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Keywords in Writing Studies

Keywords in Writing Studies

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Keywords in Writing Studies
    Book Description:

    Keywords in Writing Studiesis an exploration of the principal ideas and ideals of an emerging academic field as they are constituted by its specialized vocabulary. A sequel to the 1996 workKeywords in Composition Studies, this new volume traces the evolution of the field's lexicon, taking into account the wide variety of theoretical, educational, professional, and institutional developments that have redefined it over the past two decades.Contributors address the development, transformation, and interconnections among thirty-six of the most critical terms that make up writing studies. Looking beyond basic definitions or explanations, they explore the multiple layers of meaning within the terms that writing scholars currently use, exchange, and question. Each term featured is a part of the general disciplinary parlance, and each is a highly contested focal point of significant debates about matters of power, identity, and values. Each essay begins with the assumption that its central term is important precisely because its meaning is open and multiplex.Keywords in Writing Studiesreveals how the key concepts in the field are used and even challenged, rather than advocating particular usages and the particular vision of the field that they imply. The volume will be of great interest to both graduate students and established scholars.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-974-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xx)
    Paul Heilker and Peter Vandenberg

    WhenKeywords in Composition Studies(KCS) was published in 1996, we did not intend to revisit the project. Following in the footsteps of I. A. Richards (1942, 1955) and Raymond Williams (1983), and with the assistance of our many astute contributors, we felt we had successfully made our case that one of the great strengths of our field can be found in the contested, unsettled nature of its key terms; that the more central and necessary the term, the more ambiguous and divergent its meanings; that a close look at the meanings of any critical term speaks volumes about our...

    (pp. 1-5)
    Steven Accardi

    The term agency is embedded in many discussions in writing studies, and, depending upon how it is used, reveals particular theoretical orientations. As a commonplace, agency signifies the ability or capacity to act, such as in the sentence, “The president has the agency to veto the bill.” InGenre and the Invention of the Writer, Anis Bawarshi argues that in writing studies, the subject is often conceived as having agency, or being the sole possessor of agency, and thereby having the responsibility, in some cases, to take action (Bawarshi 2003, 53–5).

    This conceptualization, for example, is seen inAgency...

  5. BODY
    (pp. 6-10)
    Lorin Shellenberger

    The keywordbodyor its related term,bodies, incorporates biological, cultural, physical, organizational, political, and rhetorical meanings. The term’s complexity is illustrated through Susan Wells’ frustration: there is “no ‘natural’ way of talking about the body, since the body always comes to us through multiple layers of cultural mediation” (Wells 2010, 144). Indeed, physical bodies are “sexed, raced, gendered, abled or disabled, whole or fragmented, aged or young, fat, thin, or anorexic” (Crowley 1999, 361), “a biology of hungers and pleasures, energy and fatigue, metabolic routine, disruption and repair” (Swan 2002, 286). Bodies are contradictory and unstable, “sites of both...

    (pp. 11-14)
    Mark Garrett Longaker

    In 1954, Richard Weaver, then director of the FYC program at the University of Chicago, discussed the role of education in the formation of citizenship, saying, “participation in a democratic society is an active process. . . . [I]t involves the ability to reason clearly and independently,” skills central to good writing (Weaver 2000, 167).

    In 1998, David Fleming, director of FYC at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and later at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, suggested that writing teachers imagine each student “as a future citizen in a community of free and equal citizens” (Fleming 1998, 178).

    In 2006,...

    (pp. 15-19)
    Steve Parks

    Current meanings ofcivicandpublicwithin writing studies trace their emergence as keywords to the post-World War II period, when the United States was formulating a Cold War strategy premised upon the belief of a consistent threat by the Soviet Union to democratic values. Within this context, the National Council of Teachers of English, when framing its civic mission in the late 1950s, stressed the strong relationship between writing, literature, and democracy, positioning English as central to the Cold War struggle as either math or science (NCTE 1958).

    This mission was put under pressure as Civil Rights, Brown Rights,...

  8. CLASS
    (pp. 20-25)
    Julie Lindquist

    At one level, every conversation about the project of first-year writing—an institutional practice designed to help students acquire academic literacy, and an experience located at the point of entry to higher education—is a conversation about class. However, these various conversations employ the termclassmore or less explicitly as a discourse or as a thematic. Given that questions about whatclassmeans and how it works are important to research and scholarship across disciplines, what do those of us with an investment in writing studies talk about when we talk about class?

    In writing studies, the idea of...

