Orr, Stanley

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    Mysteries of Oahu: Local Detective Fiction in the Composition Classroom
    (McFarland & Company, 2009) Orr, Stanley
    The question of appropriate subject matter has always vexed composition instruction. Even as many have argued for the transformative power of reading literary texts in the writing classroom, critics warn that such material may dominate the course and impair the focus on basic skills. Still others champion mass and popular culture as the best way to engage student writers; as Marjorie Smelstor and Carol Weiher have it, “There is no shortage of discussion or complaints that T don’t know what to write about’ when popular culture is the vehicle for teaching composition” (42). Smelstor and Weiher suggest attention to popular genres such as the detective story, as do other commentators such as Veleda Boyd and Marilyn Robitaille. At least one instructor, Robert Georgalas, describes a composition course that revolves entirely “around authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett and others.” In teaching several sections of the “Writing Skills” course at the University of Hawa’i, West Oahu, I find that a tandem emphasis upon mystery and local setting successfully engages composition students in a variety of majors. Heeding the caveat that literary and/or mass cultural subject matter may “take over the course” (Tate 305), I seek to provide a learning experience directed to writing skills that traverse a range of academic disciplines.
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    Darkly Perfect World: Colonial Adventure, Postmodernism, and American Noir
    (The Ohio State University Press, 2010) Orr, Stanley
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