For the past fourteen years, I have been using my gifts of writing and teaching to advocate for and minister to the broken, afflicted and broken-hearted people of the world. This has become Jesus' great calling of love and compassion for my life -- to advocate and minister through my writings. As composition teachers, we need to recognize that we have students, such as myself, who both have a love and adoration for Jesus and a passion for social justice issues and making the world a more just and caring and compassionate place. As such, we need to create composition courses that allow, encourage and support ministerial and advocacy writing on the part of students in our courses because this is the most valuable, in Jesus' eyes, writing that they can be doing and it is writing that makes a tremendous difference in the world and goes far beyond, in its impact on the world, than writing that is to be merely evaluated and graded. It is time for a REVIVAL in composition studies and time that we, as composition teachers, change our focus from being taskmasters and evaluators to being encouragers and supporters of writing that ministers to and advocates for the oppressed, broken, impoverished and broken-hearted of the world. We most definitely are capable of creating composition courses that allow students to use their God-given HEARTS and minds to advocate for social change and social justice in their worlds and to use their Jesus-given HEARTS to express love and compassion to the world and people around them. These are the most valuable and worthwhile things that our students and ourselves can be doing with their/our writing, which is a blessing and gift that we have all been given by God. We do not need to be evaluators and taskmasters because that is not who we are and who we are supposed to be, in Jesus' eyes, when we teach writing. We need, instead, to create writing assignments that engage students' HEARTS and minds in thinking about ways they can reach out to, re-envision and positively change and transform the worlds and people around them. These are the types of composition courses that I would like to create, and I would still love to start-up A CENTER FOR COMPOSITION AND WRITING STUDIES that teaches advocacy, ministerial, visionary and social justice writings, and I know that there are other composition studies teachers that can join me in starting-up this center and teaching these invaluable forms of writing to students -- that passionately engage students in writing projects that make an impact on and inspire change in the people and the worlds that they inhabit. If you are interested in teaching these forms of writings and have a passion for these forms of writing, please either email me at email@example.com or leave a comment in the comments section of this blog. MORE YET TO COME ON THIS BLOG ABOUT TEACHING THESE FORMS OF WRITING IN THE FUTURE. LOVE ALWAYS, DIANE K. OLSON
HERE IS ANOTHER ORGANIZATION THAT YOU, AS COMPOSITION TEACHERS, CAN ENCOURAGE YOUR STUDENTS TO GET INVOLVED IN TO MEET PEOPLE'S NEEDS FOR CLEAN WATER
I HAVE WRITTEN ABOUT MY WORK WITH COMPASSION INTERNATIONAL www.compassion.com IN SEPTEMBER ON THIS BLOG -- A HIGHLY WORTHWHILE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY THAT GIVES STUDENTS WHO LOVE AND ADORE JESUS THE OPPORTUNITY TO SPONSOR AND WRITE LETTERS TO IMPOVERISHED CHILDREN THROUGHOUT THE WORLD. I CONTINUE TO ENCOURAGE COMPOSITION TEACHERS TO GET INVOLVED WITH COMPASSION INTERNATIONAL AND PROMOTE THE MINISTRY TO YOUR STUDENTS WHO LOVE JESUS AND HAVE A PASSION FOR CHILDREN AND FIGHTING POVERTY IN THE WORLD. TODAY, I WOULD LIKE TO INTRODUCE YOU TO ANOTHER NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION www.hands4others.org THAT YOUR STUDENTS CAN GET INVOLVED IN TO HELP BRING CLEAN, SAFE WATER TO IMPOVERISHED PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD. HANDS4OTHERS IS A NON-PROFIT THAT EQUIPS AND EMPOWERS STUDENTS TO BE GLOBAL LEADERS. LOVE ALWAYS, DIANE
JESUS CARES, VERY MUCH SO, ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON IN ACADEMIA TODAY AND THE SUFFERING THAT IT CAUSES PEOPLE
I am very glad to not be working in academia -- although I still have a strong desire to teach composition and cultural studies and poetics, like I have for many years and am very gifted and passionate at doing, if I were receiving the proper and necessary support -- any longer because there are many people in academia who are suffering greatly -- many people with broken hearts -- from its artificial requirements and protocols and false promises -- that is why I have created and, in the past year, have written on www.compositionstudies.com, so as to lead some of those people back to Jesus and let them know that Jesus loves and cares for them beyond measure and is compassionately and lovingly there for them in their hurt and pain. I have also created a website called www.jesusstudies.org because we very much need -- more than anything else -- courses about Jesus and His LOVE AND COMPASSION FOR THE MOST BROKEN, MARGINALIZED AND HURTING POPULATIONS OF THE WORLD -- that is why I went into cultural studies because of my JESUS-GIVEN HEART for the OUTCAST AND MARGINALIZED, only that field has not been effective in the university -- it doesn't move people's hearts and feet to do something about the conditions faced by outcast and impoverished people. But now, I want to teach courses about Jesus and his great love and care for the outcast and broken of this world, such as I write about on www.jesusstudies.org that encourages students to become ministers and advocates to the world around them and use their love and adoration for Jesus -- their JESUS-GIVEN HEARTS -- to serve the worlds around them. I pray today to Our HEAVENLY FATHER AND JESUS THAT THEY PUT ME BACK TO WORK, LIKE I HAVE BEEN DOING THROUGH MY WRITING FOR THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS, TEACHING PEOPLE ABOUT THE GREAT LOVE AND COMPASSION OF JESUS CHRIST AND JESUS GREAT LOVE AND AMAZING GRACE FOR THEM. I PRAY THAT I CONTINUE TO MINISTER TO OTHERS THROUGH MY WRITING AND LEAD MANY PEOPLE BACK TO JESUS AND GROW THEIR FAITH AND THEIR UNDERSTANDING OF THE PRESENCE OF JESUS IN THEIR LIVES AND JESUS' GREAT LOVE FOR THEM. I PRAY THAT I GET TO START MY ORGANIZATION www.jesushearts.org THAT TEACHES CHILDREN ABOUT JESUS AND HOW HE LIVED IN THE GOSPELS AND HIS GREAT COMMANDMENT THAT WE LOVE AND CARE FOR ONE ANOTHER. Please pray for these things for me, if you will please. IN JESUS' BEAUTIFUL, COMPASSIONATE, LOVING AND GLORIOUS NAME. LOVE ALWAYS, DIANE
I WAS A GIFTED COMPOSITION TEACHER AT THREE MAJOR UNIVERSITIES IN THE USA FOR OVER A DECADE. THEN GOD CHOSE FOR ME TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT WITH MY LIFE AND MY GIFTS OF WRITING AND TEACHING. FOR THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS, I HAVE BEEN CREATING AND WRITING WEBSITES THAT TESTIFY TO, MINISTER TO AND TEACH ABOUT THE GREAT LOVE AND COMPASSION OF JESUS CHRIST AND OUR HEAVENLY FATHER. I HAVE ALSO BEEN INVOLVED WITH AN ORGANIZATION CALLED COMPASSION INTERNATIONAL THAT SPONSORS CHILDREN IN MANY IMPOVERISHED AND DEVELOPING COUNTRIES AND TEACHES THEM ABOUT THE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST AND CARES ABOUT THEIR HEALTHY GROWTH AND THE OPPORTUNITY FOR THEM TO HAVE A BRIGHT FUTURE THROUGH CHURCH-BASED CENTERS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD. THIS INCLUDES WRITING LETTERS TO THE CHILDREN AND LETTING THEM KNOW HOW MUCH GOD AND JESUS LOVE THEM AND GIVING THEM WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT AND HOPE FOR THEIR FUTURE. I WOULD ENCOURAGE YOU, AS COMPOSITION TEACHERS, TO THINK ABOUT WAYS THAT YOU CAN GET YOUR STUDENTS TO BECOME INVOLVED IN SUCH MINISTRIES AND FAITH-BASED ORGANIZATIONS SUCH AS COMPASSION INTERNATIONAL, WHICH INCLUDES USING THEIR GIFTS OF WRITINGS TO SHARE THE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST. WHEN I WAS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS IN THE 1990's, I HAD MANY STUDENTS WHO ADORED JESUS AND WANTED TO WRITE ABOUT JESUS BUT SOME OF THE TEACHERS IN THE PROGRAM DID NOT UNDERSTAND AND WANTED TO CHANGE THE STUDENTS' WRITING. I BELIEVE, VERY STRONGLY, THAT RATHER THAN CENSORING THESE STUDENTS' LOVE FOR JESUS CHRIST WE NEED TO PROVIDE THEM WITH OPPORTUNITIES TO EXPLORE WAYS THAT THEY CAN SHARE THAT LOVE WITH THE MOSTY NEEDY PEOPLE OF THE WORLD AND THAT INCLUDES USING THEIR WRITINGS AND LOVE OF JESUS AND COMPASSION TO MINISTER TO IMPOVERISHED CHILDREN THROUGH ORGANIZATIONS SUCH COMPASSION, WHICH INCLUDES WRITING LETTERS THAT GIVE HOPE TO THE CHILDREN THAT ARE BEING SPONSORED. AND THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER FAITH-BASED, MINISTERIAL ORGANIZATIONS THAT NEED OUR GIFTS OF WRITING, THAT ARE CONCERNED WITH BRINGING JUSTICE TO THE WORLD (SUCH AS INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE MISSION IN WASHINGTON DC) AND THAT WE CAN ENCOURAGE OUR COMPOSITION STUDENTS TO GET INVOLVED IN. I WOULD STILL LIKE TO CREATE THE COMPASSION READER THAT I ENVISIONED THIS YEAR (AND HAVE WRITTEN ABOUT ON THIS BLOG SEVERAL TIMES) SO THAT STUDENTS IN OUR COURSES WOULD HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO EXPLORE, THROUGH THEIR WRITINGS, HOW THEY CAN BE INVOLVED IN COMPASSIONATELY AND LOVINGLY SERVING THE WORLD AROUND THEM, WITH BOTH THE HEART AND LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST AND A PASSION FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUES AND MAKING THE WORLD A MORE JUST AND CARING PLACE. LOVE ALWAYS, DIANE KAY OLSON
WE NEED MORE COMPOSITION COURSES THAT TEACH STUDENTS TO WRITE AGAINST THE GRAIN OF TRADITIONAL ACADEMIC PROSE. THESE WOULD BE COURSES WHERE STUDENTS IMAGINATIVELY AND CREATIVELY LOOK AT THE LIMITS OF TRADITIONAL ACADEMIC PROSE AND EXPLORE WAYS TO CREATE KNOWLEDGES AND EXPRESS TRUTHS THAT GO AGAINST THE GRAIN OF TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE-MAKING IN THE ACADEMY. WE NEED TO ENCOURAGE STUDENTS TO EXPRESS THEIR INNER AND OUTER TRUTHS AND BRING THOSE TRUTHS INTO DIALOGUE WITH TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGES IN THE UNIVERSITY. COMPOSITION STUDIES IS THE IDEAL PLACE TO BRING ABOUT A REVIVAL IN HOW WRITING IS CREATIVELY UNDERSTOOD WITHIN THE UNIVERSITY AND HOW STUDENTS CAN USE THEIR WRITING TO RE-ENVISION THEIR WORK IN OTHER COURSES.
