Revolution Lullabye

June 24, 2009

Tobin and Newkirk, Taking Stock

Tobin, Lad and Thomas Newkirk, eds. Taking Stock: The Writing Process Movement in the 90s. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1994.

This collection comes from a 1992 conference, “The Writing Process: Prospect and Retrospect,” held at UNH and designed both to look at the process movement’s past and where it might go in the future. In his introduction to the edited collection, Tobin predicts that the writing process movement will change in the 90s due to three factors: the influence of gender, race, class, and culture on the teaching and theorizing about writing; the effect of new technologies on the teaching and theorizing of writing (PCs, online teaching, popular media); and the effect of research on teacher and reader response. These three trends will expand the scope of the process movement beyond the individual expressivist writer, giving larger social and political context to writing. The book has five sections: Reading the Writing Process Movement, Teaching the Writing Process, Institutionalizing the Writing Process, Deconstructing the Writing Process, and Narrating the Writing Process.

Quotable Quotes & Notable Notes

Lisa Ede “Reading the Writing Process.” 31-43

The writing process movement should stop being labeled “good” or “bad” – it was a rhetorically situated movement, created due a particular time and place (the literacy crisis of the 1970s led to the theory if we understand how students write we can teach them better and composition asserting itself as a discipline.) The problem is that all that research was oversimplified into a “process” that was only taught in one course; the British theories of growth and education were ignored as process was mechanized and the diversity of students was eliminated. Process is actually a conglomerate of lots of contradictory pedagogies and methods: freewriting, formal heuristics, sentence combining, protocol analysis, case studies, and theory. Ede argues that the field must look at writing beyond the classroom, especially those kinds of workplace writing that don’t follow our idea of process; abandon the individual writer focus and look at collaboration; and question our models and metaphors in our research. The focus, she argues, needs to be on doing what needs to be done in regards to teaching and understanding writing – not focusing on being a discipline.

James Marshall, “Of What Skill Does Writing Really Consist?” 45-55

“In our youth as a movement we were rebels, or tried to be. We did inhale. We self-consciously set ourselves up as outsiders, and then we gloried in it” (48).

“The one serious mistake we could make, I think, would be to maintain the rhetorical and political positions that we took in our youth. They worked then; I don’t think they can work today. We are facing a different set of problems, and we are working now from the center and not from the margins.” (54)

Three things to do:

  1. deal with our authority and our disciplinary place in the academy – no longer rebels. We’re established.
  2. search for theoretical roots in education and the progressive movement to have models and understand what we do.
  3. open up larger contexts and sites to study and teach writing.

Thomas Newkirk “The Politics of Intimacy.” 115-131.

Looks at how Barrett Wendell’s English 12 course at Harvard was not a course in what we think as current-traditional rhetoric. Rather, Wendell tried to open up relations with his students, talk with them as emerging writers, read student writing aloud in class as models, encouraged critique of the course, and gave them choices for topics. His curriculum, though, was doomed because it never received institutional support and was defeated by a heavy, impossible teaching load that made current-traditional pedagogy the only viable way to teach.

Mary Minock. “The Bad Marriage: A Revisionist View of James Britton’s Expressive-Writing Hypothesis in American Practice.” 153-175.

James Britton argued that expressive writing will naturally lead to other forms of writing over time, as a student grows and matures through years of schooling. American writing educators took that hypothesis and combined it with the American ideal of linear progress. What results is a one-semester course in writing that tries to bring college students from expressive writing to academic argument in fifteen short weeks. When this fails (as it often does, because the important quotient of time is left out), students and teachers alike feel like failures. Writing teachers need to stop trying to formalize and speed up the process of learning how to write: a student might do well on one paper and bomb the next, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t growing and learning. Instead of using expressive writing as an end to itself(which the British do), we use it as a means to an end, an end of academic discourse.


June 12, 2009

Britton, The Composing Processes and the Functions of Writing

Britton, James. “The Composing Processes and the Functions of Writing.” In Research on Composing: Points of Departure. Eds. Cooper and Odell. Urbana: NCTE, 1978. 13-28.

Britton, who had previously articulated his theory of discourse, uses this essay to answer two questions about writing: Who is it for? and What is it for? He finds that the answers to those questions differ based on the kind of writing the writer is engaging in. Transactional writing, one of his categories of discourse, places the writer in the role of the participant whose writing is a communicative goal that is interpreted piecemeal by a reader. Poetic writing, on the other hand, places the writer in the role of the spectator whose writing is an end in itself that is interpreted globally by the reader. Expressive writing – placed in the middle of the transactional and poetic spectrum – requires both the spectator and participant persepective, and writers must be able to negotiate the cognitive and affective ordering that is inherent to both to write a successful composition.

