Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I Will Not Know

Close to five this afternoon, I was waiting for a ride home from D., and I had a few minutes to pass in my office. I'd already booted down the laptop and stowed it in my backpack. I didn't have the gusto to continue readings (for next week already) from the two seminars I had today, and I was feeling somewhat blaze after a full day on campus overflowing with six hours of intense discussion. So I straightened up one of my office shelves and got to leafing through a few odd journals casually handed off to me by a colleague last year. There were five or six yellowed issues of Composition Studies and JAC; I fixed on JAC 8 (1988), specifically David Foster's "What Are We Talking About When We Talk About Composition?", which ends

As informed readers and deliberately inclusive thinkers, we must be the measure of our discipline. Science cannot claim ascendancy in any area of human knowledge, particularly in that complex blend of knowledge-streams we call composition. We must be wary of those who, uncomfortable with the ambiguities of discourse and complacent with the quantitative, empirical perspective, would have us assume that perspective alone. As informed readers, we must juggle and juxtapose the claims of different modes of inquiry, recognizing what each contributes and what each lacks. To ref use this invitation to an intellectual pluralism, to settle in its place for a single perspective, is to invite the punishment we all hated in grade school: having to write the same sentence one hundred times. In this case, it would be "I will not know. I will not know. I will not know..."

Stimulating find, I thought, and then I started to wonder whether what we are talking about when we talk about composition in 2006 is so radically remade from what we were talking about when we talked about composition in 1988. And then my ride was waiting.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at January 31, 2006 10:00 PM to Academe

What's interesting to me about that passage is that, in some ways, we could now use it to support work like Moretti's. In some ways, Cindy Johanek's Composing Research makes the same argument in reverse...


Posted by: collin at January 31, 2006 10:30 PM

I have yet to read Johanek's book (what I know of it comes from what we've talked about), but I think you're right about the excerpt supporting Moretti's project, especially with the notions of intellectual pluralism and different modes of inquiry. Plus I get a kick out of being reminded how torturous it was during all of those recesses I spent inside writing columns of "I I I I I I...will will will will will will...not not not not not not...."

Posted by: Derek at February 1, 2006 12:48 PM

"I was waiting for a ride home from D"

D or THE D?

When in THE D, always stop by, dude.

Posted by: jeff at February 1, 2006 8:56 PM

The D. I'm referring to drives the Element, shuttles me home after she gets through with all-day teaching so I can avoid walking in the rain and snow.

Good chance we'll get back to THE D sometime in the summer and, of course, stop by.

Posted by: Derek at February 1, 2006 10:09 PM