Monday, June 9, 2008

David Bartholomae "Writing on the Margins"

Just finished reading David Bartholomae's "Writing on the Margins"

Jane Hindman's abstract: David Bartholomae's notion of "Writing on the Margins" is intriguing. He claims that good writers are those who "poise themselves on the margins in a tenuous and hesitant relationship to the language and methods of the university." This paradox is captivating because the margins serve as a place to which one is banished for not knowing the rules--and as a place from which one can earn authority for resisting the rules. Particularly enthralling are the splits--the essays that receive the highest and the lowest scores possible. These essays create gaps in the institutionally "obvious" notions of what constitutes good writing. As an example, in a submission of a feminist reading of "Gorgias" to "Rhetoric Review," two reviewers were at opposite ends of the positive/negative spectrum, one rejecting and the other offering suggestions for revision and resubmission. After submission of the revision, a second set of "conflicting" reviews were offered and a lively discussion about the essay ensued with one of the readers. Why are there not more discussions about what puts pressure on the margins of an individual's scholarly discourse, conversations about subversive practices. Ways to access the disciplinary formations and paradigm shifts that occur when new propositions or ideas put pressure on the boundaries of what reviewers and editors consider to be correct should be considered.

Jeffrey Williams says this: David Bartholomae is a leading figure in composition. But, initially trained as a Victorianist, he has stressed composition's link with literature rather than its separation, and resisted trends toward "writing without teachers" or without academic models.

Writing on the Margins: Essays on Composition and Teaching (Bedford, 2005) collects a wide sampling of Bartholomae's articles, such as his well-known "Inventing the University." See also his survey of "Composition" in Introduction to Scholarship in Modern Languages and Literatures, ed. David G. Nicholls (MLA, 2007), and his debate with Peter Elbow, "Writing with Teachers," CCC 46.1 (1995). Alongside his essays, Bartholomae has had substantial influence with his textbook, now entering its eigth edition, Ways of Reading, co-written with Anthony R. Petrosky (Bedford, 1987; 7th ed. 2005). He and Petrosky have also written the text Reading the Lives of Others: History and Ethnography (Bedford, 1994) and co-edited The Teaching of Writing: The Eighty-fifth Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education (Chicago, 1986) and Facts, Artifacts and Counterfacts: Reading and Writing in Theory and Practice (Boynton, 1987). In addition, he co-edits the Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture for the University of Pittsburgh Press.

I read this book after being told some of my ideas/thoughts were "pure Bartholomae" so I thought it would be a good idea to find out just how much that was true.

I believe as it Bartholomae does that composition should be student-centered and where learning and writing is an active experience.

He also talks quite a bit about discourse community (language of the tribe) which is what I think the above quote referred to.

However I don't agree with his methods of working so closely with literature. I'd rather focus more on the student text. I also find more agreement at times with Elbow and the process movement.

I have come around more to his way of thinking than I once was in regard to where composition should be situated in the academy. I think it should remain within the English department. I can sympathize with those who wish to move it away from literature as far too many literature folks teach writing without thinking about what writers need to learn and grow.

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