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What We Are Becoming

What We Are Becoming: Developments in Undergratuate Writing Majors

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 294
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  • Book Info
    What We Are Becoming
    Book Description:

    Greg Giberson and Tom Moriarty have collected a rich volume that offers a state-of-the-field look at the question of the undergraduate writing major, a vital issue for compositionists as the discipline continues to evolve. What We Are Becoming provides an indispensable resource for departments and WPAs who are building undergraduate majors. Contributors to the volume address a range of vital questions for undergraduate programs, including such issues as the competition for majors within departments, the job market for undergraduates, varying focuses and curricula of such majors, and the formation of them in departments separate from English. Other chapters discuss the importance of flexibility, consider arguments for a rhetorical or civic discourse core for the writing major, address the relationship between rhetoric and composition majors, and review the role of multiliteracies in the major. The field of composition has not come to a consensus on the shape, content, or focus of the undergradutate major. But as individual programs develop and refine their curricula, one thing has become clear: we must think about them in ways that go beyond our particular circumstances, theorize them in ways that secure their place on our campuses and in our discipline for years to come. What We Are Becoming is an effort to do just that.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-764-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Education

Table of Contents

    (pp. vii-viii)
    Janice M. Lauer

    This collection of essays addresses one of the key needs in the field of rhetoric and composition today. As the field developed in the sixties seventies, its energy focused largely on the initiation of graduate especially doctoral programs. One reason was the need to a place for the field as a scholarly discipline in addition to its teaching mission. As these programs grew and matured, they struggled to varying degrees with acclimating to their host English departments or starting separate departments. Rhetoric and composition faculty in each were frequently few in number at the beginning and were burdened with courses,...

  2. INTRODUCTION: Forging Connections Among Undergraduate Writing Majors
    (pp. 1-10)
    Greg A. Giberson and Thomas A. Moriarty

    When we first discussed in this book back in 2005, we had just revamped the undergraduate track in writing in the English department at Salisbury University (SU) in Maryland. After the revision of the program was complete, we continued to discuss the particular program we had developed, the courses we had chosen for the core, and the possible changes that might be made in the future as the program grew. We talked about how lucky we were that we had such a supportive (or uninterested) department, given that there was very little discussion in full department meetings about the changes...


      (pp. 13-31)
      Rebecca de Wind Mattingly and Patricia Harkin

      In this essay our argument will be that a post-disciplinary major in rhetoric and composition is a particularly good idea for research-intensive universities in the current technological and fiscal states of affairs. We shall describe the benefits such a major would potentially offer to contemporary students, to the faculty members who teach them, to tertiary institutions (especially state-sponsored ones) in general, and even to multinational capital. We shall also necessarily describe the institutional impedimenta that such an innovation is likely to encounter. Finally, we describe a course that might serve as the entry to such a major at research-intensive universities....

    • 2 REDEFINING THE UNDERGRADUATE ENGLISH WRITING MAJOR: An Integrated Approach at a Small Comprehensive University
      (pp. 32-49)
      Randy Brooks, Peiling Zhao and Carmella Braniger

      The steady growth of undergraduate majors in rhetoric and composition in the last two decades has prompted discussions about the challenging development of these majors. In this chapter we will discuss the development of an undergraduate writing major with an integrated model at a small comprehensive university. This model provides us with a means of addressing some of the challenges faced by any English department in developing an effective undergraduate writing major. The first challenge is the difficulty of modeling an undergraduate writing program on graduate programs in rhetoric and composition. A second challenge we address deals with the place...

    • 3 RESTORYING DISCIPLINARY RELATIONSHIPS: The Development of an Undergraduate Writing Concentration
      (pp. 50-66)
      Lisa Langstraat, Mike Palmquist and Kate Kiefer

      These cautionary comments are all too familiar in both spirit and letter: Howard is reminding composition administrators that, rather than positioning ourselves as injured parties, compromise and savvy are absolutely vital if we are to build successful advanced writing curricula within English departments. Howard does not, by any means, deny the vexing struggles that faculty working to institute advanced writing programs have experienced. Indeed, this passage is preceded by rather chilling accounts of such struggles. Yet, there is something troubling about Howard’s characterization of a composition “victim role,” particularly since her essay carries significant weight as the introduction to one...

