Revolution Lullabye

April 25, 2009

Hawk, A Counter-History of Composition

Hawk, Byron. A Counter-History of Composition: Toward Methodoligies of Complexity. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 2007.

Hawk argues that in modern composition, vitalism (equated with romanticism) is seen in opposition to rhetoric, especially in terms of how composition scholars and teacher talk about and teach invention. He centers on 1980 as a pivotal year, analyzing three articles published that year (Richard Young, James Berlin, and Paul Kameen) to show how they positioned the field to take an oppositional approach to vitalism. He argues that vitalism is a powerful, important philosophy with roots in Aristotle and developed in science and philosophy over centuries. It is at the root of complexity theory, which is an increasingly relevant and important theory today, as digital technologies are rapidly changing the cultural context, showing the inadequacy of methods and techniques rooted only in mind-driven logic. He argues for vitalism to take a central role in reconfiguring composition and rhetoric scholarship and pedagogy, because only through vitalism is the body and experience brought together in concert with the mind. Vitalism also prevents teachers from having a set agenda, a set desire for their students to fulfill, placing instead the onus on the students to develop and find their own relations and metaphors, drawing on all possible means and resources in our complex, dynamic, and ever-changing ecology.

Quotable Quotes

“Composition theorists should be striving to develop methods for situating bodies within ecological contexts in ways that reveal the potential for invention, especially the invention of new techniques, that in turn reveal new models for action within those specific rhetorical ecologies” (206).

“An ethical goal for pedagogy, then, would be to design occassions in which students are more likely to create compositions rather than decompositions. A pedagogical act would be evaluated based upon the relationships it fosters and the relationships it serves – on its ability to increase rather than decrease a student’s agency, power, or capacity to produce new productive relations” (256).

“To desire an outcome for them [students] is to commit a certain violence to them” (257).

“Heuristics do not function in a vacuum; they function within complex and specific rhetorical situations. Importantly, the body is the critical, epistemological link between situation and invention. It is the interface.” (120)

Notable Notes

a counterhistory (drawing on Feyerabend) – “a counter-history is an additive paratactic aggregate rather than a recuperative manuever” (123)

distinguishes between 3 forms of vitalism: oppositional (electronmagnetic forces); investigative (scales of influence and organization); complex (events, cooperation)

dissoi logoi – new ways to group texts and to read them

Young – concerned with disciplinarity, so rejects vitalism

Berlin – concerned with his own political Marxist agenda and can’t see anything else, and so rejects vitalism

all the work in comp/rhet on vitalism seems to stem from one dissertation, Hal Rivers Weidner “Three Models of Rhetoric: Traditional, Mechanical, and Vital” (2)

vitalism became the scapegoat term

January 28, 2009

Tate, Teaching Composition

This blog entry is a comparison of the table of contents across two editions of Gary Tate’s bibliographic essay collection, Teaching Composition. I’m looking at a couple of these composition guides intended for beginning composition teachers and/or entering graduate students in the field to see how they change over different editions and to correlate the publication dates with major movements and trends in the history of composition pedagogy. I see the table of contents and the terms that the chapter titles use as a map that can suggest these transformations in how we view the field of composition and its pedagogy.

Tate’s collection pulls together bibliographic essays that scan the literature written about different parts of the field. Each is written by an “expert,” and it’s interesting to see what constituted different areas and specialties in the field in 1976 and in 1987. There hasn’t been an edition published since, probably due to the sheer number of articles, books, reviews, and other scholarship published in rhetoric and composition since 1987. Plus, there are more databases and other ways of finding relevant scholarship now that weren’t in place in the 1970s and 1980s.

Tate, Gary, ed. Teaching Composition: Ten Bibliographic Essays. Forth Worth: Texas Christian UP, 1976.

Young, “Invention: A Topical Survey”
Larson, “Structure and Form in Non-fiction Prose”
Corbett, “Approaches to the Study of Style”
D’Angelo, “Modes of Discourse”
Shaughnessy, “Basic Writing”
Comprone, “The Uses of Media in Teaching Composition”
Winterowd, “Linguistics and Composition”
Korder, “A Rhetorical Analysis of Writing”
Kinneavy/Kline, “Composition and Related Fields”
Giannasi, “Dialects and Composition”

Tate, Gary, ed. Teaching Composition: Twelve Bibliographical Essays. Fort Worth: Texas Christian UP, 1987.

Richard Young, “Recent Developments in Rhetorical Invention”
Richard Larson, “Structrue and Form in Non-narrative Prose”
Edward P.J. Corbett, “Approaches to the Study of Style”
Frank D’Angelo, “Aims, Modes, and Forms of Discourse”
Richard Lloyd-Jones, “Tests of Writing Ability”
Mina P. Shaughnessy, “Basic Writing”
Andrea Lunsford, “Basic Writing Update”
Jennifer Giannasi, “Language Varieties and Composition”
W. Ross Winterowd, “Litearcy, Linguistics, and Rhetoric”
Joseph Comprone, “Liteary Theory and Composition”
Jim Corder, “Studying Rhetoric and Literature”
James Kinneavy, “Writing across the Curriculum”
Hugh Burns, “Computers and Composition”

Some things I notice: “dialects” turns into “language varieties;” the “basic writing update;” Winterowd’s chapter now includes literacy and rhetoric in the title; “media” becomes specifically computers; addition of writing across the curriculum as an area of interest and research; introduction of the term “rhetoric” in two of the chapter titles; “modes” of discourse becomes “aims, modes, and forms”; new chapter on assessment with “tests of writing ability.”

What these might suggest: turn away from linguistics and toward rhetoric; beginning of interests in cultural studies and the rhetorical practices of minority groups; seeing composition as an administrative force in the academy (with both chapters on WAC and assessment); move away from traditional notions of style, arrangement, and structural form to a more social approach to the teaching of writing; lots of growth in the reseach in basic writing and literacy.

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