Recently Jeff mentioned the need to move on from the term "composition." I’ve had some long term misgivings about rhetoric and composition, at least as those terms applied to the work that I do. Getting tenured means caring less about being on the periphery of a discipline, at least for me. Over time, reading more of the long history of work in rhetoric, I began to see myself more as a rhetorician.
However it is only recently that I’ve begun to think more interesting thoughts about the idea of composition. No doubt composition is a tired term ’round these parts. It has suffered from its prominent position in the FYC acronym. We’ve largely lost the association with composition in other media–music and the visual arts.
Composition as a term…
The word "term," of course, like "terminal" comes from the Latin terminus meaning "boundary," which makes more obvious sense when the word is used in a phrase like "term limits." Composition, then, occurs at the site of "terms." That is composition is more like an admixture than a synthesis. Discrete elements are linked. If you synthesize blue and yellow, you get a green canvas. If you compose with blue and yellow, you get…well you could get any number of blue and yellow "terms."
Jeff mentions the "network," and I can go with that. Networks that unfold rhizomatically, though often apprehended arboreally. Networks composed from terms that are media, information, thoughts, affects, virtual thoughts. Different material networks emerging/composing.
So composition as studying the terminal site/cite of the network’s emergence.
That said, maybe composition cannot be recovered, maybe it is too degraded. Or, on the other hand, perhaps it is not yet degraded enough. Perhaps it still remains too hot, too heavily marked by institutional striations.