Two Creative Writers Look Askance at Composition Studies (Crayon on Paper)
Joe Amato & Kass Fleisher
If what follows is likely to be met with knowing smiles by most of those creative writers willing to give it a go, it’s also the case that, as a matter both of form and content, it’s likely to please few composition scholars.
For us, this is cause for concern.
Writing in College Composition and Communication on “The Place of Creative Writing in Composition Studies,” Douglas Hesse attempts to bridge the famously contentious divide between the emphasis on poiesis, with its investment in craft, that so often animates the creative writing workshop, and the less aesthetically-driven concerns of composition studies, in which “the ends of poiesis pale against the serious cultural and political work that needs doing.” The linchpin of Hesse’s astute, historically-grounded argument turns out to be multimodality, and to judge by the growing volume of essays in print and online in which this term looms large, it would seem that composition studies is presently enjoying something of a multimodal second coming. As Hesse argues, the rise of multifarious digital fora means “writing will be made public” in myriad new ways:
Once upon a time, composition teachers could treat students as ultimately making practice texts to build skills for future writing, mainly in other courses and in jobs, because only the scantest few would ever actually “publish” beyond those sites, beyond the venerable “letter to the editor.” First desktop publishing, then Web 1.0, and now social networking have changed all that.
The essay reaches a climax of sorts when, having been invited by a colleague to attend a screening of videos produced by students for a first-year (piloted) writing course, Hesse asks, “Is this creative writing or composition?” In fact, Hesse makes it clear that he’d find “derelict” any instructor who “exclusively assigned projects like this one”—projects, that is, where writing is not the main attraction. But he concludes that to have students “make videos and subject them to the same reflective (and rhetorical) analyses” as written texts indeed qualifies such work as “enhanc[ing] their understanding of the spectrum of writing and composing.” Hesse’s final paragraph is worth quoting in full:
It remains to be seen whether “creative writing” will soon explore multimodality to the extent composition studies has, or whether many of its practitioners and apologists would see student videos as manifestations of “creative writing.” I hope it might because the new media offer a complex (if not altogether neutral) turf to which we might bring our different traditions, exploring more commonalities even as we respect our dissimilar orientations and aspirations. Failing that, though, I suggest that composition studies unilaterally explore the place of creative writing—of creative composing—in teaching, in scholarship, and in our expanded sense of ourselves as text makers.
If these few sentences (and Hesse’s stature in the composition community) are any indication, we might be witnessing a pivotal reconfiguration in composition studies in which the field at long last embraces fully its namesake, compose—etymologically, “to put, place”—in an effort to capture a broader range of textual putting and placing. And this it will do “failing” the participation of “creative writers” (our scare quotes now). Doubtless some writing classrooms and creative writing workshops already explore (and construct) multimodality, but Hesse is correct in suggesting that those that encourage the submission of video essays and the like are in the minority, just as creative writers who work in electronic literature are (still) in the minority. What we’d like to focus on, in any case, is why multimodality, as the new buzzword for new media, should become the “turf” to which creative writers are to migrate, traditions in hand, to see what composition studies has to offer them by way of “commonalities.”
Let us state the matter even more bluntly: why is it that the multimodal, understood largely in terms of distributed textuality—texts that can be distributed, that is, via information processing systems, with (at most) negligent material losses (apologies to you diehard print loyalists), including texts designed specifically for such environments—should serve as our new commons? Such texts include books, magazines, electronic literature, and now videos—the stuff produced, by and large, by aspiring knowledge workers (and their corresponding university departments).
Wait—we think we’ve answered this question in posing it, right? Why multimodality? Well, first and foremost, because it’s convenient. As hell. Distribution is a cinch. And since just about every knowledge worker today has built-in QWERTY know-how, and since most are at least casually versed in shooting video clips, it’s fair to say that not only is it convenient, but it’s generally easier—for the knowledge-working student, for the knowledge-working classroom, for the knowledge-working discipline—to accommodate distributed textuality of this sort than it is to contend with other kinds of expressive…texts.
What other kinds of texts? Well, the texts whose makers, if we must confess, we find ourselves gravitating toward more and more in recent years because their discourse, not to say lifeways, not to say accompanying rituals, speaks to us with more immediacy and implied kinship than does the discourse of composition theorists.
