Amid the Fall, Dreaming of Eden: Du Bois, King, Malcolm X, and Emancipatory Composition
Whom, or what, does composition—defined here as an intentional process of study, either oral or written—serve? Bradford T. Stull contends that composition would do well to articulate, in theory and practice, what could be called "emancipatory composition." He argues that emancipatory composition is radically theopolitical: it roots itself in the foundational theological and political language of the American experience while it subverts this language in order to emancipate the oppressed and, thereby, the oppressors.
To articulate this vision, Stull looks to those who compose from an oppressed place, finding in the works of W. E. B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X radical theopolitical practices that can serve as a model for emancipatory composition. While Stull acknowledges that there are many sites of oppression, he focuses on what Du Bois has called the problem of the twentieth century: the color line, positing that the unique and foundational nature of the color line provides a fecund place in which, from which, a theory and practice of emancipatory composition might be elucidated.
By focusing on four key theopolitical tropes—The Fall, The Orient, Africa, and Eden—that inform the work of Du Bois, King, and Malcolm X, Stull discovers the ways in which these civil rights leaders root themselves in the vocabulary of the American experience in order to subvert it so that they might promote emancipation for African Americans, and thus all Americans.
In drawing on the work of Paulo Freire, Kenneth Burke, Edward Said, Christopher Miller, Ernst Bloch, and others, Stull also locates this study within the larger cultural context. By reading Du Bois, King, and Malcolm X together in a way that they have never before been read, Stull presents a new vision of composition practice to the African American studies community and a reading of African American emancipatory composition to the rhetoric and composition community, thus extending the question of emancipatory composition into new territory.