Revolution Lullabye

November 19, 2010

Cushman, Vertical Writing Programs in Departments of Rhetoric and Writing

Cushman, Ellen. “Vertical Writing Programs in Departments of Rhetoric and Writing.” Composition Studies in the New Millennium: Rereading the Past, Rewriting the Future. Ed. Lynn Z. Bloom, Donald A. Daiker, and Edward M. White. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2003. 121-128. Print.

Cushman distinguishes between composition (tied to the history and the problems of the required first-year course) and writing (a broader understanding that suggests the teaching of writing practices and histories and theories inside and outside of the university.) She argues for the field to embrace the term writing and use it to develop vertical curricula which could counteract the troubling labor, identity and institutional problems that seem to plague composition studies. Cushman, following others like Crowley and Porter et al (institutional critique), points out that implementing vertical writing programs is difficult because 1. there aren’t enough PhDs to staff these programs, 2. current faculty in English don’t pull their weight in teaching first-year writing, and 3. the attitude that writing is a contentless course is a difficult prejudice to overcome. Cushman argues that composition and rhetoric scholars, in order to gain the leverage to establish vertical writing curricula, need to “tap into the cachet that writing has in many university administrations” by going outside the English department and even outside the university, partnering with business, government, and community members, who highly value strong writing skills.

Notes and Quotes

“Writing will be taught in the vertical curriculum by fully enfranchised teachers only if our colleagues in literature understand and appreciate that writing, a practice, is also a knowledge base. A social capital. A profession.” (123).

vertical writing curricula won’t solve the labor issue.

Cushman is arguing for “vertical writing programs to be taugth in writing departments by fully enfranchised writing professors. We can no longer trust literature professors to do the right thing when deciding where composition will be taught and who will teach it” (125).

She’s at Colorado University, Denver

November 10, 2010

Agnew and Dallas, Internal Friction in a New Independent Department of Writing

Agnew, Eleanor and Phyllis Surrency Dallas. “Internal Friction in a New Independent Department of Writing.” In A Field of Dreams: Independent Writing Programs and the Future of Composition Studies. Ed. Peggy O’Neill, Angela Crow, and Larry W. Burton. Logan: Utah State UP, 2002. 38-49. Print.

The authors trace the issues that arose in the new independent department of Writing and Linguistics at Georgia Southern University, a large (60-plus faculty) department that was created top-down by the upper administration when the Department of English and Philosophy was divided in the fall of 1997. The authors claim that the department was so troubled and divisive because of three main issues: that the creation of the department was driven by administration, not the faculty within the department (who actually voted to keep the large English and philosophy department one or place them in a school together); that those with degrees in literature and literary studies were assigned – without asking them what they thought – to a department of writing – and the new department did not have a major, and therefore its central purpose was open to contestation. There were tensions between the seven newly hired rhet/comp faculty and the “senior” faculty and instructors in literature who had worked at the university for years: who decides curriculum? Who is in charge? Also, the department was seen at the university as a service department, adding low pay and low morale to the mix.

 Notes and Quotes

Interesting connection to SU Writing Program – the vast majority of the teachers in the new program were trained in literature, literary studies. How was this implosion sidestepped?

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