Composition studies as a creative art: teaching, writing, scholarship, administration

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Utah State University Press, Jun 1, 1998 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 269 pages
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Bloom gathers twenty of her most recent essays (some previously unpublished) on critical issues in teaching writing. She addresses matters of philosophy and pedagogy, class and marginality and gender, and textual terror transformed to textual power. Yet the body of her work and this representative collection of it remains centered, coherent, and personal. This work focuses on the creative dynamics that arise from the interrelation of writing, teaching writing, and ways of reading—and the scholarship and administrative issues engendered by it. To regard composition studies as a creative art is to engage in a process of intellectual or aesthetic free play, and then to translate the results of this play into serious work that yet retains the freedom and playfulness of its origins. The book is fueled by a mixture of faith in the fields that compose composition studies, hope that efforts of composition teachers can make a difference, and a sense of community in its broadest meaning. Included are Bloom's well-known essays "Teaching College English as a Woman," "Freshman Composition as a Middle Class Enterprise," and many more recent works, equally provocative and insightful.

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Contents

Teaching Writing and Teaching Writing Teachers
13
TWO Teaching My Class
25
THREE Freshman Composition as a Middle Class Enterprise
33
Copyright

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About the author (1998)

Like the symbolic bridge on the cover of this book, "The Essay Connection attempts to span the distance between reading and writing and bring the two activities closer together. To read, to write is to be human, to be empowered. "Writing," observes Toni Morrison, "is discovery; it's talking deep within myself." In "The Essay Connection the voices in this conversation are many and varied--professionals and students side by side. Their good writing is good reading in itself, provocative, elegant, engaging. This writing is also a stimulus to critical thinking, ethical reflection, social and literary analysis, and humorous commentary--among the many possibilities when students write essays of their own.

What's Familiar, What's New

The sixth edition of "The Essay Connection incorporates a number of new features and new essays into the format and essays retained from the fifth edition.

Readings.

book includes eighty-two readings, lively, varied, timely, provocative--and of high literary quality. This edition, which includes twenty-eight new essays, has been expanded from fifteen to sixteen chapters; the last chapter is titled ""Death of a Salesman: Responses to an American Classic." To provide a special tribute in the new millennium to this beloved American classic, now over half a century old, "The Essay Connection includes material from Arthur Miller's autobiography, "Timebends (see Chapter 3). Chapter 16, new to this edition, contains John Lahr's "Making Willy Loman," two reviews--fifty years apart--of "Death of a Salesman by premier "New York Times drama critics Brooks Atkinson and Ben Brantley, and two critical essays: Brenda Murphy's "Willy Loman, Icon of Business Culture"and student Valerie M. Smith's "Death of a Salesman's Wife." The works in each section are intended not only to serve as commentaries on each other, but to resonate throughout the book.

Fifty-four favorite essays have been retained from the previous edition by authors such as Joan Didion, Frederick Douglass, Stephen Jay Gould, Linda Hogan, Maxine Hong Kingston, Nancy Mairs, Richard Rodriguez, Scott Russell Sanders, Eudora Welty, E.B. White, and Elie Wiesel. Cathy N. Davidson's "Laughing in English" opens the readings, a happy balance to the concluding discussions of "The Death of a Salesman--which are themselves affirmations of literature, and of life. Although humorous works by authors such as Mark Twain, Garry Trudeau, and Judy Brady signal the book's up-beat tone, they do not diminish the seriousness of its essential concerns or its underlying ethical stance.

New Authors. Among the authors new to "The Essay Connection are Natalie Angier, Stewart Brand, Sandra Cisneros, Louise Erdrich, Howard Gardner, Lucy Grealy, Thomas Jefferson, Anne Lamott, Eric Liu, Cynthia Ozick, Ntozake Shange, Gary Soto, John Trimbur, Abraham Verghese, and Nancy Willard. The representations of women, cultures, and writers who address issues of class and race have again increased in this edition, as in its predecessor.

Student Authors. Fourteen essays are by students, although a total of twenty-eight pieces of student work appear because fourteen excerpts from student notebooks are combined in one section. Among the student writings are entries from Anne Frank's diary written when she was thirteen to fourteen. Although all the student works except Frank's were written when the students were enrolled inAmerican universities, these students have come from places throughout the United States and the world, from Pennsylvania to Minnesota to Colorado, from Jamaica to England to the People's Republic of China. These distinguished student writings not only discuss compelling subjects such as coming to terms with oneself; with one's parents--whether known or unknown, living, or dead--with one's ethnic background--African American, Asian, Indian, Jewish, Malaysian, Mexican, Native American--and with one's social and economic class. The student writings also deal with understanding the endangered--from hospital patients in medical crises or family farms in economic distress--and with topics provoking irreverence--learning to drive, video games, goofing around on the computer. All provide examples of excellent writing that other students should find meaningful as models in form, technique, and substance.

