Writing Sample #2: MacCurdy Summary

Micaela Butler

Professor Rigsby & Professor Atwell-Vasey

English  306Q, Writing for Nursing

May 1, 2015

Writing sample #2

In the opening of her essay, MacCurdy (2000) discusses how essential it is for students to learn how to incorporate an intellectual and emotional aspect into their writings but poses the question who is qualified to make the distinction between the what is more authentic: an autobiographical essay or an argumentative essay (p. 159). She does make a clear distinction, though, between therapy and writing instruction because while the goal of therapy is someone’s mental health, her goal is help students become better writers. MacCurdy (2000) emphasizes this in context of students writing about students often referring to trauma, although never actually considering these moments (the death of a loved one, getting in an accident, etc.) as a traumatic (p. 161).

MacCurdy (2000) references the studies of various researchers, such as John H. Krystal, Steven M. Southwick, and Dennis S. Charney regarding their research in regards to how, during a traumatic event, someone will shift from encoding the memory verbally to encoding it emotionally, making memories more sensitive to “sensory, iconic representations, not strictly linguistic, intellectual concepts about those memories” (p. 163). Thus, according to MacCurdy (2000), memories are not told in a linear traditional narrative but instead in pictures in ones mind (p. 165). This argument is furthered in by her claim that in remembering details, the specific images, and writing them leads to healing (MacCurdy, 2000, p. 167).

MacCurdy (2000) implemented a free writing assignment within her classroom in order to get her students writing about their own childhood experiences, harmful or not but in this, she distinguishes between labeling an experience versus describing it (p. 171). MacCurdy (2000) concludes that the most effective way to discuss these experiences with students is to help students focus on their images and discussing them in-depth to avoid any cliches, thus producing a unique piece of work (p. 173).

According to MacCurdy  (2000), there is a specific process in order to access images, one must also create narrative through the following steps: first, access the image followed by connecting to the experience that began that image, putting the image into a narrative in regards to your life which will ultimately affect the way in which images are processed in the future (p. 185). She gives an example of a student in her class, Meg, to further stress this concept and how much of a difference it can make when the student completely surrenders to their subject with no barriers.

MacCurdy (2000) concludes with a critique of Rolf Norgaard’s criticism of writing. Although Norgaard regards personal writing as essentially useless whereas MacCurdy (2000) sees personal writing as not only an art form but a way for people to communicate their experiences and humanity (p. 191). She does not advocate for teachers to suddenly become therapists but instead, to enable an atmosphere for effective writing and thinking skills in order to introduce writers back into a community to find humanity in writing.



MacCurdy, M. M. (2000).  From trauma to writing: A theoretical model for practical use.  In C. M. Anderson & M. M. MacCurdy (Eds.), Writing and healing: Toward an informed practice (pp. 158-200).  Urbana, IL: NCTE.

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