Response to Gee

To be completely honest, while reading Gee’s arguments I began to get distracted by thoughts- mainly questions- about my secondary Discourses. However, in doing so, it actually helped me understand the concept of secondary and primary discourses much better, as well as the arguments surrounding them. The main arguments begin with the existence of these Discourses, or means of participating in life. These are broken up into categories of the primary Discourse, or the first Discourse- the first one we begin practicing since birth in our household, and secondary Discourses, which are a wide range of interests and communities that we will come to be acquainted with as we grow up, and come to be literate in, or fully understanding of.

The arguments follow that if one is not fluent or literate in a secondary discourse, then they are not fully immersed in it, and therefore they are not in the Discourse, but rather out. We are not true participants in the Discourse until we are literate in it. They also follow that primary Discourses can never be liberating, or powerful in terms of social advancement. In order to progress, we must acquire secondary Discourses. However, primary and secondary Discourses are not separate. Primary Discourses can influence the secondary Discourses that we pursue, and likewise secondary Discourses, can affect our later understandings of our primary Discourses. The secondary Discourses hold the power, but the primary Discourse can attribute to reaching this power through the secondary Discourse. It all begs the question though, how can we truly be fully integrated in a secondary Discourse that goes beyond a physical community setting? 

We are integrated in our primary Discourses just as we are integrated in the house we grew up in. It is literally all we know as we go from womb to preschool. Thus, it is easy to learn and master fairly quickly. This is generally the same with schools and communities, but when it comes to math? Or science? Or literature or astronomy or rhetoric and composition? If we are not “in” these discourses until we are 100% literate in them, then how can we ever be in when our understandings of these subjects are constantly being redefined and challenged. Language around these subjects and the understanding goes hand-in-hand, but when the understanding is constantly evolving with the times, it’s near impossible to be 100% literate in a Discourse. It seems more appropriate to say that we are “in” the Discourse when we are literate in our passion for the Discourse. We are “in” the secondary Discourse when we are fully immersed in our passion and we never lose that strive to learn more and advance, not when we’ve done all the advancing we can because that is impossible and if it were the case Discourses would not exist because no one would truly be a part of them.

Perhaps I’m just trying to challenge Gee because he came off as arrogant and a little snotty in his  ever so literate understanding of the Discourse of Discourses, but I live by the mindset of opening one’s self up to change in mind every now and then. The world we live in isn’t permanent and our thoughts and beliefs shouldn’t be either. We need this impermanency to further our Discourse ability, but it seems that Gee is saying permanency is key to truly being part of a Discourse. If this were the case, the world would be boring, and our Discourses would soon fade away into a common interest that one and one’s Discourse companions agrees on and there is nothing else to it but to talk about the same things over and over again until the Discourse becomes a disinterest from agreeing on it so much.

All this writing poses another question for myself. Do I fully understand the concept of the Discourse? I think I do, at least I would like to think I do, but from the reflecting I’ve been doing on the subject it seems that the Discourse, in some regards, is an ideal concept that can never be reached, but based on our daily interactions in our own Discourses, I know this simply cannot be. The fact that I’m even remarking on any of this in a way that expresses language, communication, interest, etc. proves it cannot be. By Gee’s standards I’m definitely not “in” the Discourse of Discourses, but the more I think about it, the more I’d like to understand it and the theory behind it.

Now, on to Project 1…. In my “about me” page I think that it’s definitely necessary to put some of the simplest background information on there that I can. After all it attributes to a reader’s general understanding of my primary Discourse. I would then proceed to give some more very brief general information on schooling, hobbies, and maybe even some cultural interests. Now the reader has general understanding of some of my very general secondary Discourses. I would then proceed with the non-general- who I am because of my primary Discourse, who I am because of my secondary Discourses, how both of these non-generals have affected my writing, perhaps how writing has affected me, and lastly why the writing in my blog is going to go much deeper than the prompt, or in other words what the concept of the prompt means to me and why I love the concept of the prompt so much. The writing that I am doing is never going to be simply conveying information to a reader. After all I’m doing this writing for a class that I am paying seven hundred something dollars for, and I better be getting something out of it that is more than just a good letter grade because I proved I did some reading. If I have learned anything about the writing process it is that forming thoughts into words and putting these words down to page is one of the best means of progressing self-actualizaion. I’m a theatre major- I love self actualization. Thus I won’t be missing any opportunities to self-actualize and learn about myself, and I definitely plan on making this a key part of my learning experience, both in subject matter and personal matters, in English 1020.


2 thoughts on “Response to Gee

  1. This is a very engaging and smart response to Gee and exploration of these ideas about Discourse. I was particularly interested in your challenges of Gee’s “all or nothing” approach to Discourse, and I’d like you to keep thinking about that as we read this semester and as you *write* within and about discourse communities you’re a part of. Great work.


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