Revolution Lullabye

November 16, 2010

Chapman, Harris, and Hult, Agents for Change

Chapman, David, Jeanette Harris, and Christine Hult. “Agents for Change: Undergraduate Writing Programs in Departments of English.” Rhetoric Review 13.2 (Spring 1995): 421-34. Print.

The authors, who conducted a survey of English major programs (316 schools responded), found that there were an increase in the number of undergraduate major programs that offered a concentration or emphasis in some sort of writing (linguistics, creative writing, rhet/comp.) Their 1992 survey came five years after a smaller but similar survey conducted by Donald Stewart in 1987. They argue that this increase in course offerings in writing and rhet/comp puts pressure on the traditional, humanities-based literature curriculum that pervades English departments and ask whether or not this emergence of rhetoric and composition will result in either separation from English departments (like communication, English ed, theater) or a shift in the culture of English departments (to value more productive-based knowledge and learning.) They argue that undergraduate majors with more balanced offerings in literature and writing will better prepare students for future careers and offer alternative ways to learn and teach students critical analysis and thinking skills.

Notes and Quotes

“The challenge we face is not simply to replace the old hegemony of literature with a new hegemony of composition but to construct a new English department where reading and writing are mutually valued and mutually supportive activities. The achievement of this beatific vision may seem impossibly remote in some departments, but, on the whole, our survey showed movement toward a more balanced department that should ultimately best serve the needs of both students and faculty.” (429).

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