Race, State, and the Teaching of Composition
Publication Year: 2013
In National Healing, author Claude Hurlbert persuasively relates nationalism to institutional racism and contends that these are both symptoms of a national ill health afflicting American higher education and found even in the field of writing studies. Teachers and scholars, even in progressive fields like composition, are unwittingly at odds with their own most liberatory purposes, he says, and he advocates consciously broadening our understanding of rhetoric and writing instruction to include rhetorical traditions of non-Western cultures.
Threading a personal narrative of his own experiences as a student, professor, and citizen through a wide ranging discussion of theory, pedagogy, and philosophy in the writing classroom, Hurlbert weaves a vision that moves beyond simple polemic and simplistic multiculturalism. National Healing offers a compelling new aesthetic, epistemological, and rhetorical configuration.
Published by: Utah State University Press
Title Page, Copyright
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Thank you to Michael Spooner for his editorial contributions to and encouragement for National Healing, but also for all he has given and continues to contribute to the profession of composition. Thank you to the anonymous reviewers of my manuscript for their insight, suggestions, and in fact, thank you to everyone with whom I have had contact at Utah State University Press and the University Press of Colorado, including...
New Orleans: A Prayer
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I. Cage : The Provincial Composition
Learning New Ways #1
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It’s an early New Orleans Sunday morning. I sit at my usual table in a Marigny coffee shop as a circle of neighbors forms at a table near the front window. They laugh as they talk over each other. One says, “He lives in a different world—that’s what I told him.” We are all living in different worlds, and we are all here together. As Jelly Roll Morton once said, “We had all nations in New Orleans.” ...
Making a Past a Past and a Life a Life
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As compositionists, we have unique contributions to make. We create various schools of composition theory and elaborate profound interpretations of rhetoric. We bring a variety of cultural and ethnic perspectives to our understanding of genre and academic writing. We develop pedagogies that influence teaching in other academic disciplines. My goal is to revisit the history of rhetoric to better understand why we think what...
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It is a cool, early autumn afternoon in 1975 in upstate New York. I am an undergraduate English secondary education major, and I am sitting in an American literature classroom in a small state college. I am reading Pound’s “Mang Tsze: The Ethics of Mencius.” In it, Pound (1973, 94) discusses the nature of the ideogram, the difficulty of the translation, the power of the image: “No one with any visual sense can fail to be affected by the way the strokes move in these characters.”...
The Most Important Class
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For me, teaching writing means offering each student an opportunity to learn to use language to explore their experiences in relation to the experiences of others. It means offering students the opportunity to change by expanding their composing. It means helping students to learn how and why others make meaning so that they may incorporate, if they wish, some of these meanings, purposes, processes, and...
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In 1980, I began my doctoral work at the State University of New York at Albany. I studied Western rhetoric and philosophy with C. H. Knoblauch. Those days were first and foremost about the process revolution and expressivism in composition. As my fellow graduate students and I studied Classical rhetoric, it was with an eye toward understanding the ways it did, or did not, sanction the contemporary conceptions of...
Speaking of Love
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In her foreword to Duane Roen, Stuart Brown and Theresa Enos’s Living Rhetorics: Stories of the Discipline, Andrea Lunsford (1999a, xi) asks what are, for me, good questions: “Where were you when you ‘fell in love’ with the theory and/or practice of rhetoric and composition? What were you doing at the very moment when you claimed the teaching of writing/reading as your way of life?” ...
“It Had Better Be Worth It”
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The Western tradition of rhetoric offers a powerful conceptual framework and vocabulary for understanding the production and reception of discourse. A categorical system some two thousand years in the making, the Western tradition provides an effective heuristic for identifying and analyzing many aspects of discourse and reception, no matter the culture (though the application of the categories of Western...
The Use and Abuse of History
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The field of composition would benefit from a careful examination of the current, historical context of the teaching of writing, including the ways in which form is a function of ideology. We need greater understanding of how form becomes script for our utterances and our writing. We need greater knowledge about how form becomes an assigned piece...
A New Beginning
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Rhetoric is not a prison-house. It is a study, as complex and far-reaching as the human quest for meaning. In Alternative Rhetorics, Laura Gray- Rosendale and Sybille Gruber (2001, 3) write that the study of rhetoric “cannot be confined within nicely drawn borders. The field is everchanging, ever-expanding, unconstrained, unconfined, and largely...
The Babel Effect
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Rhetoric is a system of thought for conceptualizing the composing, delivery and reception of discourse. Rhetoric is about work that connects one to another. It is about the composing of the connection. It is also about the claiming of the other’s presence (not in possession; rather, in respect of the other). As Daniel Collins (2001) and Michael Spooner (2002) have both shown us, rhetoric is also about the responsibilities of...
