Bryant Girouard

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For decades, there has been debate over whether literature should or should not be included in freshman composition classes. This argument was most notably discussed by Erika Lindemann and Gary Tate. Lindemann’s article is “Freshman Composition: No Place for Literature” and Tate’s article is “A Place for Literature in Freshman Composition.”

The first side that will be discussed is Lindemann’s. Lindemann argues that freshman composition courses should not include literature for a variety of reasons: “First, literature-based courses, even most essay-based courses, focus on consuming texts, not producing them. The teacher talks 75 to 80 percent of the time” (313). She is arguing that if literature were to be included in the freshman composition course, it would dominate the curriculum when writing is supposed to be the main focus. Lindemann is also critical of literature-based essays. She says, “They rarely connect literature with life. If students get to write a paper or two, they must assume the disembodied voice of some abstruse journal as they analyze the ingrown toenail motif in Beowulf. Such assignments silence students’ voices in the conversation literature is intended to promote” (314). Lindemann wants courses solely based on writing because they allow students to write in their own voice, and that allows them to grow better as writers.

The other side of the argument is voiced by Gary Tate. Tate argues that literature should be included in freshman composition because “we have denied students who are seeking to improve their writing the benefits of reading an entire body of excellent writing” (317). Tate says that literature has been taken out of freshman composition classes by the “rhetoric police.” Rhetoric, he says, replaced literature with no debate, no fight by anyone to try and keep literature in freshman composition. Tate writes: “I certainly do not want to deny them the resources found in literary works, just as I do not want to deny them the resources found elsewhere. I do not advocate having students read only literary works. But they should not be denied that privilege altogether. They should be denied no resource that can help them” (321). Tate is simply suggesting that reading literature can help students learn to write better. He is not saying that a freshman composition course should be dominated by literature. According to Tate, literature has been misused by composition teachers. He concludes his article by saying, “What I am suggesting here is simply that it is time for us to adopt a far more generous vision of our discipline and its scope, a vision that excludes no texts. Only by doing this can we end the self-imposed censorship that for more than two decades has denied us the use of literature in our writing classes” (321).


  • Lindemann, Erika. “Freshman Composition: No Place for Literature.” College English, vol. 55, no. 3, 1993, pp. 311–16.
  • Tate, Gary. “A Place for Literature in Freshman Composition.” College English, vol. 55, no. 3, 1993, pp. 317–21.


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