Sunday, May 30, 2010

Gary Tate: For using literature in the composition classroom



Gary Tate’s 1993 article “A Place for Literature in Freshman Composition,” published as a companion piece to Lindemann’s “No Place,” takes the opposing stance—literature in the composition classroom is appropriate and educationally valuable. He offers the suggestion that limitations are not necessary and that all texts should be included as resources. However, he notes,  instructors have moved away from literature as a resource. He provides a historical backdrop for the current views and attitudes toward literature, stating the reasons literature had been removed from classrooms include: poor teaching practices of the past and the revival of rhetoric. He and Lindemann do seem to agree on one point: the need to explore and clarify the purpose of freshman composition.

In his follow-up article, “Notes on a Dying Conversation,” published two years later, Tate revisits the idea that literature had been driven from freshman composition classrooms. He adjusts his statement to reflect his new understanding that literature had not been driven from the classroom, only from the discussion. The silence of those using literature in the classroom was part of the  reason for the lack of development of arguments for using literature.
Tate responds to Lindemann’s underlying message of what freshman composition courses ought to do by expressing his concern that a freshman composition course, because it serves all freshman, cannot be designed to prepare students for specific majors. There are simply too many majors for one course to sufficiently accommodate them all. Additionally, he adds, “The ‘conversations’ I want to help my students join are not the conversations going on in the academy…I much prefer to think of them and treat them as people whose most important conversations will take place outside the academy…” (p320). Clearly, he is removed from Lindemann’s position that the primary purpose of the course is to engage students in the dialogue and conversation of the academy. 

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