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Dangerous Writing

Understanding the Political Economy of Composition

Tony Scott

Publication Year: 2009

Building on recent work in rhetoric and composition that takes an historical materialist approach, Dangerous Writing outlines a political economic theory of composition. The book connects pedagogical practices in writing classes to their broader political economic contexts, and argues that the analytical power of students’ writing is prevented from reaching its potential by pressures within the academy and without, that tend to wed higher education with the aims and logics of “fast-capitalism.”

Since the 1980s and the “social turn” in composition studies and other disciplines, scholars in this field have conceived writing in college as explicitly embedded in socio-rhetorical situations beyond the classroom. From this conviction develops a commitment to teach writing with an emphasis on analyzing the social and political dimensions of rhetoric.

Ironically, though a leftist himself, Tony Scott’s analysis finds the academic left complicit with the forces in American culture that tend, in his view, to compromise education. By focusing on the structures of labor and of institutions that enforce those structures, Scott finds teachers and administrators are too easily swept along with the inertia of a hyper-commodified society in which students---especially working class students---are often positioned as commodities, themselves. Dangerous Writing, then, is a critique of the field as much as it is a critique of capitalism. Ultimately, Scott’s eye is on the institution and its structures, and it is these that he finds most in need of transformation.

Published by: Utah State University Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix

Many thanks to Laura Bartlett-Snyder, Marc Bousquet and Leo Parascondola, who have helped me to think through the primary issues that I raise in this book since graduate school. I also thank Lil Brannon, who has commented on this work in its various phases and who ...

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Introduction: Embodying the Social in Writing Education

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pp. 1-35

By the time she had reached her junior year as an undergraduate, Mariah already had an extensive work history at the wide, low-paying, low-security bottom of the fast-capitalist economy. She had worked in a daycare center and at a number of jobs in restaurants and retail. Much of that work had been for national chains. At twenty-two, she had...

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1 Professionals and Bureaucrats

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pp. 36-59

I recently became the head of a first-year writing program that is in a situation that I very deliberately call a “crisis.” The character of this crisis, however, is all too familiar to many who have done program administration work at large, public, “second-tier” institutions. Prior to my becoming...

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2 Writing the Program: The Genre Function of the Writing Textbook

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pp. 60-107

This year, like every year, textbook publishers sponsored a book fair and free lunch in my department. Eerily polite and deferential book reps from the major publishers displayed large stacks of texts. While some literary anthologies were among the offerings, the vast majority were...

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3 How “Social” Is Social Class Identification?

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pp. 108-130

The above quote is from an article published in a recent Inside Higher Ed.(Greene 2006) It begins with the question “How can colleges best mix on-campus and online delivery of instruction?”—an initial move down a conceptual road that frames higher education firmly...

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4 Students Working

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pp. 131-179

In Bait and Switch, Barbara Ehrenreich investigates life as an unemployed white-collar worker by going “undercover,” adopting the identity of a professional writer and public relations specialist looking for work. To do the research for the book, Ehrenreich created a new identity,..

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5 Writing Dangerously

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pp. 180-190

...describes a graduate student teaching in a university writing program at Texas Tech University called ICON (Interactive Composition Online). The quote is from an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education that describes the system (Wasley 2006). The ICON ...

Appendix A: Initial Questions

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pp. 191

Appendix B: Code List

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pp. 192


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pp. 193-199


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pp. 200-202

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About the Author

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pp. 203

Tony Scott is associate professor of English at the University of North Carolina–Charlotte, where he directs the writing program. He has published research on writing assessment, critical pedagogy, and issues associated with labor in postsecondary writing. He teaches graduate and undergraduate classes in writing, technical writing, and theory in rheto-...

E-ISBN-13: 9780874217353
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874217346

Page Count: 202
Publication Year: 2009