This exchange raises Crowley's hackles. She argues that teaching literature in composition is in fact a political question. She demonstrates the subjugated relationship that composition has historically played in American colleges and universities by tracing attitudes of Literature professors via quotes dating from the 1800 to mid 1900s. Just as composition and Rhetoric and Composition are coming into their own in the university, the Tate-Lindemann exchange undercuts the less-subjugated position being developed by compositionists within English Studies.
Crowley proceeds by examining responses to the Tate-Lindemann exchange. She dismantles at least some of the response to the initial exchange (which were also published in College English). Some folks supporting the use of Lit in composition argue that students' affective responses to Lit justify the teaching method: students enjoy reading. Crowley notes that they use a post-modern argument, one that actually challenges traditional humanism, by moving away from teaching strict or particular readings of texts.
Crowley argues that a focus on professionalization (preparing students from academic and professional discourses) is inherently a shot against the universality of Literature and the idea that it is the best way to train students to appreciate life, etc.
This marks just about the half-waypoint in the essay. My initial thoughts are conflicted. On the one hand, I agree with Crowley, or at least what she's alluding to, that teaching students how to navigate various discourses is important, and that teaching about rhetoric is the way to do just that. However, I think that in the twenty years since this essay was published Composition has attained a different status within universities, at least in some universities. In order to move past the traditional humanist notions that she describes and Literature's dominance in English Studies, many Compositionists have made "deals with the devil." I'd point to the sheer number of adjunct instructors that each composition (sometimes in programs administered by R/C folks) and how a strict adherence to arguments for professionalization feed into corporatizing narratives about the role of the university. Even at a lower level, as a graduate student and composition instructor, I often hear other R/C students argue that Literature folks are incapable of making their cases known to administrators, but that's something we're particularly good at. I hear little about how our (R/C folks) arguments and ability to navigate administrative and corporate red tape benefits anyone save our positions and our immediate programs or students. I'm not saying that such skills aren't valuable, but I am wondering if we need to make these maneuvers more transparent so that the work we claim to be doing to alleviate constraint are more widely known. There's far too much behind the scenes maneuvering going on. Also, I'm wondering if one of the reasons some R/C folks aren't more forthcoming about how they think their work helped or protected something or someone is because they know, in the end, they should have made it a bigger battle, involved more people in the battle etc. In some sense, this shadowy maneuvering is justifiable because R/C folks do not see Literature folks as equals/colleagues/etc. While undoubtedly this is a response to decades (centuries?) of poor treatment at the hand of Literature faculty, I'm worried that we may often be losing more than we're gaining. This raises questions for me because it is my understanding that often the most exploited instructors (adjuncts and graduate students) come from the ranks of Literature and not R/C.
Even for those R/C folks who consider the other, in this case Literature students and faculty, in their attempts to establish more equitable treatment at their college or university, I find transparency a must because it can help foster further collaboration, and shared responsibility and governance. Maybe my arguments are vague and naive, but I don't see anything particularly wrong with incorporating some lit in a composition course. I'm teaching a novel this semester, and while I'm using it to discuss current events and social, political, and economic issues surrounding work life, I get the impression that Crowley would have objected to using it at all as she seems to feel that it feeds into Literature's traditional cultural and academic supremacy.
"In 1939, composition presented a certain problem to the discipline of literary studies. While ownership of the universally required course ensured a secure institutional base for English departments, the universal requirement, with its erratic hiring policies and its perceived lack of intellectual integrity, was an embarrassment to a young discipline trying to establish a definite object of study and a carefully developed set of methodologies for studying it." (26)
Are we in a different time? I'd argue yes, but many of the same problems have carried over, and we seem incapable of addressing those problems. We believed that the emancipation of a layer of composition instructors would change things, but in fact many of the problems that Crowley notes have gotten worse. Still, does this mean that we should be done with the universal requirement for once and for all?
Crowley declares a pox on both houses (humanist and professional): "If the required introductory course is to serve specific disciplinary needs, it must either become so specialized that it becomes difficult to see what would hold it together, or it must become so abstract that the work done there would have little reference to actual academic or professional writing." (28)
Crowley concludes by saying that Lindemann's argument toward professionalization simply trades one master for the next. While I don't entirely disagree that that's what has happened in many cases, I do disagree with her take that it is the service nature of the course, that is to say that service has a nature and that nature is subservient and leads to oppressive conditions. Crowley is particularly good at picking apart the discourses she discusses, but has the historical moment she's discussing changed? Can we define service in different ways because its meaning and implementation have changed outside academic institutions? Do networks offer different notions of service? Yes. What are they, and can they be reproduced or affect change in the physical word/non-digital world? How?