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Exploring Composition Studies

Exploring Composition Studies: Sites, Issues, Perspectives

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 300
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  • Book Info
    Exploring Composition Studies
    Book Description:

    Kelly Ritter and Paul Kei Matsuda have created an essential introduction to the field of composition studies for graduate students and instructors new to the study of writing. The book offers a careful exploration of this diverse field, focusing specifically on scholarship of writing and composing. Within this territory, the authors draw the boundaries broadly, to include allied sites of research such as professional and technical writing, writing across the curriculum programs, writing centers, and writing program administration. Importantly, they represent composition as a dynamic, eclectic field, influenced by factors both within the academy and without. The editors and their sixteen seasoned contributors have created a comprehensive and thoughtful exploration of composition studies as it stands in the early twenty-first century. Given the rapid growth of this field and the evolution of it research and pedagogical agendas over even the last ten years, this multi-vocal introduction is long overdue.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-883-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Education

Table of Contents

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  1. FOREWORD: Defining Composition Studies . . . Again, and Again
    (pp. vii-xii)
    Andrea A. Lunsford

    Some fifteen years ago, Lynn Bloom, Don Daiker, and Ed White published Composition in the Twenty-first Century: Crisis and Change, a collection of essays from a conference by the same name that had been, according to the editors’ preface, three years in the making and that had a strong impact on the field. Their volume still makes for instructive reading, perhaps especially with fifteen years’ hindsight. Hoping to chart a “new geography of composition” (2), the editors and writers of this volume (including Stephen North, Shirley Brice Heath, David Bartholomae, Linda Flower, James Berlin, Anne Gere, James Slevin, and Peter...

  2. INTRODUCTION: How Did We Get Here?
    (pp. 1-10)
    Kelly Ritter and Paul Kei Matsuda

    Composition studies—an important subset of the larger field of rhetoric and composition—is an intellectual formation that draws insights from various related fields in order to address issues in the teaching of writing. Due to its inherently interdisciplinary nature, composition studies draws its students and prospective scholars from many areas inside and outside English studies. These new members of the composition studies community are often trained to varying degrees in the pedagogy of composition through teaching practica or proseminars. While many of them have been exposed to some of the major theories of the field in addition to other...


    • 1 CREATION MYTHS AND FLASH POINTS: Understanding Basic Writing through Conflicted Stories
      (pp. 13-35)
      Linda Adler-Kassner and Susanmarie Harrington

      By now there is a well-developed literature attesting to the importance of stories—of narrative—for the development of institutional, cultural, and organizational identities. Texts from a diversity of fields, from organizational behavior and management (e.g., Brown et al. 2005) to historiography (Noble) to documentary studies (Coles) to our own field of composition (Rose, Lives on the Boundary; The Mind at Work; Ede, Situating Composition), document the power of stories to shape peoples’ understandings. This includes (but is not limited to) understandings of a number of relationships: between people and their articulation of understandings; between different ideas about a common...

    • 2 TEACHING COMPOSITION IN THE MULTILINGUAL WORLD: Second Language Writing in Composition Studies
      (pp. 36-51)
      Paul Kei Matsuda

      The student population in U.S. college composition programs is not what it used to be. This statement rings true regardless of which period in the history of composition we happen to choose as a reference point—in fact, composition studies evolved in response to a series of literacy crises (Lunsford, “Politics”). Yet, the implications of the demographic shifts are especially pertinent today. Over the last century and a half, U.S. higher education grew from a parochial institution for a select few from privileged socioeconomic, religious, ethnic, and linguistics backgrounds to a provider of mass education for people from a wider...

    • 3 REMAPPING PROFESSIONAL WRITING: Articulating the State of the Art and Composition Studies
      (pp. 52-72)
      Tim Peeples and Bill Hart-Davidson

      In l993, Patricia A. Sullivan and James E. Porter published “Remapping Curricular Geography: Professional Writing in/and English” in the Journal of Business and Technical Communication. In 2007, when Thomas Kent was asked by Dorothy Winsor, then the editor of JBTC, to identify the most significant article published during his tenure as editor of that same journal, he selected “Remapping.” Kent argues that the Sullivan and Porter article “remains timely in disciplinary and institutional terms,” and “the thrust of their argument clearly continues to resonate with us” (12). Primary among these resonating arguments, Kent singles out two. First is the clear...

    • 4 WRITING CENTER SCHOLARSHIP: A “Big Cross-Disciplinary Tent”
      (pp. 73-88)
      Lauren Fitzgerald

      In his keynote address at the 2004 Thomas R. Watson Conference, Neal Lerner captured an essential quality of research and scholarship on writing centers. Because writing centers are “complex places,” offering both sites of and methods for writing instruction to writers from a range of discourse communities within and beyond educational settings, writing center scholarship calls for an array of research methods. If smaller in scale, writing center studies’ “big cross-disciplinary tent” bears a striking resemblance to the heterogeneity of composition studies (“Seeking” 55). Recent writing center scholars have addressed, for example, history (Boquet, “‘Our’”; Lerner, Idea), basic writing (Bawarshi...

      (pp. 89-104)
      Rita Malenczyk

      In their contribution to this volume, “Creation Myths and Flash Points,” Linda Adler-Kassner and Susanmarie Harrington invite us to view the field of basic writing through the conflicting narratives of its history. In this chapter, I similarly recount the narrative of writing across the curriculum (WAC). I argue that instead of conflicting stories, however, what WAC presents us with is essentially one master narrative, one of revelation, community building, and continued conversion. In a perfect storm–like convergence of forces spanning the last three decades (the emergence of composition as a field, the National Writing Project, the federal government), English...