It must be remarked here that most of these makers suffer from a species of hallucination to which many writers too are prone: we believe that our work, while supported to varying degrees by academic institutions, is not as institutionally overdetermined as the work of scholars, largely because it’s not…scholarship. Given the decades-long drift in the arts toward the conceptual, and the improbability of a mass audience for most of our—books? texts? products? artifacts?—to claim that our writing is less moored to academe is…well, we’ve said it was a hallucination, right? At any rate, misery loves company, and so we bond over our shared sense that we don’t quite belong, never mind that Mark McGurl has done such a stellar job of illustrating the extent to which, misgivings or no, creative writers have managed to distinguish their respective writing programs.
It might seem that we’re about to launch into a Matthew Crawford-inspired paean to the wonders of skilled manual labor, of crafted beauty—we take Crawford’s phenomenological point, by the way, if not his macroeconomic one—but let us hastily add that the artists we so obliquely survey in the paragraph prior include those who work with multimodal text. At any rate, it’s the fine arts and the performing arts, and their permutations and combinations, we’re busy dancing around: painting, sculpture, music, theater, film, photography, architecture, textiles, and…dance. And what we want to know is, since most campuses boast some kind of fine arts presence, and since lack of ease or convenience is insufficient educational grounds on which to build a case against the more difficult and possibly necessary, why should English departments jump on the multimodal bandwagon, when they could just as well, if not just as easily, jump on the choral singing bandwagon, or the learn-how-to-draw bandwagon, all supplemented of course by a healthy dose of ABCs? For that matter, if we’re trying to avoid the jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none stigma—are we?‑—then going multimodal hardly seems the best curricular bet. Moreover, why should creative writers opt to trade in their mantle of writer for that of (compositional) composer when a somewhat more upmarket appellation awaits, that of—and we offer this with what we trust will appear renewed salience—literary artist?
Let’s back up the truck: from an educational standpoint, developing expert expertise is well and good, but it might be that the best way to cultivate it is to rethink entirely the individualistic, deep-focus approach to learning, replacing it with a collaboration-based model that would foster a more inquisitive approach to knowledge-making and encourage students to acquire a range of skills and aptitudes in completing their (eventually to be renamed) studies. The multimodal can certainly serve as a nexus for bringing together alphabetic, visual, and aural textuality, so it could at the very least represent a step in properly divergent direction(s). But there’s still the little matter of how these convergences are to be facilitated, especially in the midst of a once-and-future, overcrowded, underfunded public university system where traveling from an Ivy to a third-tier school can feel like a trip from the Earth to the Moon. (The dark side.)
We’ve commented elsewhere as to the often anemic grasp of (alphabetic) textuality that haunts composition studies as a discipline; we’ve also written at length as to the mutual benefits of bringing composition studies and creative writing into closer align. We will now observe, starchily, that to label a student who splices together video clips a “composer” might signal an equally anemic grasp of (let us just say) cinematic realities, and we conjecture thus despite the prevalence in our contemporary ferment of any number of amateur provocations—YouTube mashups, blogs, tweets, Facebook pokes and what not. (Hesse too expresses skepticism initially when he learns that first-year writing students who produce videos will be referred to as “filmmakers”). We say this might signal some variant of anemia because the only way to ascertain the value of such work would be to evaluate it, or at least, with due respect to Nietzsche, establish the basis of value as such.
And here is where matters become particularly muddy, because while Hesse would seem to lean his piece toward the advantages of engaging with “writing that does not ‘respond’ to a rhetorical situation”; and while he’s attentive to those putative differences in mindset between the academic and nonacademic writer articulated years ago in David Bartholomae and Peter Elbow’s now classic exchange; he would yet seem to endorse a highly domesticated view of creative writing, apropos, evidently, of higher ed imperatives. It might be untoward for the professoriate to gesture in the direction of the undomesticated, of course, given the fundamentally conservative nature of preserving knowledge and the increasingly corporatized contours of life across all curricula, and quintiles, but is capitulation our only option? “There are dimensions of entertainment, engagement, or simply how to pass time,” Hesse writes, “and within these are realms of self-sponsored writing and reading.” “Now, it might be that these are not the concerns of composition,” he continues, “that developing individuals or human potential or the life of the pen and pixel as well as the mind are aspirations of a more naive field.” A “more naive field”? This formulation of creative writing habitus, which presumably accounts for the “ludic or aesthetic enterprise” to which creative writers are committed, seems a long, long way from the “aspirations” of so many radical modernists, whose work, however naively, was often underwritten, as Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris so aptly put it, “by a drive toward social—even spiritual—transformation.” It seems a long, long way from a fully sensuous encounter with the objet. And it seems a long, long way even from the modest ambitions of more conventional scribes, who busy themselves crafting highly stylized literary work with the aim, simply, of delighting their readers. While such ambitions might speak to “the life of the pen and pixel as well as the mind,” they certainly exceed the casual competence implicit in “self-sponsored writing.”
