Composition as Humanity
At most institutions composition is not considered a humanity; it is not understood as a branch of knowledge, like philosophy or literature, that is concerned with human thought and culture. Here at Miami University, for instance, courses in College Composition or Advanced Composition do not earn humanity credit. But I will argue that the teaching of composition can achieve the traditional goals of the humanities, especially if student writing becomes a primary "text" in the classroom. Focusing on actual student essays and reflections, I will demonstrate that, like other humanities, composition emphasizes the analysis and exchange of ideas. Like literature and languages, a composition course with student writing at its center exposes students to the stories, the ideas, and the words that help us make sense of our lives. Like history and archeology, a composition course centered on student writing introduces us to people we have never met, places we have never visited, and ideas that may have never crossed our minds. The compositions of our students and classmates, if taken seriously and made an intellectual center of the writing course, connect us to other people, help point the way to answers about what is right and wrong, and help us decide what is important in our lives. Composition is indeed a humanity.
Don Daiker (United States)
Department of English
Donald A. Daiker is a professor of English at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he teaches courses in composition, American literature, the short story, and the teaching of writing. His books include Sentence Combining: A Rhetorical Perspective (1985), The Writing Teacher as Researcher (1990), New Directions in Portfolio Assessment (1994), Composition in the 21st Century (1996), and Composition Studies in the New Millennium (2003). He has published on responding to writing, holistic evaluation, writing groups, and high school teaching, as well as on Poe, Hawthorne, Hurston, and Hemingway.
(30 min. Conference Paper, English)