WE, AS COMPOSITION TEACHERS, NEED TO HAVE GREAT COMPASSION ON THOSE STUDENTS WHO ARE EXPERIENCING WRITER'S BLOCK, ESPECIALLY BECAUSE IT IS OFTEN NOT THEIR FAULT THAT THE WRITING TASKS THAT WE ARE PRESENTING TO THEM DO NOT APPEAL TO THEIR NEEDS TO WRITE. WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND THAT ALL STUDENTS POSSESS THE ABILITY TO WRITE AND IF THEY FEEL BLOCKED IN OUR COURSES, IT COULD VERY WELL BE BECAUSE SOMETHING ABOUT OUR COURSES ARE NOT SUITED TO THEIR PURPOSES AS WRITERS. SO, WHEN STUDENTS ARE EXPERIENCING WRITER'S BLOCK, WE NEED TO EXAMINE, WITH THEM, WHAT ABOUT OUR COURSES ARE NOT SERVING THEIR PURPOSES AND THEN ADJUST OUR COURSES SO THAT STUDENTS WILL FEEL COMFORTABLE WRITING FOR US AGAIN. THIS IS THE COMPASSIONATE RESPONSE THAT WE NEED TO HAVE TOWARDS WRITER'S BLOCK, WHICH CAN OFTEN TEACH US ABOUT WHAT WE NEED TO IMPROVE IN OUR CLASSES.
ACADEMIC WRITING CAN BE OPPRESSIVE TO STUDENTS, WE NEED COMPOSITION COURSES THAT ALLOW STUDENTS TO BE AS CREATIVE AS POSSIBLE
ACADEMIC WRITING CAN BE OPPRESSIVE TO STUDENTS WITH ITS ARTIFICIAL REQUIREMENTS, SO WE NEED TO CREATE COMPOSITION COURSES THAT ALLOW STUDENTS TO BE A CREATIVE AS POSSIBLE WITH THEIR WRITINGS AND THEIR LEARNING. TOO OFTEN, ACADEMIC WRITING DOES NOT ALLOW STUDENTS TO EXPRESS THEIR RELATIONSHIPS AND UNDERSTANDINGS OF THE MATERIALS THAT THEY ARE WRITING ABOUT IN A CREATIVE MANNER. SO, WE NEED TO CREATE COMPOSITION COURSES THAT ALLOW STUDENTS TO RE-ENVISION AND RE-IMAGINE THEIR RELATIONSHIPS TO THE CONTENTS OF THEIR OTHER COURSES. ACADEMIC WRITING IS TOO OFTEN ANTITHETICAL TO THE CREATIVE IMPULSES OF STUDENTS IN THEIR WRITINGS, AND THUS THEY EXPERIENCE RESISTANCES TO THE LITERACY DEMANDS OF ACADEMIC WRITING BECAUSE ACADEMIC WRITING IS NOT ORGANIC AND NATURAL IN THE LEARNING PROCESSES OF STUDENTS. INSTEAD OF THINKING OF COMPOSITION STUDIES AS IN SERVICE TO THE ARTIFICIAL DEMANDS OF ACADEMIC WRITING, WE NEED TO IMAGINE COMPOSITION STUDIES AND OUR COURSES AS RE-ENVISIONING WHAT WRITING CAN DO IN THE OTHER DISCIPLINES WITHIN THE UNIVERSITY AND IN THE LARGER WORLD BEYOND OUR CLASSROOMS.
WE, AS COMPOSITION TEACHERS, NEED AN ETHIC OF CARE FOR WHAT STUDENTS NEED TO SAY/WRITE IN THEIR WRITINGS. WE NEED TO TEACH STUDENTS THAT WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY/WRITE IS VALUABLE AND MATTERS IN THE WORLDS BEYOND OUR CLASSROOMS. STUDENTS NEED TO KNOW THAT WHAT THEY ARE WRITING IS GOING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LARGER WORLD AND THAT THEIR WRITINGS HAVE A PURPOSE BEYOND SIMPLY TO BE EVALUATED AND GRADED. IT IS SO IMPORTANT THAT WE CRAFT WRITING ASSIGNMENTS THAT SERVE THESE LARGER PURPOSES FOR STUDENTS, AND IT IS SO IMPORTANT THAT WE RESPOND TO STUDENTS' WRITING IN A MANNER THAT SHOWS THAT WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY/WRITE TRULY MATTERS AND CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO OTHER READERS AS WELL. STUDENTS NEED TO KNOW THAT THE WRITINGS THEY ARE PRODUCING ARE GOING TO EFFECT, MOVE AND CHANGE READERS BEYOND OUR CLASSROOMS. I CANNOT SAY ENOUGH HOW IMPORTANT THIS IS FOR OUR STUDENTS AND THAT WE CREATE COMPOSITION COURSES THAT SERVE THESE PURPOSES FOR STUDENTS AS THEY GROW AS WRITERS AND COMMUNICATORS.
I WOULD LOVE TO START-UP A CENTER FOR WRITING STUDIES THAT ADVANCES THE CONCEPTS OF COMPOSITION TEACHING DETAILED ON THIS BLOG
I WOULD LOVE TO START-UP A CENTER FOR WRITING STUDIES THAT ADVANCES THE CONCEPTS OF COMPOSITION TEACHING ADVANCED ON THIS BLOG. THIS WOULD BE A CENTER THAT IS STUDENT-CENTERED AND ADVOCATES FOR STUDENT WRITING THAT IS PURPOSEFUL AND CREATIVE. THIS WOULD BE A CENTER THAT TEACHES ADVOCACY WRITING, SOCIAL JUSTICE WRITING, TRANSFORMATIVE WRITING AND VISIONARY WRITING, AND ENCOURAGES STUDENTS TO CONDUCT THEIR OWN WRITING PROJECTS ALONG THESE LINES. THIS WOULD BE A CENTER THAT ENCOURAGES STUDENTS TO VIEW THEIR WRITINGS AS REVOLUTIONARY AND PASSIONATE AGENTS FOR CHANGE IN THE WORLDS AND COMMUNITIES THAT THEY INHABIT AND THE LARGER WORLD BEYOND THE CLASSROOM. STUDENTS WOULD BE TAUGHT TO SEE THE RADICAL POTENTIAL OF WRITING TO TRANSFORM AND REENVISION THE WORLD AROUND THEM.
TEACHING COMPOSITION THAT IMAGINATIVELY REENVISIONS AND CREATIVELY TRANSFORMS OTHER DISCIPLINES AND THE WORLDS STUDENTS INHABIT
AS TEACHERS OF COMPOSITION, WE CAN TEACH STUDENTS TO CREATIVELY AND PURPOSIVELY USE THEIR WRITINGS TO REIMAGINE THEIR WORK IN OTHER CLASSES AND TRANSFORM THEIR RELATIONSHIPS TO THE WORLDS THAT THEY INHABIT. THIS INCLUDES TEACHING AND ENCOURAGING STUDENTS TO BE AS CREATIVE AS POSSIBLE IN HOW THEY IMAGINE WHAT THEY DO WHEN THEY WRITE AND TEACHING THEM TO UNDERSTAND THE POSITIVE AND TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF WRITING IN ENACTING SOCIAL AND EDUCATIONAL CHANGES. WE NEED TO TEACH STUDENTS TO IMAGINE WRITING AS AN INSTRUMENT FOR CHANGE AND FOR IMPROVING THE WORLDS THAT THEY LIVE IN AND THE LARGER WORLD BEYOND OUR CLASSROOM. WE MUST GIVE THEM CREATIVE AND PURPOSEFUL ASSIGNMENTS THAT ALLOW FOR SUCH CREATIVE REENVISIONING. AS ALREADY MENTIONED ON THIS BLOG, STUDENTS ARE BRIMMING WITH FRESH AND EXCITING IDEAS ABOUT HOW THEIR EDUCATIONAL AND SOCIAL EXPERIENCES CAN BE IMPROVED AND TRANSFORMED, AND WE MUST TEACH THEM THEY CAN USE WRITING TO DO EXACTLY THAT -- TO ENACT THE CHANGES THAT THEY WOULD LIKE TO SEE IN THE WORLD. WE MUST TEACH THEM TO UNDERSTAND AND USE THE CREATIVE POWER OF WRITING TO CHANGE THE LARGER WORLD BEYOND OUR CLASSROOMS AND GIVE STUDENTS THE OPPORTUNITIES TO USE THEIR WRITING TO CREATIVELY REENVISION THAT LARGER WORLD.
PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO READ AND CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING MANIFESTO BY JAMES SLEDD, AN ADMIRABLE COMPOSITIONIST WHO PASSED AWAY IN 2003.
DISCIPLINARITY AND EXPLOITATION: COMPOSITIONISTS AS GOOD PROFESSIONALS
WE, AS COMPOSITION TEACHERS, NEED TO TEACH STUDENTS TO BE STRONG AND PASSIONATE ADVOCATES THROUGH THEIR WRITINGS. THERE IS A GREAT NEED FOR ADVOCATES IN OUR WORLD TODAY, AND WE NEED TO TEACH STUDENTS HOW TO USE THEIR WRITINGS PASSIONATELY TO ADVOCATE FOR THE OPPRESSED AND MARGINALIZED PEOPLES OF THE WORLD. THIS IS PART OF MY VISION OF CREATING A COMPASSION READER THAT INTRODUCES STUDENTS, IN PART, TO THE WORK OF HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE WORKERS AND INSPIRES STUDENTS TO USE THEIR WRITINGS TO ADVOCATE FOR THE ISSUES AND CONCERNS THAT ARE NEAR AND DEAR TO THEM. GOOD ADVOCATES ARE ALSO STRONG DOCUMENTARIANS, AND WE NEED TO TEACH STUDENTS HOW TO USE THEIR WRITINGS TO DOCUMENT WHAT NEEDS CHANGED IN THE WORLDS THAT THEY INHABIT AND THE COMMUNITIES THAT THEY ARE INVOLVED IN. WE CAN TEACH STUDENTS TO USE THEIR WRITINGS PURPOSIVELY TO ADVOCATE AGAINST THE INJUSTICES AND OPPRESSIONS THAT THEY SEE IN THE WORLD TODAY. WE NEED TO CREATE COURSES IN ADVOCACY WRITING THAT INSPIRE STUDENTS TO USE THEIR WRITINGS TO CHANGE, IMPROVE AND TRANSFORM THE COMMUNITIES AND WORLDS THAT THEY LIVE IN AND THE LARGER WORLD BEYOND OUR CLASSROOMS.
WE, AS COMPOSITION TEACHERS, NEED TO ENCOURAGE STUDENTS TO BE AS CREATIVE AND PURPOSEFUL AS POSSIBLE WITH THEIR WRITINGS
THE PROGRAM WHERE I WAS COMPLETING MY DISSERTATION AT WAS CALLED WRITING, TEACHING AND CRITICISM; HOWEVER, IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN CALLED WRITING, TEACHING AND CREATIVITY BECAUSE IT WAS THE WORK OF THE CREATIVE WRITERS AND COMPOSITIONISTS IN THE PROGRAM THAT GAVE THE PROGRAM ITS UNIQUE "EDGE" AND TRANSFORMATIVE POWER DURING THE D.A. PROGRAM IN THE 1980's BEFORE THE FACULTY DECIDED THAT THEY NEEDED A PHD PROGRAM INSTEAD OF A D.A.. DURING THE D.A., THE CREATIVE WRITERS AND COMPOSITIONISTS IN THE PROGRAM WERE CREATIVELY REENVISIONING THE WORK OF ENGLISH STUDIES AND THEY BROUGHT THOSE FRESH VISIONS OF THE FIELD INTO THEIR TEACHING IN THE PROGRAM AND AT THE OTHER UNIVERSITIES WHERE THEY WENT TO TEACH AFTER COMPLETING THEIR DEGREES AT ALBANY. BEING A D.A. PROGRAM THAT ATTRACTED MANY CREATIVE WRITERS WHO WANTED TO CREATIVELY THINK ABOUT INSTITUTIONAL ISSUES PERTAINING TO WRITING AND WRITING INSTRUCTION IS WHAT SET THE PROGRAM APART FROM OTHER DOCTORAL WRITING PROGRAMS. HOWEVER, WHEN THE FACULTY DECIDED THAT THEY WANTED TO CHANGE THE PROGRAM TO A PHD PROGRAM, THEY BROUGHT IN LITERARY CRITICS AND PEOPLE ROOTED IN LITERARY CRITICISM TO CONSULT ON THE FORMATION OF THE PHD, AND THOSE PEOPLE DID NOT HAVE THE CREATIVE VISION THAT WAS ALREADY IN PLACE AT SUNY ALBANY IN THE 1980'S AND EARLY 1990's. THESE CONSULTANTS THOUGHT THAT THE PROGRAM NEEDED MORE THEORETICAL CRITICS SO THAT IT WOULD BE CONSIDERED MORE RIGOROUS IN THE FIELD; HOWEVER, RIGOR IS ANTITHETICAL TO THE CREATIVITY AND RENVISIONMENT OF THE PROFESSION AND TEACHING THAT WAS ALREADY GOING ON AT ALBANY SO THE CHANGES AND RECOMMENDATIONS RESULTED IN A LOT OF TENSION AND PROBLEMS IN THE PROGRAM THAT WOULD NOT HAVE EXISTED IF THEY HAD BROUGHT IN A DIFFERENT SET OF CONSULTANTS WHO HAD A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT MADE THE D.A. PROGRAM UNIQUE AND VIABLE IN THE FIELDS OF ENGLISH AND COMPOSITION STUDIES. THESE CONSULTANTS DID NOT UNDERSTAND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF HAVING A DOCTORAL PROGRAM THAT CREATIVELY RENVISIONED AND REVITALIZED THE FIELD OF COMPOSITION STUDIES. INSTEAD OF TAKING STOCK OF THE GOOD THAT WAS ALREADY HAPPENING IN THE PROGRAM, THEY IMPOSED A STANDARDIZED VISION OF WHAT WAS HAPPENING, GENERALLY-SPEAKING, IN THE FIELD OF ENGLISH STUDIES AT OTHER UNIVERSITIES; HOWEVER, AGAIN, THIS WAS NOT SUITED TO THE CREATIVE AND PURPOSEFUL WORK THAT WAS ALREADY BEING DONE IN THE ALBANY D.A. PROGRAM. INSTEAD, WE NEED MORE PROGRAMS LIKE THE ALBANY D.A. WHERE THEORETICALLY-INCLINED CREATIVE WRITERS AND COMPOSITIONISTS CAN GO TO REIMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES OF THE FIELD OF COMPOSITIONS STUDIES AND ITS POTENTIAL TO TRANSFORM AND RENVISION THE TEACHING OF WRITING AND THE PROFESSION AS A WHOLE.
WHEN I TAUGHT WRITING-INTENSIVE POETRY CLASSES AT SUNY ALBANY, I WOULD CREATE AND USE ANTHOLOGIES THAT REPRESENTED THE VOICES OF OUTCAST, SILENCED AND MARGINALIZED POPULATIONS FROM AROUND THE WORLD BECAUSE I WANTED TO GIVE MY STUDENTS A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE ON THOSE PEOPLES WHO ARE NOT SO BLESSED AND FORTUNATE AS WE OFTEN ARE HERE IN THE USA. NOW, I WOULD LIKE TO TAKE THAT WORK A STEP FURTHER AND CREATE A COMPASSION READER THAT REPRESENTS THE VOICES AND WORK OF FAITH-BASED HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS, SOCIAL ACTIVISTS, ADVOCATES, TEACHERS, MINISTERS, MISSIONARIES AND OTHER SOCIAL JUSTICE ORGANIZATIONS THAT WORK TO IMPROVE THE LIVES OF THOSE OUTCAST, MARGINALIZED AND HURTING POPULATIONS. I WOULD LIKE FOR THIS READER TO ENCOURAGE STUDENTS TO THINK ABOUT AND WRITE ABOUT HOW THEY TOO CAN COMPASSIONATELY GET INVOLVED IN IMPROVING THE LIVES OF PEOPLE WHO ARE LESS BLESSED AND FORTUNATE THAN WE ARE HERE IN THE MIDDLE-CLASS USA. I BELIEVE THAT WE, AS TEACHERS, HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO SHOW OUR STUDENTS THAT THERE IS A LARGER WORLD IN NEED OF OUR CARE AND COMPASSIONATE ASSISTANCE WITH WHATEVER GIFTS WE AND OUR STUDENTS HAVE BEEN GIVEN, INCLUDING THE GIFT OF WRITING. IT IS NOT SUFFICIENT TO ONLY REPRESENT THEIR VOICES AND THEIR NEEDS AND THEIR SUFFERINGS WITHOUT ALSO CONSIDERING WAYS IN WHICH WE CAN COMPASSIONATELY HELP THE OUTCAST AND FORGOTTEN AND IMPOVERISHED PEOPLE OF THE WORLD THROUGH BOTH CALLING ATTENTION TO THEIR PLIGHTS AND EXPLORING AND ENVISIONING OPTIONS FOR ALLEVIATING THEIR PLIGHTS. THIS IS MY PURPOSE FOR CREATING A COMPASSION READER THAT WILL ASSIST TEACHERS IN INTRODUCING STUDENTS TO THE WORK OF FAITH-BASED ACTIVISTS AND ORGANIZATIONS AND ALLOW STUDENTS TO EXPLORE WAYS, THROUGH THEIR WRITINGS, THAT THEY, TOO, CAN GET INVOLVED IN THE WORK OF ALLEVIATING AND SOLVING OPPRESSIVE AND IMPOVERISHED CONDITIONS IN THE LARGER WORLD.