Whole Essays. In order to maintain the integrity of the authors' style and structure as well as their arguments, most of these essays are printed in their entirety, averaging three to six pages; a number are chapters or self-contained sections of books. Footnotes are the authors' own.

Varied Subjects, Varied Disciplines. The essays in this edition are drawn from many sources, mostly engaging and distinguished contemporary writing on varied subjects, as indicated in the Topical Table of Contents, with a leavening of classics by such authors as Swift, Lincoln, and Darwin. In addition to professional writers, the authors include physicians (Lewis Thomas, Abraham Verghese), lawyers (Lani Guiner, Eric Liu), two American presidents (Jefferson and Lincoln), clergy (Martin Luther King, Jr., Jonathan Swift) a psychologist (Howard Gardner), an economist (Robert Reich), a cartoonist (Garry Trudeau), scientists and science writers (Natalie Angier, Isaac Asimov, Thomas Kuhn, Stephen Jay Gould), a naturalist (Terry Tempest Williams), an animal trainer (Vicki Hearne), a futuristic businessman (Stewart Brand), reviewers, (Brooks Atkinson, Ben Brantley), and literary critics (Gilbert Highet, Brenda Murphy).

Writing Processes. It should be noted that whatever is said or implied about writing processes in Chapters 1-4, or in the study questions and suggestions for writing following each selections, may be adapted as the instructor or student chooses to accommodate either individual or collaborative writing. The book's first section concentrates on the writing process, from the start in "Laughing, Speaking, and Reading" (Chapter 1), to "Definitions and Reasons for Writing" (Chapter 2), to "Getting Started" (Chapter 3), to "Writing: Re-Vision and Revision" (Chapter 4). Works by professional writers of distinction (Amy Tan, Eudora Welty, Elie Wiesel) are joined by equally memorable student writing. Thus the writer's notebook of Mark Twain joins an excerpt from thirteen-to-fourteen year-old Anne Frank's diary and notebook entries from eleven other students of diverse ages, ethnic backgrounds, life experience, and sexual preference. The section concludes with ten drafts of student Mary Ruffin's work, culminating in the stunning essay, "Mama's Smoke."

Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing. Many readings are clustered to encourage dialogue and debate among authors, and among student readers and writers. This thematic arrangement is far more extensive in this edition than in earliereditions. For example, Chapter 5, "Narration," emphasizes the significance of family and ancestry, race and class. Chapter 6, "Process Analysis," clusters essays on science and mechanics, and two on processes reflecting racial and family heritage--harvesting and potting. Chapter 7, "Cause and Effect," focuses on education as it pertains to both margin and mainstream and our understanding of how social policies affect individuals and families; Chapter 9, "Division and Classification," extends the subject to totalitarian, democratic, and postcolonial societies. Chapter 8, "Description" concentrates on places, natural and unnatural, and the values and folkways of people who live in these diverse habitats. It is also concerned with self-description, whether the writer sees himself as an insider, as Eric Liu does despite his Asian heritage, or as an outsider as Lucy Grealy does because of the visible ravages of cancer, concealed only at Halloween by comforting masks. Chapter 11, "Definition," deals with the nature, meaning, and interpretations of two iconic underclass figures, Judy Brady's "wife in "I Want a Wife" and Gary Soto's representation of the manual laborer, in "Black Hair." In Chapter 12, "Comparison and Contrast," essays by Stephen Jay Gould, on evolution, and Vicki Hearne, on animal rights, refract with Darwin's "Understanding Natural Selection" and Howard Gardner's "Who Owns Intelligence?" in Chapter 11. Chapter 13, "Appealing to Reason," debates civil rights and civil disobedience; and issues of social class and poverty, domestic and world-wide. Chapter 14, "Appealing to Emotion and Ethics," features essays on power and oppression, life and death-of individuals, nations, farms, and families; while Chapter 15, "Critical Argument," provides various perspectives on critical textual analysis, with essays on "The Gettysburg Address" and on "Cinderella," just as the new Chapter 16 provides five perspectives on Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman: its genesis, history, reviews, and criticism from popular culture, business, and feminist points of view.

Conceptual Context of the Book."The Essay Connection is informed conceptually by extensive classroom testing of the essays and writing assignments included here. The book is likewise informed by contemporary scholarship in the dynamic fields of composition, literary and rhetorical theory, autobiography, and the teaching of writing. The language of "The Essay Connection intentionally remains clear and reader-friendly.

Blended Types. In difficulty the essays range from the easily accessible to the more complicated. They have been chosen to represent the commo