I hope my concerns about workshops and writers are clear. Josh and Laura seem to gather my point; my classmates may not.
May this serve to concretize the entry without reference to RC:
We should be able to answer the question, "What purpose does this piece of writing serve?" when addressing our own work in any setting. First, I feel that if I were to ask such a question, most authors would feel insulted. And I believe this reaction is a bad sign: that many young authors are more engaged with fashion--form as window dressing--than they are engaged with the social consequences as a result of writing's activity.
Second, the meaning of the text itself as a poem or story, etc., and the intent of its structures are only usefully discussed after the question of purpose is explored. Otherwise, a critique is simply con-textual babble. If I start with the second, I can simply say whatever I want about a text and the author can do with my saying whatever she wants. Nothing vital in such work; nothing useful.
Therefore, I am dismayed each time I listen to a writer talk about his or her writing who cannot talk about what has been written except by addressing a conceptual structure. B/C? Well, such structures are ephemeral and haunt a text in a way that purposefully perplexes a common reading. If reading has an objective, I believe it involves building community. If writing presents readers with readerly moments, then author's are engaged in creating moments from which readers with writers share the vital interpretation of life out of which community is formed. In other words, writers don't do things for us, they do things with us.
Therefore, and finally for now, I feel that any other writing, though it may be engaging for the author, is not useful, necessary, and worth the effort because it merely addresses the author's desire to see himself as he expects. [Of course, writing without a purpose is purposeful. If such a task is possible, we could discuss the purposelessness of that purposeless text.]
I'll get to form tonight; but concentration on form is not a thinking about the matter but a thinking about the language of the matter. Hence, two steps removed from its object. We must keep this in mind; and this is why our discussion is so important and engaging (for its participants, and for Wittgenstein...) If Heidegger is correct that "thinking recedes from its matter," then we must approach thinking about writing itself, not merely approach the writing itself.
There is so much concern for the performance in politics that seeps into the cracks of writerly craft. How can I address an audience in a way that will best sell my point? This is obviously a typical question that many authors actively attempt to answer. But then there is writing that is simply a response to the representation of culture as a series of formal objects. We are tempted to populate our texts with representations instead of moments. I argue this is wrong-minded; I think we write to cultivate X, Y, or Z, not simply to point IT out.
As Hamlet discovered, knowing is not about watching and retelling what was seen but watching the watching and describing the state of things. What is it you see in there? that is the question.