    • 4 OUTSIDE THE ENGLISH DEPARTMENT: Oakland University’s Writing Program and the Writing and Rhetoric Major
      (pp. 67-80)
      Wallis May Anderson

      On May 7, 2008, the Oakland University (OU) Board of Trustees approved a proposal for a new major and minor in writing and rhetoric, the culmination of over ten years of effort by rhetoric faculty in the Department of Rhetoric, Communication, and Journalism. On June 1, 2008, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) officially launched the Department of Writing and Rhetoric as a stand-alone writing department.¹ The writing program’s independence and the development of its major intertwine. Initial independence allowed the faculty to create curriculum based on contemporary disciplinary thinking, and that curricular focus persisted through...

    • 5 “BETWEEN THE IDEA AND THE REALITY. . .FALLS THE SHADOW”: The Promise and Peril of a Small College Writing Major
      (pp. 81-97)
      Kelly Lowe and William Macauley

      There is a certain intellectual and emotional appeal to an undergraduate writing major: majors bring students and advisees and money tenure-lines and your name in the graduation bulletin. A writing major can also indicate that, finally, your institution recognizes writing as legitimate academic field rather than simply a set of skills to be (quickly) mastered in the service of other majors or as a secondary consideration to “content.” So, what could possibly be wrong with a writing major?

      Plenty, as it turns out. Our argument is simple: there is nothing wrong with a writing major per se. However, there is...

      (pp. 98-129)
      Rodney F. Dick

      In 1945, Herbert Weisinger and his colleagues at Michigan State University felt they had reason to worry about the state of the field of English studies. To summarize the complaint using his own words: “The first and most serious charge which I shall lay against the present method [of preparation] is that the major can complete his work without having studied many of the important works in the history of English literature” (342). Weisinger’s solution, of course, is a list of great works that should be read from “cover to cover” and a six-semester curriculum guide, providing teachers with an...

    • 7 DANCING WITH OUR SIBLINGS: The Unlikely Case for a Rhetoric Major
      (pp. 130-152)
      David Beard

      If the overall thrust of this book is to account for the possibility of a “writing major,” it takes its place alongside other anthologies (for example, Shamoon, Howard, Jamieson, and Schwegler’s Coming of Age: The Advanced Writing Curriculum) and special issues of composition journals (the spring 2007 edition of Composition Studies, for example). My own take on the major writing curriculum is grounded by my belief that the rhetorical tradition is integral to the research agenda for composition studies, useful for composition pedagogy (in the service and major curricula), and foundational to our claims of disciplinarity. Rhetoric is part of...

      (pp. 153-174)
      Lori Baker and Teresa Henning

      In her report on the 1993 conference for New England Writing Program Administrators, Linda Shamoon et al. cites Stephen North’s call to use rhetoric as “the next formulation of our discipline,” and criticizes him and other scholars like him for failing to elaborate their “bases for rebuilding contemporary writing programs as rhetoric programs” (1995, 7). She insists that we must understand what is at stake before making such a shift.

      With the recent development of rhetoric and composition programs across the country and our own work to create a professional writing major in an English department with a strong creative...


    • 9 REMEMBERING THE CANONS’ MIDDLE SISTERS: Style, Memory, and the Return of the Progymnasmata in the Liberal Arts Writing Major
      (pp. 177-203)
      Dominic F. Delli Carpini and Michael J. Zerbe

      Over the past four decades, the theory and practice of writing pedagogy have not treated the five canons of classical rhetoric equally. For a number of theoretical and institutional reasons, invention, arrangement, and delivery—the first, second, and fifth canons, respectively—have received the most attention. But as rhetoric and composition matured as a discipline, and as it has gained disciplinary security within the academy (as evidenced not only by conferences, journals, and book series but also by the growing number of tenured faculty, department chairs, and upper-level administrators with backgrounds in rhetoric composition), we now have the opportunity to...