A Question of Service
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Caring compositionists sometimes ask how students would succeed in college if we did not use our composition classes to teach argumentation and academic discourse. This is a complicated question. The easy answer is that nothing more unfortunate than anything that is happening now would occur. The fact is, of course, that students know how to...
More Than One
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If compositionists know, now, at this point in the history of our discipline’s development, that there is more than one rhetorical tradition in the world, why does the teaching of writing change so little, especially when our students do? It is beyond the scope of this book to pay just attention to the many examples of the work that can be cited as challenges...
International Composition #1
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There are more informed and productive ways to think about teaching writing than the ones with which we have worked in the past or the ones with which we work in the present. In this regard, I urge us compositionists to consider an international perspective on composition, one informed by international connection, dialogues, and exchanges and that has the possibility to take us beyond the national and cultural...
No New Colonialism, Then
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When we develop an international perspective on composition, we seek to understand the composing of others, to understand what others bring to their composing processes (ideology, religion, material concerns, patterns of social relationships, attitudes and perceptions about writing, etc.). We seek knowledge of how students of other cultures and nations compose so that we might better teach them when they are in our classes. In addition...
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John Trimbur (2004) makes an articulate case for knowing—and remembering—the realities of history and internationalism in “Keeping the World Safe for Class Struggle: Revolutionary Memory in a Post- Marxist Time.” For many reasons, not the least of which is the heartfelt way that it demonstrates how the global is also personal, Trimbur’s...
International Composition #2
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An international view of composition promotes rhetorical diversity. In an internationalist composition classroom, students are asked to learn about each other’s writing processes. For instance, when students from other countries take our classes, they are encouraged to talk about their home cultures and home languages, of course, but they are also asked...
And to Go Beyond the Words
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We know next to nothing about Lao Tzu, the contemporary of Confucius who wrote the great guide to Taoist living, the Tao Te Ching. In it, Lao calls on readers to follow the Tao, or Way, the entering of the process of letting go of desires and negative impulses in order to enter into harmony with nature and life. According to the Tao, to live effectively is to...
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Because it is reminiscent of Aristotelian attempts at inclusive rhetorical categorization, readers will find echoes of the Western, Classical, rhetorical tradition in the writing of Taoist poet Sikong Tu (837–908 C.E.). In his Tang dynasty treatise, The Twenty-Four Styles of Poetry, Sikong catalogs style, from the “The Masculine and Vital Style” with its “potency and...
Rhetorical Boundaries and Agency
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The study of rhetoric inspires inner debates about one’s preparation and abilities. What does one need to study or know to approach the Confucian tradition? What can one know of the Arabic tradition of rhetoric? What if one does not read Arabic? Do we need to know the language of the other in order to understand its rhetoric? In one sense...
Part of the Story
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I grew up in Johnstown, a small, depressed, mill town between the Mohawk Valley and the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. Sixty years ago, it was filled with thriving leather mills and glove shops. Now, after years of economic erosion and cheaper labor costs overseas— NAFTA—only a few remain, and only a very few, more modern...
Rhetorical Traditions: A Statement about Methodology
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I have revised EN 731: The Rhetorical Tradition and the Teaching of Writing many times during the course of my years of teaching at IUP. I call the newest version of the course “Rhetorical Traditions.” In keeping with the purpose of the graduate program in which I teach, I design the class for teacher-scholars. I structure the course around the idea that...
For Instance, a Mindful Rhetoric
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In his introduction to Buddhism for social action, Interbeing: Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism, Thich Nhat Hanh presents a series of mindfulness trainings anyone might practice in order to understand the ways that we inspire anger and cause suffering with our words and learn, as a result, ways for enacting and encouraging ethical living. Specifically...
Voices from the Dark; Voices from the Light
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The Russian psychologist, Fyodor Vasilyuk, explains how the conflicts that each of us faces in our lives can counteract the creative nature of our experience. We can lose, the “psychological possibility” (1988, 195) to act in a world that overwhelms us with either difficulty or ease (95–172). In either case, we may fail to face that which makes a situation “critical,” that is, the factors that require our creative efforts toward...
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Rhetorical study is, in the constricted sense of what it means to do rhetorical study, formulaic. You begin by learning the various means— formulas—for persuasion: the kinds of speakers, audience, and discourses, and the ways for crafting persuasive confluences among the three. Rhetoric has formalism at its roots. And so, here’s my fear. It is clear that we compositionists could turn an interest in international...
Oh, Multicultural America
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There aren’t many textbook rhetorics presenting themselves as multicultural; Robert Cullen’s Rhetoric for a Multicultural America (1999) is one of them. We can say that Cullen deserves praise for his attempt to bring multiculturalism to rhetorical study and the composition classroom. But the problem is that even in this text Western rhetoric is the default...
A Recent History, a Decent Future
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In the eighties, while we in composition were developing new pedagogical practices under the general categories of process and studentcenteredness, our colleagues in literature were developing the theoretical implications of the ideas they were importing from Europe. They began the process of deconstructing the canon of received literature...
What Will the Yard Sales Say?
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My late colleague, Patrick Hartwell, liked to acquire old composition textbooks. As he visited country rummage and yard sales and flea markets, he found great, old texts. From John Franklin Genung’s (1891) and Fred Newton Scott and Joseph Villiers Denney’s textbooks (1897, 1909), to rhetorics, such as Alexander Bain’s (1890), Pat collected history. ...
II. Circulations : The Composing of Composition
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In The Making of Meaning: Metaphors, Models, and Maxims for Writing Teachers, Ann Berthoff (1981) employs the work of critic I. A. Richards as a source for her epistemic, hermeneutic approach to rhetoric, and Charles Sanders Pierce for her understanding of signification and the pragmatics of interpretation. And in Reason To Believe: Romanticism, Pragmatism and the Teaching of Writing...
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Change begins at home. If we educators are to teach for a world free of racism, a world where all nations cooperate to solve problems such as the climate crisis we face, we will need to learn how our teaching serves—or fails to serve—our nation, the state, and its citizens. Along the way, we will need to question some of our deepest held beliefs about...
Is It Patriotism or Is It Nationalism?
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Anthony Smith draws a sharp distinction between nationalism, the ideology held by those trying to attain or maintain statehood, and feelings of “national sentiment,” or patriotism, that are shared by those who live in a country that has already achieved independent statehood (1971, 174– 175). I value Smith’s distinction between a population that lives in an...
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In his landmark study, Nations and Nationalism, historian Ernest Gellner outlines the features he feels are necessary for the rise and maintenance of a modern nation. These essentials include power, which some in a nation’s population will have and some will not, and a shared culture, which is transmitted in several ways, not the least of which is through a...
A Decent Nation
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As I reported in Part 1, “Cage: The Provincial Composition,” in The Decent Society, political theorist Avashai Margalit (1996) argues that when a nation’s agencies humiliate its citizens, these agencies denote an indecent society. I want to extend this definition here. When it has the power to do so, an indecent society will initiate economic policies that exploit...
A Nation’s Cultural Centrism
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“Banal nationalism”—again, in Michael Billig’s terms—encourages us to prop up a single-minded version of elite culture in our composition classes. Banal nationalism calls on us to continue to inculcate a simplified version of a national culture in our students. Banal nationalism tells us that we are correct when we assume that Eurocentric culture is...
When You Do the Research
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The prejudices of the nation have become big business. Sedimented in our cultural values, American nationalism mingles as both motive and product—both economy and ideology. It circulates in what we make, acquire, sell, export, put on, ingest, and absorb, in our ideas about how “we” do business, in who “we” are, not to mention who every other...
The Global Nothing
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Powerful national cultures have the impulse to disseminate themselves. So, what do we compositionists produce, under the logic of commercial production and consumption, for dissemination—for global export? I say, “Nothing.” “Nothing?” you ask. “Even in our global economy? Really? Nothing?” “Yes,” I reply, “really and literally, nothing.” ...
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In order to construct pedagogies that resist racism, we need to understand our responses to others. The quest for this knowledge will take us to the origins of who we are. It is a journey through dark places where we confront truths about ourselves we might otherwise like to avoid. Julia Kristeva (1993a) maps the path in her collection, Nations Without Nationalism. ...
In Other Words, It Carries Over
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Greg Urban describes the effects of reading this way: “If you read a book you yourself have not written, culture carries over to you” (2001, 73). As we have seen, the concept of culture is hardly an inert, fixed entity or category, and neither is the ideology it serves—nationalism. The manifest of its contents and the itinerary of its course will depend on the theorist...
III. Key: The Composition Classroom
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In his ABC of Reading, Ezra Pound attempted a theory and method for the study of literature, though the book also contains a handful of “composition exercises” (1934, 64–65). The first half of the ABC of Reading is a compilation of criticism and writing assignments, a kind of guide for educators, whatever the types of literature or writing that they might...
What Are You Burning to Tell the World?
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My composition class begins with writers learning to look inward in order to articulate and interpret the many experiences of their lives and world, including one’s gender, loves, fears, and prejudices. The goal is to have students write a lot so as to become better artists of and activists in their own lives. And in this process they learn to address their worlds...
The Class Workshop
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I assign no outside readings in my composition classes beyond the students’ writing and any forewords or other sources that the students choose to read for inspiration as they write their books or forewords. There are also no grammar lessons outside of the editing of the manuscripts that I do with students during individual conferences. ...
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The majority of the students who enroll in my writing classes at Indiana University of Pennsylvania are European American, but many of my students are also African, Asian, Latin, or Native Americans, who come from cities like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, or elsewhere, or even the neighboring countryside. Other students in my undergraduate classes...
Why a Book?
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Several educators have explored the value of having students write and publish books as part of informed grade school, high school, and college curricula. Nancie Atwell (1987) has described ways for publishing school writing, including the important role that publishing plays in classroom student writing groups. Anne Wescott Dodd, Ellen Jo Ljung...
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At midterm each semester, when the students hand in manuscripts of their books, I distribute a copy of each student’s manuscript to someone else in the class. I then ask each student to write a foreword for the manuscript that they received. I have several reasons for doing this, but I especially want my student writers to see one of their colleagues read...
Ubuntu: Rhetorical Principles at Work
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As any writer knows, and as many others such as Marian Mohr (1984) and Morris Young (2004) have argued in various ways and from different perspectives, one of the challenges a compositionist must face is how to encourage students to revisit, re-see, and revise their work. As I stated above, at points in the semester I ask students to consider their work in light of a principle from a rhetorical tradition other than...
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One semester, I asked my first-year composition students to reconsider their books in light of the principles of communication that Thich Nhat Hanh (1998) discusses in Interbeing. Specifically, I asked my students to consider the ways in which their books inspired anger and suffering, or peace and healing; whether they facilitated or closed down communication...
When We Compose
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When we compose we look to others: for words, but also for orientations to still other words that we get from conversations, from media, and from the books on our shelves and on the shelves of libraries. We look for rhetorical inspiration and strategies. We can help students learn this important lesson. ...
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Graduate students, like their professors, sometimes bring and give voice to the malignant side effects of nationalism in class. As I described in Part 1, “Cage: The Provincial Composition,” I teach a class called Rhetorical Traditions. Mostly the class sessions are filled with exciting and insightful discussions with teachers from around the world, but there have been moments in my classes’ study of various rhetorical...
There Is No Rhetoric, but There Is Hope
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In 2005, I taught an advanced doctoral seminar in literacy studies. The topic I chose for the class was “Rhetoric and Poetics.” The fifteen students who took the class were educators from the United States and countries located across Asia and the Middle East. We began each night’s weekly session sitting in a circle, gathered around the teacher’s desk, on which students arranged whatever food...
The International Sustainable Literacy Project
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In fall 2009, I taught another doctoral seminar in literacy. The topic of the class was “Writing and the Sustainability Crisis.” I asked my students to study global climate change and to imagine together possibilities for teaching literacy in the face of it. My thinking was that as biospheric degradation continues and populations come under greater and greater...
IV. Uncaged: The International Future of Composition
Mistakes and Beyond
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Ezra Pound’s Cantos constitutes a large collection of poems—some seemingly in bits and pieces—that do not quite come together. Pound knew it. He believed that he had failed, that The Cantos did not deliver a center, a frame, a realized form. One sees intimations of such dark realizations in the earlier Pisan Cantos: Pound’s recognition of his shortcomings, his...
International Composition #3
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I admire all teachers of writing, but especially those who commit themselves to studying the traditions of rhetoric and poetics from cultures and countries other than their own. I admire teachers who learn about philosophies and religions and create visions of life without ethnic and racial prejudice. I admire teachers who open themselves to others with...
On the Road with International Composition
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The many journals and books I have cited throughout the course of National Healing prove that there are ample opportunities for doing and sharing internationalist work in composition. Indeed, we need to continue to disseminate information on how we do our work, what our philosophical, theoretical, and political sources are, and what our...
World Englishes; World Compositions
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Not just poetics, of course, but rhetoric as well “will be planetary or not at all.” Rhetoric has also been subject to the “dead hand, or confusion of times.” Rhetoric has also been the terrain of control and the desire for certainty and security. The decisions we compositionists face in the coming years between a planetary perspective and the restrictions of the anti-life drive of cultural purity, between the search...
Securing Composition; Saving the Planet
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Maybe we compositionists will be wise and lucky enough to save our writing classes from administrative mishandlings and the budgetary axes that will continue to swing as the boney fingers of the international economic crisis, those who caused it, and those who benefit from it, continue to tighten their grip on our colleges. But, of course...
Learning New Ways #2
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It’s another New Orleans morning. A man and a woman sit at a nearby table. A woman comes into the coffee shop and approaches them. The man stands up, gives her a hug and introduces her to the woman with whom he is sitting, “This is my daughter.” “Oh,” the sitting woman says with a laugh as she shakes hands with the daughter, “No wonder there are tears in your eyes!” ...
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In his introduction to The Pisan Cantos, Richard Sieburth explains how, when Ezra Pound was arrested in 1945, in Rapalo, Italy, for making treasonous radio broadcasts during World War II, he was taken to the US Army’s Disciplinary Training Center, which was located in a dusty field north of Pisa...
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Page Count: 286
Publication Year: 2013