Further, all but the most generic of genre writers might have second thoughts about Hesse’s smooth rhetorical slide over “entertainment,” that fraught catch-all of art and commerce; the soothing vibe of “engagement,” which is fine as far as it goes—we fall back on the word too as a catch-all for expressive aims—but only in its military sense invokes confrontation, transgression, or subversion; and the broadly therapeutic connotation of “developing individuals.” With due regard for the benefits of community building and without wishing to wax masculinist, this all sounds a mite nurturing, don’t it? And for Hesse to assign, however genially, “justice, sustainability, and care,” along with “work, school, and political action,” primarily to the domain of composition—to be fair, he would seem to be at some pains in situating these two triads—doesn’t leave creative writers, frankly, with all that much to do, at least as far as a bracing, socially responsible educational experience goes. Also, there is little attention given here to creative writing as either an alienated or unalienated form of academic labor, and at least one of us writing this sentence is currently experiencing no small degree of alienation as a contingent faculty member with no upward mobility in sight. (In our anecdotal opinion, creative writers are overrepresented among the contingent faculty ranks in literary studies. Not that we know what to make of this, exactly.) And finally, somebody will surely want to ask: Has talent really become a dirty word in English departments? Talent may be “cheap,” as both Robert Smithson and John Baldessari allege, but these days it is as dear as ever.
Faced with this attitude on the part of their colleagues in composition, then, many creative writers might justifiably demur, their resistance taking the form of that shared hallucination, as above, as they go about arguing their twice-told tale: that aesthetic value is hardly exhausted by such carefully pedigreed valuations. Not, mind you, that all would wish to see major trade successes—any marketplace aesthetic, assuming we could identify same—driving a discussion of aesthetic value. And not that some wouldn’t wish to return creative writing to the cozy confines of typewriter technology. But most would want to know—we would want to know—whether someone with expertise in English studies, whatever we mean by English studies, really does have the expertise to evaluate/value/revalue video as other than, say, visual rhetoric. Are English profs really qualified to lead a workshop on, let’s see, (visual) collage? (Johanna Drucker? OK. But she doesn’t work in an English department.) Or, to take a more topical and seemingly innocuous example, a workshop on graphic narrative? (Hillary Chute? OK. And she does work in an English department.) It should go without saying (and without alluding to Ayn Rand) that writing about modernist architecture, or incorporating a reflection on modernist architecture into one’s short fiction, is hardly tantamount to doing architectural design (and no need to privilege one activity over the other).
Now we’re the ones sounding like Jakobson when confronted with the prospect of Nabokov being granted a chair in literature at Harvard, right? If creative writers do what they know and do it expertly—are expert at their craft, that is—it isn’t necessarily the case that they need know what they do, is it? This is complicated by the simple fact that writers are, in many ways, autodidacts when it comes to their subject matter, and in that sense very much generalists. At the same time and with due respect for the mysteries of creativity and all that—there is mounting evidence that it can be taught, or at least, learned—knowing what one does is assuredly one of the more instrumental requirements of teaching something, yes? So isn’t it at least possible that someone whose professional background has little to do with creating video, who isn’t especially expert at creating video, might have a knack for teaching students how to create outstanding video? Isn’t a good teacher, first and foremost, a good teacher? Or is the latter yet another instance of creeping privatization, here via transmutation of the corporate adage, “a good manager can manage anything”?—which notion has, to be fair, come in for some critique in recent years. And while we’re at it: is teaching/learning how to write well an inherently more difficult endeavor than teaching/learning how to compose video well? Emphasis on well. And if you answer in the affirmative, we suspect there are many elephants—Jean-Luc, Haskell, Werner, Errol, and Agnès among them—who might disagree.
