Where Writing Begins: A Postmodern Reconstruction

Where Writing Begins: A Postmodern Reconstruction

Where Writing Begins: A Postmodern Reconstruction

Where Writing Begins: A Postmodern Reconstruction


A new understanding of writing based on reconstructive, postmodern thought Where Writing Begins: A Postmodern Reconstruction is an innovative approach to the postmodern dilemma in rhetoric and composition that offers a positive and postmodern pedagogy that redefines and revalues writing and the teaching of writing through reconstructive, postmodern thought. The result is a fresh understanding of both the field of composition and writing instruction. Drawing on the rich potential of "beginning" as a philosophical concept, Michael Carter asks the simple question: Where does writing begin? His findings take readers first to a new view of what it means to begin, and then to a new understanding of writing and teaching writing based on the redefined beginning. Challenging conventional notions that posit "beginning" as a chronological and temporal concept, he instead advocates an ontological and philosophical approach, in which "beginning" embodies both deconstruction and reconstruction--and the very possibility of newness. Adding to a growing body of rhetorical scholarship in postmodern reconstruction, Where Writing Begins illustrates that writing must be understood within the framework of deconstruction and reconstruction. Writing, then, may be newly defined and valued as beginning. Weaving together conceptual, structural, and methodological patterns, Carter's study is also a journey through the history of philosophy and rhetoric that will leave readers feeling refreshed and teachers eager to return to their classes.


Sidney I. Dobrin poses a critical question for the field of composition, one that is central to the field but one that we have tended to ignore: “[W]hat is writing?” (9). He says that in ignoring this question we have neglected what it is that defines us as a field, “the 'thingness' of writing, as an object of study in need of serious conception and re-conception” (8). For the first half of the forty-year history of composition, he points out, our focus was on how to teach writing, not on writing itself. Then came the theoretical turn, with its emphasis on writing as social, political, and cultural (re)production and its agenda of student empowerment. But Dobrin argues that this move from pedagogy to theory was not about theorizing writing itself but theorizing writing as something else, as social, as political, as cultural (2–5). If we are to claim writing as the center of what we do, he says, we need to theorize writing itself, “not a unified, conclusive theory of writing, but theories of writing that consider writing as writing” (9).

That's what this book aims to do. But how do we theorize writing itself? What questions can we ask that could lead us toward an understanding of writing, not writing as something else but writing as writing? Such a question must somehow direct our gaze upon “the 'thingness' of writing. ” It must disrupt our ruling assumptions about writing, allow us to see writing anew.

The question I ask here is, Where does writing begin?

There is something compelling about beginnings. It may be that the first philosophical question any of us utters is “Mommy, where did I come from?” To a parent, this question may seem uncomfortably pragmatic, but there is a deeper, ontological sense at work here, an understanding that I am and therefore I must have a beginning. Perhaps it was at the same stage in the development of humankind that we began to . . .

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