Revolution Lullabye

February 19, 2009

Horner, Terms of Work for Composition

Horner, Bruce. Terms of Work for Composition: A Materialist Critique. Albany: SUNY Press, 2000.

Horner uses a materialist lens to examine many of the debates in the field of composition and rhetoric, ranging from the purpose of service-learning courses to whether or not the field should professionalize to how we regard students and their writing, focusing his critique on six “key terms”: work, students, politics, academic, traditional, and writing. The volume is very circular (Horner announces in introduction that the reader can read through the chapters in any order they see fit), but each chapter (organized around one of the key terms) takes up the debates and Horner’s perspective in a slightly different way. Horner’s two main arguments throughout the text are calls to the field at large. First, he argues that the work done in composition is commodified (seen as a product that can be acquired and exchanged), and this commodification, which occurs at all levels, from the classroom to the university to the outside world, allows us to think of our work and the issues we deal with as abstractions rather than connected to material conditions. Second, that abstract view allows us to cede control of our work to faceless systems and institutions, like their effects are inevitable, rather than regarding and critiquing our decisions as conscious choices. Horner challenges the field to ground our scholarship, pedagogy, and service in the material, social, and historical conditions of the local places we work in.

Quotable Quotes

Intellectual work: “This subordiniation and subsumption of the work of teaching to the production of written texts constitute the playing out at the site of Composition the contradictions in more general conceptions of work. These contradictions are manifested in the distinction between intellectual and non-intellectual labor and in the commodification of intellectual labor” (2).

He argues for “representing students above all else workers, working on themselves, Composition, the academy, and the social generally” (35).

“Our distrust of work identified with these terms [academic and traditional], like our trust in work that appears ‘progressive,’ may ay more about the dematerialized ways in which we conceive of them than about the actual work accomplished under such rubrics” (103).

Notable Notes

see tradition not as a fixed body of knowledge but something dynamic, always negotiated, a foundation that is ever-changing and re-understanding knowledge

professionalization of composition can lead to an abandonment of the consideration of the material conditions of our work

there is a problem with the delegitimization of academic writing in the pursuit of all things “real world.” Is academia not in the real world? What does that say about our work?  There is materiality in all writing. Students’ academic writing is not inauthentic.

we always look at what students lack, look to their work to gives us clues to their being. Instead of seeing students as the result of pressures and factors being worked on, see them as workers.

our work as compositionists is tied up in our students’ work

extracurriculum – students outside the classroom work is “wholly unrecognized” and not considered intellectual work (117)


February 13, 2009

Halbert, Poaching and Plagiarizing

Halbert, Debora. “Poaching and Plagiarizing: Property, Plagiarism, and Feminist Futures.” In Perspectives on Plagiarism and Intellectual Property in a Postmodern World. Eds. Lise Buranen and Alice M. Roy, eds. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1999. 111-120.

Intellectual property laws and copyright should be eliminated in favor a view of intellectual property that emphasizes the creative potential of the commons and an attitude of acknowledging the sources of intellectual ideas and concepts. Such a view highlights the inherently social nature of creative activity, a perspective that challenges the patriarchal solitary author, who composes original thoughts and owns them as property through which to make a profit on. The alternative Halbert proposes is both feminist and postmodernist. Halbert also points out that arguments against plagiarism rooted in economic losses are misguided, explaining that plagiarism carries such weight because it is a personal offense and attack.

Quotable Quotes

“If we can emphasize a framework focused on sharing and exchange instead of personal ownership, then the concept of authorship as identifying ‘to whom something owes its origin’ is acceptable” (118)

“Unlike a tangible item, an idea can be shared by many and ownership of expressions can be difficult to enforce” (119).

“Plagiarism is about personal feelings, not profits” (117).

“For the feminist and the postmodernist, appropriation or plagiarism are acts of sedition against an already established mode of knowing, a way of knowing indebeted to male creation and property rights” (116).

“Intellectual property rights restrict the flow of texts” (116).

“Copyright produces a tension between how texts are created (a process that relies on textual paching, exchange, and sharing) and how texts are legally protexted (a process reliant on originality and private property)” (111)

Notable Notes

Outline of article: 1. explore partriarchal foundations (Locke and Hegel) of intellectual property and copyright law 2. look at current intersections of plagiarism, creativity, and property (case of Jeffrey Koons and “String of Puppies” wood carving) and 3. offer copyright alternative possibilities

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