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Composition and Sustainability: Teaching for a Threatened Generation

National Council of Teachers of English Press, 2001

While sustainability—meeting today’s needs without jeopardizing the interests of future generations—has become a dominating force in a range of disciplines, it has yet to play a substantive role in English studies. In this book I argued that, in light of worsening environmental crises and accelerating social injustices, we need to use sustainability as a way to structure courses and curricula, and that composition studies, with its inherent cross-disciplinarity and its unique function in students’ academic lives, can play a key role in giving sustainability a central place in students’ thinking and in the curriculum as a whole.

I tried to articulate a pedagogy that might give students opportunities to think and write in three zones of inquiry: place, work, and future. This approach allowed for the creation of a variegated course in which students wrote neighborhood portraits, critiqued their work experiences, reflected on their majors, investigated alternative theories of education, composed oral histories, constructed narratives about their futures, and designed their own assignments—all from the implicit perspective of sustainability. In the book I juxtaposed their insights with observations from scholars writing aboutn architecture, ecological economics, future studies, planning, sociology, sustainable business, and urban studies.

The appendixes include a handful of nvironmental statistics, as well as a detailed description of a composition course I once taught.


Refiguring English Studies series, NCTE Press. 259 pp. 2001.. ISBN 10: 0-8141-0037-6; ISBN 13: 978-0-8141-0037-0.