Physical Eloquence and the Biology of Writing

By Robert S. Ochsner

Series: SUNY series, Literacy, Culture, and Learning: Theory and Practice
Paperback : 9780791403143, 223 pages, July 1990
Hardcover : 9780791403136, 223 pages, July 1990

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Table of contents


Chapter One: The Biology of Writing

Chapter Two: Towards a New Literacy

Chapter Three: A Literacy of Eloquence for the Writing Curriculum

Chapter Four: Rhetorical Delivery as Text Production

Chapter Five: Memory: A Biogrammar of Speaking and Writing

Chapter Six: Agraphia and Style

Chapter Seven: Teaching the Subconscious Acquisition of Prose

Chapter Eight: Teaching Students Not to Learn: A Practical Syllabus

Chapter Nine: The Morality of Physical Eloquence






As a statement about literacy, this book recommends an approach to teaching writing that stresses the neurological foundations of written English, mastered almost like a foreign language. "Physical eloquence" refers to neurological processes of hand, eye, and ear that every writer must control in order to generate and simultaneously to interpret a written text. "Biology of writing" refers to innate or otherwise untaught abilities that all people have for acquiring prose and which are not enhanced by formal learning.

Ochsner promotes a realistic writing curriculum that stresses subconscious processes in the biology of the writing process rather than planned, rehearsed, and formally practiced activities for learning to write. He concludes that successful literacy instruction depends on a teacher's willingness to take into account the supremacy of popular culture and the ascendancy of its spoken idiom.

Robert S. Ochsner is Associate Professor of English at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.


"This is a fine volume, setting off in a new direction from prior composition books or books on composition. The biological approach is excellent. I think it is an important new book, one that puts a lot of the current fads in composition teaching into a balanced perspective. It is the sort of book that one both agrees with and wants to argue about. " — Alan C. Purves