      (pp. 105-120)
      Jeanne Gunner

      This chapter is a sketch of writing program administration as an intellectual field. The approach I take is grounded in WPA history and theoretical orientations, as well as in the tensions, arguments, and epistemological orientations that give the field its intellectual vitality. Coming out of textual studies and with a materialist orientation, I favor examination not only of major authors and their publications but also of self-defining and revealing, if marginal, professional documents, including editorial policy statements, the ancillary contents of edited collections, and “flash point” texts—those that have created an angry “buzz” or righteous endorsement. Within composition studies,...


    • 7 REIMAGINING THE NATURE OF FYC: Trends in Writing-about-Writing Pedagogies
      (pp. 123-144)
      Doug Downs and Elizabeth Wardle

      As the introduction to this volume notes, the advent of the field of composition studies was marked by the emergence of specialized theory-and research-based knowledge about writers, writing, discourse, and textual production. But while that knowledge quickly began to shape first-year composition (FYC) processes and pedagogies, only recently has that knowledge about writing become an explicit focus of study or the subject of students’ own writing in FYC. In this chapter, we describe rationales and goals for making the knowledge of the field the studied content of FYC, and explore this “writing-about-writing” (WAW) pedagogy as an area of cutting-edge pedagogical...

    • 8 TRANSFER, PORTABILITY, GENERALIZATION: (How) Does Composition Expertise “Carry”!
      (pp. 145-166)
      Christiane Donahue

      Transfer, a term with myriad connotations, has become key to recent discussions in composition studies. The process it names encapsulates deep questions about liberal arts traditions, professional education, general education, specialization, expertise, “useful” learning, and the very value of any educational frame in fostering students’ development—all of the questions the field of composition has faced and will continue to face. The transfer discussion draws on historical phases of composition studies as well, tapping into old debates about the cognitive versus the social, enculturation and discourse communities, the nature of writing knowledge, even the research traditions of our relatively young...

      (pp. 167-187)
      Kathleen Blake Yancey

      By definition, writing assessment is at the heart of composition studies: through pedagogically based assessment practices like responding to writing and introducing students to reflection and self-assessment, we assist students in developing as writers and develop our own writing/reading/teaching relationships with them. It’s also fair to say, however, that compositionists often find themselves at odds with writing assessment and frustrated with it, believing with writing assessment scholar Pat Belanoff that such evaluation is “the dirty little thing we do in our closets” (ix). More specifically, compositionists often find writing assessment—especially when the assessment is external to our own curricula,...

    • 10 STUDYING LITERACY IN DIGITAL CONTEXTS: Computers and Composition Studies
      (pp. 188-198)
      Gail E. Hawisher and Cynthia L. Selfe

      In a twenty-first-century world shaped increasingly by digital environments for creating and communicating meaning by electronic workplaces, homes, and online businesses, and by computer networks that extend across linguistic, cultural, and geopolitical borders, it has become rare to find a writing program or a composition classroom that does not incorporate computers or rhetoric and composition faculty who do not recognize some level of responsibility for preparing students to read, write, and communicate effectively in digital environments. Digital environments also provide crucial environments for reading and composing activities that take place in WAC programs, writing and learning centers, community literacy programs,...

    • 11 “WHAT GOES ON HERE?”: The Uses of Ethnography in Composition Studies
      (pp. 199-210)
      Elizabeth Chiseri-Strater

      “What is the postmodernist critique of ethnography?” was a question posed to me by a member of the search committee on a campus visit for a compositionist job I thought I desperately wanted. As a newly minted doctorate who had written a dissertation that was an ethnographic study of undergraduate reading and writing practices (that would become Academic Literacies), I knew I should be able to answer this question since one of the strengths of my interdisciplinary graduate program was my coursework in ethnography, a research approach to the study of cultures,¹ including the subculture of schooling.² In answering this...

      (pp. 211-222)
      Barbara L’Eplattenier and Lisa S. Mastrangelo

      As researchers in rhetoric and composition, we are drawn to the pursuit of information that is revealed only in archival documents—the letters between administrator and teacher or teacher and former students, the writing assignment that reveals a previously unknown strategy, the transcript that shows that meetings between various colleges occurred. We find “things” that allow us to make connections with our other research, and we find there are “things” we wish we could find to verify our suspicions. We like the never-ending chase to find old documents and artifacts.

      Thus, throughout the course of our careers, we have pursued...

    • 13 WRITING PEDAGOGY EDUCATION: Instructor Development in Composition Studies
      (pp. 223-240)
      Heidi Estrem and E. Shelley Reid

      Within composition studies, the work of mentoring writing teachers inhabits a curricular space that is similar in significant ways to that of first-year writing. But while the teaching of first-year writing has enjoyed close, careful, thoughtful attention within our field over the past fifty years—and while composition programs often practice more college-level teacher education than any other place on university campuses—writing pedagogy education (or WPE, as we’ll call it throughout this chapter) is still a diffuse, emerging area of inquiry. What writing pedagogy education “is” takes multiple shapes as it responds to local needs and disciplinary influences.


    (pp. 241-246)
    Deborah H. Holdstein

    Most editors of professional journals, likely all, provide guidelines for evaluating manuscripts submitted for possible publication. A key question within these guidelines is as follows, and this will come as no surprise: Does the article contribute something new to the field? Are we as readers and fellow travelers in scholarship somehow enriched, renewed, potentially forced to think in new ways, if this article is published? Has the author or authors done his or her homework—that is, is the author accountable, having acknowledged and built upon previous work (or acknowledged the absence of that work) in the field or fields?...