Revolution Lullabye

February 19, 2009

Lu, An Essay on the Work of Composition

Lu, Min-Zhan. “An Essay on the Work of Composition: Composing English agains the Order of Fast Capitalism.” CCC 56:1 (Sept. 2004) 16-50.

Composition scholars and teachers need to think beyond a static, global, monolith and capitalistic English and question how multiple “englishes” are being used by the students in their classroom. The English that we use is not static; rather, it is a dynamic, enlivened language that is constantly being negotiated, composed, and designed by its users. Lu brings in the New London Group concept of design, thinking of composition more broadly as design-oriented, showing how through extended examples (like the “Collecting Money Toilet” sign in China) how we might begin to see the use of alternate englishes not as mistakes, but as specific choices by an individual drawing on their discursive resources (their own language expertise, inheritance, and affiliation and their own vision of themselves and their relation to the community and power.) Lu challenges composition scholars to be responsible global citizens, keeping in mind that they have the unique opportunity to teach almost every member of the university community (required first-year course) and that the research, pedagogy, and methods of American composition are used as the benchmarks for the rest of the English-speaking and English-learning world.

Quotable Quotes

All users of English are “actively structuring the english they are acquiring, its relation to other englishes, and the relations of peoples invested in the competing englishes” (26).

“In every instance of discursive practice, all users of English are working with and on very specific, often complex and sometimes dissonant, discursive resources and for potentially complex and conflicting purposes” (26).

Call for “approaching writing as a matter of designing mediated by individual writers’ actual discursive resources” (36).

“English is best defined as an unstable process kept alive by the intense intra-and international struggle between and across English and diverse languages (peripheralized by the power of English under fast capitalism), and between and across diverse standardized englishes and their Othered, peripheralized englishes (variously labeled Dialectal, Creole, Pidgin, Indigneized, etc.)” (24)

Notable Notes

treat discursive acts as matters of design (26)

pull between assimilation of a language and exclusion

English has material consequences, must stop treating it as a commodity that can be attained, learned, exchanged – it’s dynamic

Chinglish, jiaos

even seemingly homogenous students have different discursive resources and dissonance in those resources

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