October 08, 2012
The debate about the "writing revolution," sparked by Peg Tyre's recent Atlantic article, is grounded in a false dichotomy -- the notion that somehow creativity and an expressive voice exist in opposition to lucid expository, analytical, or persuasive writing. Our experience teaching writing at Hampden-Sydney College and the success our writing program has enjoyed for more than 30 years have convinced us that this stark opposition is both unnecessary and counterproductive.
Good writing is clear writing, no doubt. But the best writing -- writing that informs and persuades simultaneously -- is engaged, passionate prose that unites head and heart in an individual voice. Writers and teachers since before Aristotle have understood the powerful link between reason and emotion, structure and style, that is essential to powerful, persuasive writing and speaking. How else can we account for the lasting impact of Pericles' Funeral Oration or Lincoln's Gettysburg Address or Second Inaugural? How else can we explain the persuasive arguments of Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" or his "I Have a Dream" speech?