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Teaching Composition As A Social Process

Teaching Composition As A Social Process

Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 180
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  • Book Info
    Teaching Composition As A Social Process
    Book Description:

    Bruce McComiskey is a strong advocate of social approaches to teaching writing. However, he opposes composition teaching that relies on cultural theory for content, because it too often prejudges the ethical character of institutions and reverts unnecessarily to product-centered practices in the classroom. He opposes what he calls the "read-this-essay-and-do-what-the-author-did method of writing instruction: read Roland Barthes's essay 'Toys' and write a similar essay; read John Fiske's essay on TV and critique a show." McComiskey argues for teaching writing as situated in discourse itself, in the constant flow of texts produced within social relationships and institutions. He urges writing teachers not to neglect the linguistic and rhetorical levels of composing, but rather to strengthen them with attention to the social contexts and ideological investments that pervade both the processes and products of writing. A work with a sophisticated theory base, and full of examples from McComiskey's own classrooms, Teaching Composition as a Social Process will be valued by experienced and beginning composition teachers alike.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-352-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Education

Table of Contents

    (pp. 1-4)

    My career as a writing teacher began in the early 1980s, when I was an undergraduate teaching assistant in the composition program at Illinois State University, and since that time I have been a card carrying … well, everything. At first, I was intoxicated by the expressivist fervor for individuality and creativity, reading Donald Murray and Peter Elbow on busses home from college and, later, grad school. Yet at times I was uncomfortable in the classroom, lacking concrete strategies to help my students solve important rhetorical problems. Soon after this, and partly the result of a “quest” for something more,...

  2. CHAPTER ONE Three Levels of Composing
    (pp. 5-18)

    Over the years, some scholars in rhetoric and composition have proposed frameworks attempting to “map” composition studies, plumb the depths of its scope, define the borders that divide its practitioners into camps. Richard Fulkerson’s four philosophies of composition (mimetic, expressive, formalist, and rhetorical) and James Berlin’s major pedagogical theories (current-traditional, expressivist, cognitivist, and epistemic) have served, and serve now, as foundations, schemes, terministic screens through which to structure composition studies as a disciplinary formation. But one characteristic of these maps of composing, a characteristic I have found less and less helpful, especially in recent years, is their attempt to divide...

  3. CHAPTER TWO Social–Process Rhetorical Inquiry
    (pp. 19-46)

    There is mounting evidence that composition studies has experienced a “social turn,” and, according to John Trimbur, this social turn is the result of an increasing disaffection among certain composition teachers with the radical individualism implied by the early writing-as-process paradigm. In the mid-1980s, fueled by emerging debates about academic discourse, professional writing, and writing across the curriculum, scholars such as Patricia Bizzell, Lee Odell, and James Reither, among many others, began to question the individualism embedded in previous articulations of the writing process, arguing instead that different institutional contexts for writing (academic, professional, disciplinary) require different writing processes.¹ I...

  4. CHAPTER THREE The Post–Process Movement in Composition Studies
    (pp. 47-68)

    The term POST-PROCESS has gained some currency in composition studies, yet its meaning remains unclear. Reactions among writing teachers to the term post-process are often as strong as reactions have been among literary theorists to the term postmodern. One of the reasons for such reactions to these terms is that in each idiomatic usage the “post” means something different, ranging anywhere from a “radical rejection” to a “complex extension” of what came before. In this chapter, I argue that the most fruitful meaning for the “post” in post-process is “extension,” not “rejection,” and I offer social-process rhetorical inquiry as a...

  5. CHAPTER FOUR Composing Postmodern Subjectivities in the Aporia between Identity and Difference
    (pp. 69-84)

    Recent discussions of teaching composition in the context of cultural theory have begun to consider the condition of the writing subject in society, yet these discussions often construct student-writer Subjects according to modernist identity/difference binary oppositions that are politically problematic. The modernist Subject is defined in terms of its objective relationship to reality and its opposition to “Other” subjects, and the construction of the modernist Subject (autonomous and sovereign) is an effect of ethno-centric formulations (frames, constructions) of identity/difference oppositions.¹ In Orientalism, for example, Edward Said describes how modernist European societies construct cultural differences not only as “other” but also...

  6. CHAPTER FIVE Critical Discourse Analysis in the Composition Class
    (pp. 85-112)

    Composition teachers often forage in linguistics for new ways to approach issues of style, grammar, and invention in their classrooms; however, in “Linguistics and Composition Instruction, 1950-1980,” Sharon Crowley points out that since traditional linguistics views language as acontextual and has little concern for discourse beyond sentence length, the value of linguistics for composition studies is limited. While Crowley’s conclusions are consistent with the state of linguistics from the 1950s through the 1960s, there were, as Frank Parker and Kim Sydow Campbell suggest, important developments in linguistics shortly before 1970 and thereafter. One development in particular (not pursued by Parker...

  7. CHAPTER SIX Writing in Context
    (pp. 113-138)

    Most writing teachers agree that their courses prepare students for “life” in the “real world,” but few teachers have theorized what sort of “life” they wish for their students, and even fewer describe the condition of this “real world.” Yet, these are crucial tasks that those in academia cannot ignore. “Life” implies activity, and “real world” implies a context for that activity. Thus, in terms of writing instruction: 1) teachers ought to articulate the kinds of activities they want their students to perform outside the classroom, and they should design pedagogical techniques that develop skills in their students consistent with...