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Self-Development and College Writing

Self-Development and College Writing

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Nick Tingle


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
184 pages, 5.5 x 8.5

Studies in Writing and Rhetoric


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About the Book

Nick Tingle investigates the psychoanalytic dimensions of composition instruction in Self-Development and College Writing to boldly illustrate that mastering academic prose requires students to develop psychologically as well as cognitively. Asserting that writing instruction should be an engaging, developmental process for both teachers and students, he urges reaching for new levels of consciousness in the classroom to aid students in realigning their subjective relationships with knowledge and truth.

Drawing on psychoanalytic theory and twenty years of experience as a teacher, Tingle outlines the importance of moving beyond usual ways of thinking, abandoning the common sense of everyday reality, and coming to understand beliefs as beliefs and not absolutes. These developmental moves must be accompanied, Tingle says, by a new attitude towards language—not as something that points to things, but as a series of concepts that arrange the very things one points to. And this development is necessary not just in order to perform well in the writing class, but also to fully participate in and reap the academic rewards of structured, university life.

Self-Development and College Writing calls attention to the psychological destabilization this method may produce for students. Tingle explains that, if writing instructors are to respond to this destabilization, they must conceive of the classroom as a transitional space, or a kind of holding environment. They must also become aware of their psychological allegiances to particular theories of writing if they are to construct such environments.

But the goal of the transitional environment is worth pursuing, Tingle argues, contending that university education fails to address students’ developmental needs. With purposeful writing and deft analyses, Tingle shows that this goal also affords a means by which to place writing courses at the center of the educational curriculum. Conceived as a transitional space, the writing class may support and stabilize students in their developmental passage, thereby fostering an improved understanding of their academic work and, more importantly, an increased intellectual understanding of themselves and the complex world in which they live.


Nick Tingle has taught writing at the University of California, Santa Barbara since 1980. His articles on writing instruction, education, and literacy—many of them from a psychoanalytic perspective—have appeared in numerous journals, including JAC, Composition Studies, College English, and the Journal of Psychoanalytic Studies.


Self-Development and College Writing is interesting and very personably written. Tingle’s stories from the classroom and examples of student writing do not all neatly cohere to a step-by-step recipe for intellectual and emotional development; in fact, they underscore the preciousness and necessity of the writing classroom as a transitional space that supports students through disorientation and destabilization. This study will give teachers a profoundly different way to see and talk about something that we see and talk about—but largely in disparaging and despairing terms—all the time.”—Nancy Welch, author of Getting Restless: Rethinking Revisions in Writing Instruction