Writing About Writing (p.86-100)
“Intertextuality and the Discourse Community” by James E. Porter
In “Intertextuality and the Discourse Community,” James E. Porter attempts to explain his “intertextuality theory” in rhetorical terms, how it is linked to discourse communities, and its pedagogical suggestions for writing structure. Porter explains exactly what “Intertext,” or just “Text,” is and divides it into two types. He explains that the two types of intertextuality are iterability (or repeatability) and presupposition (or “assumptions a text makes about its referent, its readers, and its context”). Porter claims that pure originality/authorship is attainable but is rare and that most work involves a writer organizing traces, codes, and signs into a new text for a specific discourse community. Porter questions what plagiarism really is and the false views about writing imposed on young writers. He believes that intertextuality should be explained early on and that young writers should be assisted in becoming “socialized” in a discourse community of their choice.
Porter’s article obviously is related to Greene’s article because he is making a rather strong argument about authorship, plagiarism, originality, and writing processes related to different discourse communities. This article is also related to Kleine’s text because Kleine explains the “hunting” and “gathering” method for finding information, and Porter explains how older texts are gathered (or hunted for) to create a new work. That in itself also relates this article to Kantz. Kantz wrote all about using older texts to make a new one and that is essentially the main topic of Porter’s article. This article even relates to Berger and McLoud’s visual construct articles because Porter explains how intertextuality can even be used in works such as the Pepsi commercial (wish is a very visual thing). Porter touches on how a true “inspired writer” in the world we live in now is nearly impossible to achieve and that almost all texts are woven from the past; therefore this article is related to Allen’s article about real writers and the myth of an inspired writer. Porter’s article may be related to Berkenkotter/Murray, Lamott, King, Díaz, and Elbow, but I do not see the connection right away.
Before You Read Exercise:
I’ve never really thought about the difference between an author and a writer. I guess I’ve always thought the terms were synonymous and used the interchangeably. However, If I had to distinguish the two, I would say an author produces stories and a writer produces articles and papers. I could very well be misled, though.
Questions for Discussion and Journaling:
4. I have always been taught that writing is evaluated on whether or not it is clear, concise, and relevant. Clear meant that it was organized. Concise meant that the information was to the point and was presented in an organized fashion. And, relevant meant that it pertained to the topic that I had been assigned. Since I have always been assigned a topic that honestly never interested me, and my audience was strictly my teacher, I have never even been formally introduced to any specific discourse community. With that said, I would have to say that Porters argument, that the main evaluating point for writing is acceptability within the reader’s community, is a new world for me. My reader has always been my teacher, not those who were knowledgeable or curious about my topic. I definitely wanted my teacher to “accept” my work, but I’m not too sure that’s what Porter was referring to. Now that I am in college and am taking classes in specific subjects, learning about specific topics, in areas specific to my interests- I think Porter’s argument seems much more reasonable to me. However, in my past, my writing has never been evaluated that way.
5. As I was reading Porter’s article, I noticed that he cited several other writers and he cited them often. In other words, Porter practiced what he preached. He used the “traces, codes, and signs” from other works to create his own article. He was demonstrating his intertextuality theory right in his own work. I think that Porter would agree that he was not writing as an “autonomous individual” and that, even though he practiced effective writing by finding and organizing older textual pieces, his article is not completely original.
Applying and Exploring Ideas:
2. New Plagiarism Policy: Students shall not incorporate previous texts into their work without proper citation. Students shall build off of the ideas of other writers to insure that their whole assignment is not composed of just citations. Failure to cite other work or engage in the academic conversation adequately will result in a course grade of F. (adapted from syllabus)
Old Plagiarism Policy: Cheating—whether by claiming another’s ideas or work as your own (fraud) or making up or falsifying information (fabrication)—will result in a course grade of F and a report to Community Standards. You are at all times responsible for handling sources ethically by acknowledging the author and source of directly borrowed ideas and language in your writing. (taken from syllabus)
Comparison: I think that the old policy was adequate enough because our English department knows what to account for in regards to writing. They have read Porter’s work before and have defined plagiarism on terms that are relevant to this course. However, the new policy, for sake of this assignment, adds that the student should be able to engage in the conversation even if they have used a lot of other cited work.
Porter’s article about writers and writing hasn’t really changed my thoughts about writers writing alone. He says that borrowing text from others is basically what intertextuality is- and that makes since- but that doesn’t change whether or not a writer works alone or not. I do view writing itself differently now, thought. It’s ok to refer to other writers’ work and to use that in developing and supporting your own argument- you just have to make sure to give them credit, make sure it’s relevant to what your trying to say, and organize it all in a logical way. My future assignments will be a little easier now that I have read Porter’s view or writers, writing, plagiarism, and intertextuality.
My Personal Thoughts:
To be honest, I feel like we have covered most of the ideas in Porter’s article already in this course. He did introduce new terminology, but I thought it was already made clear that using older texts to create and support your own argument was acceptable. This reading was kind of repetitive and boring for me. There wasn’t anything too exciting about it, but I do think it will help me in my future writing assignments as it pertains to writing for my particular discourse community.