Argh! A quick vent: who is the idiot who chose this exceedingly stupid comp readings anthology? Oh, yeah. Me. Grr. The sucky part about being allowed to choose all my own books is, of course, that I have no one else to blame.
My complaint is this: I want medium to long length examples of good writing (5-10 pages). I hate assigning two-page essays when I have a hard minimum of four for my own students, and I hate teaching essays that are interesting conceptually but that replicate the exact same informal writing and bad habits that I am currently trying to beat out of my own students. And how can I model good MLA or APA documentation style if not a single essay in the book cites anything??? Argh!!
Since I had the freedom to pick whatever I wanted, I chose a subject near and dear to my heart: pop culture. But a lot of this writing is bad, bad, bad. I hate using a piece as a model when it uses "you" and skips over important chunks of the argument with a flippant, "amirite, amirite?" comment. Conceptually, there are a lot of pieces that work well together in this book --- there are a lot of repetitions and bad overlap, too, unfortunately. But my students are right when they notice that an author has put the thesis --- what passes for a thesis --- in question form at the very end of the essay, or that he pulls evidence from his ass rather than actually sources and cites an argument.
There are also some personal essays in this anthology --- you know how I loathe personal essays as academic models! --- and I have found that, surprisingly, the students like these and they teach well (I guess Alice Walker shouldn't be much of a surprise). Also, the indirect, exploratory style of the personal essay is good for analysis and for practicing uncovering themes; it works much less well for modeling argument and sources. And I am also frustrated with how little the different essays "cover" the topics, often having a strong stance against an issue in one essay and none of the others really addressing the issue at all, much less showing that there are other sides in addition to the "opposite" side. That said, some of the essays from different thematic chapters basically repeat each other.
Somewhere there has to be the perfect comp anthology out there for me. Anybody have any titles to suggest?
I am also using Brenda Spatt's Writing From Sources, which I really really like but haven't quite figured out how to teach with it yet, and also, while it does have lots of sample readings, possibly enough to use as the readings as well as a "how to think about writing" text, I don't feel like teaching those themes (mostly education). Still pondering. And still ordering sample textbooks, so please make some suggestions! Save me from my own bad choices!
Forget finding the perfect reader: make your own.
OMG yes, WHY do the sample readings in comp textbooks bear no resemblance whatsoever to the kinds of papers we actually want students to write?
... I mean, apart from the fact that nobody would read actual freshman comp papers if they didn't get paid for it. I may have answered my own question...
I'm using They Say/I Say. It's all right. At least it has SOME essays in it that use documentation. But not all of them do.
I used to use a reader called The Writer's Presence, and I loved the essays in it. However, again, it didn't have the kind of scholarly essays that we expect.
Donno. This is why I suck at teaching comp. I want to focus on the content of the essays and treat them like literature instead of talking about how these essays were written. Sigh...
"WHY do the sample readings in comp textbooks bear no resemblance whatsoever to the kinds of papers we actually want students to write?"
Is that a problem with the comp textbooks or our expectations? (I really don't know the answer to this.)
As a compositionist, I never use readers or any kind of traditional textbook. They pretty much all oversimply and distort pretty much everything about writing and are too expensive to boot (esp. for my first-generation students).
I do use Joseph Harris' _Rewriting: How to Do Things with Texts." It doesn't seem textbooky to me at all, in that it doesn't offer rules or steps in a simplistic way. Rather, he talks about the moves we make as writers and how we use other people's texts to move our thinking and projects forward in substantive and real ways. It's not necessarily a quick and easy book to use--I use it with undergrad and grad students--but if you really spend time working through Harris' ideas and have students apply them to their own ideas, you can see real change in the way the think about their own writing and how they use other writers' work.
If you do want a textbook/reader that uses real academic writing, you might try _Writing about Writing_ by Wardle and Downs. The book makes writing/composition its subject and features scholarly writing from composition studies, as well as some student writing. I haven't used the book itself, but I have taken a similar approach to some of my classes, and it can work fantastically, especially when students feel empowered to contribute their own knowledge about what it means to be a student writer.
Look at some of the pieces published in Dissent magazine; especially the more popular culture-focused ones. My recent fave: "Cockblocked by Redistribution."
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