Even if we allow, then, that teachers, rather like coaches, need not themselves be expert at making what they ask their students to make, in any case, we’d have sidestepped the little matter, again, of why video has become the go-to medium. Why not ceramics? Or gouache? Why not violin? Or wood? Wait, we’ve got it: origami. Any takers? Or how about a poem?
A poem: it might irritate creative writers—as it would irritate us—to witness their colleagues in English studies, smartphones in hand, leapfrogging over the massive body of theory and practice that informs this genre of least constraint. You want to construct a multimodal text? OK. But first we’d like you to prove that you know what’s at stake in a line break. We too would like to crank open scholarly discourse to include the multimodal, to dislodge the research paper and the conventionally defined essay as the chief modes of scholarly production. But we would argue that this is best accomplished side-by-side with a renewed understanding of, and appreciation for, writing genres generally. These are, after all, the focus of our English studies expertise. Otherwise, student video essays are likely to reproduce in images the kinds of thought processes (speaking loosely) that guide conventionally defined essays. Either that or we’ll find the formal attributes of conventional Hollywood cinema or network television unwittingly transposed into video format. Simply put, critical reflection requires more, even if one begins with mimicry. We grant that the prospect of making video essays tends to excite today’s students, much as Glenn Ford found, at the dawn of the rock era, that cartoons excited his street kids in Blackboard Jungle. But let’s not kid ourselves as to what is actually being made.
And even if the selection of genre or medium or cultural form is made a matter of (manual) ease and (distributed) convenience, who is to evaluate the degree to which such artifacts are successful, and how is evaluation to proceed? If we’re not evaluating writing, then on what do we predicate our evaluative expertise? The fact that we all watch a lot of movies, that we all spend a lot of time in front of multiple screens? Or is critical evaluation of the sort we have in mind—in essence, judgment rooted in valuations of the aesthetic—not simply provisional and contingent, but beside the point?
We submit that we find all of this deeply troubling, and while it may yet be the case that neuroscience research, for example, will reveal that reading and writing have all to do with how our brains function—hence, one would hope, providing further evidence that literary work can be vital both culturally and cognitively—at present we see a rapprochement between (creative) writers and, we take it, (creative) composers less than likely.
So perhaps we need to start talking about biparti—oops, inter- and intradisciplinary incentives. We might want, for instance, to take issue with the late Wendy Bishop’s claim that it is owing to an “elitist literary aesthetics” that “the creative writer’s version of creative nonfiction is undertheorized.” For one, that word, elitist, has been used far too often as a wedge in our exchanges, and now might be a good time to recuperate the “best or most skilled” from those other, less flattering uses of elite that denote “superior intellectual, social, or economic status.” Of course, there’s no free lunch in doing so, as “the best” opens the door to those thorny issues of judgment and taste. Perhaps Philippe de Montebello’s notion of “democratic elitism” might come in handy, or might come in for a beating à la Bourdieu? Either way, he did an estimable job, by most accounts, during his three-decade-long tenure at the Met.
And why is it, anyway, that “undertheorized” invariably points to a particular domain of theory (literature, composition) and away from the sort of theorizing one finds in fine arts departments? Most contemporary artists have been attentive to that “drift…toward the conceptual” referred to above, hence are already predisposed to theoretical critique. Compositionists might want to take a closer look at what goes on in the galleries across the quad. For that matter, those aforementioned “conventional scribes” would do well to recognize that literary art is not immune to theory; too often what passes for insight among such writers is a kind of watered-down craftspeak. The arts generally would seem to be more responsive than English studies to the formal demands of making as such, and to process in all of its manifestations, and somewhat less fascinated with the sort of attenuating critical abstraction that treats all artwork as merely symptom.
There is so much here to consider. What about beauty, for instance? It’s simply not clear to us that critical pedagogues—or any instructors, for that matter—ought to dispense entirely with the concept. Whatever its problems, beauty provides conceptual entrée for interrogating the affective qualities of art, and students, like most people, would do well to examine the pragmatic consequences of the beautiful without shying away from the spirited exchanges that often ensue when we assert what we find beautiful, and why. That beauty has achieved endangered species status in many if not most undergraduate English classrooms, Dave Hickey’s popularity notwithstanding, is already a sign, in our view, that something has gone seriously awry.
