Saturday, September 9, 2006

Trimbur, "Composition and the Circulation of Writing"

Trimbur, 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).

Trimbur 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 imbalance 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" (207).

"The process of production determines--and distributes--a hierarchy of knowledge 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" (212).

"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, 1979.

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 Economy. Trans. and Foreword Martin Nicolau. New York: Penguin, 1973.
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