Posted in CBW 2012, CCCC 2012, History of Basic Writing, Politics of Remediation, Scholarship of Basic Writing

W.7 Gathered at the Gate: Basic Writing in Evidence

Our first speaker this morning is Bruce Horner, University of Louisville, “Re-locating Basic Writing.”

Horner reviewed a familiar-sounding situation – the struggle in which we fight for the same things over and over – reframing this in light of Alistair Pennycook’s argument that every new iteration is changed by its location in time and place.

BW’s tradition refuses to settle for fixed ideas of who can be taught, and how. Rather than using the difficulty students have as a reason to cast them aside, we use the difficulty productively, as a site of for creating new knowledge about reading and writing.

Basic writers and their teachers and programs are always located ideologically on the periphery of institutions. Basic writing can be re-located at the leading edge, instead, since it calls assumptions into question and brings on new insights about literacy.

Horner described an “archipelago model” of languages and literacies in which different languages are seen as separate and stable. Pegagogies transmit these stable languages. This model overlooks the “traffic” among languages, literacies, and their users.

The “traffic model” takes into account location practices – what happens in time and place, by users of language, through engagement. Users adapt their practices according to their experiences in traffic. Our students are participants in the traffic. They are rewriting English and literacy practices themselves, and the basic writing course is a site in which English is reworked.

Pennycook’s term is “sedimentation” – to the extent that language consists of fixed forms, it’s the result of iterations practiced by language users, participating in “fertile mimesis.” Basic writers are engaged as agents in this process.

(This is my first try at doing this – trying to capture some key points, apologies for any errors as well as lack of overall coherence.)


Professor of English at College of DuPage. I teach writing: currently first-semester composition, developmental writing, and ALP co-req courses. Grateful for my union, the COD Faculty Association. My husband and I might be out riding our tandem bicycle right now... chances are good we're also going to a craft brewery. Having fun, getting older, and noticing that slowing down a little seems like a fine idea.

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