Revolution Lullabye

February 7, 2009

George and Trimbur, Cultural Studies and Composition

George, Diana and John Trimbur. “Cultural Studies and Composition.” 71-91.

George and Trimbur argue that when composition instructors use cultural studies to organize their pedagogy, they are continuing the movement in the field from focusing on individual writers (process theory) to acknowledging the social and political context of the world the students are writing, thinking, and learning in. This politcal turn, proponents of cultural studies in the composition class argue, represents the diversity of the students, allows for rhetoric to be incorporated in the writing classroom, and accommodates the postmodern goal of recognizing and analyzing fragments and subsets of culture. Cultural studies began as a phenomenon in the UK in the 1960s with the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) at the University of Birmingham, and the major New Left thinkers there (Hoggart, Williams, Thompson) looked to Althusser and Gramsci to destroy the power dynamic inherent in the high/low culture split and to begin investigating how people’s cultural practices in turn create the social order and class consciousness. This decidedly white, male, middle-class movement expanded with feminist and race critiques of cultural studies in the 1980s. Those in favor of using cultural studies as the content of a composition class argue that its use of popular culture is inviting to students, it teaches close analysis of texts and artifacts, and leads to civic and public writing. Those against it contend that a focus on cultural studies as a content in the composition classroom leads to a devaluing of writing itself, as the textbooks used don’t include a lot of student texts and the work of producing and writing isn’t foregrounded in the curriculum. Some also see cultural studies as an attempt for leftist teachers to politically indoctrinate their students.

Quotable Quotes

Shift: “emphasis from the personal experience of the individual to the lived experience of participants in the larger culture” (83).

“The arrival of cultural studies marks a wider resurfacing of political desire in academic work”, “a need on the part of American leftist academics to articulate a role for themselves in public formus and to cope (at least rhetorically if not actually) with the globalization of capital and its relentless war against working people and the poor” (72).

Problem with cultural studies pedagogy: “uncritical populist celebration of popular culture, in which the audience is ‘never wrong’ and the practice of everyday life is persisently resistant to the dominant culture” (84).

Notable Notes

Lidna Brodkey 1st year course, “Writing About Difference” at the University of Texas, recounted in “Federal Case”

Cultural studies in composition on the scene in the late 198s, 1990s

Sources about foundational cultural studies theory: Richard Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy; E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class; Raymond Williams, Culture and Society and The Long Revolution; Stuart Hall “Two Paradigms”; Althusser; Gramsci; Lawrence Grossberg “The Formation of Cultural Studies”; Johnson “What Is Cultural Studies, Anyway?”; Baudelaire, Paris Spleen; Engel, Conditions of Working Classes in 1844; Frankfurt School; Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor; Bourdieu; Habermas; Barthes; deCerteau; Walter Benjamin; Women Take Issue: Aspects of Women’s Subordination; Paul Gilroy, There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack

Cultural Studies and Composition: Raymond Williams, The Future of Cultural Studies; Gere, Long Revolution; Ohmann, Graduate Students; Trimbur, Writing Instruction, Cultural Studies, Articulation Theory, Radical Pedagogy; Berlin, Rhetorics, Poetics, and Cultures; Schilb, Cultural Studies, Postmodernism, and Composition; Faigley, Fragments of Rationality; Berlin/Vivion; Fitts/France; Pratt, Arts of the Contact Zone; Sullivan/Qualley, Pedagogy in the Age of Politics.

Critiques of cultural studies: Richard Miller, As If Learning; Joseph Harris, Other Reader; Frank Farmer; Susan Miller, Technologies; Hairston, Diversity, Ideology, and the Teaching of Writing.

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January 31, 2009

Coffin, Teaching Academic Writing

Coffin, Caroline, et al. Teaching Academic Writing: A Toolkit for Higher Education. London: Routledge, 2003.

This guide for teachers of academic writing is grounded in the UK higher education system, which has some distinctive features. The first is that first-year composition is a new phenomenon for UK colleges and universities: the UK experienced a surge in student populations a few decades after the US in post-WWII, so the need for the course dedicated to academic writing – to serve the needs of the increasingly diverse student population – was not there. Instead, writing instruction happened in three other places: discipline-specific courses (like WAC/WID) ; “study support centres and writing centres,” “labs” designed to help students with basic literacy skills across the disciplines; and EAP (English for Academic Purposes) courses, created for English as a second language learners. The guide is grounded in a sociocultural theory of language and learning, based in Vygotsky, and gives heuristics and activities for all teachers – both writing specialists in the first-year course and writing centres and those teaching outside of the comp/rhet – in the five chapters.

Table of Contents

1. Issues in academic writing in higher education
2. Approaches to teaching writing (text analysis, process theory, and a hybrid of the two)
3. Writing for different disciplines
4. Planning the assessment of student writing (assignment creation)
5. Giving feedback on student writing
6. Academic writing in an electronic environment

Three-prong emphasis on writing for assessment (that’s interesting), learning, and entering disciplinary communities (discourse communities)

Changes in higher education population and constraints: more students, more diversity, older and part-time students, curriculum changes (move from year-long courses to semester-long ones), larger class sizes.

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