I’m looking forward to reading your short papers, which should start rolling into my email inbox any hour now. As we all get ready for our next meeting, on Oct 19, here’s a link to our special guest Derek Owens’s 2001 book, *Composition and Sustainability*. The whole text is online. Read as much as you like, but at least the preface plus the first & last chapters. (That’s a good model for dipping into a scholarly book, btw — first chapter, then the last, then see what you need from the middle.)
[…] of English (NCTE). Check out the blog The Bookfish by Steve Mentz to read Owens's book online. http://stevementz.com/?p=355 Furthermore, ERIC provides a fine abstract for Composition and Sustainability […]
Derek’s book is pretty neat, although a bit intimidting. I haven’t gotten far yet, but I think he’s right in stating from the start that sustainability is a major issue in public discourse, yet it hasn’t really found its way into Composition Studies. I think, for me at least, I’m nervous about preaching what I don’t always practice, so it’s easier for me o talk abot breaking ideological boundaries separating people (race, class, gender, etc.) than talking about saving the earth, a subject that I don’t even know how to begin. Derek reminds us, however, that some effort is better than none at all.
Matt P. says
I like Prof. Owen’s representation of the English composition classroom as an essential place to begin/continue a conversation into sustainability, even if I wonder where he teaches when he suggests that interior decorators have been anywhere near our classrooms (6).
His argument is powerful not only in its particulars—that writing instruction classrooms would benefit from engaging/informing students about the woeful state of the environment—but also in the general sense of possibility this argument envisions for English classroom. If the coordinating concept of expository writing classes is “simple” skills instruction, Prof. Owens reminds us that this project can, and perhaps must, exist not only with an eye toward to the student’s outside experience, but also with keen attention to the world’s problem. Perhaps it’s my bias as a study abroad guy, but I spend a lot of time trying to find ways to imbue the academic & co-curricular experience of our programs with a specific target of creating engaged, highly informed citizens of the world. And the notion that this project should be specifically ecological seems especially urgent as I write in from a hotel room in hot, humid Delhi, where the view outside my window extends only a few hundred yards due to pollution. (Pollution caused, in part, by flights like the one that brought me here and the frosty climate control of my hotel room.)
This quote sticks with me: “Perhaps the most radical decision that educators can make, then, both pedagogically and artistically, is to remain convinced that they and their students can literally reconstruct their worlds for the better” (19).
Steve Mentz says
Derek’s book in a great example of what my doctoral advisor, Annabel Patterson, described once to me as the “patient, accumulated radicalism of classroom instruction” — though I wonder if that phrase doesn’t make her sound much more leftish than she in fact is. Simply insisting that the classroom in a physical space, not just an intellectual one, seems important to me. There is, however — and I suspect Derek may want to talk about this — a massive gap between means and ends here, with the result that (as Nicole’s post above suggested) it’s hard to know how classrooms can address literally global challenges.
Plus, of course, all the sticky issues associated with highly politicized issues in the classroom.
Nicole P says
My response to *Composition and Sustainability* : http://np-composition.blogspot.com/2010/10/green-writing.html
JD Meyer says
Owen’s work is awesome and vindicates regional topic choice/model essays in the composition class as well. This is the topic of my article, “College Composition: Give Regional Topics a Chance.” http://hubpages.com/hub/College-Composition-Topics-Give-Regional-a-Chance