WHEN WE THINK THAT WE NEED TO CHANGE OUR STUDENTS, INSTEAD LET US ASK WHAT OUR STUDENTS WOULD LIKE TO SEE CHANGED IN THEIR WORLDS
WHEN THOSE OF US WHO TEACH CRITICAL PEDAGOGY IN OUR COMPOSITION COURSES THINK THAT WE NEED TO CHANGE OUR STUDENTS, INSTEAD LET US ASK OUR STUDENTS, THROUGH OUR WRITING ASSIGNMENTS, WHAT THEY THINK NEEDS CHANGED IN THE WORLDS THAT THEY LIVE IN. STUDENTS ARE BRIMMING WITH FRESH IDEAS ABOUT WHAT NEEDS CHANGED AND IMPROVED ABOUT THEIR EDUCATIONAL AND INSTITUTIONAL EXPERIENCES, IF ONLY WE WOULD ASK THEM. STUDENTS COME INTO OUR COURSES WITH EXTENSIVE HISTORIES AS STUDENTS IN OTHER WRITING COURSES, AND WE NEED TO ASK THEM ABOUT WHAT THEY VIEW AS NEEDING IMPROVEMENT AND CHANGE ABOUT THEIR PRIOR WRITING EXPERIENCES AND ABOUT THEIR PAST EDUCATIONAL/INSTITUTIONAL EXPERIENCES. I THINK WE WILL FIND THAT STUDENTS HAVE A LOT TO SAY/WRITE ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCES AS WRITERS AND LEARNERS AND WHAT NEEDS CHANGED ABOUT THOSE EXPERIENCES. EVERY STUDENT HAS A DIFFERENT EDUCATIONAL AND WRITING HISTORY AND WE HAVE TO TAKE INTO CONSIDERATION THOSE INDIVIDUAL HISTORIES WHEN WE ARE THINKING ABOUT EDUCATIONAL CHANGE AND TRANSFORMATION THROUGH OUR COMPOSITION COURSES AND THE WRITING ASSIGNMENTS THAT WE DESIGN FOR OUR STUDENTS. WE NEED TO PROVIDE THE KINDS OF WRITING ASSIGNMENTS THAT LET STUDENTS EXPLORE WHAT THEY WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY WITH THEIR EDUCATIONS AND HOW THEY WOULD CHANGE THE WORLDS THAT THEY LIVE IN FOR THE BETTER. WE NEED TO CREATE WRITING ASSIGNMENTS THAT ALLOW STUDENTS TO CREATIVELY IMAGINE AND ENVISION HOW THEY CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE EDUCATIONAL AND SOCIAL WORLDS THAT THEY LIVE IN. LET US IMAGINE STUDENTS AS CO-CREATORS AND PARTNERS IN INSTIGATING THE INSTITUTIONAL AND EDUCATIONAL CHANGES THAT WE SEEK IN THE WORLD.
BEFORE WE BEGIN TO DIAGNOSE STUDENTS' WRITINGS, WE NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO AND LISTEN TO WHAT THEY ARE TRYING TO SAY THROUGH THEIR WRITINGS. STUDENTS' NEEDS TO BE HEARD AND UNDERSTOOD FAR OUTWEIGH OUR PREMATURE ATTEMPTS TO FIND ERRORS OR MISTAKES IN THEIR WRITINGS. OUTSIDE OF THE UNIVERSITY, PEOPLE WRITE IN ORDER TO BE HEARD AND UNDERSTOOD BY THE AUDIENCE TO WHOM THEY ARE WRITING TO, AND STUDENTS, TOO, HAVE A PURPOSE TO BE HEARD AND UNDERSTOOD WHEN THEY WRITE. WE NEED TO PUT TO THE WAYSIDE OUR TENDENCY TO BE DIAGNOSTICIANS OF STUDENT WRITING AND INSTEAD BE ACTIVE AND ENGAGED LISTENERS OF WHAT THEY ARE TRYING TO SAY/WRITE AND THEIR NEED TO BE UNDERSTOOD. THIS INCLUDES PROVIDING WRITING ASSIGNMENTS THAT ARE NOT MERELY TASKS TO BE EVALUATED FOR ERRORS BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY PROVIDING WRITING ASSIGNMENTS THAT ENGAGE THE STUDENTS IN PURPOSEFUL, PASSIONATE WRITING FOR US AND A LARGER WORLD AUDIENCE. STUDENTS NEED TO KNOW THAT THEIR WRITINGS MATTER AND ARE GOING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE BEYOND THE CLASSROOM.
OUR PRIMARY OBLIGATION AS TEACHERS OF COMPOSITION SHOULD BE TO OUR STUDENTS AND THEIR WRITINGS AND THEIR GROWTH AS WRITERS, NOT TO THE LITERACY DEMANDS OCCASIONALLY IMPOSED BY THE UNIVERSITY OR TO OUR CAREERS. THIS OBLIGATION MEANS THAT WE NEED TO BE ADVOCATES FOR OUR STUDENTS AND THEIR WRITINGS AND WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY/WRITE IN THOSE WRITINGS. WE NEED TO CARE ABOUT WHAT OUR STUDENTS WANT AND NEED TO EXPRESS IN THEIR WRITINGS AND BE THERE TO HELP THEM BETTER EXPRESS WHAT THEY ARE TRYING TO SAY/WRITE SO THAT THEY CAN GROW AS PASSIONATE, PURPOSEFUL WRITERS. WE NEED TO BE THERE FOR OUR STUDENTS WHEN THEY WANT TO REACH A LARGER AUDIENCE AND A LARGER WORLD WITH THEIR WRITINGS THAN THAT OF OUR CLASSROOM AND PROVIDE OPPORTUNITIES FOR THEM TO REACH THAT LARGER WORLD WITH THEIR WRITINGS. WE NEED TO SHOW COMPASSIONATE CONCERN AND GIVE COMPASSIONATE ASSISTANCE TO THOSE STUDENTS WHO ARE STRUGGLING WITH THEIR WRITINGS FOR A VARIETY OF REASONS. AFTER ALL, OUR PRIMARY OBLIGATION IS TO SERVE STUDENTS' PURPOSES AS WRITERS, NOT PURPOSES IMPOSED UPON US AND THEM BY THE UNIVERSITY'S LIMITED UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT THEIR WRITINGS ARE SUPPOSED TO DO OR BE. WE NEED TO HELP OUR STUDENTS SEE THE POSSIBILITIES OF USING THEIR WRITINGS TO ENGAGE A LARGER WORLD BEYOND THE UNIVERSITIES IN WHICH WE RESIDE. WE NEED TO BE ADVOCATES FOR A MORE EXPANSIVE VIEW OF WRITING AND WHAT WRITING CAN DO FOR THE STUDENTS AND THE COMMUNITIES AND WORLD IN WHICH THEY RESIDE BEYOND THE UNIVERSITY.
WE NEED TO HAVE COMPASSION ON THOSE STUDENTS EXPERIENCING WRITER'S BLOCK, NOT JUDGING THEM BUT RATHER LOOKING AT WHAT ABOUT OUR COURSES ARE NOT SERVING THEIR PURPOSES AS WRITERS
WE NEED TO HAVE COMPASSION ON THOSE STUDENTS EXPERIENCING WRITER'S BLOCK, NOT JUDGING THEM BUT RATHER LOOKING AT WHAT ABOUT OUR COURSES ARE NOT SERVING THEIR PURPOSES AS WRITERS. OFTENTIMES, WHEN STUDENTS EXPERIENCE WRITER'S BLOCK IT IS NOT BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT ABLE TO WRITE BUT RATHER BECAUSE THE ASSIGNMENTS THAT WE ARE OFFERING THEM ARE NOT SUITED FOR THEIR PURPOSES AS WRITERS, SO WE NEED TO BE ATTENTIVE TO WHAT ABOUT OUR COURSES ARE NOT WORKING FOR STUDENTS AND THEN CHANGE OUR COMPOSITION COURSES TO SUIT THEIR PURPOSES SO THAT STUDENTS FEEL WELCOME TO WRITE. WE MIGHT BEGIN THIS CONSIDERATION BY ASKING THE STUDENTS, AT THE START OF THE COURSE, WHAT TYPES OF WRITING DO THEY ALREADY LIKE/LOVE TO DO AND THEN PROVIDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS TO DO THAT WRITING IN OUR COURSES. WE ALSO NEED TO LOOK AT WHAT ABOUT THE CONTENT OF OUR COURSES IS NOT WORKING FOR STUDENTS AND NOT INSPIRING THEM TO WRITE AND BE PASSIONATE ABOUT THEIR WRITING BECAUSE ALL STUDENTS HAVE PASSIONS THAT THEY WILL MORE THAN WILLINGLY WRITE ABOUT WHEN WE GIVE THEM THE OPPORTUNITIES. WE NEED TO LOOK AT OURSELVES AS TEACHERS OF COMPOSITION WHO MIGHT NOT BE SERVING THE STUDENTS' PURPOSES AND PASSIONS AS WRITERS, AND THEN HAVE COMPASSION ON THE STUDENTS WHO LOVE TO WRITE BUT MAY NOT FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH THE ASSIGNMENTS AND/OR LITERACY DEMANDS THAT WE ARE PRESENTING TO THEM.
OUR STUDENTS NEED AND WANT TO BE HEARD FOR WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY/WRITE, NOT NECESSARILY HOW THEY SAY IT
OUR STUDENTS WANT AND NEED TO BE HEARD FOR WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY/WRITE, NOT NECESSARILY HOW THEY SAY IT. WHEN STUDENTS' WRITING IS DRIVEN BY AN IMPERATIVE TO BE HEARD AND UNDERSTOOD, WE NEED TO RESERVE OUR TENDENCY TO BE CORRECTIONISTS. INSTEAD, WE NEED TO BE LISTENING TEACHERS WHO WORK TO HEAR WHAT THE STUDENTS ARE TRYING TO SAY/WRITE AND THEN ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT THEY ARE SAYING/WRITING FIRST BEFORE GETTING OUT THE GRAMMAR PENS. INSTEAD OF CORRECTING THEM, WE CAN VIEW OUR ROLES AS HELPING OUR STUDENTS TO BETTER EXPRESS WHAT THEY NEED/WANT TO SAY/WRITE BY ASKING THEM PROBING QUESTIONS AND PROVIDING HELPFUL COMMENTARY THAT DEMONSTRATES TO THE STUDENTS THAT THEY ARE BEING HEARD AND WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY/WRITE IS IMPORTANT AND MATTERS, TO BOTH US AS TEACHERS AND TO AN AUDIENCE/COMMUNITY BEYOND THE CLASSROOM. STUDENTS OFTEN WANT THEIR WRITING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN AN ARENA LARGER THAN A CLASSROOM, AND IT IS THE KNOWLEDGE THAT THEY ARE WRITING FOR A LARGER ARENA THAT DRIVES THEIR NEED TO EXPRESS THEMSELVES. WE, AS COMPOSITION TEACHERS, NEED TO BE MORE THAN SIMPLY TASKMASTERS AND CORRECTIONISTS BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY WE NEED TO BE ATTENTIVE LISTENERS TO AND ENCOURAGERS OF OUR STUDENTS' EFFORTS TO BE HEARD AND UNDERSTOOD FOR WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY/WRITE TO THE LARGER WORLD BEYOND OUR CLASSROOMS.
