Revolution Lullabye

June 17, 2009

Royster and Williams, History in the Spaces Left

Royster, Jacqueline Jones and Jean C. Williams. “History in the Spaces Left: African American Presence and Narratives of Composition Studies.” CCC 50:4 (June 1999) 563-584.

Any history that is written has important political consequences. Royster and Williams argue that African American contributions to the history of composition and rhetoric, beginning in the 19th century, have been largely ignored by the dominant historical narratives written in the field, which has resulted in a continued representation of African Americans as a marginalized Other, characterized by Open Admissions and basic writing. The research base for understanding the history of the field needs to be broadened, and Royster and Williams showcase this by presenting three cases of African Americans – Alain Locke, Hallie Quinn Brown, and Hugh M. Gloster – who contributed to the theory and practice of rhetoric and composition in the 19th and early 20th century. Royster and Williams also briefly trace the history of African American higher education, highlighting the importance of HBCUs in educating African Americans before the Open Admissions push of the 1960s.

Quotable Quotes

Questions to ask to recover marginalized histories: “For whom is this claim true? For whom is it not true? What else is happening? What are the operating conditions?” (581)

effect of dominant histories: “the other viewpoints are inevitably positioned in non-universal space and peripheralized, and the exclusion of suppressed groups, whether they intend it or not, is silently, systematically reaffirmed.” (565)

Notable Notes

resist primacy

conflation of basic writers with students of color

Morrill Act, HBCUs

students in histories are seen as generic, apolitical, without race or gender or sexuality

review of many of the histories of the field

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