Revolution Lullabye

June 6, 2009

Trimbur, Composition and the Circulation of Writing

Trimbur, John. “Composition and the Circulation of Writing.” CCC (Dec 2000) 188-219.

Trimbur argues that compositionists need to focus on and teach about the materiality of production, delivery, and circulation. Without an understanding of how writing circulates, composition courses and their students stay isolated from society, either in a strange father-child in loco parentis relationship with their teacher or investigating cultural artifacts in a cultural studies classroom, but remaining a reader, reporter, and consumer of culture rather than a producer or active participant. Trimbur uses Marx’s Grundrisse to explain Marx’s term circulation (which Trimbur uses interchangably with rhetorical canon of delivery after he explains the terms), which understands the circulation as a dialectic hierarchal power move, a deliberate distribution of knowledge and information, a relationship between labor and those in charge. Trimbur shows how he teaches about the circulation of writing in his “Writing about Disease and Public Health,” when he asks students to transform medical journal information to public news stories, which shows them how information gets changed and presented (in specific, political ways) in circulation.

Quotable Quotes

“Marx wanted to explian the various moments in the circulation of commodities – the cycle of production, distribution, exchange, and consumption – not as a series of separate events taking place in a predetermined order over time but dialectically, as mediation in mutual and coterminous relations that constitute the capitalist mode of production as a total system” (206).

“The process of production determines – and distributes – a hierarchy of knowledge and information that is tied to the cultural authorization of expertise, professionalism, and respectability.” (210)

“We cannot understand what is entailed when people encounter written texts without taking into account how the labor power embodied in the commodity form articulates a mode of production and its prevailing social relations” (210).

“Negating delivery has led to writing teachers to equate the activity of composing with writing itself and to miss altogether the complex delivery systems through which writing circulates” (190).

Notable Notes

delivery isn’t just technical (document design, Trimbur says) – it is political and ethical, can be used to democratize and circulate ideas, expand public forums (190).

exchange value v. use value – academic work in public channels

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