WE MUST HONOR STUDENTS' GOD-GIVEN PURPOSES WHEN THEY WRITE AND PROVIDE THEM WITH PURPOSEFUL WRITING ASSIGNMENTS
WE MUST HONOR STUDENTS' GOD-GIVEN, HEART-FELT AND PASSIONATE PURPOSES WHEN THEY WRITE AND PROVIDE THEM WITH PURPOSEFUL WRITING ASSIGNMENTS. WE MUST LET STUDENTS KNOW THAT WE CARE ABOUT THE WRITING THAT IS IMPORTANT TO THEM AND PROVIDE THEM WITH OPPORTUNITIES TO DO THAT WRITING IN OUR COMPOSITION COURSES. WE MUST ALSO ENCOURAGE OUR STUDENTS TO USE THEIR WRITING PURPOSEFULLY TO REACH OUT TO THE WORLD THAT THEY LIVE IN AND THE COMMUNITIES THAT THEY ARE INVOLVED IN. WE MUST ENCOURAGE OUR STUDENTS TO USE THEIR WRITING TO INTERACT WITH THOSE COMMUNITIES. WE MUST LOOK BEYOND OUR UNIVERSITY-GIVEN ROLES OF REMEDIAL WRITING INSTRUCTION AND INSTEAD TEACH THE UNIVERSITY THAT OUR ROLES ARE TO TEACH PURPOSEFUL WRITING AND THAT OUR PRIMARY OBLIGATIONS ARE TO THE STUDENTS' GROWTH AS PURPOSEFUL WRITERS AND COMMUNICATORS AND THE GOD-GIVEN, HEART-FELT, COMMUNICATION-DRIVEN PURPOSES THEY HAVE WITH THEIR WRITINGS.
IT IS TIME FOR A REVIVAL IN COMPOSITION STUDIES, AND WE CAN BEGIN THAT REVIVAL BY MAKING SURE THAT ALL COMPOSITION TEACHERS, MOST ESPECIALLY ADJUNCTS AND T.A.'S, AT ALL COLLEGES AND ALL UNIVERSITIES ARE PAID EQUITABLE, LIVABLE SALARIES THAT REFLECT THE CARE AND DEDICATION THAT THEY PUT INTO THEIR TEACHING AND THEIR CONCERN FOR STUDENTS' GROWTH AS WRITERS. INDEED, WE CAN BEGIN THIS REVIVAL BY ABOLISHING THE LABELS "ADJUNCTS" AND "TA'S" AND SUBSTITUTING THOSE TITLES WITH TITLES THAT MORE ACCURATELY REFLECT THESE TEACHERS' STATUSES AS COLLEAGUES AND FELLOW COMPOSITION TEACHERS. WE CAN BEGIN THIS REVIVAL BY ALSO ABOLISHING THE STATUSES OF ADMINISTRATORS AND WRITING PROGRAM MANAGERS THAT PLACE THEM ABOVE THE COMPOSITION TEACHERS WHO DO THE REAL WORK OF TEACHING WRITING TO STUDENTS AND ALLOW COMPOSITION TEACHERS TO SOVEREIGNLY PLAN THE CURRICULA OF THEIR COURSES, IN CONJUNCTION WITH STUDENTS AND OTHER TEACHERS. WE CAN BEGIN THIS REVIVAL BY ABOLISHING RANK ALL TOGETHER AND RETURNING OUR FOCUS TO THE TEACHING THAT WE DO AND THE NEEDS OF STUDENTS AND THEIR PURPOSES AS WRITERS. THERE IS SO MUCH THAT NEEDS REFORMATION AND REVIVAL IN COMPOSITION STUDIES RIGHT NOW, AND IF YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS, PLEASE LEAVE THEM IN THE COMMENTS SECTION OF THIS POST. MORE PROPOSALS FOR REVIVAL AND REFORMATION TO COME ON THIS BLOG IN THE FUTURE.
STUDENTS NEED OUR ENCOURAGEMENT AS THEY VENTURE FORTH AS WRITERS, NOT CRITICISM WHICH ONLY STYMIES THEIR WRITING. TO GIVE STUDENTS ENCOURAGEMENT FOR WHERE THEY ARE AT AS WRITERS IS TO EMBOLDEN THEM TO PRESS FORWARD WITH THEIR PURPOSES AND VISIONS FOR THEIR WRITING. WE NEED TO END THE TENDENCY TO CRITICIZE OUR STUDENTS BECAUSE THEY ARE OFTENTIMES ONLY DOING THE BEST THAT THEY CAN DO AT THE STAGE IN THEIR GROWTH AS WRITERS THAT THEY ARE AT. WE NEED TO ENCOURAGE OUR STUDENTS TO LAY OUT THEIR VISIONS OF A BETTER WORLD AND EMBOLDEN THEM TO PURSUE THOSE VISIONS. WE NEED TO LITERALLY GIVE THEM COURAGE TO PURSUE THEIR OWN PURPOSES THROUGH THEIR WRITING, PURPOSES THAT GOD HAS OFTENTIMES PLACED ON THEIR HEARTS. WE NEED TO RESPECT AND HONOR THEIR VISIONS AND PURPOSES AS THEY CREATIVELY MAP THEM OUT IN THEIR WRITINGS. WE MUST ENCOURAGE -- GIVE STUDENTS COURAGE -- NOT CRITICIZE. LET US PUT AN END TO CRITICISM IN OUR COMPOSITION COURSES AND ENCOURAGE OUR STUDENTS TO BE AS CREATIVE AND PURPOSEFUL AS POSSIBLE WITH THEIR WRITINGS.
THERE IS A WORLD IN NEED BEYOND OUR CLASSROOMS, AND THAT WORLD NEEDS OUR LOVE AND ASSISTANCE, WITH WHATEVER GIFTS WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN BY GOD, INCLUDING THE GIFT OF WRITING. WE CAN TEACH OUR STUDENTS ABOUT SERVING THE NEEDS OF THE LARGER WORLD AND REACHING OUT TO THE WORLD AROUND THEM WITH COMPASSION, CARE AND LOVE. COMPOSITION STUDIES IS A SERVICE PROFESSION, AND IT IS TIME THAT WE BROADEN OUR UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT THAT SERVICE TO THE WORLD LOOKS LIKE. WE HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO NOT JUST BE OF SERVICE TO THE UNIVERSITIES' LIMITED UNDERSTANDING OF WRITING BUT RATHER TO BE OF SERVICE TO THE STUDENTS, AS HUMANS IN NEED, AND THE NEEDS OF THE LARGER WORLD, INCLUSIVE OF THE COMMUNITIES THAT WE LIVE IN AND THE WORLD OUTSIDE OF THE UNIVERSITY. THERE IS A WORLD IN DESPERATE NEED OF OUR WRITING AND TEACHING GIFTS, AND WE SHOULD NOT RESERVE THOSE GIFTS FOR THE UNIVERSITIES' LIMITED VIEWS OF OUR WORK. WRITING AND TEACHING ARE GIFTS FROM GOD THAT ARE TO BE PUT INTO SERVICE FOR ALL OF HUMANITY, SO IT IS TIME THAT WE BROADEN OUR VISION OF THE WORK THAT WE DO IN COMPOSITION COURSES AND OUTSIDE OF THOSE COURSES.
I WOULD LIKE TO CREATE A COMPASSION READER FOR COMPOSITION COURSES THAT INTRODUCES STUDENTS TO THE WRITINGS OF SOCIAL ACTIVISTS, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS AND OTHER PEOPLE WORKING FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUES IN THE WORLD AND WHOSE FAITH SUSTAINS THE WORK THAT THEY DO. I CAN THINK IMMEDIATELY OF WRITINGS BY MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., MOTHER THERESA AND DOROTHY DAY, BUT I KNOW THERE ARE MANY OTHERS THAT CAN BE INCLUDED IN THIS READER. IF YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS, PLEASE LEAVE THEM IN THE COMMENTS SECTION OF THIS POST. I WOULD LIKE FOR THE READER TO TEACH STUDENTS ABOUT HOW THE FAITH AND CONVICTIONS OF THESE WRITERS AND ACTIVISTS DRIVE THEM TO MAKE THE WORLD A MORE COMPASSIONATE AND LOVING PLACE -- A MUCH BETTER PLACE FOR THE OUTCAST, FORGOTTEN AND IMPOVERISHED PEOPLES OF THE WORLD. THIS READER SHOULD SERVE AS INSPIRATION FOR THE STUDENTS TO THINK AND WRITE ABOUT HOW THEY TOO CAN GO OUT INTO THE WORLD AND MAKE A COMPASSIONATE DIFFERENCE FOR PEOPLE IN NEED. THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING OF THIS PROJECT THAT I HOPE TO BRING INTO FRUITION SOON.