    (pp. 26-31)
    Paul Prior

    The wordcommunityfunctions as what Susan Star and James Griesemer call a “boundary object” (Star and Griesemer 1989, 393), something fluid, adaptable, and robust enough to weave together different discourses and worlds. An everyday term in civic, religious, and Internet contexts,communityalso serves as a specialized term in multiple disciplines, including sociology, ecology, linguistics, education, and writing studies. The Oxford English Dictionary (2012) highlights that, over six centuries of use,communitytends to signify a locale or locus of interaction and/or to mark some type of unity, commonality, sharing, or integration. Reflecting on this history, Raymond Williams (1983)...

    (pp. 32-36)
    Cynthia L. Selfe

    In writing studies, computers have been understood both as machines that help us computeandmachines that help us communicate, fundamentally different conceptions that have shaped our deployment of these devices within writing classrooms. Computers and US composition instruction grew up together in the cultural milieu of the mid-twentieth century and the Second World War, inflected by a set of common cultural values and formations—a modernist belief in science and its link to progress, an ideologically informed commitment to education, and a belief in individual accomplishment—that have assured and shaped a complicated set of ongoing relationships. Some humanists,...

    (pp. 37-41)
    Cynthia Fields

    Mary Louise Pratt introduced the termcontact zoneto writing studies in 1991, defining contact zones as “social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power, such as colonialism, slavery, or their aftermaths as they are lived out in many parts of the world today” (Pratt 1991, 34). Pratt also associated various “literate arts” with the contact zone, including “autoethnography, transculturation, parody, denunciation, imaginary dialogue, [and] vernacular expression.” However, Pratt noted, the “perils” of writing in the contact zone include “miscomprehension, incomprehension, dead letters, unread masterpieces, [and] absolute heterogeneity...

    (pp. 42-46)
    Jason Swarts

    Contextcan be understood as “the words and sentences that surround any part of discourse and help to determine its meaning; also, the rhetorical situation and background of an issue that help to determine the meaning of any text” (Crowley and Hawhee 1999, 430). The multiplicity of this definition points to a range of ways that the termcontexthas been used in writing studies to talk about settings of work and learning.

    Often,contextis used synonymously withrhetorical situation, because, like contexts, Gerard Hauser notes, we intuitively understand situations to have meaningful “spatio-temporal” qualities that shape how we...

    (pp. 47-50)
    Tim Mayers

    Creativityis arguably one of the most ambiguous words in the discourse of writing studies. Michelene Wandor neatly sums up the “oppositional uses” of the “now heavily overused term ‘creative,’” when she notes that it means “on the one hand . . . the rare, exceptional (talent, genius) and on the other, the democratizing, expanding, enhancing faculty that some argue is possessed by all” (Wandor 2008, 18). Perhaps these opposing views constitute a spectrum of meaning; the wordscreativeandcreativityare used in a wide range of overlapping and contradictory senses. Raymond Williams (1983) noted that “[creative] in modern...

  14. DESIGN
    (pp. 51-56)
    Melanie Yergeau

    Design, much likewriting, has a wide intersection of meanings. Although its prominence in the field is more generally associated with the emergence of computers and writing scholarship in the 1980s (Knievel 2009),designhas an extensive and polysemous history.Designhas variously referred to—or invoked—items that include instructional design, process and postprocess pedagogies, visual rhetoric and multimodality, theories of space and embodiment, and the reimagining of traditional literacies and cultural practices. Given its wide range of signification, writing scholars often struggle to justify the place of design in the discipline. As Banks (2006) remarks, “the field still...

    (pp. 57-61)
    Cynthia Lewiecki-Wilson

    Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, alluding to Foucault, notes that “the archive . . . determines what we can know” and, until recently, “there has been no archive . . . for understanding disability” (Garland-Thomson 2002, 2). Isdisabilityunderstood as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): a condition that interferes with a major life function, and, whether real or imputed, a label that may trigger discrimination? (ADA 2009) Is disability a relationship between a body and its environment, as maintained by the United Nations (2006)? Is disability historically and culturally produced, as disability studies theories posit?

    In the academy,disability...

    (pp. 62-66)
    Christine M. Tardy

    The many layers of meaning that circulate around the termdiscoursewithin writing studies illustrate at once its complexity, multidisciplinarity, and productive nature. At its most general level, the term alludes to the socially situated nature of meaning in or through language, but more precise theoretical orientations emphasize different elements of this simplified characterization. As a lay term,discoursecommonly carries both a general meaning of verbal communication and the notion of a philosophical treatise associated with French philosophical thought (Mills 1997). In writing studies, the word variously attends more or less to text, context, and social and ideological ways...

