Anne Aronson’s “Composing in a Material World: Women Writing in Space and Time” certainly posed an interesting point into the nature of how varieties of space (temporal, physical and figurative) may influence adult women writers. What was really worth noting were the ideas of other writers whose arguments she had framed hers against, namely that of Ursula Le Guin, who herself had built off of Virginia Woolf. This response will attempt to treat both criticism of Aronson’s ideas, comment upon methodology, and pose relevant questions so as to act as an extension of the discourse Aronson is attempting to engage in with her ideas.
In a resolving statement, Aronson appears to identify the fact that many of her subjects suffered from extreme constraints in their writing practices because of their obligations in life. She uses this idea to counteract Le Guin’s point that all that was needed to write was the materials and the control of your own ideas. I feel that this focus on materiality is certainly a relevant topic in the nature of writing studies, as efficiency and maximization of time is a problem that any individual will have to deal with- professional writers and students especially. The main points of contention that should be brought up are addressed by the differences in interpretation of what is needed to function as a writer by both Aronson and Le Guin. The two individuals appear to revealing the nature of how societal and economic position can negatively impact the outcome (success, practice, capability) of becoming a writer. All of Aronson’s samples came from lower to middle class positions, and could be considered as representational of a “normal” state for these conditions, beyond the idea that all of the women Aronson used had managed to get back into academics, which some writers in even worse of situations may not capable of achieving. The question then is how much do these factors of livelihood influence the capabilities and limitations of these female writers? A comparative analysis pooling individuals who came from higher class backgrounds, as well as those from lower classes could perhaps make this clear and more certainly define how disparities in privileges can influence practice, beyond intrinsic capability.
Aronson’s methodology was certainly interesting. Her usage of a small sub-sample of populations of adult students in college settings could perhaps have been more clearly defined, but despite this, her ability to utilize qualitative data and extend its presence to her argument was exemplary. Her practice here illustrates how qualitative data can be utilized, especially in conjunction with quantitative. For the intent and purpose of my own personal investigation, the actual resultant numbers derived from experimental units will certainly be useful. Correlating these numbers with descriptions of the how the subjects felt in each treatment can be used to give the data a non-binary purpose. Another noteworthy factor that should be kept in mind is that qualitative analysis lends itself well to lower sample sizes, while quantitative analysis lends itself to higher sample sizes, revealing internal conflicts with the practice of evaluation and data collection overall.
Finally, I wonder how much has changed since 1999 when Aronson has published this study. In addition to general quality of life improvements, technology has become more prolific across many parts of society. This has facilitated, among other the things, ease of writing for a greater amount of individuals. I wonder then, with the nature of the digital medium as a “newer” frontier, if the nature of space and materiality for all writers of various conditions has improved, or perhaps even worsened. Conducting a similar experiment in today’s world may perhaps yield relevantly different results, opening the field of discussion into what has changed over this near-decade and a half.