An assessment of the study and teaching of writing against the larger theoretical, political and technological upheavals of the past 30 years, ""Fragments of Rationality"" asks why composition studies has been less affected by postmodern theory than other humanities and social science disciplines. For Lester Faigley, the very conservativism of composition teaching - which has resisted the challenges of postmodern thought - makes it a revealing object of study. Composition at first seemed ready to accommodate postmodern ideas, but by the late 1980s, writing teachers were beginning to question many of the traditional presumptions underlying their approach to the task. This crisis in theory has come just as the tenacious back-to-basics movement, a heightened emphasis on education for economic productivity, cuts in funding for public education, and the increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots in US society have forced teachers to consider the role of literacy instruction in reproducing social inequality. Drawing on the insights of Foucault, Lyotard and other postmodern analysts, Faigley addresses the theoretical debate about the ""self"" the student writer is asked to occupy, the ""modernist"" goal of producing a rational, coherent student subject, and the writing instructor's unconscious imposition of elite values and expectations in evaluating student work. He explores how networked computer technologies in writing classrooms are destabilising texts and subjects, and he asks what this loss of authority will mean for teachers of literacy. Faigley concludes by arguing that the electronically mediated culture in which we live has not brought an end to meaning, history, or subjectivity, but it does require thinking through the politics of location. In postmodern theory he finds ways of describing how subjects encounter boundaries in negotiating across competing discourses, and how awareness of those boundaries can be introduced into classroom practice.