The fourth chapter, “The Essay as a Cabinet of Wonder,” looks at essay writing as “learning by reflecting upon tales, information, and viewpoints that are initially unfamiliar” (133). Similar to their view of research as a journey to knowledge making, and persuasion as a journey to changing view points, the essay is reseen as a way to collect and sort knowledge, facts, and perspectives, much like the Renaissance Wunderkammern, or collections of objects of wonder (137). Rather than supporting the essay as a text driven by thesis and support, the essay as cabinet of wonder encourages the dialogic nature of the essay where discovery and attempts are valued, where the disjointed and disconnected come together to form some larger understanding. Because of this, chapter four suggests an additional revision to the third standard genre, “where the rhetor (as investigator), reader (as curious other), and content (…the tracing of an open question)” come together to “form provisional alliances” to create a dialogic relationship (145).
These three chapters are each designed to resee the three most common forms of writing conducted in the classroom: research, persuasive, and essayistic writing. In addition to forming new understandings of what it means to write in these ways, each chapter is designed to reclaim and recast these standards of writing into a multiwriting approach by including non-traditional texts, media, experiences, and disciplines into each project. From recasting a more traditional research essay to a poem, or using the essay as an avenue to a time-line project, Davis and Shadle suggest that our understanding of research, persuasive, and essay writing goes beyond the actual acts to the production of texts in the broadest definition possible using multiple genres, media, and presentations.
The suggested revisions not only challenge preconceived notions, but also focus on the writer as learner, researcher, discoverer, and collector. The chapters assert a strong similarity to earlier Expressivist pedagogues with emphases on the exploratory, writer-centered nature of the compositions where discovery and growth are highly valued and encouraged inside the classroom. Though much of this aligns with current best practices, at other times the clear nod to Expressivism seems surprising in a contemporary text.