In Haynes essay, she urges instructors and scholars to consider moving away from the “coastline” of composition in favor of abstraction and “unbuilding.” Incorporating her work with Sirc’s, Haynes responds to the continued outcry of dissatisfaction felt by those teaching and taking first-year composition, and reaches toward Sirc’s notion of “an idea of writing that fully reflects the splendor of the medium.” To this end, I found Haynes sections, What Should Not Be Built and Writing Nomadically fascinating studies of the ways in which the spaces we occupy affect our instruction and our approaches to learning.
Although I am not teaching this semester, I found Haynes work to be incredibly relevant to my studies, and my primary concentration in spatial theory. Much in the same way Sirc draws upon innovative artists, musicians, theorists, and architects, Haynes uses specific examples of memorials and parks to focus on the importance of movement and (more importantly) new orientations and interactions in these academic and worldly spaces. She asks, “[w]hat would an architecture of such trajectories and movements look like?” (Haynes 686). What immediately came to mind as I read these sections was Franco Moretti’s groundbreaking book Graphs, Maps, and Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History. He too responds to the struggle to orient literature and composition in the “rhetoric of the unbuilt,” as Haynes identifies the space (688). On a basic level, what Haynes proposes throughout her texts is a method for mapping the complex trajectories of composition as it develops alongside the surrounding environment (politically, socially, structurally, etc.) to better aid students, instructors, and scholars. In this sense, she confirms a shared responsibility and growth between composition and the spaces it occupies. Much in the same way, Moretti offers an alternative to approaching the reading, writing, and instruction of literary texts.
As spatial theory has moved from the social sciences into the humanities, compositions can now be understood “not just as story-delivering tools, but as ways of examining, representing, and changing the world,” (Moretti 25). This still-developing framework has close ties to a composition’s architectural, geographical, and mental domains which affect author, reader, and critic alike. In other words, a spatial approach recognizes the transgressive nature of literary spaces, which crosses and often reestablishes the preexisting cultural norms. The language that Haynes uses to describe the abstraction necessary for more successful composition courses can be perfectly situated within spatial theory and used to better understand her ideas for improving composition and composition theory.
What I found most impressive about Writing Offshore is the many ways in which Haynes seamlessly overlaps with other scholars and theorists like Sirc, Moretti, Heidegger, etc. to both bolster her argument and create a sense of continuity. Her methods for improving upon composition theory has far-reaching aims, and so Haynes accordingly pulls from various experts to confirm a lasting sense of dissatisfaction with composition instruction. To an early-career scholar such as myself, it’s a relief to see an experienced scholar still grappling with these complex issues of abstraction in the midst of instruction, and her attempts to “bridge the expanse between reason and refuge” (Haynes 695). I’m looking forward to asking Haynes how she straddles these two ideas—one romantic and one practical—in theory and in practice.