Terms of Work for Composition

A Materialist Critique

By Bruce Horner
Foreword by John Trimbur

Subjects: Composition And Rhetoric Studies
Paperback : 9780791445662, 334 pages, March 2000
Hardcover : 9780791445655, 334 pages, March 2000

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Table of contents

John Trimbur



1. Work

2. Students

3. Politics

4. Academic

5. Traditional

6. Writing

Appendix A

Appendix B


Works Cited


A cultural materialist critique of six key terms used in composition studies to define its work.


Winner of the 2001 W. Ross Winterowd Award Best book in composition theory presented by JAC and the Association of Teachers of Advanced Composition

In this book, Bruce Horner provides a cultural materialist critique of discourse on work in composition. Each chapter traces the ways in which one of the defining terms of composition—work, students, politics, academic, traditional, and writing—operates as a site for competing constructions of composition's identity.

Bruce Horner is Associate Professor of English at Drake University. He is the coauthor of Representing the "Other": Basic Writers and the Teaching of Basic Writing and coeditor of Key Terms in Popular Music and Culture.


"This is an important book, an intellectual feast. The central argument of the book, that the materiality of writing and the teaching of writing is undervalued, is a tremendously important one for composition studies. The field as a whole wrestles with the denial of worth in academic contexts, and often, in Freire's words, wishes to identify with the oppressor. Horner's book aims at the dead center of composition studies' worries, at the heart of the preoccupations of our field. " — Thomas Fox, coeditor of Writing With: New Directions in Collaborative Teaching, Learning, and Research

"Bruce Horner joins the projects of cultural studies and composition more compellingly than anyone else I have read. Insisting that we can only understand the project of composition by looking at it as a material practice, as real labor that takes place under varying physical and institutional constraints, Horner offers a nuanced and rigorous analysis of several of the key terms we use to structure our work lives as teachers and intellectuals. Horner usefully links the work of figures as diverse as Raymond Williams and William Coles; his book should be read by teachers of writing and theorists of culture alike. " — Joseph Harris, author of A Teaching Subject: Composition Since 1966

"What I like most about the book is the very careful reasoning through some central theoretical problems in composition studies. I was often startled and pleased by Horner's insights. " — Patricia Bizzell, coeditor of Negotiating Difference: Cultural Case Studies for Composition and author of Academic Discourse and Critical Consciousness