We only wish the disciplinary times could accommodate regular exchange among disciplinary cohorts. And we only wish we could be more resolute here, at essay’s end. Our sense is that composition practitioners may need to take a little more care in dismissing out of hand those aspects of art that are difficult to recuperate either under the sign of technique or reception, while literary artists may need to get down a bit with the theory mavens and take more responsibility for their effusions. Still, it’s a bit late in the postsecondary day to be positing such attitudinal changes, especially given the job market, the rise of contingent labor, casualization, and on and on. With both parties time and again having gotten off on the wrong foot, it’s difficult to say which foot the shoe is now on, as faculty seem more than willing to go their separate ways, if only to conserve precious resources of time, attention, and capital. In fact it might prove necessary for creative writing and composition to go their separate ways—along with the literature wing of English departments (which wing has less and less to do, as we see it, with the making of literature, multimodal or otherwise)—for reasons of time, attention, and capital, and in light of the retrenchment and ideological gridlock we see in most directions we turn. To be fair, the parlous political and economic circumstances here in the US and abroad—despite the renewed sense of hope many of us feel in the wake of the recent election—might be altering our view in unhelpful ways. At any rate we’re not sure what’s to be done about these—here is our less sanguine appraisal—depredations upon the creative, in or out of the classroom, even while we remain hopeful that what we’re dealing with, ultimately, is an endlessly renewable resource.
 Douglas Hesse, “The Place of Creative Writing in Composition Studies,” College Composition and Communication, 62.1 (2010), 31-52.
 Ibid., 42. Let us acknowledge at the outset that our essay is rooted in a perennially contentious US ferment in which English departments are customarily divvied up into (generally three but often more) wings, if you will: literary studies (which typically includes theory and criticism), composition (rhetoric, professional and technical writing, writing studies), and creative writing. (Fields like linguistics, TESOL, and publishing, if present, enjoy varying degrees of autonomy within this tripartite arrangement. Note that for our purposes, we’ll treat composition and rhetoric as a conjoined enterprise; such is not always the case, and it’s not unusual to find working differences between these two fields insofar as the status of aesthetic inquiry and, in particular, the relative value of rhetoric and poetics.) Paul Dawson has attempted to show how these divides, or at least creative writing and literary studies, might be better navigated—whether here in the US, in England, or in Australia—by a dialogic turn toward what he calls “sociological poetics,” the better to energize public intellectual practice. We feel that this emphasis on social (in addition to aesthetic) discourse, apropos of any institutional agenda, does not adequately address the stubborn realities of the classroom, for one, and in particular, the issue of classroom authority (which is another way of saying that Dawson is weak on pedagogy); and more to the point, Dawson pays scant attention to composition studies here in the US and to the vast amount of research stemming therefrom that has been directed toward the teaching of creative writing. Full disclosure: we believe this is one reason why Dawson finds our earlier piece on creative writing pedagogy (“Reforming Creative Writing Pedagogy”) a “shambolic and meandering analysis” (172), albeit we grant that it is meandering. See Paul Dawson, Creative Writing and the New Humanities (New York: Routledge, 2005). For a nice survey of the profession of English studies in the US (along with a more positive appraisal, by Katharine Haake, of our earlier shambolic and meandering effort), see Bruce McComiskey, ed., English Studies: An Introduction the the Discipline(s) (Urbana, IL: NCTE P, 2006). And for a helpful compendium of essays on creative writing with contributions both from composition theorists and writers, see Wendy Bishop and Hans Ostrum, eds., Colors of a Different Horse: Rethinking Creative Writing Theory and Pedagogy (Urbana, IL: NCTE P, 1994).
 Pamela Takayoshi, “Thinking about Multimodality,” Multimodal Composition: Resources for Teachers, ed. Cynthia L. Selfe (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton P, 2007), 1-16. Selfe and Takayoshi define multimodal writing as texts that “exceed the alphabetic and may include still and moving images, animations, color, words, music and sound” (1). The term has been popular in comp circles for the better part of a decade, even if those writing technologies and literacies now grouped under it have been around much longer, especially under the aegis of artistic artifact (think Beats).
