Trimbur, “Composition and the Circulation of Writing”

John. "Composition and the Circulation of Writing." CCC
52.2 (2000): 188-219.

Trimbur makes his purposes clear before working through a somewhat long and
complicated argument about renewing attention to circulation and thereby
recuperating the classical canon of delivery in the context of composition
studies. The problem is that delivery has dwindled into a given; it has been
quietly domesticated into prevalent notions of the composition classroom as an
uncomplicated middle-class space. In an effort to restore delivery,
Trimbur calls for heightened consideration of (and emphasis on) the material
circulation of writing. Delivery, he explains, isn’t merely technical, but it is
also political and ethical (190).

sets out to accomplish the following:

  1. redefine delivery because it has been neglected by compositionists;
  2. account for neo-Marxist cultural studies curricula that emphasize working
    with "different forms and products";
  3. draw on Marx to look at how circulation materializes "contradictory
    social relations and processes"
  4. and discuss writing assignments that attend explicitly to matters of
    between use value and exchange value.

In questioning the prominent invocations of cultural studies in composition
studies, Trimbur suggests, drawing on Marx and commodity as a "category," the
entanglement of use value and exchange value. Each are inseparable from
modes of production which implicate traces of production in the things
themselves. Composition should make this focal in considerations of texts that
circulate publicly or, that is, public writing.

"To anticipate the main line of thought, I argue that neglecting delivery has
led writing teachers to equate the activity of composing with writing itself and
to miss altogether the complex delivery systems through
which writing circulates." (189)

"Imagining cultural forms and products circulating through a continuous cycle
of relatively autonomous but interlocked moments has some important
consequences" (197).

On cultural studies curricula: "In other words, in the hope of fortifying
student resistance to the dominant culture, such assignments actually smuggled
in and restored unwittingly the close text-based readings of the specialist
critic as the privileged practice of the writing classroom–the old story of
explaining and having views" (198).

"Here he designates the commodity as the “first category in
which bourgeois wealth presents itself ” (881) and, in effect, provides a name
for what circulates through the circuit of production, distribution, exchange,
and consumption as well as the theoretical starting point for Capital"

"The process of production determines–and distributes–a hierarchy
of knowledg
e and information that is tied to the cultural authorization
of expertise, professionalism, and respectability
" (210).

"If anything, this wish for such a transformation [switch to public
writing], although surely understandable and well-intentioned, amounts
nevertheless to what I’ve already mentioned as the ‘one-sided’ view of
production that Marx critiques–the fallacy that by changing the manner
of writing
, one can somehow solve the problem of circulation"

"What I am trying to do is amplify the students’ sense of what constitutes
the production of writing by tracing its circulation in order to
raise questions about how professional expertise is articulated to the
social formation, how it undergoes rhetorical transformations (or
“passages of form”), and how it might produce not only individual careers but
also socially useful knowledge" (214).

"The aim of education should be practical but not in the service of
capitalist utility
" (216).

Terms: in loco parentis (193), "real world" writing (195),
microethnography (199), "new revisionists" (201), Marx’s linear model of
circulation (205), commodity (206), public intellectual (212), "passage of
forms" (repeated)

Related sources:
Hebdige, Dick. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. London: Methuen,
Hall, Stuart. “Encoding/Decoding.” Culture, Media, Language. Ed. Stuart
Hall et al. London: Hutchinson, 1980. 128–38.
Marx, Karl. Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political
. Trans. and Foreword Martin Nicolau. New York: Penguin, 1973.