Blog Post

Exploring the Relationship Between Composition and Literature

In the May 2014 issue of PMLA, Jean Ferguson Carr considers the evolving but nonetheless intimate relationship between the fields of composition and literary studies, inviting us to examine what investments the study of composition might bring to English at large (especially in the mire, of course, of the current “crisis”). She quite rightly points to several trends in composition studies that anticipate and echo the fruitful conversations that are facilitated by HASTAC, including an emphasis on interdisciplinarity, collaboration, public writing and the exploration of digital media in teaching and learning. She recognizes, however, that:

Because pedagogy is often not a significant aspect of graduate attention in other parts of English departments, the teaching that graduate students do under the aegis of composition underwrites their work as teachers in literature, film, and creative writing. Composition can frame their subsequent teaching in these fields and, at times, their intellectual projects. Yet, because teaching composition is an experience shared by most graduate students but only a residual memory for their mentors, the influence of composition is often unacknowledged or even disavowed.   (436)

As a graduate student focused on those more traditional “literary” objects, I feel a real resonance with Carr’s point here; many of us have had the experience of feeling torn between the kinds of thinking required in composition pedagogy and the practice of literary scholarship, or wondered how we might apply what happens in a great class or lesson to our own work in literature. I’m excited by the opportunity to explore the dynamic between these two fields – ones we traverse every day – more creatively, allowing the successes of composition studies to influence the ways we think about the nature and potential of literary scholarship. How can we look to examples of interdisciplinary and public writing programs, for instance, as models of collaboration? How might we continue to develop “global literacies” that affect not only the way we teach and write, but also the way we read? And, most importantly, how do we learn to articulate the work of what we do in language that accurately conveys its ongoing relevance, urgency and necessity as a course of study? I’m thrilled to join HASTAC this year, and looking forward to discussing these and other questions with the community. 

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