 Ibid., 45.
 Ibid., 49.
 Ibid., 49-50 (author’s emphasis).
 Even during the early days of the Web, some theorists of electronic lit were comfortable using “composers” instead of writers. See e.g. Espen J. Aarseth, “Nonlinearity and Literary Theory,” Hyper/Text/Theory. Ed. George Landow (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1994), 51-86. And then of course, there’s the question of how writing as an art form might be reconceived in light of things digital. For an expansive—perhaps too expansive—anthology of what its editors call “conceptual writing,” a term that has provoked some controversy as to the proper approach to poetic making, see Craig Dworkin and Kenneth Goldsmith, eds., Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (Evanston, IL: Northeastern UP, 2010).
 See Robert Austin, “Managing Knowledge Workers,” Science 21 July 2006. http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2006_07_21/nodoi.17380138774649799586.
“So casually is the expression ‘knowledge work’ used that its meaning has become vague. In management research, we’ve tended to define it as work in which value is created primarily through manipulation of ideas or symbols, and which occurs primarily in intellectual domains. By this definition, there’s nothing new about knowledge work. It’s been the main activity of academic institutions for hundreds (maybe thousands) of years. What’s new is the degree to which it has ventured outside academia, into industry and other major institutions.”
 See D. G. Myers, The Elephants Teach: Creative Writing Since 1880 (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1996, 2006). Myers has shown how divergence of the “constructive, developmental, and professional aspects” of college-level writing instruction prefaced creative writing’s emergence as a professional, and not simply expressive, pursuit (61). And apropos of the digital, Matthew G. Kirschenbaum details the many reasons why digital humanities has found a comfy home in English departments, beginning with the fact that “text has been by far the most tractable data type for computers to manipulate” (60), from which follow the history of computers and composition, digital archiving and editing, new platforms for critical synthesis, data mining, and so much more. See “What Is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in English Departments?” ADE Bulletin 150 (2010): 55-61.
 Mark McGurl, The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2009). McGurl details how the last six decades of academic creative writing in the US have contributed to what he calls “systematic creativity”; in particular, the production and dissemination of a wide range of influential works of fiction. It is in understanding the creative writing curriculum as shaping the very contours of such fiction that McGurl’s work yields startling insights both into the literature itself, its generative loci and effects, and into the writing workshops out of which it arises.
 Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work (New York: Penguin, 2009).
 We have in mind here Ken Robinson’s (now animated) crib, “Changing Education Paradigms,” Cognitive Media, 2010. http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_changing_education_paradigms.html.
 Amato, Joe, and Kass Fleisher. “Reforming Creative Writing Pedagogy: History as Knowledge, Knowledge as Activism.” Electronic Book Review 12 (Summer 2001). http://www.altx.com/ebr/riposte/rip2/rip2ped/amato.htm.
 As of this writing, discourse surrounding the exponential growth of the online world, and social media in particular, is positively bipolar. Is it an E pluribus unum melting pot, or a site for global Balkanization, and in either case, should this be cause for celebration or alarm? As we’ve experienced goods and bads emerging both from wholeness and from fragmentation, we’ll refrain from citing the spate of recent texts whose authors seem compelled to take sides.
 Hesse, “The Place of Creative Writing,” 49.
 There’s a related history at stake here too, as detailed by Howard Singerman: “The origin of creative writing as a humanist practice—as both a critique and a continuation of the academic English department—situates the program in English and in the general college. In contrast, film history and theory, commonly housed in English or comparative literature departments, remain separate from filmmaking in schools of art or communication or film. A similar division takes place in theater studies, where the practice of theater and its history belong to the school of drama and its scripts to English or comp lit. The separate MFAs in acting, lighting, set design, screenwriting, and costume design offered in theater and film are specifically craft-based and professionally oriented, repeating the skilled divisions of production established by guild organizations and professional practices” (195-6). See Art Subjects: Making Artists in the American University (Berkeley: U of California P, 1999). We would add only that local (institutional) histories don’t always align with national trends.
 Hesse, “The Place of Creative Writing,” 43.
