English Composition as a Happening
English Composition as a Happening
English Composition as a Happening
Geoffrey Sirc

340 pages
Published: 2002

$28.95 paper
ISBN 978-0-87421-435-2

$22.95 ebook
ISBN: 978-0-87421-463-5

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English Composition as a Happening

2003 W. Ross Winterowd Award

Geoffrey Sirc

I once whimsically introduced Geoff Sirc as the most dangerous man in writing instruction. His new book proves me correct. —Victor Vitanza

Almost everyone will be upset by this book. I feel that I'm a part of the audience he seeks, and I have been deeply disturbed—and prompted to careful thought—by Sirc's critique of the cultural studies tenets that I hold dear. Good books, of course, do upset people, and they should. —Patricia Harkin

Sirc has accomplished an enviable stance in his theorizing, working not in direct opposition to materials and attitudes that have little bearing on learning to write, but outside those still-constraining models of it. He offers a different relational metaphysics that links the processes of composition to its various products, to the potential benefit of all students and many teachers. —Susan Miller

Sirc makes me question my own teaching practices. He also stirs my imagination and opens doors to new (and old) possibilities. He even succeeds in persuading me that "the major cause of our current stasis has been Composition's professionalization." Perhaps living over "an academic cheese factory" is the price we have paid for increased credibility. —Robin Varnum

from the Introduction:

"Contemporary Composition is still inflected by the epistemic turn taken in the 1980s, convincing me that we need to remember what we've forgotten—namely, how impassioned resolves and thrilling discoveries were abandoned and why. I'd like to retrace the road not taken in Composition Studies, to salvage what can still be recovered... I want to inspect the wreckage, in order to show what was the promise of the Happenings for Composition, as well as the huge gray longueur of its pale replacement, Eighties Composition. In so doing, I hope to begin a reconfiguration of our field's pre- and after history."

What happened to the bold, kicky promise of writing instruction in the 1960s? The current conservative trend in composition is analyzed allegorically by Geoffrey Sirc in this book-length homage to Charles Deemer's 1967 article, in which the theories and practices of Happenings artists (multi-disciplinary performance pioneers) were used to invigorate college writing. Sirc takes up Deemer's inquiry, moving through the material and theoretical concerns of such pre- and post-Happenings influences as Duchamp and Pollock, situationists and punks, as well as many of the Happenings artists proper.

With this book, already a cult classic, began a neo-avant-garde for composition studies.