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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Colloquium Archive

David Bartholomae

Name: David Bartholomae, University of Pittsburgh

Presentation Title: "What is Composition? And If We Know What That Is, Why Do We Teach It?"

Date: February 16, 1994


For several years, Bartholomae has written on the ways intellectual traditions are reproduced in the undergraduate curriculum, particularly through the presentation and valuation of student writing. This paper considers the possible roles of revision, as a form of practical criticism, in the undergraduate curriculum.
Composition has located itself on the uneasy divide between teaching and scholarship, practice and theory. While these distinctions have regularly been questioned, composition, in spite of its hold on the MLA job list, continues to have a precarious position within English studies, where it is simultaneously criticized for being insufficiently scholarly or theoretically informed and insufficiently practical, insufficiently attentive to skills. We are at a moment in our disciplinary history when we need to ask once again what composition "is" and whether we are still willing and able to do it. (And who is this "we" anyhow?)