Woman in tree pose surrounded by placid waters and mountains
Woman in tree pose surrounded by placid waters and mountains Photo by Mikita Karasiou on Unsplash Note from the Editors

Fresh Writing, Volume 19 is born into a climate where "arguing" too often connotes labeling, abusing, or demonizing an opponent, what John Duffy has defined as "toxic discourse." In his recent work on rhetorical ethics, Provocations of Virtue, Duffy issues a challenge to students and teachers of Writing Studies: reject irrational, vituperative, and violent language, and instead reason with one another -- with conviction, but also with a spirit of intellectual generosity and open-mindedness. We are proud to introduce the essays in this volume as exemplars of the fruits borne of such difficult and rewarding work.

This collection showcases a range of ways that writers display intellectual courage. Student authors in this volume don't shy away from challenging ethical questions. Research-based essays probe the ethics of campus Greek systems and the disaster and slum tourism industries, while others, grounded in personal experience, prompt us to reflect on how our use of gender-based pronouns and text messaging affect our identities and relationships. Ethical questions extend to the realm of textual analysis, as well. Notable visual analysis essays, for example, examine the line between capturing beauty and exploitation in portaiture and probe how materials shape moral message in religious art. Essays like "A Symphony of Gunshots and Birdcalls" don't just offer convincing interpretations; they tell us why those interpretations matter, making the case that texts shape our understandings of political realities and vice-versa.

A pronounced theme in Volume 19 is poverty and economic inequality. From examining the economic roots of conservative populism to exposing disparities in public education, several writers sort through the evidence to make reasoned arguments on the profound effects of wealth and economic insecurity in contemporary life. Other writers use a more personal approach to open the conversation on money matters, challenging readers to look closely at the enduring effects of homelessness and the ways privilege can lead to mental health neglect. "The Fifty-First Star: A Story of the Puerto Rican Exodus" interweaves personal stories with more objective research to expose the financial pressures in the writer's homeland, hindering its ability to forge a future in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

This introductory note only touches on a few of the essays and salient themes in this volume. We encourage you to settle in and explore the rich set of voices inside. Taken together, these essays present a convincing case that writing that is impassioned and grounded in conviction can also be writing that issues an invitation rather than smacks down an opponent. Let us hope that this issue of Fresh Writing, apropos of its title, breathes a gust of new air into our discursive environment, teaching us how to talk with and listen to one another.


Patrick Clauss and Nicole MacLaughlin, Co-Editors, Fresh Writing