More on Fulkerson

In comments over at Collin's latest Rhetoric Carnival post, Jenny writes:

The problem is that [Fulkerson's criticizing Critical/Cultural Studies approaches to composition pedagogy for stressing content at the expense of teaching writing] basically reduces writing to little more than a format, a formula, a genre. I don't like this argument much, but I might slightly revise his argument: one of the promises and potentials of composition is that we can re-imagine and re-create what "writing" is. . . or can be(come). So, for example, this leads us back to the technology question. Writing as digital design, etc.

Here's my honest question: Is it fair to say that CCS approaches (and lit, for that matter) don't emphasize this creative potential as much as the content of cultural critique?

In my post, what I meant was that CCS approaches (as well as lit-based composition courses, like those Jonathan teaches, who inspired that part of my post) don't necessarily do away with the basic grammar, style, coherence, structure, rhetoric, etc. (What's more, Jonathan would probably say that phrases like "the correct interpretation*," which Fulkerson uses, are horribly reductive.) So my answer to your honest question is that many teachers likely do emphasize the creative potential. I think Fulkerson knows this -- he clearly understands that writing courses can include a unit that could be described as CCS, another that could be described as expressivist, another that could be described as procedural rhetoric. That would be kind of fun, actually, to see which approach got the best response from students.

But yes, Fulkerson does have some pretty formalist assumptions about what "writing" is, and I'm glad Jenny brought that up.

Now for my honest question: So what? Fulkerson has that handy-dandy "Forecast" section of metacommentary explaining his argument. We know he has some pretty strong reservations about CCS, that he thinks expressivism is a stealthy, Senator Palpatine type that is quietly gaining power, and that procedural rhetoric has been divided into three approaches. All right then. I'm wondering what the implications are. Fulkerson apparently thinks the implication is that we're about to have us some theory wars, but I'm not quite making that inductive leap. What does he mean by "theory wars," exactly? That we're going to argue for or against specific theories, or that it will be a more general anti-theory v. pro-theory disagreement?

By the way, has anyone emailed him to tell him about the carnival?

*Correction: Jonathan tells me this is a "composition-based literature course" and points out that he teaches a lot of different kinds of courses, not just lit-based composition courses, which I already knew and should have said here.


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Different theories

I recently taught a course that introduced the various theories. Students overwhelmingly leaned towards expressivism. Coming into the class, I asked them to fill out a survey of how they thought writing instructors would think of different writing theories and they responded with formalism and creative. By the end of the course, although they admitted they weren't aware of so many different ways of looking at writing and teaching writing, they still came back to these different views.

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