Care to respond, composition scholars?

They're talking about us over at The Valve. I want to (and probably will) say something, but it's hard to know where to start.


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Dogging Panel Titles

I saw Bauerlein's entry and found it momentarily enticing, then decided the bait was too scant. Plenty of people at the conference chatted informally about the good and bad titles of panels. But to read the mainstream of rhetoric and composition through seven or eight panel titles (selected from more than five hundred) at the flagship conference, nah, nothing much to say about that. I went to five or six sessions in addition to the keynote and my own bit, and although none of them were among those Bauerlein lists in his entry, they were well-prepared, smart and satisfying. Plus, can you imagine a conference where every panel title included "writing skills" or "rhetorical structures"? The variety in such a bounded program as that would be, uh, overstimulating.


You are raising the profile of the "close reading Literature curmudgeon with an axe to grind" with your link. I would just delete the link and show pictures of random cats. At least the kittens can be cute.

I think it's a joke

It reads exactly like the annual mocking the MLA essays. In fact, I'm pretty sure that it's closely mirroring one that appeared last year.Bitch. Ph.D.

Troll the Troll

It's in some ways a rather obvious troll, but I like the comments from Dilger, Williams, and Goodwin -- and I'm always happy to troll the troll.


It's pretty clear that Bauerlein is operating from a position of resentment over the growth of rhet-comp as compared to literary studies (I think Jonathan made this point), and it's never quite clear what Bauerlein believes the benefits will be of this kind of snark.

the chutry experiment


I don't read it as a serious critique, just a little snarkiness. Aren't some of the responses (on WPA-L especially) a bit oversensitive? Or maybe they're seeing something I'm missing.

Mike, I don't know if I

Mike, I don't know if I count as one of those oversensitive WPA-L comments, but I think this kind of thing is a real insult. No harm in calling it out when it appears.

definitely laughable

and actually, i think it does a service to 4C's. they've got to be doing something right, right?

to be honest, if this represents the thoughts of "traditional lit-types" then it can only turn people off. who wants to really be aligned with that? (as a "lit-type" myself, i sure as hell don't).

i don't want to downplay the real tensions that exist between composition and literary studies, but this is so over-the-top it does not warrant serious critical engagement. a bit like engaging bill o'reilly on the culture wars--you're never going to win, and why waste the energy?

I don't see it as a joke

In another context, from another author, I might find this article a joke. But from Mark Bauerlein, who has written other things about the decline of literacy and literature in society and academia, I'm sure it's real. Bauerlein really does believe that we need to be making sure college students learn basic writing skills. (He also wants them to learn about literature, foreign languages, civics, history, and so forth.)

I share his opinion that students should learn. I even agree that college students should learn to write well. But "College Composition and Communication" goes well beyond paragraph structure and standard mechanics. Bauerlein's post helps explain a dilemma composition scholars face. If we focus our research only on comma splices and spelling errors, it's hard to be taken seriously by people who are studying Chaucer or Hemingway. But if we expand our research to other aspects of communication, we're accused of not doing our job.

I don't see an easy way around that.

Edit: I decided to go ahead and comment on it. I don't think I added anything very original to the discussion, but perhaps someone will get something valuable out of it.

Down with the Valve!

No one's ever posted anything of value over there. (Well, I haven't.)


That's silliness, for those of you who don't know me. It looks like irrational anger, only I'm incapable of it. Anger, that is. (I'm irrational on a regular basis.)

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