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Under Construction

Under Construction

Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Under Construction
    Book Description:

    Few composition scholars two decades ago would have imagined the rate at which their field is now developing, expanding beyond its boundaries, creating new alliances, and locating new sites for research and generation of knowledge. In their introduction to this volume, Farris and Anson argue that, faced with a welter of competing models, compositionists too quickly dichotomize and dismiss. The contributors to Under Construction, therefore, address themselves to the need for commerce among competing visions of the field. They represent diverse settings and distinct points of view, but their over-riding interest is in promoting a view of the field that values interaction and mutual development above dogmatics and isolation.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-318-8
    Subjects: Education, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. INTRODUCTION: Complicating Composition
    (pp. 1-8)
    Christine Farris and Chris M. Anson

    As a field of professional inquiry intertwined with the practice and teaching of its own subject, composition studies has enjoyed the steady pace of its own recent evolution. Few composition scholars twenty years ago would have imagined the rate at which the field is now developing, exploding beyond its boundaries, creating new alliances, and locating new sites for inquiry and knowledge production. These current transformations owe in part to the inevitable burgeoning of a theoretically interdisciplinary field with a strong orientation toward self-reflection. They also owe to unprecedented changes underway in higher education, changes pressured by shifts in the politics...

  2. PART ONE: The Research/Theory/Practice Relationship

    • CHAPTER ONE Theory, Research, Practice, Work
      (pp. 11-18)
      Christopher Ferry

      Paulo Freire, long an important influence on composition studies, argues that education must be a process by which students and teachers help each other become “more fully human” and, at the same time, “transform reality.” Central to this process is the phenomenon he calls “praxis,” the interaction between reflection and action that results in the transformation of the world. For Freire, praxis can be authentic—that is, can accomplish its transforming work—only when it includes both components. Without action, for example, reflection becomes mere “verbalism,” shooting off one’s mouth, while action without thought becomes “activism,” “action for action’s sake.”...

    • CHAPTER TWO Composing Composition Studies: Scholarly Publication and the Practice of Discipline
      (pp. 19-29)
      Peter Vandenberg

      Rhetoric and composition around the end of the nineteenth century has been described as “an academic desideratum … to be escaped as soon as practicable” (Connors, 1991, 55). As we approach 2000, it is one of the fastest growing academic fields in the university.

      The Spring, 1994 issue of Rhetoric Review announced empirical evidence suggesting something of a golden age. Data complied by Stuart Brown, Paul Meyer, and Theresa Enos indicated a doubling in just seven years of “core rhetoric/composition faculty in US doctoral programs”(241), a phenomenal rise in the number of associate and full professors in the field, and...

    • CHAPTER THREE Toward a Theory of Theory for Composition Studies
      (pp. 30-48)
      James Thomas Zebroski

      In the mid-1980s, I was still hopeful that alliances might be negotiated among the theoretical communities emerging in literary studies and those scholars in composition studies who saw a value in doing composition theory. As different as these theoretical discourses seemed, I believed that there were strategic and ethical reasons for pursuing conversations with literary theorists. I thought that we shared a critique of traditional scholarship in literature, composition and the humanities, and that we both in our respective ways were reacting to and moving beyond the limits of formalism, whether of the New Critical variety in literature or of...

  3. PART TWO: Critiquing Theories in Practice

    • CHAPTER FOUR The Dialogic Function of Composition Pedagogy: Negotiating between Critical Theory and Public Values
      (pp. 51-64)
      Rebecca Moore Howard

      In animated battles of the 80s and 90s, teachers and scholars of composition have defended themselves and their discipline against what they variously describe as the hostility, contempt, or indifference of the literature faculty. Unlike most other internecine English contests, usually only one side of this debate is waged in public print: whereas compositionists’ arguments are a familiar form of scholarly publication in composition studies (see, for example, Little and Rose; Miller), contradictory beliefs held by scholars of literature seldom find their way into print. Instead, the arguments of literature faculty are typically expressed in semiotic silences (e.g., Marshall Gregory’s...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Keeping Honest: Working-Class Students, Difference, and Rethinking the Critical Agenda in Composition
      (pp. 65-78)
      David Seitz

      Over the past fifteen years, many graduate programs in composition have been influenced by theories that are critical of the relations between discourse, knowledge, and multiple forms of power. Yet while composition studies often claim to privilege practice, our programs rarely allow these theories to be informed by practice. Few researchers have looked ethnographically at how undergraduate students from particular class and cultural backgrounds respond to writing classes structured by these theories of culture and language. As composition teachers and theorists, we need to continually engage in this research to keep ourselves honest with our claims of theory that may...

