Lynch, Paul. “Composition’s New Thing: Bruno Latour and the Apocalyptic Turn.” College English. 74.5
• L. begins by recognizing that critical thinking – the panacea for apocopyticism in the discipline – is something akin to the revealing of false consciousness. It operates on “apocalyptic logic”; however, the presence of apocalyptic in the discipline (think of Zizek’s Life in the End Times or work by others on ecology) tends toward embracing the apocalyptic to combat it – turning against our putatively self-inflected “progress”. L. claims we need Bruno Latour in order to turn past the apocalyptic logic of critique toward an apocalyptic turn of responsibility.
• L. notes that apocalyptic logic often results in compositionists being what others have referred to as missionaries – scholars who can enlighten the uninitiated and train them in the art of intervention. Obviously, the analogues to critical pedagogy are to be expected. BUT, Lynch isn’t saying that apocalyptic logic is misguided or all bad; rather, it is a starting place – a prophetic place – that urges composition to confront and reckon with the world in which it lives.
• What is the job of the critical? L. notes: “The problem is not a close and careful reading itself; the problem is whether a close and careful reading must always be positioned to undermine the realities we see around us” (463).
• L. claims that his work with Bruno Latour extends composition beyond its familiar bounds to the “broadest possible” conception of composition that circumvents old choices (rhetoric vs. reality, style vs. substance, cave vs. sun) and, instead, we muddy the choices, making them more complex and inclusive rather than focused and exclusive (464).
• L. provides a close reading of Latour’s “Compositionist Manifesto” to highlight the heterogeneity of an apocalyptic logic, one that moves beyond the division of science and nature (among other binaries) that we find in The Politics of Nature toward a complex, interwoven tangle is issues not facts.
• L. notes that Latour argues that “composition” is a “putting with” that differs from disciplines such as biology or oceanography. These disciplines give worlds the capacity to write or speak whereas “composition” means giving our students worlds the capacity to write or speak – “to make their experience and their vision part of composition’s Thing” (468).
• Critique is an additive experience for L&L – not a reduction toward truth or justice. L. notes that adopting the post-critical project he describes “will require abandoning the apocalypse’s critical logic of ultimate revelation” (469). IOW, consensus isn’t the goal of composition; rather, the goal is an aggregation of so many points of view (both human and non-human) that the mess of reality debunks the ultimate revelation of truth.
• On pedagogy: L. suggests that we offer a “learning compact” rather than a pedagogical contract in our role as teachers. This position assumes that demoralization rather than disenchantment is the goal of teaching writing: from Burke’s notion of casuistic stretching (the adding of accounts while remaining faithful to/cognizant of previous accounts) / Latourian composition, students are led to demoralization – a state that is always beginning, starting over by taking into account more. This is antithetical to the paring/critique of disenchantment that works, ultimately, toward building a singular vision or truth through a process of deconstructionist critique.

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