McRuer, Robert. “Composing Bodies; or, De-Composition: Queer Theory, Disability Studies, and Alternative Corporealities.” Special Cluster on “Queer Composition(s): Queer Theory in the Writing Classroom.” Ed. Jonathan Alexander and Michelle Gibson. JAC: A Quarterly Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Rhetoric, Culture, Literacy, and Politics 24.1 (2004): 47-78.


In this article, McRuer is responding to a corporate model of the university that not only fetishizes the final product in composition, but also values efficient, linear, unified (well composed) prose. McRuer argues that attached to this desire for composed, efficient prose is the desire for docile student bodies who assent to the composing process. He links these ideals for the composition in the writing classroom to compulsory heterosexuality and compulsory able-bodiedness, cultural demands that instantiate complex processes of composing the ideal, normalized body. McRuer argues that we need to bring queer theory and disability studies to the center of work in composition theory in order to resist the corporate interest in efficient prose. He instead advocates critical de-composition–an approach to composition theory that emphasizes the contributions of queer theory and disability studies, values both the composing process and the composing body, does not assume that the final written product is the ultimate desireable goal, and which allows for new identities and new communties to form.

In articulating and arguing for critical de-composition, McRuer looks to Judith Butler’s work to argue that de-composition is always already haunting the composition classroom, creating an increased sense of need for well-ordered prose. While he is critical of claims that “we are all queer” or “we are all disabled” which try to universalize experience for the purpose of denying the social or political significance of queer and disabled identities, he does argue that there are moments in which we are all queer or disabled. For McRuer, these moments of queerness and disability are not only desirable, but important within the context of composition theory since they work to de-naturalize the ideal bodies and compositions that a normalizing corporate model depends on. McRuer ultimately closes the article with a consideration of the effects of corporate streamlining of composition classes and briefly considers what critical de-composition might offer compositionists in the face of streamlining trends.

Quotable Quotes:

“Although heterosexuality is without question a product of complex cultural, economic, and historical processes, it is by no means experienced as such. The finished heterosexual product is so fetishized that the composition process cannot be acknowledged; the institutions that compose straightness thus simultaneously produce ideologies that render the process itself virtually unthinkable.” (51)

“We may inherit an Enlightenment legacy where the produciton of writing and production of the self converge, but the corporate university also extends that legacy in its eagerness to intervene in, and therecy vouchsafe, the kinds of selves produced. The call to produce orderly and efficient writing/docile subjects thus takes on a heightened urgency in our particular moment.” (55)

Critical de-composition, however, results from re-orienting ourselves away from those compulsory ideals and onto the composing process and the composing bodies–the alternative, and multiple, corporealities–that continually ensure that things can turn out otherwise.” (59)