Revolution Lullabye

June 16, 2009

Special Issue: The Writing Major, Composition Studies

Special Issue: The Writing Major. Composition Studies 35:1 (Spring 2007).

I’m going to briefly note what’s in this issue and the highlights from each essay or article. Two articles I already have notes on.

Estrem, Heidi. “Growing Pains: The Writing Major in Composition and Rhetoric.” 11-14.

the writing major is that in-between space between 1st year comp and grad programs. This issue features essays and articles about these forming majors, articles that bridge local constraints, stories, and contexts with larger themes of the importance of place, timing, capitalizing on unexpected events, advocacy, and long effort. This group of growing writing majors asks the field to define itself – will it be under the umbrella of “writing studies?”

Carpini, Dominic Delli. “Re-writing the Humanities.” – already have notes

Clary-Lemon, Jennifer. “The Hot Arctic: Writing Majors as New Sites for New Hires.” 37-38

McClure, Randall. “Projecting the Shape of the Writing Major.” 39-40.

think about how instruction is delivered (online?); to and with whom (K-16?, interdisciplinary?) – the importance of the archictecture of a writing major when designing it.

Howard, Rebecca Moore. “Curricular Activism: The Writing Major as Counterdiscourse.” 41-52.

Writing majors give the field an opportunity to argue for a positive, informed view of postsecondary writing instruction. Howard reviews the websites of new writing majors and contends that websites, written for student, faculty, and public audiences, can be composition’s PR tool for changing the traditional, normative assumptions of writing instruction and allowing the institution to see composition and rhetoric as legitimate intellectual, disciplinary work.

Shamoon, Linda and Celest Martin. “What Part of the Elephant is This? Questioning Creative Non-Fiction in the Writing Major” 53-54

study of nonfiction can be placed in a historical trajectory in comp/rhet with expressivism. need to investigate and open up the theoretical and conceptual connections between creative nonfiction and comp/rhet

Schaffner, Spencer. “Grounding the Writing Major in the Socio-Graphemic Approach.” 55-56

the activity of writing is the central organizing theme to study: “students will become specialists in the study of written language, rhetoric, writing technologies, and image/text semiotics” (55).

Peeples et al. “Chronos and Kairos, Strategies and Tactics” notes already

Taylor, Beth. “On Brown University’s New Nonfiction Writing Program” 77-78

students aren’t required to take writing at Brown, but 26% do take a nonfiction writing course – academic essay, journalism, creative nonfiction

Newman, Glenn. “Concoting a Writing Major: A Recipe for Success.” 79-80.

undergrad who developed his own rhet/comp major at U of Utah and is preparing himself to go to grad school for rhet/comp

Scott, Tony. “The Cart, the Horse, and the Road They Are Driving Down: Thinking Ecologically about a New Writing Major.” 81-93.

faculty designing writing majors must think beyond their scholarly,  intellectual visions and consider the institutional constraints they are working with – hiring, budgets, staffing, space. Argues for a move to a “post-writing program era” (90) – without mandated syllabi, teacher management; encourage scholarly and pedagogical experimentation. The contradiction between the administrative functions of a writing program and the faculty functions of a major. Draws on Marx, circulation to look at the narratives and ideologies of power and control are wired into postsecondary writing instruction (85)

Peele, Thomas. “What Do We Mean When We Say ‘Writing?'” 95-96

where does creative nonfiction belong? disciplinary arguments that writing majors bring out

Lowe, Kelly. “Against the Writing Major.” 97-98.

writing majors, in order to thrive, must have proper staffing and consider faculty strenghts and weaknesses when constructing a program. Find the faculty to fit the major, not the other way around. Don’t attempt a major if you can’t run it well.

Taylor, Hill. “Black Spaces: Examining the Writing Major at an Urban HBCU.”

argues for consideration of context when developing a writing major – a Tier 1, mostly white research institution is going to have a much different writing major than an open-admissions, Washington DC, urban HBCU, which could focus on writing for government, policy, education, and African-American rhetorics and pedagogies. Calls for a haptic curriculum (one that is contingent, participatory), not an optic one (simplified, homogenous one) for writing majors (draws on Giles Deleuze’s A Thousand Plateaus.)

May 1, 2009

Hamp-Lyons and Condon, Questioning Assumptions about Portfolio-Based Assessment

Hamp-Lyons, Liz and William Condon. “Questioning Assumptions about Portfolio-Based Assessment.” CCC 44.2 (1993): 176-190. In Assessing Writing. Eds. Huot and O’Neill. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 315-329.

The authors argue that portfolio-based assessments are not inherently better, more valid, or more ethical than other kinds of writing assessments. It takes much critical reflection and work on the part of WPAs and writing instructors to make portfolio grading, which is more time consuming, a better assessment. They point out that more texts and genres doesn’t always make scoring decisions easier, that pedagogical and curricular values aren’t taken into account because they are not articulated, and that collaborative portfolio grading is often conflict-ridden, for it is hard to build consensus over assessment and instruction values. They do not argue to abandon portfolios, just to warn that certain stipulations – like criteria and conversations about program goals and values – must be in place to make portfolios a better assessment.