Notable Notes

draws on Langer: cognitive and affective order – art is the combination of our congitive and affective responses to experiences, expressive writing requires both

three stages of writing process: preparation, incubation, articulation

organizing power of generalization – concern with the global, nto the details (physiognomic perception)

Cooper and Odell, Research on Composing

Cooper, Charles R. and Lee Odell. Research on Composing: Points of Departure. Urbana: NCTE, 1978.

This collection, from the 1975 Buffalo Conference on Researching Composing, wants to expand the nature and scope of research on the writing process. The editors argue that to do so, scholars in composition need to question their basic assumptions about how writing happens and be open to changing and revising their theories. Writing researchers, they argue, need to look at writers, not written products of published writers, for models of composing, and should look beyond English for answers to research questions – to rhetorical theory, developmental and cognitive psychology, education, and discourse theory. The essays – including those written by Britton, Young, Emig, and Murray – are therefore speculative and broad in scope, trying out new theories and ideas to open the door for further research and questioning in the composing process.

Quotable Quotes

purpose: “redirecting and revitalizing research in written composition” (xiii)

Notable Notes

value of teacher-research

Perl, Understanding Composing

Perl, Sondra. “Understanding Composing.” CCC 31:4 (Dec 1980) 363-369.

Perl develops a model of composing based on her findings from research with think-aloud protocols of teachers of writing. She points out three ways writers go back and revise their thinking and writing (rereading, going back to a topic or key word, and going back to the felt sense that the topic creates.) Perl argues that this third way – tapping into emotions, feelings, and ideas that are not yet put in words – has not been adequately studied for its effect on a writer’s writing process. She calls this use of the felt sense, which she believes experienced writers rely on, as “a process of retrospective structuring,” of figuring out how writing feels right or wrong, how it makes a writer think. This retrospective structuring is in contrast to another important process of writing, “projective structuring,” in which the writer puts herself in the position of the reader and structures writing with that perspective. Both struturing processes are necessary for creating meaning in writing.

Quotable Quotes

“In writing, meaning is crafted and constructed.” (367) – not something tangible to be found

Notable Notes

her retrospective/projective structuring is like the reader-centered/writer-centered model

Hairston, The Winds of Change

Hairston, Maxine. “The Winds of Change: Thomas Kuhn and the Revolution in the Teaching of Writing.” CCC 33:1 (Feb 1982) 76-88.

Hairston draws on Kuhn’s theory of paradigm shifts to declare that the field of composition and rhetoric has experienced a paradigm shift in the teaching of writing, moving from (current-)traditional methods to process pedagogy. She claims current-traditional pedagogy is primarily focused on expository writing; wants students to find form, not ideas, through writing; is a linear composing model; equates teaching editing with teaching writing; and is not connected to research or experimentation. In contrast, Hairston argues that the process model is concerned with writers and their process, not their written products, and so is concerned with teaching students heuristics to invent, compose, and revise; is rhetorically-based; is recursive and holistic; treats writing as a way of learning and communicating; and is informed by other disciplines like psychology and linguistics. The process model depends on research in writing and on writers, and requires teachers of writing to be writers. Hairston argues that the process model is the best equip to teach writing to the new populations of American colleges and universities.

Notable Notes

attention to process began in the 1950s and 1960s with generative theories of linguistics (Chomsky) and grammar (Christensen), along with tagmemicists (Pike)

Flower and Hayes, A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing

Flower, Linda and John R. Hayes. “A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing.” CCC 32:4 (Dec 1981) 365-387.

Flower and Hayes introduce their theory of the congntive processes involved in writing, hoping that with their articulation of this theory, they will lay the groundwork for further research and study in how writing happens. They culled the results from five years of protocal analysis research, in which writers were given a set prompt (like write an article for Seventeen magazine), to form their four-part theory. Their theory states: 1. the process of writing is actually an entire set of distinctive thinking processes that the writer organizes while writing 2. any of these processes can be embedded in another, organized hierarchly by the writer 3. the act of writing itself is a goal-directed activity, one of a network of goals that grows and emerges through writing, and 4. the goals are created by the writer and can be changed during the writing process. Flower and Hayes also label three parts of the act of writing: the task environment (rhetorical situation); the writer’s long-term memory (of audience, topic, and writing plan); and the writing processes (planning, translating, and reviewing grounded in self-reflective monitoring.) Flower and Hayes hope their model shows that writing is at the same time purposeful and open to change, direction, and finding meaning, and argue for their model (as opposed to linguistic, rhetorical, or educational models) as better positioning researchers to answer how writers make writing choices.

Quotable Quotes

answer this question: “What guides the decisions wrters make as they write?”

Sommers, Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers

Sommers, Nancy. “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers.” CCC 31:4 (Dec 1980) 378-388.

