Writing in the Devil's Tongue: A History of English Composition in China

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Until recently, American composition scholars have studied writing instruction mainly within the borders of their own nation, rarely considering English composition in the global context in which writing in English is increasingly taught.  Writing in the Devil’s Tongue challenges this anachronistic approach by examining the history of English composition instruction in an East Asian country. Author Xiaoye You offers scholars a chance to observe how a nation changed from monolingual writing practices to bilingual writing instruction in a school setting.          

You makes extensive use of archival sources to help trace bilingual writing instruction in China back to 1862, when English was first taught in government schools. Treating the Chinese pursuit of modernity as the overarching theme, he explores how the entry of Anglo-American rhetoric and composition challenged and altered the traditional monolithic practice of teaching Chinese writing in the Confucian spirit. The author focuses on four aspects of this history: the Chinese negotiation with Anglo-American rhetoric, their search for innovative approaches to instruction, students’ situated use of English writing, and local scholarship in English composition.  

Unlike previous composition histories, which have tended to focus on institutional, disciplinary, and pedagogical issues, Writing in the Devil’s Tongue brings students back to center stage by featuring several passages written by them in each chapter. These passages not only showcase rhetorical and linguistic features of their writings but also serve as representative anecdotes that reveal the complex ways in which students, responding to their situations, performed multivalent, intercultural discourses.  In addition, You moves out of the classroom and into the historical, cultural, and political contexts that shaped both Chinese writing and composing practices and the pedagogies that were adopted to teach English to Chinese in China.  Teachers, students, and scholars reading this book will learn a great deal about the political and cultural impact that teaching English composition has had in China and  about the ways in which Chinese writing and composition continues to be shaped by rich and diverse cultural traditions and political discourses.

In showcasing the Chinese struggle with teaching and practicing bilingual composition, Writing in the Devil’s Tongue alerts American writing scholars and teachers to an untimely English monolingual mentality and urges them to modify their rhetorical assumptions, pedagogical approaches, and writing practices in the age of globalization. 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780809329304
  • Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press
  • Publication date: 2/3/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Xiaoye You, an assistant professor of English at Penn State University, is a coeditor of The Politics of Second Language Writing: In Search of the Promised Land. He has published articles in CCC, Rhetoric Review, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, World Englishes,and Journal of Second Language Writing.

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Table of Contents

Preface xi

Introduction 1

1 Encountering The Devil's Writing, 1862-1918 14

Tong Wen Guan 15

Writing in Traditional Chinese Education 18

The Infiltration of Western Rhetoric 27

American Influences in English Composition 30

New Sensibilities in the Devil's Tongue 40

2 Writing and Decolonization, 1919-49 46

The New Culture Movement 47

Conflation of Rhetorical Traditions 49

Translation and English Writing 59

Public Speaking and Extracurricular Writing 62

Writing in a Gendered Voice 66

Writing as Anti-Imperialist Warfare 70

Localizing English Composition Pedagogy 72

3 Writing and The Proletarian Revolution 1950-76 78

The Decline of English Teaching 79

Old Practices and New Influences 81

Structural Linguistics and Writing 84

Chinese Proletarian Rhetoric 87

Writing in the Party Spirit 92

Writing in "Bastardized" English 97

English Pedagogy for Proletarian Revolution 100

4 Writing and The Four Modernizations, 1977-90 105

The Return of Anglo-American Teachers 106

The Marxist Style of Writing 109

Redefining English Composition 114

Teaching Writing to English Majors 118

Intensive Reading and Writing 122

Socialist Undertones in Student Writing 128

The Revival of English Writing Research 132

5 Writing and Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, 1991-2008 136

Education for a Market Economy 137

Creativity and Individuality in Chinese Composition 139

The College English Test 144

The "Five-Legged Essay" Paradigm 149

The Free Spirit of Student Writing 156

Writing Research with Chinese Characteristics 162

6 Writing in our Tongue 167

Redesigning English Literacy 167

A History of Writing in "Our" Tongue 171

Globalization and Composition Studies 175

Appendix A A Sketch of Rhetoric and English Composition Courses at Mission colleges, 1900-1950 183

Appendix B Sample Corrected Student Essays at Ginling College, 1923 193

Notes 197

Works Cited 209

Index 231

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