Revolution Lullabye

November 17, 2010

Little and Rose, A Home of Our Own

Little, Sherry Burgus, and Shirley K. Rose. “A Home of Our Own: Establishing a Department of Rhetoric and Writing Studies at San Diego State University.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 18.1-2 (Fall/Winter 1994): 16-28. Print.

Little and Rose describe how the stand-alone Department of Rhetoric and Writing were created at SDSU, explaining the changes that occured in the establishment of the new department, and argue that WPAs need more than good reasons for advocating for a separate writing program; they need to use rhetoric, good reasoning to argue for independence, which comes through an understanding of local institutional constraints, mission, and politics. They stress the importance of knowing university polity (organizational and governance structure); policy (principles and procedures for getting things done); and politics (who has power and sway, who are your allies.)

Notes and Quotes

go beyond the English department to the rest of the institution – get to know others in other departments.

Department of Rhetoric and Writing became independent at San Diego State University in May 1993 (Colgate, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, UT Austin all around the same time)

Little and Rose, rejecting the metaphor of divorce to describe the separation of composition from literature into independent departments, adopt Phelps’ metaphor of describing composition as a ‘grown child’ who needs a ‘home of her own’ as a separate and equal adult.

They give their responses and arguments to the following objections: 1. Writing has always been in English (just not historically or currently true) 2. study and teaching of writing is necessarily linked to the teaching and reading of literature 3. the writing program needs the English department for protection (placing it outside will strenghten it, showing connections to other disciplines besides just English 4. composition is not a legitimate discipline 5. English departments don’t marginalize composition (just look at the pervasive labor problem and assumption that no one wants to teach writing) 6. money isn’t an issue (it always is and composition is a very fiscally efficient and profitable enterprise) 7. loss of graduate TA lines in English 8. if English majors dry up, there won’t be composition classes for English faculty to teach

“Creating a separate writing department does not, then, separate reading from writing, but terminates the exclusive relationship between writing studies and literary studies” (20).

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