Sommers argues that the field needs to focus and research how writers revise, and offers her case study of twenty students and 20 adult writers (from Boston and Oklahoma City) as a starting point. Each writer wrote three essays, revised them twice, and sat for interviews with Sommers about their revision strategies. Sommers found that students often focus on the word level when revising – they have what she deems a “thesaurus philosophy of writing” (381) – while the adults saw revision as an opportunity to shape their thoughts and discover the direction and meaning of their writing. Sommers stressed that the truncated view of writing students have – one in which they have a thesis before they even begin writing – does not allow them to engage in writing as a process of discovery or learning, and that teachers of writing need to show students that good writing allows for a holistic and recursive revision process, one that seeks dissonance and wrestles with meaning.

June 9, 2009

Emig, Writing as a Mode of Learning

Emig, Janet. “Writing as a Mode of Learning.” CCC 28:2 (May 1977) 122-128.

Emig, in this early article that articulates the importance of a writing-centered English classroom, argues that writing is a preferrable way for students to learn because it allows students to be active producers originating ideas. Writing uses both hemispheres of the brain and involves all three of Jerome Bruner’s learning categories: the hand, the eye, and the brain. Writing is integrated, propelled through cycles of self-reflection, connective, engaged, personal, and self-rhythmed, all attributes of higher-level thinking and learning. Writing, as opposed to talking, forces students to negotiate and shuttle between the past, the present, and the future.

Notable Notes

move to make students producers, not consumers

curious distinction Emig alludes to – that writing is different than other forms of composing (art, music, dance, architecture, film, and math and science.) She doesn’t expand on that, but it would be interesting to know what exactly she sees as the difference. She seems to prioritize writing over these other creative design arts.

individualized education in writing – make it self-rhythmed

shuttling between past, present, and future requires skills in both analysis and synthesis

May 5, 2009

Miller, Textual Carnivals

Miller, Susan. Textual Carnivals: The Politics of Composition. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1991.

Miller argues that the future of composition lies in a new “student tradition,” a serious uptake of the student in both pedagogy and research, recasting students not as passive, error-ridden children to be corrected and sanctioned but rather as people capable of authorship and of participating in public, empowering, real discourse (200). Rearticulating who students are will result in a rearticulation in who compositionists are. She traces the history of composition from its English and American origins, questioning the field’s move to place classical rhetoric or scientific process pedagogy at its foundation because neither encompasses the whole of what composition could be and both reinforce the hegemonic privileges of the elitist university structure. She looks at how the field – and those outside of it – have constructed students, instructors, and the institutional position of writing programs and their directors. Her history takes up theories of marginality, isolation, and institutional critique/critical theory (Foucault, Bourdieu, Althusser) in psychology, sociology, anthropology, and philosophy, and for her evidence, she draws on course catalogue descriptions of English departments over the 20th century, published histories of composition (Kitzhaber, Berlin), and the 129 responses from a survey sent to current compositionists. Throughout the book, she uses the metaphor of a carnival to describe composition: a sanctioned place where unrecognized, usually invisible, “low” discourse operates inside a “high” discourse, elite institution. She wants composition to become a place where this carnival can be subverted, where revolutionary, counterhegemonic work can take place, and in order to do that, composition must break away from the given, current structure of the university to begin questioning the social, cultural, and political forces that keep it in power.

Quotable Quotes

Why did composition choose to take up freshman composition as its center? – “We cage ourselves by identifying with the freshman enterprise” (76)

Process pedagogy “stabilized a field that originally was a loosely connected set of untheorized practices claiming origins in rhetorical theory, religious reading instruction, and the study of classical languages” (115). The research of process allowed for tenured positions, freedom from the huge teaching loads of comp.

need to see students as “actual people in actual writing situations” (199).

“‘Composition’ contains diverse, in fact disparate, activities. Its participants, its students, and most of its teachers are uncredentialed or ‘illegitimate’ denizens of the best-established and most legitimate institution. Composition appears to be cacophonous, anarchic, and trivial, but it nonetheless produces predictable and sustaining economic and social benefits. In a strong sense, it is like the Old Testament God and the Lacanian woman – always in a state of becoming, of reinventing itself to compensate for its perceived lack of fixed goals and methods. But it is nonetheless in many ways a ritualistic performance that does not change expect by substituting new rituals and codes for old ones” (12).

need to “take student writers to be active rather than passively defined citizens of discourse communities” (200).

