Composition Theory Discussion Assigment



Author: Lex Runcimam

Essay Title: “Fun?”

MLA Citation: Runciman, Lex. “Fun?” College English 53.2 (1991): 156-62. Web.

Author: Kenneth Goldsmith

Essay Title: “It’s Not Plagiarism. In the Digital Age, It’s ‘Repurposing.”

MLA Citation: Goldsmith, Kenneth. “It’s Not Plagiarism. In the Digital Age, It’s ‘Repurposing.” The Chronicle Review. 2011. Web.

Quick Background & Context:

Is writing fun? Should we expect it to be? Runciman contemplates the odd pressures of the classroom in his article “Fun?”

He uses the example of the bright student who turns in the jumbled paper; of whether or not the act of enjoying writing is a necessary component to its validity, asking the reader questions such as: is this a prerequisite? What are the problems or benefits with reducing the act of writing into something similar to that of a “problem”? Is writing that complex? Is writing that easily simplified and/or relatable to something so similar to that of a math equation? In the second article, by Kenneth Goldsmith, the reader is asked even more complicated questions, such as: what is writing in the modern age? Is sampling the same as creation? Goldsmith goes on to argue how the digital age (today) brings up an entirely new set of questions relating to creativity and its importance/purpose.

Central Issue:

WHAT/WHO is the writer (artist)? What is their purpose, their right, their goal? How does creative enjoyment and originality help to validate or invalidate the role of writer? Both writers circle around nearly the same issues: are we merely machines spouting out repackaged or recycled knowledge, or do we have the right—the ability—to broach new ideas and concepts? Are there still beasts out there in need of taming, or have all the discoveries already been made? Is there fun still left to be had, then, in terms of creativity? Specifically, both articles deal, in their own unique ways, with the question of how we define art and originality in today’s world. Is to sample, to piece together things into something new, the same as/equal to the classic notion of “creation”?



“The prominent literary critic Marjorie Perloff has recently begun using the term “unoriginal genius” to describe this tendency emerging in literature. Her idea is that, because of changes brought on by technology and the Internet, our notion of the genius—a romantic, isolated figure—is outdated. An updated notion of genius would have to center around one’s mastery of information and its dissemination. Perloff has coined another term, “moving information,” to signify both the act of pushing language around as well as the act of being emotionally moved by that process. She posits that today’s writer resembles more a programmer than a tortured genius, brilliantly conceptualizing, constructing, executing, and maintaining a writing machine.”

“Over the past five years, we have seen a retyping of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road in its entirety, a page a day, every day, on a blog for a year; an appropriation of the complete text of a day’s copy of The New York Times published as a 900-page book; a list poem that is nothing more than reframing a listing of stores from a shopping-mall directory into a poetic form; an impoverished writer who has taken every credit-card application sent to him and bound them into an 800-page print-on-demand book so costly that he can’t afford a copy; a poet who has parsed the text of an entire 19th-century book on grammar according to its own methods, even down to the book’s index; a lawyer who re-presents the legal briefs of her day job as poetry in their entirety without changing a word; another writer who spends her days at the British Library copying down the first verse of Dante’s Inferno from every English translation that the library possesses, one after another, page after page, until she exhausts the library’s supply; a writing team that scoops status updates off social-networking sites and assigns them to the names of deceased writers (“Jonathan Swift has got tix to the Wranglers game tonight”), creating an epic, never-ending work of poetry that rewrites itself as frequently as Facebook pages are updated; and an entire movement of writing, called Flarf, that is based on grabbing the worst of Google search results: the more offensive, the more ridiculous, the more outrageous, the better.”

Outside Insight:

Joan Didion’s “Why I Write”

Discussion Questions:

  1. What role does “pleasure” play in writing/the writer’s work? Is this necessary for its validity? Is this something we should try to include in the teaching of “writing”? And if so, how is this possible and/or not feasible to the English comp classroom structure?
  1. Is the writer, at their core, required to create new material to be considered just that—a writer? What about the other forms of “writer” that Runciman includes? (essayist, article writer, etc…) And thinking on this: What do you think of Goldsmith’s theory of the “unoriginal genius”? How or how not does this apply to the very broad term of “the writer”?
  1. Why is this such an issue for writing, and not so much for the music industry? (Re: the sampling of melodies, for instance)?



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