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After the Public Turn

Composition, Counterpublics, and the Citizen Bricoleur

Frank Farmer

Publication Year: 2013

 In After the Public Turn, author Frank Farmer argues that counterpublics and the people who make counterpublics—“citizen bricoleurs”—deserve a more prominent role in our scholarship and in our classrooms. Encouraging students to understand and consider resistant or oppositional discourse is a viable route toward mature participation as citizens in a democracy. 

Farmer examines two very different kinds of publics, cultural and disciplinary, and discusses two counterpublics within those broad categories: zine discourses and certain academic discourses. By juxtaposing these two significantly different kinds of publics, Farmer suggests that each discursive world can be seen, in its own distinct way, as a counterpublic, an oppositional social formation that has a stake in widening or altering public life as we know it.

Drawing on major figures in rhetoric and cultural theory, Farmer builds his argument about composition teaching and its relation to the public sphere, leading to a more sophisticated understanding of public life and a deeper sense of what democratic citizenship means for our time.

Published by: Utah State University Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xiv

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Introduction: Turning and Turning

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pp. 1-26

One of the commonplace devices in writing disciplinary histories is to construct momentous shifts in scholarly attention as “turns,” a reflexive trope that has come to take the place of “paradigms,” or “disciplinary matrices,” or perhaps the less formal “governing gazes” that shape any field’s dominant research interests.1 The obvious advantage of labeling such shifts as “turns” probably ensues from the fact that this descriptor, more than others, lends a certain dynamism to how scholarly knowledge...

Part One: Cultural Publics

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1. Zines and Those Who Make Them: Introducing the Citizen Bricoleur

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pp. 29-55

In an amusing illustration of how acts of resistance get mustered into serving that which they resist, Walker Percy tells of how sightseers at the Grand Canyon must exercise considerable savvy if they wish to reclaim a sovereign view of the canyon from those who intend that it be seen in the officially approved ways. Percy offers a number of tactics by which ordinary tourists can seize or “recover” the canyon for themselves. One of the most obvious is simply choosing to get off the beaten track—in...

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2. Other Publics, Other Citizens, Other Writing Classrooms

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pp. 56-94

Thus far, I have spoken of anarchist zines in terms of culture, and I doubt if any reader would be particularly startled by my frequent use of the phrase “anarchist zine culture” in the previous chapter or this one. In the wake of cultural studies (and its enormous influence in the con-temporary academy), we are habituated to thinking of culture as a term ...

Part Two: Disciplinary Publics

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3. On the Very Idea of a Disciplinary Counterpublic: Three Exemplary Cases

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pp. 97-131

In her efforts to revise our understanding of what constitutes a public, Nancy Fraser finds herself disputing not only the theoretical assumptions that inform Jürgen Habermas’s idea of the public sphere but also conventional ideas about what is deemed private, and what public. One of these conventional ideas is that the public may be defined simply as ...

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4. Composition Studies as a Kind of Counterpublic

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pp. 132-154

A few years back, in a review of The Trouble with Principle, Terry Eagleton (2000) opens with a scathing (albeit tongue-in-cheek) appraisal of Stanley Fish’s liberal credentials. “It is one of the minor symptoms of the mental decline of the United States,” writes Eagleton, “that Stanley Fish is thought to be on the Left.” This statement is followed by...

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Epilogue: Whereabouts Unknown: Locating the Citizen Bricoleurs among Us

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pp. 155-166

In this work, I have sought to examine two general kinds of publics—what I call cultural publics and disciplinary publics. Within these broad categories, I have discussed two counterpublics, the first of which corresponds to zine discourses, and the second of which corresponds to academic discourses—specifically the field of composition, at least on ...


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pp. 167-176


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pp. 177-182

About the Author

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pp. 183-198

E-ISBN-13: 9780874219142
E-ISBN-10: 0874219140
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874219135
Print-ISBN-10: 0874219132

Page Count: 180
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 830324521
MUSE Marc Record: Download for After the Public Turn