 David Bartholomae, “Writing with Teachers: A Conversation with Peter Elbow,” College Composition and Communication, 46.1 (1995), 62-71.
 Hesse, “The Place of Creative Writing,” 47.
 Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris, eds., “From Fin-de-Siècle to Negritude,” Poems for the Millennium: The University of California Book of Modern and Postmodern Poetry, Vol. One (Berkeley: U of California P, 1995), 9.
 Hesse, “The Place of Creative Writing,” 47.
 Baldessari is quoted in Howard Singerman, “The Myth of Criticism in the 1980s,” X-TRA 8.1 (Fall 2005). http://x-traonline.org/issues/volume-8/number-1/the-myth-of-criticism-in-the-1980s/. Smithson is quoted in Jed Rasula, “Heeding the Heedless Sublime,” OmniVerse 33 (2013). http://omniverse.us/jed-rasula-heeding-the-heedless-sublime/. It’s doubtless the case that the proclamations and manifestoes associated with what Thomas McEvilley identifies as the “anti-art” movements of the twentieth century, with which our own creative efforts are easily aligned, have brought us to where we are today. Whatever one makes of the status today of aesthetic discrimination or expertise, McEvilley’s concluding provocation is helpful: “Has anti-art triumphed in that it produced major social changes? The answer seems to be no. Second, has anti-art worked effectively through the superstructure to produce some shift toward greater sanity in the bourgeois mind that might someday with good luck contribute to significant social improvements? The jury’s out.” See Thomas McEvilley, The Triumph of Anti-Art: Conceptual and Performance Art in the Formation of Post-Modernism (Kingston, NY: McPherson & Co., 2005), 351-2. Finally, Peter Plagens helpfully explains how an emphasis on talent in an art school setting might be viewed as undesirable because, among other things, it threatens to lower enrollment levels. Peter Plagans, “Remember Talent? Does It Still Matter in Art Education?” The Chronicle of Higher Education 8 July 2013. http://chronicle.com/article/Remember-Talent-Does-It-Still/140115/?cid=cr&utm_source= cr&utm_medium=en.
 Sianne Ngai’s inquiry into the zany, cute, and interesting rather undercuts such an agenda anyway. See Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2012).
 See Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, “The Creativity Crisis.” Newsweek 10 July 2010. http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/07/10/the-creativity-crisis.html. Granted, all such accounts ought to be taken with a grain of salt, as so many factors are entailed in simply establishing what we mean by “creativity.”
 See e.g. Robert Finn, “MBA Programs Expand Career Prospects For Cross-Trained Scientists,” The Scientist 9.13 (26 June 1995), 14. By the by, Donna Strickland has of late published a book that unpacks the managerial imperatives underwriting the history of composition studies. See The Managerial Unconscious in the History of Composition Studies (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 2011). We can’t wait to read it.
 Naturally, we wouldn’t want our remarks here to be seen as an attempt to curtail narrative possibility, and in particular, to foreclose on the blurring of fact and fiction so prevalent in today’s (pseudo-, crypto-, mock-) documentary films, as problematized, for instance, by A. O. Scott. See “How Real Does It Feel?” The New York Times Magazine 9 Dec. 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/12/magazine/12Reality-t.html?pagewanted=all. Let a million flowers bloom, or seven-going-on-ten billion. But the public’s seemingly frenzied appetite for everything-goes cinema still raises the specter, at the very least, of student filmmakers who mistake an apparent freedom from (technical, improvisational, or content-specific) constraint for the inherent superiority of anything-goes expression.
 As Manohla Dargis has observed in a related vein, “Hollywood fed off the avant-garde while Hollywood, in the memorable phrase of the theorist Paul Arthur, became ‘the animating skeleton in the avant-garde film closet.’” See “Laboring in the Shadow of Hollywood,” The New York Times 4 Nov. 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/movies/avant-garde-cinema-ran-parallel-to-hollywood.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.
 See Nicholas Delbanco, The Sincerest Form: Writing Fiction by Imitation (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004).
 Caleb Crain, “Twilight of the Books,” The New Yorker 24 & 31: 134-9.
 Wendy Bishop and Hans Ostrum, eds., Colors of a Different Horse: Rethinking Creative Writing Theory and Pedagogy (Urbana, IL: NCTE P, 1994).
