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“This is a book that figures the student as a reader to be taken seriously,” write Patricia Donahue and Mariolina Rizzi Salvatori in the preface for instructors to The Elements (and Pleasures) of Difficulty. “This is a book that looks at complicated issues of reading, writing, and interpretation directly inside the work of students as they confront and work to negotiate difficult texts.”

Donahue, professor of English at Lafayette and founder of its College Writing Program, says the 208-page textbook, published by Allyn & Bacon/Pearson Longman for its “The Elements of Composition” series, is a true collaboration between her and Salvatori, professor of English at University of Pittsburgh.

“We really wrote every sentence of this together,” she says. “We wrote into each other’s sentences and around each other’s sentences To collaborate with someone that closely, you really have to have a special relationship.”

Donahue, who has known and worked with Salvatori for several decades, says the book also advocates a special relationship between student and professor.

“In other books, you have the teacher kind of framing the nature of student difficulty,” she says. “This book looks at works that have been done by students on difficulty.”

Inside, she says, are excerpts of works written by Lafayette students over the past 20 years, appearing along with their full names.

“They deserve to be named,” Donahue says.

In the book’s preface for students, Donahue and Salvatori explain that its purpose is “to help you inquire into whatever intellectual difficulties you might encounter in your work as a college student. Inquiry into difficulty is an important dimension of both academic work and human understanding—a fact that our students’ writing has confirmed over and over again.”

Donahue adds that the book can be used in a variety of settings.

“We imagine it being used in undergraduate classrooms, graduate classes, composition studies, and pedagogical theory,” she says. “What it does is articulate in printed form many of my ideas about teaching. It has allowed me to teach more ‘efficiently,’ in that ideas that normally I would present in class, I can now present through the vehicle of the book.”

Over the past two decades, Donahue has helped shape the College Writing Program and its predecessor, the Comprehensive Writing Program, at first training and assigning the student writing associates who assist their fellow students in completing writing assignments, then taking on an administrative role as the program grew to include a coordinator, two assistant directors, more than 50 writing associates, 750 participating students, and 50 participating faculty members.

Donahue co-edited the book Disciplinary Styles in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. A Carnegie Scholar in 2003-04, she spent time with colleagues from colleges and universities in the United States and Australia investigating new ways to teach, learn, and conduct research. She completed a 10-day residency at Stanford University as part of the Carnegie Scholars program sponsored by the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

A recipient of Lafayette’s Marquis Award for Excellence in Teaching, Donahue graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree from University of Redlands and earned her Ph.D. in English from University of California, Irvine, writing her dissertation on “Circe’s Potion: The Language of Passion in English Renaissance Poetry.”

Categorized in: Academic News