WRITING IS A COMMUNICATIVE GIFT FROM GOD OUR LOVING CREATOR THAT WE CAN ALL DEVELOP AND USE TO MAKE OUR WORLD A BETTER, MORE COMPASSIONATE AND LOVING PLACE
WRITING IS A COMMUNICATIVE GIFT FROM GOD OUR LOVING CREATOR THAT WE CAN ALL DEVELOP AND USE TO MAKE OUR WORLD A BETTER, MORE COMPASSIONATE AND LOVING PLACE. WE EACH HAVE THE GIFT OF WRITING, TO VARYING DEGREES, AND WE CAN TEACH OUR STUDENTS TO HONE AND USE THEIR GIFTS OF COMMUNICATION TO IMPROVE, REIMAGINE AND BRING JUSTICE TO THE WORLD THAT WE AND THEY LIVE IN. WE NEED TO IMAGINE AND DEVELOP CURRICULUMS FOR OUR WRITING COURSES THAT DO PRECISELY THAT FOR OUR STUDENTS. I THINK WE WILL FIND THAT WHEN WE ADVANCE THIS CONCEPTION OF WRITING, STUDENTS WILL BE ALL THE MORE EAGER TO LEARN AND PASSIONATE ABOUT THEIR WRITING. WE NEED TO TEACH THAT WRITING IS A GIFT TO BE GIVEN BACK TO THE COMMUNITY AND IN SERVICE OF THE COMMUNITIES AROUND OUR CLASSROOMS AND THE LARGER WORLD.
NEWSFLASH: RANK DOES NOT MATTER TO STUDENTS OR GOD, SO IT SHOULD NOT MATTER TO US, EITHER. IT IS TIME TO ABOLISH THE RANKING AND TENURE SYSTEM IN COMPOSITION STUDIES AND ENGLISH STUDIES BECAUSE IT CAUSES MORE HEARTACHE AND PAIN THAN IT SHOULD AND IT SIMPLY DOES NOT MATTER IN THE LARGER PICTURE OF OUR TEACHING AND STUDENTS' LEARNING IN OUR CLASSES. LET US BEGIN TO IMAGINE A PROFESSION WITHOUT RANK AND TENURE, WHERE TEACHING TAKES ITS RIGHTFUL PLACE AS OUR FIRST AND MAIN PRIORITY.
COMPOSITION IS A BROKEN YET MENDABLE FIELD. THERE ARE MANY DEDICATED, CARING TEACHERS IN COMPOSITION STUDIES WHO ARE WORKING FOR SUBSTANDARD WAGES, YET CONTINUE TO TEACH BECAUSE OF THEIR LOVE OF TEACHING AND THEIR CARE AND CONCERN FOR STUDENTS. THESE ARE THE TEACHERS THAT OUR FIELD NEEDS TO VALUE AND UPHOLD IN ITS JOURNALS AND AT CONFERENCES AND THROUGHOUT THE PROFESSION. MANY OF THESE TEACHERS ARE ADJUNCTS AND TA'S, AND IT IS TIME THAT DEPARTMENTS PAY THEM EQUITABLE SALARIES THAT REFLECT THE WORK AND CARE THAT THEY PUT INTO THEIR TEACHING. RATHER THAN TRYING TO BE LIKE ENGLISH STUDIES, WITH ITS FOCUS ON PRODUCING SCHOLARLY PAPERS RATHER THAN TEACHING, WE NEED TO BE A PROFESSION THAT PUTS TEACHERS, OF ALL STATUSES, AT THE FOREFRONT OF ITS CONCERN AND UPHOLDS DEDICATED AND CARING TEACHERS AT CONFERENCES AND IN THE JOURNALS AND THROUGH STRONG ADVOCACY FOR IMPROVED SALARIES, ESPECIALLY FOR ADJUNCTS AND T.A.'S. IT IS TIME FOR A REVIVAL IN COMPOSITION STUDIES, WHERE WE PUT TO REST OUR INSIGNIFICANT CONCERN WITH CAREERS AND CV'S AND PUBLICATIONS, AND RETURN OUR MAIN FOCUS TO TEACHING AND THE NEEDS OF STUDENTS IN OUR CLASSES.
JESUS PAPERS WERE WHAT THEY WERE CALLED BY SOME OF MY COLLEAGUES AT A MIDWESTERN UNIVERSITY WHERE I TAUGHT WRITING DURING THE 1990'S. THEY WERE PAPERS WRITTEN BY CHRISTIAN STUDENTS WHO LOVE JESUS AND WANTED TO SHARE JESUS' LOVE AND THEIR FAITH IN THE LORD JESUS WITH THE WORLD. THESE STUDENTS WERE, INDEED, SOME OF THE MOST LOVING AND CARING STUDENTS I HAVE EVER TAUGHT. I ASK AGAIN TODAY, WHO ARE WE, AS COMPOSITION TEACHERS, TO CENSOR THESE STUDENTS' PASSION FOR AND DESIRE TO EXPRESS THEIR LOVE AND FAITH IN GOD AND JESUS? FAITH IN THE LORD AND IN GOD THE FATHER IS SOMETHING THAT IS NOT TALKED ABOUT MUCH, IF AT ALL, IN MANY UNIVERSITIES. AND YET WE ARE A SERVICE-ORIENTED PROFESSION WHERE MANY COMPOSITION TEACHERS TEACH THEIR STUDENTS SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUES AND A CONCERN WITH TEACHING AND TUTORING WRITING IN THE COMMUNITIES AROUND THEM TO MEET THE COMMUNITIES' WRITING NEEDS -- TEACHINGS IN LINE WITH CHRISTIANITY AND CHRISTIANS WHO LIKEWISE FEEL COMPELLED TO SERVE THE NEEDS OF PEOPLE IN THEIR COMMUNITIES. I WOULD SAY THAT WE HAVE MUCH TO LEARN FROM AND SHARE WITH OUR STUDENTS WHO LOVE JESUS AND BELIEVE IN COMPASSIONATE SERVICE TO HUMANITY, IN JESUS' NAME.
GOD DOES NOT CARE HOW MANY LINES ON THE CV YOU HAVE, RATHER GOD CARES ABOUT HOW COMPASSIONATE, KIND AND LOVING YOU ARE TO YOUR STUDENTS AND COLLEAGUES THROUGHOUT YOUR DAY. IT IS TIME WE SET OUR PRIORITIES WITH GOD'S PRIORITIES IN COMPOSITION AND RECOGNIZE, VALUE AND UPHOLD THOSE CARING, DEDICATED TEACHERS WHO HAVE GREAT COMPASSION AND LOVING KINDNESS FOR THEIR STUDENTS.
Even though they are young and learning still, students have passions and needs to express themselves -- passions that oftentimes God has placed on their hearts. We ought to let students write about those passions and what they need to write about from their hearts, even as we can still introduce them to social justice and world issues that may be new passions for them. We can teach and learn from students at the same time and allow them to be who God made them to be instead of thinking that we need to change them. Oftentimes, when we think we need to change our students, instead our students are the ones who end up changing us with their fresh and passionate views on the world.
What is often forgotten when teaching composition is that we must craft assignments that engage students' desires to write. That is what expressivism is all about -- crafting assignments that allow students to express their inner and outer truths.
What the public doesn't often know is that many composition teachers teach for substandard wages, while putting in extra hours of work, carefully responding to numerous student essays. Many composition teachers suffer from these conditions -- the low pay and long hours. What goes unreported is that many composition teachers are adjuncts or T.A.'s, and those statuses are used by administrators to justify low wages. Meanwhile, these adjuncts and T.A.'s are oftentimes the most dedicated teachers that your students could have, spending extra hours in office hours with students and tediously responding to student essays. Many adjuncts and T.A.'s in composition studies are, in fact, more dedicated, caring teachers than the full-time professors who teach upper level courses. This is not always true, but it is often the case. People think that when they hear "adjunct" or "TA" that that is a teacher who is not as well-trained as a full-time professor but nothing could be further from the case because in many universities there is extensive training for adjuncts and TA's, and because of this, they are actually better teachers than the full-time professors who scoff at teaching lower division courses. So, there is so much that the public doesn't know and realize about the exploitation of composition-teaching adjuncts and T.A.'s.
This presentation revolves around a concept that I have been using to holistically diagnose the central issues hindering the field of composition studies -- pedagogically, institutionally and, alas, economically -- and that concept is, as I have conceived it, "atomization." Atomization is theoretically derived from Michel Foucault's genealogical analysis of penal and pedagogical institutions in his now 30-year-old "Discipline and Punish" [Surveiller et Punir]. One of the primary tenets of Foucault's book was outlined in his chapter "Docile Bodies," wherein he talked about how power is enacted through a process of "partitioning" or progressively dividing up institutional spaces and groups into smaller fractions so as to facilitate the observation and tracking of individuals [pp. 142-149] Now, obviously, "Discipline and Punish" has often been used in composition pedagogy for the purpose of theorizing the classroom space and the surveillance technologies [or gazes] used in those spaces to "normalize" students and their behaviors. For instance, Jennifer Gore's "The Struggle for Pedagogies" has been taught in many composition theory courses since its publication in 1993.
In this presentation, however, I would like to take Foucault's analysis of "partitioning" to yet another level, i.e., the level at which it interfaces with James Sledd's analysis of the "divide and conquer" approach used to "intimidate" faculty and, in effect, obstruct them from recognizing their joint and shared economic interests with the untenured [see point 37 in "Disciplinarity and Exploitation" By Sledd, "Workplace"] Indeed, if one reads Foucault's historical study and Sledd's contemporary manifesto in conjunction with one another, one begins realizing that they share in the same root analysis of the central problem plaguing composition studies, i.e., the problem of atomization whereby the "partitioning" serves to prevent individuals from recognizing themselves as part of a collective whole possessed of mutual and binding interests and thus mitigates any perceived "threat" of revolt or rebellion. As Foucault puts it, "This machinery works space in a much more flexible and detailed way. It does this first of all on the principle of elementary location or partitioning. Each individual has his own place and each place its individual. Avoid distribution in groups, break up collective dispositions, analyze confused, massive or transient pluralities" [pg. 143] See also William V. Spanos' The End of Education, pg. 36, for further explication.
