirable or even necessary. I recognize that in the acceleration of research in many scientific fields, the coining of new terms and the adaptation of many useful words to new purposes can be defended. I also feel that no discipline ought to be so detached from and indifferent to the central concerns of the general run of humanity that it is unable to account for what it is doing in good, clear, standard English (especially if and when it is using public resources in its pursuits, as in a state supported institution).
I suggest that all researchers and/or educators need to be "bi-lingual." If a special language or short hand is needed to communicate among the in-group, then the skill to translate that knowledge into standard diction and rhetoric should be a self imposed requirement. We need to revive and strengthen the time-honored sense and skills of Composition.
I hope this will not discourage you from contributing to the journal of which I will be the editor for 1985-86. If you are interested and submit a manuscript early enough, I would be willing to work with you on these skills. I think the image of Weber State College can be enhanced by a high quality journal of this kind.