Haynes, "Writing Offshore: The Disappearing Coastline of Composition Theory"

Cynthia. "Writing Offshore: The Disappearing Coastline of Composition
Theory." JAC 23.4 (2003):

calls for composition-theory in motion, a willingness to drift all the while
cognizant that "so much defies reason" (669). If composition’s
theoretical currents are akin to waters upon which we float, in much that same
way Haynes was when she launched from the Norwegian shore into the Artic Sea in
the scene that opens the essay, argumentative writing with its commitment to
ground/reason is the anchor that has dragged "until it took hold among the
bedrock curricula of grammar and style, aims and modes, claims, grounds, and
warrants" (668). Haynes sets out "dissatisfied with teaching writing that
is primarily argumentative writing qua reason" (669). Invoking Crowley,
Haynes expresses skepticism toward the "discourse of needs" (i.e., "students
‘need’ to write and think in particular ways" (668d)). Composition, is, in
effect "rotten with reason" (668)–poisoned with a mindset in relentless pursuit
of "the why, the reason, the rationale" (668). Writing offshore desires the
disappearing coastline while acknowledging a need for movement; "it is
suggestive" (670), preferring something like Elam’s "groundless solidarity."
Haynes writes, "Equally charged and similarly moved, I mean to probe the
ground beneath teaching argument (née
critical thinking) that compels us to teach good writing as the invention
of good reasons" (670).

Unlearning a Pedagogical Apparatus (671)
Haynes creates a polarity between argumentation and abstraction, preferring the
latter, but not as something the belongs exclusively to the authority of the
teacher and not as something that stirs in smoothly with the "discourse of
needs" (viz., "students need abstraction"). That is, as we move
away from the shoreline of composition theory, we would move toward an "abstract
horizon" (671), shifting our relationship to ground, footing, and finitude. The
"pedagogical juggernaut" (Ong) composition has inherited suffers from a Ramist
attachment to logic and reason; teacher training (replication of the juggernaut)
collapses ars (art) and doctrina (teaching), reducing pedagogy to
argumentation: "Reason is perfected in pedagogy, for pedagogy, by pedagogues"
(673). Haynes argues for "unbuild[ing] this pedagogical apparatus" (673), for
unlearning as the "defamiliarization vis-à-vis
unquestioned forms of knowledge" (673). With a Derridean willingness to "disturb
the doxa in its slumber", Haynes acknowledges the chance that she will be
charged with "irresponsibility," but she is willing to bear this charge if it
allows her "to probe the depths of a more responsive relation to students, to
each other, and to each Other" (674).

Ground of Reason (674)
Haynes "prepare[s] us to need the sea" (674), as she works at the joint between
argumentation and abstraction. Reason, logic, and ground are the anchors, the
root system of too much composition theory; Heidegger’s turn on Being (from
anchor, a release toward Being as "the principle of ground itself") moves such
thinking offshore: "Just there, beneath the seas of [Meister] Eckhart’s
theological detachment and Heidegger’s secular withdrawal, we witness the
thunderous breach of our whale–abstraction" (677). But abstraction
requires yet more training: "We need to hear this word, and we need to tread
slowly" (677) (sounds like Latour on slowciological accounts). Abstraction risks
"the fallacy of misplaced concreteness" (677) (i.e., going aground where
determinate meaning is built). "We cannot leap from ground to ground unless we
keep moving; and we cannot build castles in the air on solid foundations" (678).
Still, from the withdrawal/detachment, we drift away from "representational
thinking." Persistent problem: "Resting in our not-leaping poses the ultimate
hazard: we become so rooted in reason that our feet sink deep into the sand at
low tide, and each attempt to step out and up is futile" (680).