Now, I would like to take both Foucault's and Sledd's analyses to the next level -- the level above all of the traditional frays, where one can begin seeing all of the myriad of ways in which the field and composition teaching -- both universally and locally -- have been partitioned and 'atomized' to the intellectual and financial detriment of the whole -- both composition teachers and students. For one, students suffer from 'atomization' -- that is the atomization of their writing life -- when they must move discontinuously from one writing assignment to the next -- one writing class to another -- with no or few opportunities to advance writing/intellectual projects of their own from course to course. Faculty, as well, suffer from the atomizing effects of the grading [or evaluative] process as they must shift from paper to paper, breaking down the energies and concentrations necessary for their own writing lives as they are transformed into disciplinary agents for the institution. Furthermore, as Sledd has observed, disciplinary rank itself is also a form of atomization that works against the interests of the whole. Thus, with this presentation, I would like to explore these many ways -- and then some -- that atomization is at the root of our disciplinary discontents.
From the Struggle for Pedagogies by Jennifer Gore:
"- Women are silenced, objectified and made passive through the course content and the pedagogical style of most college classrooms. (Maher, 1985b , p. 31)"
"- The silencing, humiliating and devaluing of girls and women is the outcome of patriarchal pedagogy regardless of how progressive or authoritarian that pedagogy might be. It is built into the educational establishment itself, operating as institutional sexism even where it is not built into the deliberate assumptions and intentions of teachers in patriarchy. (Morgan, n.d., p. 23)"
Gore's quotations here remind me of how when I was working on my dissertation, I was repeatedly silenced through the ignoring of my attempts to respond to misinterpretations of my work. I was even told not to respond in a very authoritarian manner. And I was told that my dissertation director "would not and could not honor" a chapter that I had put a great deal of labor and thought into and which he misinterpreted. So, absolutely, women are silenced by patriarchal pedagogy, and I have experienced it firsthand.
I was writing about how oftentimes creative writing emerges at the point where students and/or writers feel repressed and constrained by their lived experiences. Students/writers then write against the grain of that repression and those constraints. When I was at Albany, other students and a few faculty liked to talk about the nexus of discourse or the the nexus of critical and creative discourse, without talking about the psychological conditions that bring about the nexus or when critical discourse no longer serves to represent what is going on inside the interior, psychological landscape of a person. Creative discourse is oftentimes a reaction against critical discourse, a blossoming out of the heart and soul from repressed circumstances. This was what was found in Michelle Cliff’s writing – a Jamaican-British mulatto who wrote against the oppressive British schooling that she received. Her writing was beautiful, evocative and soulful. She wrote a creative essay entitled, “If I Could Write This In Fire, I Would Write This In Fire” – which evoked the strength she felt from her anger at what aspects of her personality and experiences as a Jamaican had to be repressed by her British style of education. But those who talked about the nexus at Albany did not consider the psychological conditions that brought on someone like Michelle Cliff’s writing. And I felt that it was important to call attention to the psychological conditions that produce creative writing in relationship to critical writing so as to understand what enables its production. It’s not something, in other words, that we can simply ask students to write without having them live through some repressive circumstances. Yet many students have experienced repressive circumstances in their educational and/or institutional experiences. I would encourage my students to write about their academic histories and what was beneficial and what was repressive or difficult for them.
Expressivism aspires to expressing one's inner truths -- "Truth has beauty, power and necessity." -- Sylvia Ashton Warner
Organic theory is derived from lived experience. It's the feeling of being oppressed, suppressed, repressed -- it's the voice that rises up against suppression and oppression. What it is not is rational nor analytical nor methodological. Rather, it begins with a feeling of being oppressed by a misrepresentation of self. It begins in the interior of the self, with pressure being put on the self by what it is not.
So many within cultural studies want to theorize oppression as if it were an object of study that can be methodologically identified. But this approach too often ignores how oppression begins with a feeling -- a feeling of being misrepresented or being silenced or ignored. Writers -- as opposed to theoreticians --seek to represent these feelings as they bubble up. You see such writing in Michelle Cliff's If I Could Write This In Fire, where she writes about the feeling of being mulatto and yet white enough to be afforded the privileges of a British education.
Organic theory is about running up against constraints and feeling those constraints deeply enough that one wants to write against them. Reform begins with running up against social constraints. Resistance to those constraints is a feeling.
How fortuitous that The Valve cccc’s entry took a turn towards race and rhetoric in composition studies because my next entry -- to complement the previous Foucault quote -- was going to be about this kindred passage from Toni Morrison’s “The Site of Memory:”
“Authors arrive at text and subtext in thousands of ways, learning each time they begin anew how to recognize a valuable idea and how to render the texture that accompanies, reveals or displays it to its best advantage. The process by which this is accomplished is endlessly fascinating to me. I have always thought that as an editor for twenty years I understood writers better than their most careful critics, because in examining the manuscript in each of its subsequent stages I knew the author’s process, how his or her mind worked, what was effortless, what took time, where the ‘solution’ to a problem came from. The end result -- the book -- was all that the critic had to go on” (305).
And does not this passage illustrate, in a nutshell, the very crux of the general differences between most composition and literary scholarship? Perhaps, when processing and defending against the never-ending indictments against composition studies, it might be worthwhile to return to the very root of the disciplinary divide, as suggested by Morrison here: the literary critic or archivist most often arrives upon the literary scene after the text has been created and the artistic process has been terminated and then interprets/judges the text -- and frequently the author’s intentions, as well -- on the basis of the discrete textual/aesthetic artifact [or, in the immediate case, the conference presentation title] and not on the basis of the selective, ragged and oftentimes conflicted process that produced it. Theoretically speaking, by contrast, compositionists -- at least in some circles -- are most concerned with howliterature or any piece of writing, for that matter, was/is actually made through the selective, evaluative process of sorting through the “thousands of ways” each text might be composed or each argument made. This usually entails teaching students how to be editors of their own work -- not indicting them for errors and mistakes. Rather thanjudging texts deficient [or, say, judging compositionists inadequate to the scholarly task of explicating race relations] -- “[c]riticism that hands down sentences sends me to sleep” -- the speculative, genealogical question becomes, why did this specific text or discursive thematic [e.g., the repressive hypothesis] appear at this juncture and not some other? The practitioner question also becomes: what conditions -- social, technological, economic, psychological, pedagogical, etc. -- made this particular text possible/viable and not some other? These sorts of questions, of course, both inevitably politicize the composing process and turn compositionists into interdisciplinary generalists by default -- and what’s wrong with that when the alternative is usually that of indentured servant to instrumentalist conceptions of literacy? Or to ask, what evaluative processes allowed this text to emerge from the field of possibilities and not some other? Or to ask, what selective economies delivered this text into an archive/canon and not some other -- or delivered this student into a remedial course and not some other? After all -- and as the rest of Morrison’s essay/lecture underscores -- it seems difficult to assume that any archival or disciplinary research gives us the full and complete picture of how discursive practices and [cultural] identity historically intersect, especially if we are talking about race relations in America and the extremely limited access to literacy education pre-1900’s and the self-protective, repressive forces at work in the composing process of most slave narratives, as Morrison points out. Undoubtedly, these critical inquiries into the composing/archival process may seem, to some, far afield from the traditional common-sense and populist expectation that composition teachers serve as diagnosticians of error and police students’ rhetorical coherency. Yet theoretically demarcating these evaluative differences [between literary studies and composition] is, perhaps, the only way to reclaim the field as something other than that subservient remedial or remediating enterprise that it has long been expected to serve as -- and hasn’t such a revisionary project been the motivating force behind much comp theorizing? Denouncements of theory aside, composition theory at its best has moved fluidly between practice and theory, and has long possessed the capacity to deliver composition practitioners from these problematic, constraining assumptions about remedial literacy education; it need not exclusively -- or at all -- superficially serve as a status symbol for “jet-setting” scholars or as institutional currency for tenure, if more pressing efforts were made to articulate its relevance in the public domain and outside of the limited conference milieu. The contemporary problem wrought by the blogosphere, though, is that anyone with a blog and an internet connection can come along and render the long history of composition theory’s dealings with these stereotypes null and insignificant by simply pronouncing the hackneyed, unmeritorious argument that “Johnny/Jane can’t read” and that we must therefore blame the already-severely-underfunded field of composition teaching for not doing its anticipated, menial job as police force and rhetorical sanitizer. And so, deja vu, composition is perpetually sent back to square one, as if it hasn’t dealt with these conservative arguments a thousand times before.
And the interesting and quite timely thing is that Morrison does, in fact, explore these issues [earlier on in her essay, “The Site of Memory”] as they relate to slavery and post-slavery narratives from the 1800’s and 1900’s and the ultimate limitations of archival research when it comes to depicting the whole of lived experience from the eras:
“Yet no slave society in the history of the world wrote more -- or more thoughtfully -- about its own enslavement.The milieu, however, dictated the purpose and the style. The narratives are instructive, moral and obviously representative. Some of them are patterned after the sentimental novel that was in vogue at the time. But whatever their eloquence or form, popular taste discouraged the writers from dwelling too long or too carefully on the more sordid details of their experience. Whenever there was an unusually violent incident, or a scatological one, or something ‘excessive,’ one finds the writer taking refuge in the literary conventions of the day. ‘I was left in a state of distraction not to be described’ (Equiano). ‘But let us now leave the rough usage of the field ... and turn our attentionto the less repulsive slave life as it existed in the house of my childhood’ (Douglass). ‘I am not about to harrow the feelings of my readers by a terrific representation of the untold horrors of that fearful system of oppression ... It is not my purpose to descend deeply into the dark and noisome caverns of the hell of slavery’ (Henry Box Brown).
“Over and over, the writers pull the narrative up short with a phrase such as, ‘But let us drop a veil over these proceedings too terrible to relate.’ In shaping the experience to make it palatable to those who were in a position to alleviate it, they were silent about many things, and they ‘forgot’ many other things. There was a careful selection of the instances that they would record and a careful rendering of those that they chose to describe” (301).
