Inventing the University Response

David Bartholomae is an American scholar of composition studies. He focuses on literacy, scholarship in rhetoric, and culture. In his famed essay “Inventing the University”, Bartholomae states that new college students are not fully exposed to academic discourse, nor are they aware of the specific demands that institutions will require. Students are not familiar with academic writing, and the nuances that coincide with it. He articulates that new college students are basic writers who cannot usually communicate the full extent of their ideas to their specific audience. Bartholomae explains that this discrepancy “makes earning… more a matter of imitation or parody than a matter of invention or discovery” (Bartholomae 11). He also explains that writing about a subject takes on a specific tone of expertise, which most students do not have.


I can apply validity in Bartholomae’s work to my experiences thus far at the University of Richmond. Academic expectations vary depending on the institution, and through building relationships and experiences with new academic discourse, us as students will be able to write and engage at the level that is expected. While I agree with Bartholomae’s argument, I think that college-level writing should be groomed over time and that the rawness and “discovery” (408) will develop in tandem.


When I think of scholarship and success in the context of college, my first instinct is to look to those who are solely immersed in studies and academia. However, I am now realizing that I admire my peers who exhibit balance in their lives. I believe that having a healthy work ethic and social life is so important in order to be an effective member of the University of Richmond community. Inventing the university is no longer exclusively about academics; it also about social interaction. Social media is one of today’s largest influencers, and changes the way that we interact with each other, and the world around us. It has created a sense of casualness surrounding communication and academic literacy, which can unintentionally translate into the classroom. I believe that this concept speaks to Bartholomae’s argument in a modern way when he discusses that students should be literate in the “peculiar ways of knowing, selecting, evaluating, reporting, concluding, and arguing that define the discourse of our community” (4). The academic audience has always required a sense of formality and knowledge, but in today’s ever-changing world, we can start to see a shift in those expectations. A writer that is aware, updated, informed, and an expert on a subject can assume an informal tone, without losing the palpable meaning of his or her writing. Social media has expanded the audience that writing can reach, therefore altering the expectations of academic discourse. With so many new means of communication, inventing the university runs deeper than a traditional academic setting. For a new college student in 2016, inventing the university encompasses sharing ideas in Bartholomae’s traditional academic setting, but it also takes into consideration social media’s presence and influence on writing norms in today’s world.


Bartholomae, David. “Inventing the University.” Journal of Basic Writing (2986): 4-19. Web.