Notable Notes

composition is a major national industry in which large amounts of money, labor, and time are invested. Huge amounts of students, teachers

process is not a reform of product. Both ignore the social, cultural, institutional consequences of text production, look at texts in isolation. Process became the new content of composition.

uses metaphors of prostitution, gypsies, extrafamilial, surplus, maids, unnamed to talk about the labor of the teaching of composition

uses metaphors of unwashed masses, labs, clinics, the body, stripping of voices, cleanliness, infants, history of 19th century immigration and English-only  to talk about how the first-year course labels and treats students

a lot more variety of writing courses taught in 1920s than later in the century, when comp was made all about freshman comp

rhetoric is an ill fit as the foundation of modern composition

section on “Bread” draws a connection between university funding and status of composition

conclusion – Chapter 6 – explains the contradiction in the current system between how composition is talked about (important, intellectual growth of students, importance of mastering academic discourse) and what happens in the classroom and university (low status of students & teachers, no real evidence of effectiveness of 1st year comp, little use of academic writing outside university.)

freshman comp stripped students of their individual voices and their access to public discourse (silly personalized themes) – “a national course in silence” (59)

difference between English and American cultural ideals in the development of literature and composition as university initiatives. American focus on individual, enterprise, citizenship, popular literacy, democracy, responsibility.

May 2, 2009

Crowley, Composition in the University

Crowley, Sharon. Composition in the University: Historical and Polemical Essays. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1998.

Crowley forwards her abolitionist argument through this collection of essays, which gives a detailed investigation of the history of higher education, the history of the relationship between literature and composition, and the development of the first-year course in American universities. She focuses on the divide in English studies between literature and composition and maintains that as long as the first-year course exists, literature will be held superior, intellectually and institutionally, over composition. First-year composition, she argues, exploits its teachers (unfair labor practices), exploits its students (has no measurable effect), has negative curricular effects (isolated out of a curricular sequence); contributes to negative classroom climates (gatekeeping role); prevents the field from achieving full professionalization and disciplinarity; and finally, hurts the professional careers of its teachers. (241) It is an anamolous, ill-fitting course in the modern American university. Instead of the first-year course, Crowley suggests offering a vertical sequence of writing electives, informed by the discipline of comp/rhet, which will answer more truthfully students’ needs instead of imposing needs on them from above. Crowley relies primarily on textbooks used in the classroom and published articles and books in the field about composition history to make her argument.

Quotable Quotes

First-year composition must “become part of a sequenced curriculum of courses that introduce students to discipline-specific principles and practices” (9).

difference of comp vs. lit and other fields: “Composition scholarship typically focuses on the processes of learning rather than on the acquisition of knowledge, and composition pedagogy focuses on change and development in students rather than on transmission of a heritage” (3)

“Over the years, then, first-year composition has been remarkable vulnerable to ideologies and practices that originate elsewhere than in its classrooms” (6) – those outside the field in power set the agenda; political ideologies make their way in the classroom, teachers/administrators use the class as an opportunity to forward their own agenda, regardless of its connection to first-year comp

“I doubt whether it is possible to radicalize instruction in a course that is thoroughly implicated in the maintance of cultural and academic hierarchy” (235)

Notable Notes

there aren’t jobs in comp because it’s thought of as “an exciting new field in which new academic priorities are being set” – there are jobs because of the universal requirement. That’s problematic. (3)

no motivated writing tasks in first-year composition; it exists outside of all other vertical curriculums and sequences in the university, isolated

comp’s relationship with pragmatism (Peirce, William James, Dewey, Emerson) v. literature’s relationship with humanism. This leads to the question whether literature should be taught in composition classrooms (a huge difference in ideology…product v. a process; reading over writing, suspicion of rhetoric, elite v. democratic education) – look at the College English Tate-Lindemann exchange

history of the connection between communication and composition (founding of CCCC) and the impact of WWII and the Cold War on the purpose of composition instruction

history of the process movement, affected by research funded through federal grants on pre-writing (D Gordon Rohman and Albert O. Wleche Project English study.) There was a real attempt to understand how students and writers discover, invent, and think. This led to research in developmental psychology and on the creative processes of artists and scientists. Writing to discover was seen as the first way to see this (thus the emphasis on personal expressive writing). Then, the influence of Emig, who actually looked at her and her students’ writing processes. Also, turn to classical rhetoric for invention heuristics. Cannot underestimate the impact of student war protests in 1960s and 1970s to redistribute power and authority. Crowley’s essay is “Around 1971: The Emergence of Process Pedagogy” – two moves: attention to student’s whole composing process (students as writers) and a student-centered classroom. Process and current-traditional pedagogy are complementary.

the curriculum of composition is debated turf; it is owned by the community (U of Texas Austin’s difference curriculum)

Nancy Fraser – needs claims, the movement from thin needs (mythology) to thick needs (ideology.) The claim is that students need first-year composition. Who really needs it? The university only requires a course if they think the students won’t elect to take it (258)

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