e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


Lu & Horner

During grad school at Arizona, Lu & Horner's Representing the 'Other': Basic Writers & The Teaching of Basic Writing made an impression. I can recall the book being taught in multiple seminars. It was a text we talked about in the hallways (ditto Crowley's Composition in the University...the "abolition" debate!). I have an enormous binder of study notes I used while prepping for comprehensive exams around 2000 or so and, going back, reading the pages devoted to Lu & Horner, I notice that I say little about mulitlingualism, though it's a central concern of Representing the 'Other.' My notes mostly focus on what Lu & Horner say about the history of the field (the always "newness" of the CUNY story), Min-Zhan Lu's sharp critique of 90s multiculturalism which she folds into a 'teaching essay' about style, and how basic writing could become a "border country" for the most productive, radical work in the field.

But I only have the sparest notes about what the two have to say about language use. At the time I was gearing up to write a dissertation about the history of first-year comp at two-year colleges, so their insights about marginalized narratives were of most interest to me, so that's part of it. But even the blurb on the back of the book (1999) emphasizes the book's implications for discussions of "mainstreaming" basic writers and developing "contact zone" pedagogies in writing programs. Not multilingualism.

I went back and re-read Representing the 'Other' last week and the book is still tremendously useful and tremendously forceful. And also a reminder of the scholarship that's been produced in the years since--especially everything that Lu and Horner themselves have written SINCE 1999, most of which builds in so many ways on Representing the 'Other.' Their more recent work is invariably more multidisciplinary--Horner's "Relocating Basic Writing," their collaborative "Logic of Listening to Global Englishes," Lu's "Metaphors Matter," and lots more too. All these draw on second-language writing, applied linguistics, etc, etc. And of course they deal with multilingualism even more explicitly than the work in Representing the 'Other,' stressing code-meshing and like concepts as both theoretical and teaching constructs. It's likely a lot more difficult to neglect this aspect of their analysis, now that language difference is (happily) in the foreground of their work. And the field. And our institutions.

Our writing program is in the midst of revising our curriculum, including a hard (and I hope creative) reboot of how we "do" basic writing in light of growing multilingual populations on campus. We piloted a code-meshing curriculum this past term and we're piloting more sections next Fall (details will be presented at the WPA conference in two months--stay tuned!). We're tentatively proposing a Studio Model for 2015. Exciting stuff. And it feels like what I've wanted to do for twenty years (teaching "basic writing" during the second semester of my master's program made me fall in love with the field). And so in addition to all the new things I've been reading--especially about Studio, but also Canagarajah, Matsuda, and others for insights on language and code--I'm going back and re-reading basic writing's greatest hits from graduate school and revisiting those yellowing notes from my comprehensive exams. I regret not taking a second language acquisition theory class and second-language writing pedagogy class while at Arizona. They had a great program but I guess I made the mistake of seeing a sharp dividing line between fields. Things are changing.

1 comment:

Koger said...

I read an interesting and rather provocative article by Peter Elbow that was published fairly recently. In it he acknowledged the dilemma of teaching students the discourse of academia and whether or not that infringes upon their primary discourses. Instead, he advocated having students write in their primary discourses (whether it be another language or just another dialect) and then to translate it over several drafts until it reached "academic" style on the final draft.

He also floated the idea of helping students find paper editors and such since that's what happens in the "real" world, but I suppose that's another can of worms.