She seems to take (although it may not have been called this when she wrote the essay) a new materialist perspective:
“An ecologist explores how writers interact to form systems: all the characteristics of any individual writer or piece of writing both determine and are determined by the characteristics of all the other writers and writings in the systems.” (368)
“the systems are not given, not limitations on writers; instead they are made and remade by writers in the act of writing.” (368)
That is to say, writers (teachers, students, etc.) are constantly constituted by what we write as we are writing it. As Heidegger would say, it's a co-creation, one that is not constituted *by* a particular system or audience, but systems and audiences which constantly co-produce one another.
Cooper does, however, at one point, mention the distinction between audience and reader, which I would like to question further. While I realize this is not the primary focus of her essay, it did get me thinking along lines I hadn't considered before. That is, how do we write for an audience (or teach students to write for an audience) when that audience is constantly changing? Yes, we may have one audience (or reader? Still not sure of the difference) "in mind” (whether imagined, or imagined as actual), yet that audience will inevitably change. Fundamentally, I teach my students to consider audience; however, should they consider a reader? How does one consider a constantly shifting audience/reader? And, more drastically, *should* we focus so much on the audience in our teaching?
Additionally, I appreciated much of Devitt's "Generalizing about Genre," in which she claims that:
“This reconception of genre may even lead us to a unified theory of writing.”
“our theory of genre, therefore, must allow us to see behind particular classifications (which change as our purposes change) and forms (which trace but do not constitute genre).” (575)
My question, however, is would a unified “theory of writing” be a good thing? What does it buy us or allow for? And conversely, why is a dichromatic theory of writing necessarily a bad thing?
And isn’t she simply re-classifying genre? (re-genres genre) What does that really do?