I come to the Conference on College Composition and Communication expecting to be depressed about many aspects of the field. I’m used to that. Nothing makes me sadder, though, than the number of scholars who display distaste for the very subject our field is oriented to, or was: the teaching of writing.
I know, very well, that there is more to writing than prose. But I also know that prose matters, that it has beauty and power, and that our disciplinary identity depends on teaching it. It amazes me to read and hear people continuing to make the argument that we should value multimodal or non-traditional compositions; that war ended long ago, and the victory for the multimodal has been complete. Read the journals! That’s all that’s getting published, work on multimodality and digital literacies. This conference is full of presentations about these subjects. And I value that, I recognize their importance. I would consider it pedagogical malpractice not to introduce some multimodality and digital composition into my writing classes. But I don’t want to move so far from prose that we don’t discuss the best ways to teach it, or confine it to marginal status through neglect. Nor do I think that we can justify our funding or defend our autonomy without demonstrating the centrality of traditional text-based writing to our field.
I know that this sort of language inevitably makes it sound as if I am denigrating the research or pedagogy of scholars who work and teach in less traditional modes and media. That is not my intent. My intent is to point out that it’s exceedingly hard to find panels at this composition conference that directly reflect on composition in the traditional sense. I think that’s a mistake, on a variety of levels, and a shame. Because I value prose; I think prose is important; I think prose matters.