    (pp. 67-71)
    Christian R. Weisser

    Like many of the keywords in writing studies,ecologyis an imported term with divergent significations and various meanings. The term comes from the natural sciences, where it is used to explain the biological relationships between living organisms and their environments. Ecologists study how organisms interact and interconnect with each other, the ways in which species adapt to and create systems, and the processes through which energy and materials move through systems. In lay terms,ecologytends to be used to describe the environments in which these relationships take place, often with an implicit concern for the preservation of “natural”...

    (pp. 72-76)
    A. Suresh Canagarajah

    The grammar and values attached toEnglishhave been changing in relation to social and philosophical developments. It is difficult to talk aboutEnglishwithout clarifying what we mean bylanguage, an orientation shaped by the ways communities have related to each other in social history.

    Many people think of languages as separate from each other, each with its own grammar, vocabulary, and other structural features forming a tightly woven system that determines meaning and communication. While there are different varieties of a language (dialects, registers, and discourses), they are considered to derive from the one underlying system, finding manifestation...

  19. GENDER
    (pp. 77-81)
    Lorin Shellenberger

    Gender’s relationship with writing studies has long been complicated. According to Joy Ritchie and Kathleen Boardman, in the 1970s “composition’s official published discussions were largely silent on issues of gender,” with “little explicit evidence of systematic theorizing about gender from the 1950s to the late 1980s” (Ritchie and Boardman 1999, 586). Despite gender’s overwhelming presence in feminist studies during this time period, it was not until 1988, when Elizabeth Flynn examined gender differences in student writing, that gender entered the discussion in composition studies at all (Flynn 1988, 425).

    Gender is portrayed as both a “covert category,” seemingly “transparent” in...

  20. GENRE
    (pp. 82-87)
    Amy J. Devitt

    The word genre has its origins in a French word forkindand a dictionary sense of “kind, sort, style” (OEDOnline2014). In common parlance it refers to hip hop music andLaike Moussike, to comedy and poetry, to film noir and chick flick. In the discipline of writing studies, genre has come to refer to a highly theorized concept of “social action,” so that a search inCollege Composition and Communicationfor “genre” (since 2005) or even “the genre of” brings up not labels for or studies of specific genres but rather discussions of genre in the abstract....

    (pp. 88-93)
    Morris Young

    Consideringidentityas a keyword in writing studies is a daunting prospect. What is meant byidentityand how might it differ from terms such asethos(Baumlin and Baumlin 1994),self(Brooke 1991), orsubject(Clifford 1991)? How mightidentitysignify in ways similar to other expressions such asvoice(Elbow 2000; Harris 1997),identification(Burke 1950; Ratcliffe 2005),the personal(Bleich and Holdstein 2001), or any number of related and cognate terms that might overlap or even act synonymously?

    In composition studies, the main locus for understanding the significance of identity has been the curricular site of the...

    (pp. 94-98)
    Kelly Pender

    Ideologybecame a keyword in writing studies in the early 1990s, when a number of rhetoricians began arguing that the Marxist understanding of the term as “false consciousness” should be replaced with the definition found in Louis Althusser’s (1994) essay, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses.” Whereas the Marxist understanding held that ideology masked an individual’s relationship to real conditions of existence, Althusser argued that ideology represented an individual’simaginaryrelationship to those conditions, that it had a material existence, and that it interpellated individuals as subjects (123, 125, 128). Among other things, this definition meant that there was nothing behind...

    (pp. 99-102)
    Julie Lindquist

    In popular usage, the termliteracyis most often associated with reading (understood as a process of decoding alphabetic text) and writing (understood as an act of inscribing alphabetic text). Among scholars, however, the term encompasses a much broader range of values, processes, and behaviors: “literacyis an abstract noun with no corresponding verb to tell us what range of actions might possibly be associated with it” (Lindquist and Seitz 2009, 7). Research on literacy thus occurs across the fields that take up writing studies, including history, psychology, sociology, anthropology, education, composition and rhetoric, and cultural studies, and the domain...

    (pp. 103-107)
    Jennifer Clary-Lemon

    Conversations in writing studies that employ the termlocationtend to explore the “sense ofwhere” (Mauk 2003, 368, emphasis in original) that structures academic spaces, rhetorical situations, systems of writing, and material and physical sites in which discursive meaning is negotiated. Location often emphasizes the situatedness of discourse that spans diverse geographies. Its definition has, at differing times, involved the physical body, contexts of social life, discourses of the public sphere, ecologies of writing, classroom location, ecocomposition, service-learning, contact zones, and spatial mapping. The variety of uses oflocationreflect changing instantiations of the field played out on discursive...

