Here's some brief snippets from Richard Lanham's 1974 Style: An Anti-Textbook. 30 years old, Lanham's scathing assessment on the academic and public valuing of prose style perhaps rings more true today than at the time of its publication (during the "birth" of R/C). I say "perhaps" because, as Lanham's more recent publications suggest, the development of new media and digital communication suggest possibilities for reinvesting a wider interest in elements of style. Reconfiguration generates new ways of seeing [appreciating].
On Why Freshman Composition courses are destined to fail:
The usual Freshman Composition course takes as its subject something called (old-fashion) Rhetoric or (new-fashion) Basic Communication Skills. New or old, it is basically the medieval trivium, or first arts course, a progress of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. The medieval student spent all his time on these three until he got is B.A.. Students now get ten [or sixteen] weeks. (10)
On a cultural aversion to revision/artistry as feminine or superficial [irony alert]:
Only a child would do this. What's the point in spending a lot of time prettying things up? The thought is what counts. Style is for English teachers and editors. To be interested in it, especially for a man, is like being interested in furnishing his house--women's work.
On the social criticism of writing, good and bad:
Good prose does not come from a one-time inoculation. It has to be sustained by the standards of a society, by that society's sense of style. It has to be encouraged, appreciated, rewarded. Its countervailing ugliness has to be mocked. None of this now happens in America.
I am thinking particularly of this last point after my upper-division writing classes' previous workshops. In short (and I have a post on this coming), I had the class look at the first sentences to all of the posts written during the previous week (about 40 in total). Out of the 40, I would say about 32 of them were terrible. And I told my students this explicitly--that I was holding the first sentences workshop because these sentences were terrible. One student, a budding future English teacher, suggested that this was not good pedagogical practice (as did one of my colleagues). But I am calling Lanham to my defense--don't I, as a writing instructor--have to blame as well as praise? Doesn't my honest assessment lend more value to my feedback? Because I can say that, after the workshop, the amended first sentences I saw displayed far more sophistication. (Here again I nod to my own personal pedagogical narrative, my ties to Dr. David Zern's emphasis on disequilibrium culled from Freudian psychoanalysis-- although this time I am clearly back in the mode of making my students uncomfortable).
On another note, more and more watching Project Runway influences my teaching persona.