Revolution Lullabye

October 15, 2013

Dadas, Reaching the Profession

Dadas, Caroline. “Reaching the Profession: The Locations of the Rhetoric and Composition Job Market.” College Composition and Communication 65.1 (September 2013): 67-89. Print.

Dadas argues that the discipline and specifically hiring committees need to investigate the locations  in which the composition and rhetoric job market process occurs and work to make hiring practices in these spaces more humane, ethical, and non-discriminatory. Dadas interviews 57 rhetoric and composition scholars who have either gone on the job market and/or have been a member of a hiring committee within the past ten years. She codes the transcripts of her interviews through grounded theory in order to find trends and patterns in the responses. Dadas’ article is organized around three locations of the composition and rhetoric job market: the phone interview, the Internet (including video/Skype interviews and the academic job wiki), and the MLA convention. She notes how each of these locations have embedded discriminatory practices: the phone interview, with its lack of visual cues, relies on the auditory modality and can force candidates to disclose disabilities that they otherwise wouldn’t; video/Skype interviews overemphasize appearances, visual cues, and the use of a sometimes spotty and new technology; the academic job wiki can increase candidate anxiety and spread false information about searches; and the MLA convention is cost prohibitive to many graduate student candidates who wouldn’t have normally attended the conference because it is not a central one to hte field.

Dadas focuses on the MLA convention timeline, asking whether or not it is in the best interest of candidates and search committees to have a coordinated timeline for the job search process. She points out that having a common timeline helps candidates compare and negotiate job offers, but questions whether or not the MLA conference – a conference that can be seen as marginalizing the field of composition and rhetoric – is the appropriate fulcrum for the comp/rhet job search process.

Dadas argues that hiring committees should practice empathy and think from the candidate’s perspective when deciding on the job hiring process and the locations in which they will interview candidates.  Dadas points out that one simple way to do this is for hiring committees to ask candidates what hiring practices could help them perform their best in the job search process, and that fair and ethical hiring practices don’t necessarily mean the same hiring processes for all candidates.

Notable Notes

need to look at timing and structure of job searches (84)

2008 recession led to an increase in phone/internet interviews over MLA convention and a jumping of the job search timeline by many institutions (80).

looks at the literature on the job market – almost all the scholarship focuses on the health of the market, the number of jobs, not the job search itself

relies on theories of location/place/space, both virtual and non-virtual (68)

Quotable Quotes

“We need to educate [equal opportunity offices] that ‘fair’ does not mean ‘the same for all.’ Only in challenging these institutional constraints can we work toward a more flexible process that allows all candidates to perform their best.” (85).

“Based on the dissatisfaction of many of the survey participants and on a decades-long acknowledgement that rhetoric and composition occupies a marginalized position within English studies, I pose a question to our discipline as a whole: is it best that we make MLA the center of our hiring universe?” (83).

“We have to talk about [the job market]. We have to theorize it. We have to give grad students some control over the parts that they can control so that the parts that they can’t control don’t feel so overwhelmingly difficult. And I think we should do that as a discipline, not just program to program” (Survey participant, qtd in Dadas 67).


January 3, 2013

Simpson, The Problem of Graduate-Level Writing Support

Simpson, Steve. “The Problem of Graduate-Level Writing Support: Building a Cross-Campus Graduate Writing Initiative.” WPA 36.1 (Fall/Winter 2012): 95-118. Print.

Simpson explains that graduate writing instruction is a growing area of need in American universities, and he argues that writing programs should take the lead in addressing this need.  Graduate students at American universities, especially those students in the sciences and engineering, are under more pressure to publish before graduation, and there are more and more international graduate students who need better writing support aimed at NNES (non-native English speakers.)

Simpson describes a graduate writing initiative he helped establish in 2010-2011 at New Mexico Tech through, in part, a Title V grant.  The initiative at NMT showcases Simpson’s claim that the “problem” of graduate student writing is systemic and requires a systemic answer – the burden cannot fall solely on individual departments, a writing center, or a writing program.  The writing initiative at NMT involved cross-campus partnerships to create linked writing/communication courses with individual departments, a course specifically designed for NNES, and a week-long dissertation “boot camp.”

Simpson argues that WPAs and writing studies scholars should look at scholarship in higher education, second language writing, and at work done internationally (especially in Australia and Canada) to help develop sustainable solutions to meeting graduate student writing needs.

Notable Notes

systemic solutions don’t have to be huge: Simpson draws on Donella Meadows to explain how through identifying “leverage points” in a system, change can happen through a ripple effect (104).

Graduate student education is different than undergraduate education, and graduate student writing needs are also different: graduate education more heavily relies on mentors (so writing help needs to not compete with that mentor-mentee relationship), graduate education is more solitary (but writing help should encourage graduate students to seek each other out for peer writing and support groups), graduate education is more individualized (so writing help needs to be flexible, available when graduate students want and need it.) (101-102)

the audience for graduate students (especially STEM) is increasingly the field, with the pressure to publish.  Writing is no longer a heuristic for learning – it is the path to publication and a job.  (99)

Graduate student writing education is an institutional problem – one shared by all (103).

Quotable Quotes

nice “hot potato” metaphor: “At many universities, graduate writing support is a hot potato passed between university departments and advisors, writing centers, ESL departments, and writing programs” (97).

“Frankly, any university department or entity – including writing programs and writing centers – would have difficulty shouldering the weight of graduate writing support independently. Thus, this dilemma’s solution lies in cross-campus partnerships involving writing programs, writing centers, and ESL and other university writing departments” (97).

“The problem of graduate writing is a systemic problem in need of a systems-based solution” (104).

“Graduate writing initiatives have the potential both to build our writing programs and to enrich the research in our field considerably” (113).

November 11, 2010

Yood, Revising the Dream

Yood, Jessica. “Revising the Dream: Graduate Students, Independent Writing Programs, and the Future of English Studies.” 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. 170-185. Print.

Yood uses reception theory – the idea that different constituencies in a single system process and understand change in different ways – to explain how the construction of an independent writing program has a different effect on graduate student identities and their perceptions of the field than it has on full-time faculty in the program. She uses her experiences and those of fellow graduate students at SUNY Stony Brook during the removal of composition from the English Department into an independent Program in Writing and Rhetoric, a move that was opposed by several writing faculty and English PhD graduate students because how it would fracture their integrated studies and research in literature and composition, reading and writing.  She shows the effect of the departmental split – which questioned the relationship between literature and composition – on her dissertation writing process and the dissertations of two of her fellow students, showing how they are reshaping knowledge and synthesizing what the discipline(s) of English Studies are about.

Notes and Quotes

Uses Niklas Luhmann (systems theorist) and E. Doyle McCarthy (1996) for theoretical framework: sociology of knowledge, systems theory.

“Our historical moment is characterized by a level of complexity that makes observing, recording, theorizing, or narrativizing especially difficult” (171). How to we understand change? How to we express that change?

“In order to understand how knowledge is made in a transforming cultural and disciplinary matrix, we need a dynamic reception-response approach that integrates experience and observation” (172).

Uses Farris and Anson to detail the shift in the mid-1990s in composition: PhD programs started, tenure-track jobs created, WAC programs, writing centers, technology programs.

May 6, 2009

Ohmann, English in America

Ohmann, Richard. English in America: A Radical View of the Profession. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan UP, 1976.

This educational critique that focuses on higher education English departments, arguing that they are implicit in forwarding the capitalist, military, industrial agendas of the institutions in power (government, military, big business.) Ohmann argues against New Criticism for a return to the humanist, moralistic study of literature, one grounded in people and culture, not science. English departments, he claims, act to sort and sanction undergraduate and graduate students, assimilating them into an elite class. He draws his critique from an economic history of American industry (and its effect on education) and by looking at the MLA organization, the structure of English departments, freshman composition textbooks, the AP system, and institutional writings like The Pentagon Papers. His critique is profoundly affected by the Vietnam War, Civil Rights movement, and the students’ rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and he wants English departments to adopt Marxist, revolutionary agendas, to shed their apolitical stance and work for societal change.

Quotable Quotes

“Ther is just no sense in pondering the function of literature without relating it to the actual society that uses it, to the centers of power within that society, and to the institutions that mediate between literature and people. In other words, the function of literature and the role of English teachers cannot be understood except within the context of a given society and politics” (303) – texts do not exist and cannot be understood in isolation

“Meetings and memoranda are main instruments in planning, prime media of discourse in a complicated technological society” (191)

Composition arose “when the modern university was being grafted onto the old aristocratic college” (134).

“writing was no longer mainly a private and public art, but a tool of production and management” (93).

“I found it harder to believe that Humanity was being served well by the academic humanities, as our official dogma held, or that the professional apparatus we had invented was a rational structure and not a Rube Goldberg machine” (5)

Notable Notes

wants what is done by English departments and professors to matter, not just be contained in some specialist world that doesn’t communicate with reality.

looks at composition and its connection with gatekeeping. Chapter by Wallace Douglas about the Boylston Professorship at Harvard – move from classical, rhetoric as art to training for the professions, a hurdle to overcome

problem with emphasis on apolitical, childish, decontextualized, solitary, individual, private themes and attitudes towards students in freshman comp – we need to look at what kinds of writing actually are written, valued, and enact policy in the world, like the memos of the Pentagon Papers.

Pentagon Papers – the memos set an official argument, framed action, was a point (evidence) for future reference. THe memo kept policy makers in a particular frame of mind, following the warrants of the genre because the purpose behind it, the human costs of war, were never questioned or considered.  Connection to teaching professional writing, ethics

what does it mean to be a professional? independence, jurisdiction to allow others in, to train, assertion that your knowledge is special, needed, and only attained through long training in schools

industrial society values are tied up in the history of English and comp: efficiency, centralization, measurement, capitalism, management (261)

the shift to the knowledge economy raised the importance of universities to corporations, the college degree became the mark of socialization and training

professional, intellectual choices are political choices (304-305)

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