    (pp. 108-113)
    Anis Bawarshi

    The termmaterialityhas a wide range of meanings within the discourses of writing studies, often functioning as a modifier (“materialist”) to other abstractions (as in, “materialist views of situation”). As reflected in its various significations within the field, materiality is used not only to account for the presence of matter and the material, but also to describe the operations of matter (“materialism”). As such,materialityis deployed both as a thing itself (an embodied presence), and as a thing that can act in the service of its own ends (as having agency). Materiality is used to signify that which...

    (pp. 114-119)
    Christine M. Tardy

    In language studies,multilingual/ismrefers to people who have some degree of competence in two or more languages or to settings in which two or more languages co-exist. Generally a distinction is not made between bilingualism and multilingualism, thoughbilingualtypically refers specifically to the use of two languages by speakers, within policies or in settings. Use of the termmultilingual, rooted in sociolinguistics, has increased since the early 1990s (Franceschini 2011). Today, the majority of people in the world are multilingual (Tucker 1999), and there is a growing recognition that most English users are multilinguals whose “mother tongue” is...

    (pp. 120-124)
    Jason Swarts

    In writing studies, the termnetworkis commonly used in two ways: as a noun and as a verb. As a noun, “the network” is a place of interconnectedness and linked computers (Eyman 1996), but, more generally, a “network is a set of interconnected nodes” (Castells 2001b, 3). Scholars argue for seeing a network as a thing, an “environment” (Hawisher and Selfe 1991, 55) that might be a specific location comprised of conventional nodes like servers and user terminals, as in a campus computer network (Palmquist et al. 1995, 336). Others see networks as thing-like and place-like but comprised of...

  28. OTHER
    (pp. 125-129)
    Kathleen Kerr

    G. W. F. Hegel (1994) helped to establish the epistemological foundation for contemporary conceptions ofOther(sometimes indicated in lowercase) as an entity by positing the transformation of the subjective “I” into an “inessential object” with a negative characterization, the non-self (53). Philip Kain explains the notion of Hegel’s “Absolute” (whole) as individual consciousness that exists vis-à-vis cultural consciousness—the Other (Kain 2005, 4). Similarly, Frederick Beiser suggests there is a “subject-object identity because there is a single structure of self-consciousness holding between self and other: the self knows itself in the other as the other knows itself in the...

    (pp. 130-134)
    KT Torrey

    In writing studies, performance is ancient and noveau, fundamental and restored, once absent but always present. “In its simplest terms,” performance is “an action, a taking on of some act”; thus, “if writing is always an action,” Ryan Claycomb (2008) argues, then “it is also a performance.” For Candace Spigelman, “every writing is, to a great or lesser extent, a rhetoricalperformance” (Spigelman 2004, 49). Caroline Bergvall regards writing as “a textual performance” that takes place “on and through the space of the page” (Bergvall 1999, 112). For Stephen Greenblatt, composition is an action and “writing . . . a...

    (pp. 135-139)
    Kathleen Kerr

    Personaltakes three grammatical forms—noun, adverb, and adjective—hat seem ubiquitous in contemporary public discourse. We post personal ads, sell personal property, and shop for personal digital assistants, personal trainers, or personal care products. We protect the personal information on our personal computers lest hackers wreak havoc on our personal finances—an act we would take personally. Employers want to know personal histories to be reassured that employees will limit personal correspondence—in which it is acceptable to use personal pronouns—to personal time.

    While the meaning ofpersonalin these public contexts seems evident, the “myriad denotations of...

    (pp. 140-144)
    Melanie Yergeau

    Like the termdesign,productionrepresents a tension between print-based and digital forms of composing. And, also likedesign, it calls into being questions about process and product. The interrelations and interchangeability of the terms present other challenges as well. Do we design products, or do we produce designs?

    InMultimodal Discourse, Kress and Van Leeuwen (2001) contend that, though intricately connected,designandproductionare different entities. Whereas design signifies “uses of semiotic resources” (5), production means the organization and arrangement of those resources, often into a tangible product meant for public consumption (21). While the distinction between design...

