Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Some lines from Quentin Pierce's essay as quoted in David Bartholomac's book:

Man will not survive, he is [an]asshole
The stories in the books are mean[ing]less stories and I will not elaborate on them.

This paper is mean[ing]less. just like the book, but I know the paper will not make it.

I don't care.
I don't care.
about man and good and evil. I don't care about this shit. [F]uck this shit, trash and should be put in the trash can with this shit.

I lose again

These are quotes from David Bartholomae's book "The Tidy House Basic Writing in the American Curriculum" Macmillan: New York.

Quentin Pierce wrote these lines in a timed writing exam at the University of Pittsburgh. Of these lines Bartholomae says that they are crafted as a rebellious tirade against teachers from his past. According to Bartholomae, the rant has "skill and force," despite (or perhaps because of) the obscenities and the angry tone. In another context, Quentin's rant might be considered a great piece of radical poetry. But in the context of a placement exam, the text is considered "remedial" and not much more. Bartholomae's narrative is instructive on several levels. First, the extent to which the rhetorical situation of a placement exam fails to give basic writers any agency is striking. Because it is a situation that is usually decontextualized and fake, basic writers are not permitted to have any "voice" or authorial liberty. Normally, holistic graders pay lip service to their desire for original, risky writing. But writing that transgresses politically or stylistically, like Quentin's rant, is often punished with a low score and the transgressive student is disciplined with a low placement. Once again, the assessor has the power, and the student is the “other.”

In his essay Hands Up. You're Free, Thomas Rickert asks in an essay, "Who is Quentin? Where did he come from? What possessed him to write this piece? Bartholomae compares [Quentin's] lines to Leaves of Grass and Howl...

A careful reading of Quentin's paper shows that it disrupts the exchange circuit on which successful communication depends...Certainly it can be considered memorable and, for Bartholomae, even haunting...[For Quentin, attempts at communication result] in nihilism and daily humiliation. [He] knows all too well that "effective communication" is a trap for him; his defense is to relegate it all into meaninglessness...


  1. Rickert's essay can be found here for those who want to read it http://tinyurl.com/22v47gu

    Thanks for posting this K. I haven't read a good essay in a while.

    Diana aka Sael Palani

  2. Thanks...I think yours is my first comment...