Revolution Lullabye

November 17, 2010

Lindemann, Three Views of English 101

Lindemann, Erika. “Three Views of English 101.” College English 57.3 (March 1995): 287-302. Print.

Lindemann uses the CCCC debate between herself and Gary Tate (who debated the place of literature in the first-year composition course) as a way to explore what those in the field believe is the purpose and identity of the first-year course. She uses Young, Becker and Pike’s heuristic procedure of viewing an element as a particle, wave, or field (static, dynamic, or as part of a larger network) to explain three ways to teach first-year writing (she focuses on pedagogy, not theory or institutional relationships or departmental politics). Seeing writing as a particple – a product – results in a course that is based in the reading of texts (content) with the idea that reading enough good literature will give students stylistic models to imitate in their own essays and themes, a course where the teacher is the expert, the student is the novice, and that relies on grammar exercises and emphasizes form over invention. Seeing writing as a wave – a process – results in a course that based in process and expressivist pedagogy, where students write on subjects of their own choosing, where a variety of kinds of writing are assigned and encouraged, and where the teacher is placed as a coach or mentor for the student. Invention, practice, and drafting are given primary importance in a process course, and the course is interested primarily in the development of the individual student writer and his search for truth. Seeing writing as a field – a system of social actions – sees student writers as involved in multiple social systems that use writing to communicate and to make meaning (drawing on Cooper’s ecological argument.) It rejects the overarching emphasis on the individual in process theory and instead tries to teach students that they are part of several discourse communities, either through inquiry readings, connections across the curriculum, or connections across the community. How readers and writers relate to one another dependes on the context of the discourse and the values and norms of the community from where that discourse came out of. Lindemann makes the argument that compositionists must understand how they see writing – and how their programs and departments do – in order to have meaningful conversations and assessments.

Notes and Quotes

“Until we can find some common ground in instructional practices (or articulate our differences when we cannot), other discussions seem irrelevantly secondary. Until we can say why teachers and students meet together to read and write in a place called college, we cannot address other practices: placement tests, teacher training, program administration, hiring, and so on, meant to advance this work.” (289).

“Because product-centered courses assign primacy to texts, teachers pay considerable attention to form” (291).

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