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Composition-Rhetoric: Backgrounds, Theory, and Pedagogy

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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Connors provides a history of composition and its pedagogical approaches to form, genre, and correctness. He shows where many of the today's practices and assumptions about writing come from, and he translates what our techniques and theories of teaching have said over time about our attitudes toward students, language and life.

    Connors locates the beginning of a new rhetorical tradition in the mid-nineteenth century, and from there, he discusses the theoretical and pedagogical innovations of the last two centuries as the result of historical forces, social needs, and cultural shifts.

    This important book proves that American composition-rhetoric is a genuine, rhetorical tradition with its own evolving theria and praxis. As such it is an essential reference for all teachers of English and students of American education.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7182-5
    Subjects: Education, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    This is a book about the rhetoric of written composition that arose in American colleges after 1780 and about its development as a culture, a theoretical apparatus, and a teaching practice down to relatively recent times. Although this story began to be told in detail during the last decade, let me tell you how I happen to be recounting my piece of it. When I began to study rhetoric, back in the mid-1970s, graduate students were all quickly made aware of the distinguished work that had been done in rhetorical history during the previous century. Starting from the original nineteenth-century...

  2. 1 Gender Influences: Composition-Rhetoric as an Irenic Rhetoric
    (pp. 23-68)

    Rhetoric in both its theories and its pedagogies changed more thoroughly during the hundred years of the nineteenth century than it had since its inception in the probate courts of ancient Syracuse in the fifth century B.C. Much of this change was due to shifting rhetorical sites. As we see in traditional rhetorical histories, the important sites of rhetorical activity move from Greece to Rome in the ancient world, and from Italy to France to England and finally to Scotland between 1400 and 1800. The central site for rhetorical activity during the nineteenth century was certainly North America, and specifically...

  3. 2 Shaping Tools: Textbooks and the Development of Composition-Rhetoric
    (pp. 69-111)

    The last twenty-five years have seen an unprecedented surge in the published scholarship surrounding writing and the teaching of writing. We are in the midst of an information boom, and for those of us whose professional views have been developed and shaped by reading scholarly journals it is difficult to imagine things any other way. But today’s discipline of composition studies is really a very new one. There were no scholarly journals dealing with rhetoric or writing before 1911, and even after the NCTE’sEnglish Journal(1912) andCollege English(1938) appeared, they were long read by a minority of...

  4. 3 Composition-Rhetoric, Grammar, and Mechanical Correctness
    (pp. 112-170)

    Throughout most of its history as a college subject, English composition has meant one thing to most people: the single-minded enforcement of standards of mechanical and grammatical correctness in writing. The image of a grim-faced Miss Grundy, besprinkling the essays of her luckless students with scarlet handbook hieroglyphs, is still a common stereotype. Neither is it unearned; only in the last twenty-five years have composition instructors seriously begun to question the priority given to simple correctness in college-level instruction. We have already discussed some of the forces that turned “rhetoric” into “composition,” transforming instruction in oral techniques of persuasion into...

  5. 4 Licensure, Disciplinary Identity, and Workload in Composition-Rhetoric
    (pp. 171-209)

    One of the most striking changes we find when examining the development of rhetoric in American colleges over the last two hundred years lies not in the theory or even the pedagogy of rhetoric, but in its status. As theory and discipline, it has been degraded within both cultural and economic contexts. The discipline of rhetoric at the college level entered the nineteenth century as one of the most esteemed fields in higher education. The professor of rhetoric in 1800—in touch with an intellectual and practical tradition more than two millennia old, yet revised and revitalized by recent theoretical...

  6. 5 Discourse Taxonomies in Composition-Rhetoric
    (pp. 210-256)

    The classification of discourse into different types has been one of the continuing interests of rhetoricians since the classical period. Some of these classifications have been genuinely useful to teachers of discourse, but others have exemplified Butler’s damning couplet, “all a rhetorician’s rules / Teach nothing but to name his tools.” Composition-rhetoric in all its phases has been one of the most taxonomic of rhetorical systems, addicted to classifications of discourse, figure, style, and other elements of writing. In this chapter I want to examine the evolution of the two primary discourse classifications of Consolidation and Modern composition-rhetoric: the “modes”...

  7. 6 Style Theory and Static Abstractions
    (pp. 257-295)

    Stylistics occupies an anomalous place in the history of composition-rhetoric in America. Defined in the sense of modern literary stylistic theories, we cannot say that this area had much effect on composition at all before 1950. Given the larger definition, however, of the study of rhetorical options at the sentence and word level, stylistics has been a crucial element of composition pedagogy for as long as it has existed. In this chapter, I want to look at the study of style, at the ways style theory mirrored vitality and decay within composition-rhetoric, and the pedagogic outgrowth of style theory in...

  8. 7 Invention and Assignments in Composition-Rhetoric
    (pp. 296-328)

    One of the continuing questions informing rhetorical theory and teaching has been: What are students of discourse supposed to know, to be able to speak and write about? This is a question that faced Quintilian, as it does every new teacher of composition. Whenever we organize a course and make writing assignments, we answer it, at least in a de facto sense. Should we emphasize honest, personal writing? stress academic, argumentative, or practical subjects? or try somehow to create a balance between these discourse aims? These inescapable questions have had teachers arguing for the last two hundred years and more,...