Freshman composition, the one course that virtually every college student must take, is peculiarly vulnerable to becoming a course in the politics of the instructor or, in the case of departmentally determined texts, the politics of the textbook committee. Composition is particularly open to such manipulation because, while students need something to write about, that subject matter is not necessarily intrinsic to the course as, for example, binary numbers are to a course in computer science. The most obvious source of subject matter for an English class, literature, is out of favor these days. “Readings” are in. When my department recently revised the syllabus for the composition sequence, literature-centered texts were no longer allowed. Thus, I found myself searching among the many anthologies of readings currently available for freshman classes. (I shall return to this distinction between literature and “readings” later.) There are...

 
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