MLA: Fun- Alienation

James E. Seitz, U of Pittsburgh, “Alienation, Inquiry, Joy: On Having Fun in Composition

This is a live blogging of the session.

refreshing take on our profession, (Sirc’s work)
composition as a bore
complained about that but complained in interesting ways
Sirc’s most pointed critique was at the dullness at social construction pedagogy

Sirc seemed to strike at the heart of the matter. Teachers become museum curators. Sirc identified the self-satisfaction within liberalism. Not any fun. Throughout his book he draws parallels between 20th C composition and art.

Maybe I should read Sirc.

Sirc said composition in the 60s is good because it is goofy. Goofy would work for students who have a hand on composition. Would it really work for those who do not have a firm grounding?

Why do we insist on them writing what we want them to? Because we are teaching them a new type of writing. A new register.

Decide what we want writing to be. Then let them choose their topics.

Yet, in my mind, pleasure in an educational setting is not the end of the story. Some students resent popular culture in the classroom because it takes the fun out of it. Or people like to talk about it, but they don’t know how to say something that is substantive.

Reading about fun things still requires that we do schooling.

What do we want schooling to do?

Argue for a pedagogy with what students find alien, perhaps even dull. Began reading a long essay on Renoir’s paintings of bathing women. The students wouldn’t recognize any portion of the essay to themselves. Difficult. Difficulty is why teachers look for writing that the students get.

The essay was a long critical discussion of her own understanding of bodily representation in western art. They need to know how to use writing to engage in critical discourse and inquiry. (Nocklin?)

Sustain the inquiry… Uncertainty can be productive. They need to be persuaded from making their mind up too quickly.

I have them read to engage them in an inquiry about her inquiry. Does she really change her mind? My concern as students discuss these questions is that they begin to examine what it means to write for exploratory understanding rather than making an argument.

alienationClasses that focus on film, television, or music, there is a paradox at work. Those who most enjoy are those who work the most at the class, willingness to seek to understand something that was strange.

Alienation can create the grounds for unexpected sources of enjoyment.

Broader diversity in curricular experiences.
Worse politics of assessments.

We need to resist those who would turn inquiry into accounting.

2 thoughts on “MLA: Fun- Alienation”

  1. Again, thanks for blogging these panels about teaching composition classes. Good stuff.

    Hope that some of the people who visit and read this will come on Twitter on Wednesday night at 9 PM for #FYCchat, where those of us who teach First-Year Composition can come together and share, vent, and support one another.

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