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Composition in the University

Historical and Polemical Essays

by Sharon Crowley

Publication Year: 1998

Composition in the University examines the required introductory course in composition within American colleges and universities. Crowley argues that due to its association with literary studies in English departments, composition instruction has been inappropriately influenced by humanist pedagogy and that modern humanism is not a satisfactory rationale for the study of writing. Crowley envisions possible nonhumanist rationales that could be developed for vertical curricula in writing instruction, were the universal requirement not in place.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Series: Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture

Front Cover

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pp. 1-7


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p. vii-vii

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pp. ix-x

I have been a teacher of composition for over thirty years. I have been a student of its history for almost that long. And yet I have an uneasy relation with composition. Teaching composition is a rewarding and exciting job. Living with its situation in the university is something else altogether. This is not an easy book to publish. I fear that its conclusions will be ...

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p. xi-xi

My indebtednesses are many. I wish to acknowledge the students who enrolled in my History of Composition classes at Northern Arizona U niversity, the University of Iowa, and Penn State University. You helped me think this stuff through. Thanks. My gratitude to Dick Fulkerson, who read an early draft of chapter 4, literally overnight, and littered the manuscript with ...

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1. Composition in the University

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pp. 1-18

Ever since the late nineteenth century, instruction in composition has been required of all students who enter American higher education. The required, introductory-level course is called "English Composition" or "Freshman English" at most schools. The delivery of required composition instruction is a huge enterprise; at many universities the staff of the composition program ...

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2. The Toad in The Garden

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pp. 19-29

In the March 1993 issue of em>College English, Erika Lindemann and Gary Tate published a pair of essays in which they discuss the appropriateness of using literary texts in composition classes. Tate and Lindemann are both composition specialists; both have taught and written about composition for many years. In her essay Lindemann argues that writing pedagogy is sufficiently ...

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3. The Bourgeois Subject and the Demise of Rhetorical Education

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pp. 30-45

Opening the second book of De Inventione, Cicero recounts the story of Zeuxis and the five virgins. It seems that the famous sculptor planned a portrait of Helen, and the citizens of Croton-hoping that one or more of Zeuxis's works would wind up in their temple-allowed him to search among their young people for models. In Cicero's version of the ...

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4. The Invention of Freshman English

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pp. 46-78

In 1861, like many American men before and after him, James Morgan Hart traveled to Germany to study. He did so partly because it was fashionable for young men to go abroad at that time, but he was also a serious student who wanted to pursue advanced study in law. When he returned to America, Hart published an autobiographical account of his experience, an account that praised ...

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5. Literature and Composition: Not Separate but Certainly Unequal

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pp. 79-117

The meaning of the term literature changed radically during the nineteenth century. Raymond Williams notes that through the seventeenth century, the term '"literary' appeared in the sense of reading ability and experience" (47). During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, literature was still associated with "having letters," that is, with being able to read and ...

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6. Terms of Employment: Rhetoric Slaves and Lesser Men

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pp. 118-131

Today, first-year composition is largely taught by graduate students and temporary or part-time teachers. Full-time permanent faculty regularly teach the required first-year course only in liberal arts colleges, two-year colleges, and the few four-year universities that still privilege teaching over research. According to administrative lore, this arrangement is necessary for economic ...

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7. You Can't Write Writing: Norman Foerster and the Battle Over Basic Skills at Iowa

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pp. 132-154

On April 5, 1944, the faculty of the College of Liberal Arts at the State University of Iowa approved a new undergraduate program in general education. This program required all students enrolled in the college to take a foreign language and physical education, plus core courses in natural science, social science, literature, and history. The new program also required students to take ...

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8. Freshman English and War

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pp. 155-186

Universal requirements prosper in wartime. Wars cause university teachers and administrators to circle the curricular wagons, to multiply requirements, and to clamp down on electivity. Historian Robert J. Connors remarks that "wars seem to create a desire for tradition and stasis where they can be achieved on the home front" (1996, 2). Certainly the advent of World ...

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9. Around 1971: The Emergence of Process Pedagogy

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pp. 187-214

"Teach the process, not the product." This slogan enjoyed wide currency among writing teachers during the 1970s, and it now serves professional writing teachers as a popular thumbnail history of writing instruction. Around 1971, the story goes, composition teachers stopped relying on the correction of finished essays as their primary means of instruction-the product ...

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10. The Politics of Composition

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pp. 215-227

There's a canard about teaching that goes like this: "Just when you design the right syllabus, the wrong students walk in the door." Unlike academics who construct their pedagogical task as passing on knowledge (that is, unlike teachers in almost every other academic discipline), composition teachers profess the development of students' abilities. Hence the canard ...

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11. A Personal Essay on Freshman English

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pp. 228-249

Freshman English is a sentimental favorite in America, like big bands and Colin Powell. If you don't believe me, talk to your colleagues and neighbors about the introductory English course they took as undergraduates. Some will depict it as an endless drill in grammar and mechanics but will assure you nonetheless that knowledge of those arcane arts contributed to their survival ...

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12. Composition's Ethic of Service, the Universal Requirement, and the Discourse of Student Need

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pp. 250-265

Since its beginnings in the late nineteenth century, university-level composition instruction has maintained an ethic of service. Its teachers and supporters have argued that composition instruction served the needs of the academic community, as well as those of students and the community at large, by teaching students to write error-free expository prose. Since the late nineteenth ...


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pp. 267-278


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pp. 279-306

Back Cover

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p. 322-322

E-ISBN-13: 9780822971900
E-ISBN-10: 0822971909
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822956600
Print-ISBN-10: 0822956608

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 1998

Series Title: Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture