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

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February 23, 2009

Porter et al, Institutional Critique

Porter, James E., Patricia Sullivan, Stuart Blythe, Jeffrey T. Grabill, and Libby Miles. “Institutional Critique: A Rhetorical Methodology for Change.” CCC 51.4 (June 2000) 610-642.

Composition and rhetoric scholars need to begin seeing the institution itself, as a rhetorical and spatial entity, as the place where they might critique and enact change. Working with the situated institution prevents composition and rhetoric’s critiques and calls for change from being to global and idealistic or being so local (classroom-level) that it does not effect the institution as a whole. Institutions range from the university to the school, legal, and political system. Institutional critique as a methodolgy draws on postmodern mapping and critical theory, particularily investigating the rhetorical and spatial construction of institutions, the power dynamics at the boundaries, and the multiple historical and social perspectives of those in the institution. This kind of methodology begins to push the gap between research and service and might be one way of validating and rewarding the rich intellectual work that compositionists and rhetoricians do that is all but thrown away with the label of “service.” Rhetoric and composition as a field is uniquely equip to practice institutional critique.

Quotable Quotes

“Our basic claim is this: Though institutions are certainly powerful, they are not monoliths; they are rhetorically constructed human designs (whose power is reinforced by buildings, laws, traditions, and knowledge-making practices) and so are changeable” (611).

“We focus, then, on institutions as rhetorical systems of decision making that exercise power through the design of space (both material and discursive)” (621).

“Institutional critique is, fundamentally, a pragmatic effort to use rhetorical means to improve institutional systems” (625).

Notable Notes

projects like where a writing center is physically situated on campus; how and when during the publishing process a handbook is open for revision & the various stakes that go into such a production; Ellen Cushman’s work with Quarytown in The Struggle and the Tools.

advocacy – action to enact change. Can’t stop at critique. It fills in the gap between macro-level ideals and mirco-level classroom practices

equating the discipline with the institution ignores the material constraints the discipline has to work in (619)

design relationship – between rhetoric and space

David Sibley Geographies of Exclusion, postmodern geography

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