A Journal of Rhetoric, Writing, and Culture

Foreword: Neo-Expressivisms

Byron Hawk, University of South Carolina

Enculturation: http://enculturation.net/neo-expressivisms-forward
(Published: May 16, 2012)

This cluster began as a special issue on “Neo-Expressivism.” The three essays collected here survived the long trek through two guest editors, a change in journal editors, and a number of invitations to revisit the works. The impetus for the project was a series of responses in the 1990s to the image of expressivism that had become dominant in the field. The turn to social-epistemic pedagogies and theories distinguished itself from what James Zebroski has described as the “expressivist menace,” a caricature of much of the early work done in composition as emphasizing the personal and individual and positing the origin of expression in the genius mind. For better or worse, our maps of the discipline encouraged us to think that, if we agreed with the social, we must dismiss the alternatives. The 1990s saw scholars such as Sherrie Gradin and Karen Paley, among many others, question this caricature and the strong division between the self and the social. By the 2000s, expressivism began to be rearticulated through expressionism, which extends expression beyond a human mind to human bodies, material forces, and complex ecologies. The “Neo” in the title of this cluster locates itself in these reassessments and rearticulations.

Each essay engages a particular thinker from this perspective. Williams's piece is a reflection on his experience with Donald Murray and a call to (re)read and engage with his work. Murray’s work problematizes pejorative uses of the term “expressivism” and shows a deep concern with engagements among personal experience, the social and cultural, and the practices of writing. Similarly, Kameen calls for a rereading or continued engagement with Coleridge, who, like Murray, has been a key figure in the caricature of the term “expressivism.” Rather than recoup a form of Romanticism, Kameen mines Coleridge’s works on method to develop alternative conceptions of time in relation to pedagogy. Such a position problematizes a linear model of past, present, and future that tends to ground critique and moves towards a more complex expression of time and the way time itself expresses. Finally, Hilst extends expressivism to the work of Gilles Deleuze. Rather than confine expression to humans, Deleuze links it to becoming writ-large: “To be” Deleuze writes, “is to express oneself, to express something else, or to be expressed.” This position sees expression and invention not simply in an individual self, or even in the articulation between a self and an other, but also as a function of the world itself. The goal of writing, then, is not to reveal or discover a true self, but to see what emerges, what might be trying to express itself through and with the human bodies that engage language and the world.

Meditation and Method: Reflections on the Relationship Between Discourse and Time
Paul Kameen, University of Pittsburgh

Dancing with Don: Or, Waltzing With ‘Expressivism’
Bronwyn Williams, University of Louisville

Deleuze: (Neo)Expressivism in Composition
Joshua Hilst, Utah Valley State University