I have been gestating a post (for not quite nine months) based on two things I read at the beginning of the year: Paul Heilker's essay "Twenty Years In: An Essay in Two Parts" in the December 2006 issue of CCC and an essay by Donovan Hohn in the January 2007 issue of Harper's titled "Moby-Duck." I was especially happy to see Heilker's name in the CCC TOC. Though I've never met or communicated with him, I felt a personal connection of a sort: he had (unbeknownst to him) stood as an ally in my disastrous (in the mealy-mouthed Ivory-Tower sort of sense of the word) attempt to overthrow thesis-driven writing. Or at least to open up a dialogue, to question its bullying domination of FYC in my department, to argue for a more inclusive, baggier sort of definition of what we were looking for in the freshman "essay."
It was about four years ago, and I was still relatively new to the dept. I had been doing freelance editing at home for nearly fifteen years and was thrilled to be back in the middle of (what was to me a rather horrifying term but a welcome idea) the "academic discourse community." After a meeting in which one faculty member seemed to claim that the thesis was the sine qua non of FYC, I'd sketched out a tentative position paper, just a couple of pages long, arguing, in essence, that writing could be exploratory as well as argumentative. (The disastrous part involves that faculty member's response: my memo described as an "unsubstantiated diatribe" and my behavior as "totally lacking in professionalism and collegiality.") In my note I quoted from Heilker's book The Essay: Theory and Pedagogy for an Active Form: