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Literature and Composition
Berthoff, Ann E. "Is Reading Still Possible?" The Sense of Learning .
To read is necessarily to interpret. As we construe the letters, words, and sentences, we construct meaning in light of both what we imagine, from other reading experiences, will be coming next, and what meanings we have just made in working with the particular text. Constructing a plausible reading of a text is like translating it from one language to another. In the process of constructing meaning, the reader must tolerate ambiguity as different possible interpretations develop. There may be variant readings but also incorrect ones. These processes of simultaneously construing and constructing are also at work both when we listen effectively (a hint here to improve student note-taking) and when we write. Always we are using signs to actively make sense of the world.
See: Linda Brodkey, "Modernism and the Scene(s) of Writing" .
Crowley, Sharon. "Literature and Composition: Not Separate but Certainly Unequal." Composition in the University: Historical and Polemical Essays .
English as a university discipline at first studied not literature but philology and composition. Literature came to be the focus only in the late nineteenth century with the professionalization of academic work in English, providing both material to study and a justification for studying it, namely that literature was supposedly an ideal repository of human experience that cultivated moral sensibility. Good taste in literature, then, because it was based on moral qualities, seemed to justify the social privilege of those who possessed it. Concomitantly, composition was despised because to need such instruction was to show that one did not possess good taste. Yet composition was able to displace rhetoric in English departments because at least it focused on self-expression, as literature does, and not on public persuasive discourse, as rhetoric does. What has been taught in composition since 1900? Process has been suppressed because literary scholars did not want to sully the glamour of their artists' inspiration by imagining them revising. One prevailing approach has taught literature as an aid to elevating students' taste—and therefore their morals. The other most prevalent approach has aimed to teach universally applicable writing skills as a service to the university. A third approach, which taught literature as a source of stylistic models and community values, dwindled along with rhetoric generally. Crowley discusses the use of the first approach at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. The second approach, usually found at less elite schools, encouraged a lot of writing on personal topics, which the teacher corrected—this developed into what is now known as "current-traditional rhetoric," with its focus on form and correctness. Crowley discusses a few challenges to approaches one and two but says that the skills approach, leavened with more or less literature, prevailed in most programs until around 1970.
Eberly, Rosa A. Citizen Critics: Literary Public Spheres. Urbana and Chicago: Univ. of Illinois Press, 2000.
Four case studies of nonexpert citizen critics writing in literary public spheres offer an account of discursive processes and forms of public criticism. Texts considered "literary" can be studied empirically: the interpretive practices of actual readers writing publicly about problematic literary texts (James Joyce's Ulysses, Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho, and Andrea Dworkin's Mercy) illustrate rhetorical approaches to the study and practice of interpretation. Interpretations are shaped not only by broad cultural assumptions but also by inventional strategies, topoi in particular, with cultural texts playing an important role in reinvigorating participatory democratic practice. Public criticism rather than literary criticism may offer a way to study how literature has affected society. Rhetorical theory offers possibilities for studying how fictional texts and the public debate around them influence social practices around such topics as obscenity, community standards, public interest, or social value vs. literary merit. This book ends with a discussion of classrooms as protopublic spaces.
Eldred, Janet Carey, and Peter Mortensen. "Reading Literacy Narratives." CE 54 (September 1992): 512–39.
Sociolinguistic scholarship on literacy provides critical insights into literary works that feature narratives of literacy acquisition. This scholarship has exploded the myth that increased literacy brings social progress and individual advancement, a myth that can be found in literature. Literacy scholarship also calls attention to the ways that literacy acquisition affects the formation of new identities, seen in narratives of socialization. In literature of the contact zone (see Pratt ), people struggle with literacy imposed by colonizers. A number of literary works, like Shaw's Pygmalion, focus on literacy narratives.
Horner, Winifred Bryan, ed. Composition and Literature: Bridging the Gap. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1983.
This important collection of twelve essays on the theoretical and pedagogical relationships between composition and literature includes J. Hillis Miller, "Composition and Decomposition: Deconstruction and the Teaching of Writing"; Wayne C. Booth, "LITCOMP: Some Rhetoric Addressed to Cryptorhetoricians about a Rhetorical Solution to a Rhetorical Problem"; Nancy R. Comley and Robert Scholes, "Literature, Composition, and the Structure of English"; Elaine P. Maimon, "Maps and Genres: Exploring Connections in the Arts and Sciences" ; Walter J. Ong, S.J., "Literacy and Orality in Our Times" ; and E. D. Hirsch, Jr., "Reading, Writing, and Cultural Literacy."
Lanham, Richard A. Literacy and the Survival of Humanism. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1983.
Nine essays on the place of the humanities in the university curriculum. Unless literature and composition are reconciled, not only will the study of literature perish but our nation will descend into illiteracy and political conflicts among our disparate languages and cultures. Humanities teachers must abandon the notion that language is a neutral medium for exchanging information or expressing oneself. If language were employed only for such rational purposes, humanistic study would be superfluous. A more accurate notion of human motivation is now emerging from interdisciplinary work in the biological and social sciences. This "post-Darwinian synthesis" depicts human beings as motivated by the desire to play games as well as to satisfy appetites. Humanism can offer crucial insight into game-playing motives, particularly as expressed in styles of language use, and into the ways human beings collaboratively construct self and reality. In the final essay, Lanham outlines the UCLA composition program designed to inculcate "post-Darwinian humanism."
Lindemann, Erika, and Gary Tate. "Two Views on the Use of Literature in Composition." CE 55 (March 1993): 311–21.
Lindemann and Tate recap here a debate staged at the 1992 CCCC. In "Freshman Composition: No Place for Literature," Lindemann argues against including imaginative literature—poetry, fiction, and drama—in the first-year composition course. This course should focus on academic discourse, and students should read and write texts from a variety of disciplines. Including literature risks shifting the focus from students' active composing processes to their passive consuming of texts and the teacher's ideas about the texts or about current critical theory. In "A Place for Literature in Freshman Composition," Tate implies that literature has already been eliminated from first-year classes merely to satisfy a fad for rhetoric. But writing teachers usually are not competent to teach the discourses of disciplines other than their own, and deciding which ones to treat becomes problematic in a class of diverse majors. Moreover, teaching literature allows teachers and students to discuss and enjoy the most stylistically accomplished products of the human imagination that our culture has produced, a powerful inspiration to student writers. For further discussion of the issues raised here, see a symposium in the March 1995 CE with essays by Lindemann, Tate, Erwin R. Steinberg, Michael Gamer, and Jane Peterson.
See: Steven Mailloux, Reception Histories: Rhetoric, Pragmatism, and American Cultural Politics .
McQuade, Donald. "Composition and Literary Studies." Redrawing the Boundaries: The Transformation of English and American Literary Studies. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt and Giles Gunn. New York: MLA, 1992.
Composition studies continues to be an academic borderland, a contested territory, seen by outsiders as the site of political struggle over institutional resources and by insiders as a burgeoning area of scholarship and pedagogy dealing with critical issues of power, race, class, gender, and ethnicity at the beginning of every instructional hour. Despite efforts to cast it in a healing role, composition remains a fracture separating literary criticism and rhetoric. In the nineteenth century, as belletristic rhetoric spawned literary studies, composition was placed in a subservient role, a development that was exacerbated by New Criticism and by the general degradation of teaching. The class division persists today. Composition has, in the past two decades, developed and professionalized through vigorous scholarship, while scholars like Wayne Booth, Richard Lanham, and Robert Scholes have shown ways to draw the two fields together by extending our understanding of textuality—all without healing the rift. The work should not be abandoned; however, our students should be taught that there is a continuum from literature to composition on which they can locate their own work.
Petrosky, Anthony R. "From Story to Essay: Reading and Writing." CCC 33 (February 1982): 19–36.
Reading comprehension is not a simple matter of seeing the information in the text but of formulating it through schemata, or culturally determined cognitive frameworks of understanding. Bartholomae's work on basic writers  suggests that writing, like reading, is a process of forming through schemata. The literary pedagogy of Louise Rosenblatt, Norman Holland, and David Bleich provides a way to unite reading and writing instruction productively.
Ponsot, Marie, and Rosemary Deen. Beat Not the Poor Desk. Upper Montclair, N.J.: Boynton/Cook, 1982.
Writing teachers can facilitate student writing, even under the constraints of time and circumstance, by eliminating class activities that are not writing and by providing opportunities for error-free practice of the elemental skill of writing. Writing should be prolific and guided by the whole structure of the essay. Teachers trained in literature can provide images of the shape of essays: the fable offers a structure for a story with a conclusion, and the parable creates a need for a thesis and clear point of view. Such shapes can be developed inductively and can help make the transition to a sense of other shapes for exposition. The authors describe intermediate steps, many possible shapes for essays, class activities, sample essays, syllabi, ways of teaching grammar, writing about literature, and organizing collaboration. Mina P. Shaughnessy Prize winner.
See: John Schilb, Between the Lines: Relating Composition Theory and Literary Theory .
Steinberg, Erwin R., Michael Gamer, Erika Lindemann, Gary Tate, and Jane Peterson. "Symposium: Literature in the Composition Classroom." CE 57 (March 1995): 265–318.
Five scholars respond to an earlier debate between Lindemann and Tate  on whether imaginative literature—poetry, fiction, and drama—should be taught in the first-year composition course.