Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Jumping in on the carnival

Jeff says yes to Collin and Clancy's call for a new carnival, this one in response to Fulkerson's piece in the new CCC, "Composition at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century." I'm always up for a reading party, so here's my stab at some first thoughts:

(1) Fulkerson is very careful to say that his taxonomy isn't exact, that there are overlaps, things left out, etc., etc. So this isn't meant to be a criticism of him but of the field in general: why is it that a "philosophy of composition" has no ontology? As in, what is writing? As in, what kinds of subjects are called into being through x model of writing or pedagogy?

(2) What is it exactly that Fulkerson worries is a "dangerous situation" in his last paragraph? That the divergence of approaches means we don't like each other? That the divergence of approaches is itself worrisome? I've become so disenchanted with the effort to be pedagogically correct, by which I mean the effort to find one grand theory of composition, the one that's right, the one that really works, the one that's really politically savvy, etc. Maybe we shouldn't think of "planning a composition course . . . like ording from a menu" (679), but couldn't we think of pedagogies in the way that Deleuze thinks of theories--as a toolkit? How does this pedagogy work? How does this kind of writing work? What does it/they do?


Robert Leston said...

I just got Fulkerson's article in the mail yesterday, so I will check it out. I'm quite interested in doing a carnival with Fulkerson---with wierd masks, scary clowns, and lots of mirrors!

Derek said...

You're right, Donna, that I was trying to get at a similar set of questions to those you raise in No. 2. At the end of the essay, I read the harbinger of war, confront the omen of a "bumpy ride," and then, um, worry about a future teaching writing? Or maybe we find that the agreement Fulkerson speaks to only needs to be rooted in the local: above all in line with program/institution specifics.

Donna said...

And I want to ruminate on that local issue, Derek. Not necessarily now, but I do. I want to ask if we really do need uniformity at the local level, or to what extent. Do other introductory courses enforce uniformity in the way that first-year writing is wont to do? Don't know. My hunch is not really, but maybe I'm wrong. Of course, other courses maybe aren't subject to the same level of university-wide and public scrutiny. Which can't just be shrugged off. There's economic concerns there. But now I'm ruminating here in the comments when really I wanted to ruminate in a totally new blog posting.

bowerr said...

In practice I think many do view pedagogies as a toolkit. While reading Fulkerson's piece, I kept noting what I do in my classes and considering why I don't implement other methodologies. In practice I’m very blended, and my students don’t appear confused. However, while professionalizing myself, what's at stake changes—theorizing becomes the simplified (and sane) means by which I can think about and present my pedagogy to others. I don’t see where composition wars would be similar to those that came out of literature professionalization (even if many of those may be attributed to the economics of tenure and filling seats). The “dangerous situation” is more likely to occur from the placement and outcome accountability issues that Fulkerson does not fully address: deans and students pressuring for methodological conformity, departments designating “approved” freshmen comp texts, graduate TA training. This local level is where some coups may occur, and the professionalized level presents a different possibility for disagreement but not in the same way as literary studies. In most places, composition is still undertaken by Robert Scholes’ "nuns, barred from the priesthood," and nuns can’t purchase as many big guns.

Donna said...

I think you're right about the "dangerous situation" being local and often coming from outside pressure. The way that the discipline has internalized (as it were) that pressure without really being critical of it (or at least not in scholarly forums) or questioning whether conformity at the local level is really ideal continues to concern me.

Chris Geyer said...

I'm interested in pursuing your comment, Donna, about the university wide and public scrutiny of the introductory (and mandatory) writing course. I really believe we have to look hard at that mandatory part when we start to discuss implications for cultural studies pedagogies and how we might look at our own selves through that lens, as well as understanding the fundamental difference between our discipline's foundations and that of other academic departments or disciplines.

I tend to study the curriculum of various schools through the bookstore. That is, I go into the bookstore and examine the texts that are on the shelves for courses for that term. I'm always interested in what variations there are in texts for same section courses. Some schools have no differences - everyone gets the same text and presumably the same essential course material. In others, different sections of the same course are entirely different courses.

So when we talk about the writing course and the readers or reading material we use within that course, in some ways it's the same kind of difference, part of a local culture, and a perfectably acceptable diciplinary option. But in other ways it really bothers me, and it's because of that mandatory standing of the course. It seems to me that many of the listserv discussions I've followed and even comments within blogs take up the many questions and differences and internal fractures that surround the course, but seldom does anyone want to take up that mandatory part.