      (pp. 204-216)
      Thomas A. Moriarty and Greg A. Giberson

      It’s an exciting time to be a rhetoric and writing specialist. (As we write this, we realize it’s always exciting to be a rhetoric and writing specialist, but these days, it seems particularly so.) Our job markets are strong, our graduate programs are thriving, and there’s a growing movement writing programs across the country to develop undergraduate majors in rhetoric and writing. This third development is particularly exciting—and important—because it represents a milestone in our field’s development. We finally have a place in the undergraduate catalog, on the department Web site, a prominent place that puts us on...

    • 11 COMPOSING MULTILITERACIES AND IMAGE: Multimodal Writing Majors for a Creative Economy
      (pp. 217-224)
      Joddy Murray

      At one point while students were working on their in-class projects the Multimedia Authoring class I was teaching, it occurred to me how much these students were juggling: They had been researching community events and organizations for Web sites they were constructing; story-boarding and working in groups to determine who was going to film interviews for the mini-documentaries on student life they were producing; and reflecting on and writing about how they were going to integrate the still photography they shot and edited into arguments for campus involvement—arguments that would eventually become large-format posters distributed in common-use areas. These...

    • 12 NOT JUST ANOTHER PRETTY CLASSROOM GENRE: The Uses of Creative Nonfiction in the Writing Major
      (pp. 225-242)
      Celest Martin

      As late as 2003, theoretical concerns prevented composition studies and creative writing from engaging in productive dialogue. One result of this scholarly cold war was to leave creative nonfiction an orphan (Hesse 2003). However, many from the academy in both of these writing disciplines have been calling for a union of the two, realizing that the theories and pedagogies of each inform and strengthen the other. (See, for example, Mayers 2005; Eldred 2005; Couture and Kent 2004; Kamler 2001; Bloom 1998; and, to some extent, Bizzell 1999). The reluctance of both disciplines to claim creative nonfiction is easing, and indeed,...

    • 13 THE WRITING ARTS MAJOR: A Work in Process
      (pp. 243-259)
      Jennifer Courtney, Deb Martin and Diane Penrod

      As writers and teachers of writing, many of us can empathize with Burke’s characterization of revision: sometimes uncomfortable, almost always revealing, and, we hope, ultimately useful. In this chapter we, as faculty in Rowan University’s Department of Writing Arts, discuss how key aspects of revision—self-reflection, openness to feedback and information, and flexibility—serve as a productive framework for keeping our ten-year-old program relevant. As stand-alone writing departments and programs have grown significantly in the last few years, accounts of their histories have flourished: for example, in a recent special issue of Composition Studies, in A Field of Dreams: Independent...

    • 14 “WHAT EXACTLY IS THIS MAJOR?” Creating Disciplinary Identity through an Introductory Course
      (pp. 260-276)
      Sanford Tweedie, Jennifer Courtney and William I. Wolff

      As members of a discipline that has often been accused of borrowing from others, we wish to begin by doing so.

      Imagine the following statement: “The writing-studies curriculum is perhaps better defined by what it’s not than what it is. It’s not tidy. It has no clear boundaries. Unlike, say, economics or chemistry, there is no obvious progression of knowledge. . . . There’s a reason 30 years after the discipline developed that people still wonder whether the writing-studies curriculum represents a coherent subject or a smorgasbord. For all the programs and scholarship, writing-studies professors still haven’t reached a consensus...

      (pp. 277-286)
      Lee Campbell and Debra Jacobs

      Nearly fifteen years after the institution of a graduate program in rhetoric and composition at Purdue University, Janice Lauer, who helped to create the program and served as its director for over two decades, provided an account of its initiation and its ongoing development and maintenance. Her account, an essay titled “Constructing a Doctoral Program in Rhetoric and Composition,” was included in the well-known spring 1994 special issue of Rhetoric Review, an issue widely commended for providing detailed information on doctoral programs in rhetoric and composition across the country obtained from an in-depth survey conducted by Stuart Brown, Theresa Enos,...

    (pp. 287-289)
    Susan H. McLeod

    This collection of essays marks an important moment in the development of rhetoric and composition as a discipline. It has been clear for awhile that the undergraduate major in writing is growing at a remarkable rate, in terms of both the number of institutions that have such a major and the number of students enrolling in it. When the Conference on College Composition and Communication Committee on the Major in Rhetoric and Composition (which I chaired at the time) did our first survey of the major in 2005–06, we found 45 institutions that had such a major. Just three...