Street-Smart Writing Students (682)
Haynes is skeptical of calls to "connect the text and the street" because such
gestures tend to conjure up the flaneur as the prototypical city-goer, along
with its problematic "attitude towards knowledge and its social context" and its
"writing safely hidden by anonymity and insignificance" (683). Here, the
dismissal of the flaneur feels too deliberately pursued; he never stood a
chance! But this particular framing of flanery, although it doesn’t account for
how such an attitude might be an improvement on certain other attitudes (some of
this in the flaneur’s preference for social realities as preferable to the
hermeneut’s disposition)…this particular framing is used to "glimpse an
unhappy association in whose folly we are unwittingly complicit by connecting
‘the text and the street’" (683). Haynes puts it bluntly: "’the street’ serves
as a metonymic substitution through which the old ‘bait and switch’ of
‘reinventing the university’ is accomplished" (683). "Street smarts" flattens
into argumentation, keeping with "Hellenic male ceremonial combat" traditions,
in which conflict is performed in such a way that maximally manages tensions.
Haynes works through a series of references–T.R. Johnson’s "School Sucks," ETS
research on "Extending Intelligence," and a program called
that supports argument
maps–visual renderings of a text (Haynes is especially critical of this; it’s
not clear that she has much tolerance for visuality, especially where technology
is concerned).

Should Not be Built (686)
Check the foundation. Is it rotten? In this section, Haynes works from
Virilio’s notion of the "trajective" (rather than objective or subjective) to
explore the mode of being that involves "movement from here to there" (686). The
nomad, transcience. She couples the trajective to questions about architecture
(and ground), borrowing from Rajchman: "What would an architecture of such
trajectories and movements look like?" (686). Here, Haynes also recombines the
flanuer (taken apart previously) and replaces him with the refugee as "the
figure of the dispossessed" passing and dwelling different "zones of intensity"
(687). Citing Sirc, she mentions the change he articulates, drawing on
avant-garde architects, artists, and theorists, from street "as mere topos
to the street as event" (687). Clearly she prefers the latter, aligning
with Sirc in "groundless solidarity." Lebbeus Woods comes up, too, as Haynes
draws up a "rhetoric of the unbuilt" (688). Woods’ work is that of
speculative, imagined architectures, the pre-concretized abstractions that peel
layers from reality with uncertainty. More examples follow, of a "peace park"
between North and South Korea proposed by Natsios and Young, and of Libeskind’s
proposed model for the World Trade Center memorial: "Such projects remind us
that a rhetoric of the unbuilt must also consider (and rendered in
in/visible textures) unqualified hope" (691). Haynes calls
this section an "attempt to locate (and appropriate) permissible isomorphisms
between theoretical architecture and composition theory" (693) in such a way
that can "bridge the expanse between reason and refuge" (695). "What
clearly was needed were not new objects, but a new orientation toward a
phenomenal field of events and interactions–not objects, but the abstract
regimes of force that organize and deploy them" (84) (694) [Read this alongside
Latour’s renewal of objects; could this be taken as an undesireable sort of
abstraction compatible with the sociology of the social?]

and the Refugee (695)
"One answer, then, to the question of what an architecture of trajectories would
look like is: a boat in an intensive zone" (695). Instensive why?
What puts a boat in an intensive zone? (Piracy, mutiny, scurvy?) The density is
sharply up in this section; Haynes works at the problem of the "tourism
experience" as relates to invoking refugee-as-figure for "abject forced
mobility" (696). The irrationality (unreasonableness) of refugees primes an
ethical muddle: "It cannot go without saying that removing the ground has
profound implications for re-moving students into the murky waters of border
politics" (697). Agamben, Agamben. Can’t be oblivious to matters of the
un-reason-able. Heidegger, Derrida (slow down!). Quarantining terms. Reason
threatens to turn us away from Being itself (701). But a poetics of the trace
remains (some hope in this): Heidegger: "What is presumed to be eternal merely
conceals a suspended transiency, suspended in the void of durationless now."
Haynes finds in Heidegger a revived current (charge, voltage) for the poet,
still, "Thus far we have scarcely issued a reading that can properly stand
beside the refugee without addressing the incongruity of poetizing in the face
of their immediate and devastating dangers" (703).