    • CHAPTER SIX Rethinking the Personal Narrative: Life-Writing and Composition Pedagogy
      (pp. 79-92)
      Deborah Mutnick

      In a research paper course I recently taught with popular culture as its theme, a newly arrived Russian immigrant, Dmitriy, combined a review of personal narratives by contemporary multicultural writers—Leslie Marmon Silko, Adrienne Rich, Richard Rodriguez, Fan Shen, Dorinne Kondo, and Yelena Khanga—with his own story. Dmitriy began his project by asking: “What is the effect of culture on different people’s identities? How do people, especially writers, with different ethnic background, race, and language explore identity? … At the same time, answering this question involves me in finding out who I am.” In the first draft of his...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN What Difference the Differences Make: Theoretical and Epistemological Differences in Writing Assessment Practice
      (pp. 93-108)
      Brian Huot and Michael M. Williamson

      This essay looks at the relationship between theory and practice in writing assessment. While this volume recognizes the many connections between theory, practice and research in composition, scholars in composition who work on writing assessment have not always shared an awareness of its theoretical assumptions and beliefs. Moreover, such recognition or awareness is crucial, we believe, if writing assessment is ever going to be an important component of composition as a discipline and in the practices of composition teachers and writing program administrators. The topic of theory and practice in writing assessment is especially important to us because a 1986...

  4. PART THREE: Refiguring and Relocating Research

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Voices of Research: Methodological Choices of a Disciplinary Community
      (pp. 111-123)
      Susan Peck MacDonald

      The field of composition studies—perhaps pre-disciplinary before the 1980s—made a simultaneous move toward disciplinarity and the social sciences in the 1980s. In the 1990s, however, a significant portion of composition studies has moved once again resolutely toward the humanities. With an influx of theorizing from the humanities and an assortment of intellectual influences from postmodernism—calls for multi-vocal texts, the “interpretive turn,” distrust of science, a reassertion of the value of the local—composition studies today has in some ways turned away from empirical research and knowledge making. In so doing, I will argue, the field of composition...

    • CHAPTER NINE Grounded Theory: A Critical Research Methodology
      (pp. 124-135)
      Joyce Magnotto Neff

      In his last book, Rhetorics, Poetics, and Cultures, James Berlin talks about the social and political “formations and practices” that are always “involved in the shaping of consciousness, a shaping mediated by language and situated in concrete historical conditions” (1996, 169). Berlin reviews composition research that examines the production of texts within historical and socioeconomic power structures. He then encourages researchers to consider “production-based studies, text-based studies, and culture-as-lived activity studies,” studies “situated within the institution … that sponsored the examined activities … , [studies that are] related to the ideological—the arena of language, idea, and value” (170).


    • CHAPTER TEN Feminist Methodology: Dilemmas for Graduate Researchers
      (pp. 136-149)
      Shirley Rose and Janice Lauer

      In this essay we will explore the implications of feminist methodology for composition researchers. Specifically, we will discuss the obligations, risks, and dilemmas a composition researcher committed to enacting a feminist research project can encounter in the processes of conducting an empirical research project, including defining a research question, choosing a research site, designing a study, negotiating a relationship with participants in the study, and making public the results or outcomes of the inquiry.

      Though our own inquiry in this essay is speculative rather than descriptive, we draw upon our experiences as writing teachers, program administrators, and researchers to think...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Insider/Outsider/Other?: Confronting the Centeredness of Race, Class, Color and Ethnicity in Composition Research
      (pp. 150-165)
      Yuet-Sim D. Chiang

      I was troubled when I read Lynn Bloom’s (1996) essay about freshman composition being a “middle-class enterprise.” Bloom’s literacy equation left very little room for many of my linguistic minority students where writing was learned not as a way “to delight” or “to teach,” but rather as a way to stake a tenuous place for themselves in a post-colonial English-speaking world. I was troubled because Bloom’s argument seems somewhat capricious in light of the changing demographics in English literacy and the growing membership of students from non-traditional, non-white backgrounds.