  32. QUEER
    (pp. 145-149)
    Karen Kopelson

    The termqueergathered force in activist and theoretical circles in the early 1990s, signifying both the reclamation of a reviled identity and a disruptive anti-identitarian current over and against established categorizations for gendered sexuality. In other words, while one can march in a gay pride parade wearing a t-shirt proclaiming oneself “queer,” the use of “the term ‘queer,’” as Teresa De Lauretis (1991) explained, “is intended to mark a certain critical distance from” the formulaic, “convenient” construction — “lesbian and gay” — and instead to “construct another discursive horizon, another way of thinking the sexual” (iv). Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick notes that...

    (pp. 150-154)
    Kathleen Blake Yancey

    The termreflectionhas informed writing studies almost from the beginning of the modern iteration of the field, drawing initially on Dewey’s concept of experiential learning and Polanyi’s (1969) felt sense, and later on Donald’s Schon’s (1987) account of reflective practice. InHow We Think,Dewey defines reflective thinking as “the kind of thinking that consists in turning a subject over in the mind and giving it serious and consecutive consideration” (Dewey 1993, 3). Keyed to a learner’s interest in solving a real problem, resolving an ambiguous situation, or addressing a dilemma (14), Deweyan reflective thinking relies on a dialogue...

    (pp. 155-159)
    Katrina M. Powell

    In writing studies, the termsresearch,scholarship, andinquiryare often used interchangeably, evoking a sense of informed study around a topic from a particular theoretical stance. However, when most scholars useresearchas a term, they tend to mean empirical research as opposed to rhetorical research or inquiry. The distinctions are important yet debatable, as many scholars in the field see their research as doing both. As Janice Lauer and J. William Asher point out, “To investigate [empirical] questions, [researchers] use inductive processes instead of the deductive and analogical processes of rhetorical inquiry. Inductive processes take two forms: descriptive...

    (pp. 160-164)
    KT Torrey

    Omnipresent yet elusive, an emptiness that deafens,silencein writing studies means many, often contradictory, things. On the one hand, silence is an absence, one in which we are “confronted by the original beginning of all things” (Picard, quoted in Metzger 1973, 248). Silence is a void, a space in which “there is no subject, no form, no language” (Murray 1989, 20). Yet it is also a presence, “an intense stimulus, an aesthetic intoxication, perhaps, as Beckett might say, ‘a bodily need’” (Metzger 1973, 247). Silence is thus associated with “denial, concealment, [and] evasion,” but also with “ecstasy, bliss, communion”...

    (pp. 165-168)
    Carolyn Rude

    Technical communicationcan signify a practice in a variety of nonacademic and academic workplaces—a career field, a research area, and an academic field of study—all with instances in the United States and globally. The term is an update oftechnical writing, dominant into the 1970s, when some specialists began to argue thatwritingwas too limiting a marker for a practice that includes visual and oral (and now digital and video) communication as well as related practices such as research, collaboration, management, usability studies, indexing, graphic design, and instructional design. The Society for Technical Communication (STC) adopted its...

    (pp. 169-172)
    Johndan Johnson-Eilola and Stuart A. Selber

    In 1975, Ellen Nold published the first article on the role and function of computers in writing studies. Her argument was that teachers should involve themselves in the development of software programs so that computers could better serve the needs of students learning to write. In responding to drill and practice approaches that focused on memorization and recall, Nold encouraged teachers to design imaginative heuristics that “call forth creativity” (Nold 1975, 271–72). This early vision of digital technology in writing emphasized invention and teacher engagement, and it acknowledged that a technology can be interpreted and configured in multiple ways....

  38. WORK
    (pp. 173-181)
    Dylan B. Dryer

    Workis an exceptionally old word, as is its first documented association with the labor of writing (“On þære bec, þic worhte”circa900 CE [Compact Oxford English Dictionary 1991, 2338]). Few other words have become such powerful organizing constructs for everyday life (Thompson 1967), or are as susceptible to changes produced and reflected by social and technological transformation (Takayoshi and Sullivan 2007), or are as vulnerable to specifically motivated interpretations (Gee, Hull, and Lankshear 1996). As Bruce Horner has already shown, its uses in composition studies are complex: its gerund (typically modifyingconditions) is usually distinct from its noun,...

    (pp. 182-188)
    Chris Thaiss

    The termswriting across the curriculumandwriting in disciplineshave acquired considerable “staying power” over the roughly thirty-five years they have been used in US writing studies (Thaiss 2001, 312). This resilience reflects, in part, the basic recognition that student writing growth occursacrossthe subject areas of an institution—not only in “composition” courses—and that the writing that occurs in those various environments is worthy of scholarly research and pedagogical concern. Recent work on this idea at the national level includes the Common Core State Standards put forth by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices,...

    (pp. 189-193)