Unbuilding the Logic of Containment (704)
Haynes seems to be reassembling deconstruction, re-accounting for its
over-simplification, which made possible its take-down by proponents of
"practical reason" (704). Haynes goes back over deconstruction with an
abstraction-toothed comb, citing Caputo’s explanation that "Deconstruction
offers no excuse not to act
….Undecidability does not detract from the
urgency of decision; it simply underlines the difficulty" (704). Working through
"Derrida’s call for ‘forms of solidarity yet to be invented’" and matters of
hospitality and cosmopolitanism, Haynes works toward an assertion of "renegade
rhetorics" (707), incorporating nods to Ulmer, Worsham, Sirc, Vitanza, and
Davis, as she shows that "[r]hetoric as refuge rearticulates the paths of
the poets and illuminates their abstract trajectories. Displacing argument is
rhetoric’s supreme task; disinventing logos is rhetoric’s sacred duty" (707).
For the concentrated push against argument and reason, this bit comes very close
to sound like an assertion–an argument for the heretical. "Into these uncommonplaces,
I submit rhetoric as refuge, writer as refugee, and abstract
pedagogy" (708). Haynes also admits her own (t)reason: an account of the program
at UTA, which was undone, some believe, by the "steady poisoning of rhetoric
with the principle of reason" (708). Haynes continues to challenge the behemoth
of argumentation: "Our collective (t)reason will be necessary to
dismantle this edifice" (710).

Nomadically (711)
"Keeping still to [her] desire to remain suggestive," (711) Haynes
declares several musts in a string of manifesto-like challenges (take off the
garb of the flaneur, dispossess our monopoly on abstraction, etc.). She tells
about the "quasi-journal Archigram", which "rendered radical creations such as
capsule apartments, walking cities (on the ocean), instant cities, university
nodes, most of which were never meant to ‘take up a finite configuration’"
(711)–the "unbuilt spoof in response to their view of traditional architecture
as hoax" (712). Receivables? Much like what Saper writes of in
Networked Art
(on-sendings, kits, etc.). Archigram included a course with an
assignment called "depth probe" (713). Haynes correlates the depth probe
to Berthoff’s "abstraction as a speculative instrument" and then accounts for
the discipline’s tenuous relationship to abstraction (713). Although it was a
"failure" in terms of uptake, Berthoff’s work, explains John Clifford, "takes
seriously her call to weld philosophical frames of reference to classroom
techniques" (714). How much drift can we tolerate? Berthoff lamented that
"seemingly broad-minded theorists…refuse to see how far from shore we can
drift on theoretial currents" (714). Abstract writing, abstracting practices are

"The diverse senses of converting argumentation pedagogy to teaching
abstraction could also include teaching how to achieve distance, to detach from
one’s preconceptions, distill concepts, condense language, and translate
meanings. Leaning to abstract would involve learning the alluring nature of
language, how it draws you away, how it seduces you" (715).

End: "at times I need this depth/ forgive me" (715).


  • Re: Braddocks and argumentation (707, 717). Consider uptake/notake with
  • Berthoff, Langer, speculative instruments (see Berthoff on speculative
    instruments in "Problem with Problem Solving").
  • Reason, rational, the why, etc. as relates to rigid models (rather than
  • Detachment from representational thinking (678): rose, being without
    cause, knows not why.
  • Coercion (681) and reason – Tufte.
  • Argument maps (Haynes’ critique); what maps then? Or maps as
    abstraction? Monmonier writes only of map generalization. See
    abstraction/generalization distinction in Haynes and Berthoff (685).
  • Virilio on trajective (686).

Phrases: (gore-texTM)ual tourists (668b), argumentative writing
(668), discourse of needs (668d), groundless solidarity (670), writing offshore
(670), abstract horizon (671), Ramist dialectic (672), Ong’s "pedagogical
juggernaut" (673), unlearning (673), violent realities (674), castles in the air
(677), abstractus (677), without why (678), marionettes (680), flaneur
(682), normative catachresis (683), fliting (684), argument maps (685),
trajective (686), zones of intensity (687), rhetoric of the unbuilt (688),
brutal foundations (693), refugees (694), abject forced mobility (696),
quarantining terms (700), metaphysical homelessness (704), renegade rhetorics
(707), abstract pedagogy (708), testing contradistinctions (715), aphorism