      Bloom’s equation of her literacy journey with “Peter Pan collars, and...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE Re-Centering Authority: Social Reflexivity and Re-Positioning in Composition Research
      (pp. 166-180)
      Ellen Cushman and Terese Guinsatao Monberg

      This paper stems from an extended discussion and exploration of the ways we’ve tried to envision and enact a more socially responsible scholarship, one that builds bridges to facilitate border crossings. Where we come from, how far we’ve gone, what we still remain tied to—all remind us to make knowledge in ways that honor and respect and serve. Through social reflection, we look for ways to create an intellectual and social space for our own self-awareness, to inform and facilitate a mutually rewarding dialogic relationship with students, colleagues, and community members. We believe this kind of reflection, combined with...

    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN Tracking Composition Research on the World Wide Web
      (pp. 181-195)
      Susan Romano

      The Research Network Forum website greets its visitors with an olive-green image featuring two conference-style tables pulled together end to end and ringed with eight armless chairs. On each table rests a sheaf of plain white paper—one sewn at the spine, the other loose-leafed—suggesting work to be done, yet no writing implements are in sight. The nearest chair has been pushed back, inviting the visitor to stay awhile or perhaps signaling the abrupt and mysterious departure of some former researcher. “The Editors’ Metaphoric Table/s,” as website author Victor Vitanza calls them¹, have been supplied courtesy of another website...

    • CHAPTER FOURTEEN Farther Afield: Rethinking the Contributions of Research
      (pp. 196-214)
      Ruth Ray and Ellen Barton

      Over the past several years, composition researchers have broadened their inquiry to investigate sites outside of schools and universities. The impetus behind this move is a desire to understand the various forms of language and literacy in the workplace and the world, as well as the ways in which particular cultural contexts shape and define acts of reading, writing, and speaking (see, for example, Bazerman and Paradis 1991; Doheny-Farina 1991; Herndl 1993; Lunsford, Moglen, and Slevin 1990; Moss 1994; Schaafsma 1993). Implicit in many of these studies is the assumption that to study “afield” is, ultimately, to come to a...

  5. PART FOUR: Remaking Knowledge and Rewriting Practice

    • CHAPTER FIFTEEN A Rhetoric of Teacher-Talk Or How To Make More Out of Lore
      (pp. 217-233)
      Wendy Bishop

      Some time ago, I promised to do quite a few things in this chapter space. I would “create a preliminary rhetoric of teacher talk—lore, story, narrative research, testimony, literacy autobiography, and so on.” I would begin by refusing to argue about whether “teachers’ experiences create knowledge for the field” and focus on the issue of “how do teachers do this?” In my chapter, I would “claim value for teacher-talk as an important contributor to knowledge-making in composition by defining and illustrating some genres of teacher-talk and then by examining the political and social ramifications involved in insisting that we...

    • CHAPTER SIXTEEN Theory, Practice, and the Bridge Between: The Methods Course and Reflective Rhetoric
      (pp. 234-249)
      Kathleen Blake Yancey

      How have I taught? How do I understand my own teaching? What have my students learned? When I say that a methods class—a class in teaching prospective teachers—went well, that the students did learn, that I think they’ll be good teachers, what do I mean? And how would I know that such assertions were true? Could I theorize more generally about my course; and more, could I theorize about how such a course-qua-type fosters the development of the student-becoming-teacher?

      Short of treating students like rats in a lab or plants in a rooting medium, we can’t know the...

    • CHAPTER SEVENTEEN Rewriting Praxis (and Redefining Texts) in Composition Research
      (pp. 250-281)
      Nancy Maloney Grimm, Anne Frances Wysocki and Marilyn M. Cooper

      In 1994, I received a call for contributions to a writing center collection that would feature multivoiced perspectives on writing center issues. I approached two other graduate students, Marsha Penti and Suhail Islam, about joining me in composing a chapter for the book. The call for proposals stipulated that chapters had to be written by at least three authors: a faculty member and/or writing center director, a writing center tutor, and a student-user of a writing center.

      The call for proposals came at a time when the three of us had too much on our plates already. All three of...

    • CHAPTER EIGHTEEN Coming (in)to Consciousness: One Asian American Teacher’s Journey into Activist Teaching and Research
      (pp. 282-301)
      Gail Y. Okawa

      Over ten years ago, C. H. Knoblauch and Lil Brannon (1984) reminded us how essential it is for teachers to “become conscious of the philosophical dimensions of their work because nothing short of that consciousness will make instruction sensible and deliberate, the result of knowledge, not folklore, and of design, not just custom or accident” (2). In his term conscientizacao, Paulo Freire (1970, 19) had embodied this concept even earlier as he challenged teachers to question our own complicity in banking models of education. For Freire (1970), teachers, the traditional oppressors, can be of the oppressed as well; coming to...