And, so, by this account, Morrison came along a century or so later and fashioned it her obligation and duty to imaginatively render the missing, unspeakable “interior life” that had been withheld -- by virtue of fear and by the necessity of survival -- from the composing process and thus from the surviving literary archives. As such, could one accuse Morrison, of all people, of “excessively politicizing and racializing” literature? To do so would be virtually unimaginable, given Morrison’s iconic status -- and yet somehow such an indictment is permissable against composition, even as it often shares similar inquiries and concerns as those articulated by Morrison above. To speak of double standards. And one cannot fail to note how popular Morrison has been in her endeavors to imaginatively restore that interior life, thus -- by matter of sales figures and a Nobel prize alone -- rendering economically circumspect any instrumentalist arguments about the irrelevance or “excessiveness” of “racial and political themes” to public expections about literacy instruction -- as opposed to corporate and administrative expectations, from whence most of the unfounded mal-literacy accusations derive. In fact, what really appears to be at issue here is not so much the politicization of composition instruction as much as it is the denial of its status as a literary/creative/documentary art of equal standing with literary criticism/scholarship and with more to teach than simply clarity and conciseness.
And I share in the more recent questioning as to why is it that Bauerlein imagines the field of “race studies” as requiring specialized expertise before “properly handled” or taught whereas he seems to assume, like many traditionalists before him have, that virtually anybody -- e.g., ex-congressman, CEO’s and manufacturers -- is capable of passing judgment on the vast field of composition studies and diagnosing literacy skills without “years of study”? What does it mean to cordon off a cultural identity and assume that one can only speak “responsibly” about “racial identity and race relations” when millions of folks live the variable experience and the traditions of blackness/whiteness every day? The underwriting pedagogical assumption there appears to be that of a scholar who thinks knowledge flows unidirectionally down from the archives and the experts to the people -- rather than dialogically emerging from within the classroom and from the interactions between disciplinary knowledges and lived experiences.
And let’s get real here: isn’t the truth of the matter that given the demographics of the field’s practitioners, composition studies has not been racialized enough?
A Reversal of Influence: How Composition Studies Might Transform the 'Institution' of Cultural Studies
From my 2004 cccc's presentation, "A Reversal of Influence: How Composition Studies Might Transform the 'Institution' of Cultural Studies"
Although the relationship between cultural studies and composition is configured differently in every department, more often than not, cultural studies takes on the institutional clout of literary studies/theory, while composition studies is left to struggle against the status-quo perceptions of its remedial functions -- even when composition incorporates cultural studies approaches. (see Miller, Textual Carnivals) And although many compositionists simultaneously work from within cultural studies paradigms in both their teaching and research, cultural studies as a disciplinary entity is, nonetheless, often imagined as a 'rigorous' specialization set apart from the more 'menial' labor of teaching composition courses. Such an institutional hierarchy persists in many English departments, frequently regardless of how many composition theorists practice cultural studies (e.g., James Berlin & Michael Vivion's Cultural Studies in the English Classroom), and this presumption about where cultural studies institutionally resides inevitably impacts how composition studies is thought of in relationship to cultural studies, i.e., as a mere recipient of cultural studies' theories. Michael Berube has taken note of this problem in his book The Employment of English. (87) However, Berube's proposed alternative is actually not all that 'new' since composition studies has sought, in many ways, to make cultural theory relevant and useful to undergraduates over the past decade. Indeed, I would argue that the specialization of cultural studies and its institutionalization in a manner resembling literary studies traditions (see Sosnoski, Token Professionals) has occluded how the various appropriations of cultural studies within composition studies might restore relevance to the field of cultural studies.
"Similar to how Susan Miller proposed in 1991 that composition possesses a transgressive potential in relationship to literary studies (i.e., the carnivalesque of the 'non-literary'), I am proposing that a transgressive potential exists in relationship to cultural studies insofar as composition studies often invites students to envision 'canonical' cultural studies texts in dialogue with their lived experience. For as much as experiential writing has been occasionally disparaged by critiques of expressivism, experiential writing deployed within cultural studies-oriented composition classrooms potentially teaches us how cultural studies texts actually function (or matter) for students to the extent that students are invited to articulate, through writing assignments, how they comprehend the explanatory powers of cultural theory in relationship to their lives. In this sense, composition studies has developed an understanding of cultural studies that constitutes an implicit critique of how cultural studies has been institutionalized in many English courses, most especially in regards to the problem of its limited effects beyond the classroom as a consequence of encouraging reverence and specialization. This presentation will explore how composition studies' understandings of cultural studies teaching might transform the way cultural studies has become entrenched as a specialization in English studies. How might we break down the artificial hierarchy between composition studies and cultural studies so that composition studies might be granted the status to interrogate how cultural studies is practiced within English departments (rather than perceived as merely influenced by cultural studies)? How might composition studies overcome its marginalized status so as to be seen as offering a viable critique of and alternative to the institutionalization of cultural studies?"
How often do we think about composition or writing as an imperative? I have been thinking about a quote by Marianne Williamson, from A Return to Love, where she writes about this imperative:
"How could Leondardo da Vinci not have painted? How could Shakespeare not have written? In Letters to a Young Poet, Rilke tells a young writer to write only if he has to. We are to do what there is a deep psychological and emotional imperative for us to do. That's our point of power, the source of our brilliance. Our power is not rationally or willfully called forth. It's a divine dispensation, an act of grace" (166).
If the blogosphere proves anything, it is that writing just wants to be free. People want to express themselves on whatever topic or subject fuels their passions. So, what does this mean (or what has this meant) for composition studies? Perhaps composition studies can take a lesson from the developments in the blogosphere and reconsider the role of desire in spurring on student writing. For the most part, composition studies has been about imposing constraints on student writing, i.e., telling them what to write and especially how to write -- not taking into consideration students' desires to write. Of course, this is not true of all comp teachers, yet there appears in the journals an unhealthy dosage of "johnny can't write" complaints of some kind or another and then a listing of remedies for addressing those complaints. But if we look at writing from the standpoint of what fuels the desire to write then those complaints go out the window. Such a standpoint involves mutually examining with students what makes them want to write and then fashioning the conditions that will lead to such writing.
The expressive hypothesis is kindred to the repressive hypothesis which was, as some may already know, posited by Foucault. The repressive hypothesis says that whenever something, e.g., sexuality during the Victorian age, is perceived as "repressed," it is actually being talked about all the more plentifully. So, although the common lore is that sexuality was repressed during the Victorian era, it was actually the subject of endless discourses on containing, managing and purifying the sexual body, particularly of females, homosexuals, ethnic populations and adolescents.
Now, the expressive hypothesis is somewhat similar to the repressive hypothesis, to the extent that it suggests that the more you express, the healthier -- emotionally, psychologically, spiritually -- you will be. It is like a talking cure or talk therapy, in a way. Expressivism can be a therapeutic exercise without, in any way, diluting its intellectual or theoretical force. You express so what is within the heart and mind can come out and engage the world communicatively.
Even though there are folks who say that expressivism is only an interior experience of writing, in actuality, expressivism is a form of communication kindred to songwriting. As with expressivism, songwriters write songs to communicate with the larger world, not to communicate simply with themselves. It is that very yearning to connect to a larger mileau that spurs on songwriters and expressivists alike. Hence, there is no such thing as an expressivist writing to him/herself alone since any writing implies a desire to communicate. It's that desire to communicate that drives expressivist writing. And that is what makes expressivism the most radical tradition in composition studies, i.e., because it allows for the desire to write rather than positing writing as merely an academic task. Expressivists are not taskmasters; rather, they are communicators who long to connect with the world. This tangentially begs the question, why is the desire to write so often neglected in composition studies? Too often students are given writing tasks that do not engage their desire to write. Students are expected to perform writing tasks rather than being asked to explore, creatively, what they desire to write. More later.
Expressivism is the equivalent of unleashing the creative arts on the academy. Expressivism is practicing, in writing, the creative art of self-discovery and learning about the larger world.
Too often, however, the creative arts have been either segregated to specialized art and theatre classes or marginalized in the academy -- rather than being holistically integrated into the entire curriculum and all of the disciplines, where they might transform the curriculum by offering a creative reenvisioning of learning. The creative arts have even been marginalized in English departments, where creative writing is often segregated from the practice of interpretation and reading texts and then underfunded, undervalued and underpromoted in relationship to literary studies. There are so many ways these divisions might be challenged and transformed through seeing the curriculum through the eyes of expressivism. Integrating expressivism into a literary studies class, for example, might mean having students try seeing the text through the eyes of the writer (or poet or artist) and imagine what went into the creative process of producing the text that is being studied. More on this later.
I want to contend that expressivism is the most radical tradition in composition studies. Expressivism -- where students write from lived, felt experience -- challenges the status quo of academic decorum. Academic constraints can weigh heavy on students' own senses of purpose when they write. Sometimes the constraints -- or perceived constraints -- are so heavy that students experience writer's block. Writer's block can be conceived of as an interior, felt experience or, otherwise put, when the literacy demands of academic prose subsume the student writers' own voices and senses of purpose when they write. Students alone do not have this problem; many seasoned writers feel oppressed by the constraints of academic prose. That's where expressivism offers a creative, artistic outlet that can burst the self-important bubble of academic writing. More yet to come on expressivism.
Some say that poststructuralism and social constructivism have supplanted expressivism as the mode of teaching writing; however, I say that it's time to reexamine the radical potential of expressivism in today's academy. As most know, postructuralism and social constructionism both contend that experience is discursively constructed and can only be known through discourse. Expressivism, it has been said, privileges experience as a mode of knowing and expressing. But what about expressivism as privileging a form of experience that exceeds and transgresses academic constructions of knowledge? What happens when expressivism allows students to openly express their inner truths that go against the grain of traditional knowledge making practices in the academy? More on this later.