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Construction of Negotiated Meaning

Construction of Negotiated Meaning

A Social Cognitive Theory of Writing

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Linda Flower


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
352 pages, 6.125 x 9.25, 15 illustrations


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About the Book

Based on five years of close observation of students, writing and collaborative planning—the practice in which student writers take the roles of planner and supporter to help each other develop a more rhetorically sophisticated writing plan—foremost cognitive composition researcher Linda Flower redefines writing in terms of an interactive social and cognitive process and proposes a convincing and compelling theory of the construction of negotiated meaning.

Flower seeks to describe how writers construct meaning. Supported by the emerging body of social and cognitive research in rhetoric, education, and psychology, she portrays meaning making as a literate act and a constructive process. She challenges traditional definitions of literacy, adding to that concept the elements of social literate practices and personal literate acts. In Flower’s view, this social cognitive process is a source of tension and conflict among the multiple forces that shape meaning: the social and cultural context, the demands of discourse, and the writer’s own goals and knowledge.

Flower outlines a generative theory of conflict. With this conflict central to her theory of the construction of negotiated meaning, she examines negotiation as an alternative to the metaphors of reproduction and conversation. It is through negotiation, Flower argues, that social expectations, discourse conventions, and the writer’s personal goals and knowledge become inner voices. The tension among these forces often creates the hidden logic behind student writing. In response to these conflicting voices, writers sometimes rise to the active negotiation of meaning, creating meaning in the interplay of alternatives, opportunities, and constraints.


Linda Flower is a professor of rhetoric in the Department of English at Carnegie Mellon University and codirector of the National Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy at the University of California, Berkeley, and Carnegie Mellon University. She is the author of Problem-Solving Strategies for Writing and Making Thinking Visible: Writing, Collaborative Planning, and Classroom Inquiry.