 For a brilliant and historically astute analysis of how leftist aversion to expert knowledge has inadvertently served populist and anti-intellectual educational and social agenda, see Catherine Liu’s American Idyll: Academic Antielitism as Cultural Critique (Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2011).
 For one such account, see Heather Mac Donald, “The Met’s Triumphant Democratic Elitism,” City Journal (Winter 2001). http://www.city-journal.org/html/11_1_urbanities-the_mets.html.
 Of course, from one perspective, art is symptomatic. One can detect here perhaps the inklings of a screed on the social function of aesthetic/literary work, a function that ought to be understood as moving beyond knowledge production and ideologically-induced “structures of feeling” to cope squarely with ethical and even civil quandaries, in particular the role of agency in the midst of competing notions of contemporary authorship (solitary, collaborative, collective, anonymous, etc.). For us, the aesthetic cuts far deeper than issues of style might suggest. For corresponding “demo tracks,” see Joe Amato, Industrial Poetics: Demo Tracks for a Mobile Culture (Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2006).
 See e.g. Dave Hickey, Air Guitar: Essays on Art & Democracy (Los Angeles: Art Issues P, 1997). For a nice compendium of essays that critique and elaborate on beauty and its discontents, see if you can get your hands on a copy of Andrew Levy and Robert Harrison, eds., Crayon 5 (2008; distributed by Small Press Distribution).
 Of the many (polemical) books and articles addressing various facets of our once and future academic trauma here in the US, Mark Bousquet’s How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation (New York: New York UP, 2008) is one of the best for getting a handle on the labor issues and how these can be understood as symptoms of the US service economy. While we don’t agree with all of Bousquet’s urgings, his heart and head are surely in the right place.
 Beginning with The Rise and Fall of English (New Haven: Yale UP, 1999), Robert Scholes has pinpointed the disciplinary problems associated with positioning literature as the central preoccupation of (US) English departments. In Scholes’s recent English after the Fall: From Literature to Textuality (Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2011), he argues that English departments should divest themselves of their preoccupation with literature per se and focus on the rhetorical study of textuality generally in order to embrace a broader and presumably more relevant range of cultural artifacts. It’s worth noting that Scholes pays scant attention to creative writing as a disciplinary practice, and in particular, to its departure from the expository norms of scholarship. He would include the pleasurable powers of opera, for instance, in his renewed English department configuration. Very well then. Does this represent a substantive departure from English studies SOP? English scholars can bring anything they wish under their scholarly gaze, and in the past three or four decades, especially with the advent of cultural studies, just about everything has been up for grabs. For that matter, they’ve proven themselves awfully fickle when it comes to those things they have brought under their gaze. Just spend a little time talking with poets, who have looked on helplessly as poetry has waned to coterie status in most English departments, a development that Jed Rasula detailed in The American Poetry Wax Museum: Reality Effects, 1940-1990 (Urbana, IL: NCTE P, 1996). On the fiction side, and in light of the “slow death of bookstores and the publishing industry,” Curtis White is far from sanguine about literature’s digital future, “damned” as it is in any case; see “The Latest Word,” Electronic Book Review, 14 April 2012. http://www.electronicbookreview.com/thread/fictionspresent/latest. And while Toby Miller’s championing of a renewed media and publishing-savvy humanities curriculum as against an old hermeneutic guard may be on point, as far as it goes, it remains decidedly unclear how a curricular turn to multimodality or poiesis can, in themselves, revitalize our troubled profession; and we say this despite the fact that we’ve been busy here making the case against the former to the extent that it comprises a facile apprehension of the latter. See Toby Miller, Blow Up the Humanities (Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2012). One thing is certain: the world has gone, and will continue to go, digital, and whatever we do, we need to start where we find ourselves.
 Hesse too suggests as much when he writes, with justifiable ambivalence, that “[f]rom a disciplinary perspective, it might seem best to have composition and creative writing continue to fork their separate paths.” See Hesse, “The Place of Creative Writing,” 42.
 A special note of thanks to Douglas Hesse, our former colleague at Illinois State University, for his gracious response to our concerns. See Hesse, “Response to Clyde Moneyhun.” College Composition and Communication 63.3 (Feb. 2012): 524-27.
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