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This essay argues that calls to end, move beyond, or expand composition participate in a discourse of need that accepts and reinforces the legitimacy of dominant, and restricted, definitions of not only composition but also alternatives to it: what we are led to believe is “new,” “different,” and therefore “better” than composition as conventionally defined. I analyze the operation of this discourse in David Smit’s The End of Composition Studies, Sidney Dobrin’s Postcomposition, and calls to make up for composition’s ostensible lacks by supplementing it with rhetoric or multimodal composition or by renaming it “writing studies.” Drawing on J. K. Gibson-Graham’s The End of Capitalism (as We Knew It) and Theresa Lillis’s The Sociolinguistics of Writing, I outline strategies by which to rethink dominant disciplinary discourse, and use James Slevin’s Introducing English and David Bartholomae’s accounts of composition to illustrate how we might enable a recuperation of composition’s potential.

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This article was originally published in College English, Volume 77, Number 5, May 2015.