Quotable Quotes

“Increased accuracy is not an inherent virtue of portfolio assessment” (327).

February 20, 2009

Robillard, Students and Authors in Composition Studies

Robillard, Amy E. “Students and Authors in Composition Studies.” In Authorship in Composition Studies. Eds Tracy Hamler Carrick and Rebecca Moore Howard. Wadsworth Publishing, 2005.

Composition scholarship, by not citing student writing and by calling students by pseudo first names only, constructs students as non-authors, as children. This deficiency model has several problems. First, it perpetuates the idea of the teacher as hero, defined by her students’ successes and failures. Second, it places teachers in an hierarchal position in the classroom, one in which she possesses students (aka “my kids.) Third, it conditions the student to take on the role of a passive reader whose own texts are never circulated and always compared (negatively) to the work of professional writers. Last, by acting as if our students are children in both our teaching and our research, we are continuing the low perception and status of composition in the academy, for our attitudes towards our students are more in line with the attitudes of secondary and elementary teachers than those of our colleagues in other disciplines. Robillard surveys and reviews a number of works in the field, showing how they position and represent students in their discussions, choice of diction, and citation methods.

Quotable Quotes

“A student reads; an author is read” (51)

“In the institutionalized constrast between Author and student, the Author is originary, the student imitative (as is a child). If an Author is autonomous, a student is dependent (as is a child). If an Author is solitary and originary, a student depends on the work of others and is easily influenced (as is a child). If an Author is precise, a student is messy (as is a child). If teachers do not attend to the constructions of students that the discursive practices of the classroom encourage, if they continue to reproduce the constructions of students that they have been working with, they can do no better than to enact this dysfunctional binary” (54).

“Citation of one’s work – positive or negative – is a mark of respect for any writer” (48).

“WIth the respect that is entailed in citation comes the authorial loss of control over the text. To insist on students’ retaining control over their texts is to deny them authorial status” (48).

The “unwritten belief that teachers are judged by the work their students do” (43).

Notable Notes

uses student quote and cites it as we would an author, full name

composition is a field about its students – what other field is?

author/student binary

February 19, 2009

Horner, Terms of Work for Composition

Horner, Bruce. Terms of Work for Composition: A Materialist Critique. Albany: SUNY Press, 2000.

Horner uses a materialist lens to examine many of the debates in the field of composition and rhetoric, ranging from the purpose of service-learning courses to whether or not the field should professionalize to how we regard students and their writing, focusing his critique on six “key terms”: work, students, politics, academic, traditional, and writing. The volume is very circular (Horner announces in introduction that the reader can read through the chapters in any order they see fit), but each chapter (organized around one of the key terms) takes up the debates and Horner’s perspective in a slightly different way. Horner’s two main arguments throughout the text are calls to the field at large. First, he argues that the work done in composition is commodified (seen as a product that can be acquired and exchanged), and this commodification, which occurs at all levels, from the classroom to the university to the outside world, allows us to think of our work and the issues we deal with as abstractions rather than connected to material conditions. Second, that abstract view allows us to cede control of our work to faceless systems and institutions, like their effects are inevitable, rather than regarding and critiquing our decisions as conscious choices. Horner challenges the field to ground our scholarship, pedagogy, and service in the material, social, and historical conditions of the local places we work in.

Quotable Quotes

Intellectual work: “This subordiniation and subsumption of the work of teaching to the production of written texts constitute the playing out at the site of Composition the contradictions in more general conceptions of work. These contradictions are manifested in the distinction between intellectual and non-intellectual labor and in the commodification of intellectual labor” (2).

He argues for “representing students above all else workers, working on themselves, Composition, the academy, and the social generally” (35).

“Our distrust of work identified with these terms [academic and traditional], like our trust in work that appears ‘progressive,’ may ay more about the dematerialized ways in which we conceive of them than about the actual work accomplished under such rubrics” (103).

Notable Notes

see tradition not as a fixed body of knowledge but something dynamic, always negotiated, a foundation that is ever-changing and re-understanding knowledge

professionalization of composition can lead to an abandonment of the consideration of the material conditions of our work

there is a problem with the delegitimization of academic writing in the pursuit of all things “real world.” Is academia not in the real world? What does that say about our work?  There is materiality in all writing. Students’ academic writing is not inauthentic.

we always look at what students lack, look to their work to gives us clues to their being. Instead of seeing students as the result of pressures and factors being worked on, see them as workers.

our work as compositionists is tied up in our students’ work

extracurriculum – students outside the classroom work is “wholly unrecognized” and not considered intellectual work (117)

February 9, 2009

Council of Writing Program Administrators, Evaluating the Intellectual Work of Writing Administration

Council of Writing Program Administrators. “Evaluating the Intellectual Work of Writing Administration.” The Allyn and Bacon Sourcebook for Writing Program Administrators. Eds. Irene Ward and William J. Carpenter. New York: Longman, 2002. Appendix F. 366-378.

First published in the 1996 Fall/Winter issue of WPA, this statement builds on the MLA Report “Making Faculty Work Visible” and argues that five specific areas of writing program administration work are intellectual work (dependent on faculty expertise, research, and knowledge, and worthy of tenure and promotion.) The five areas include program creation, curricular design, faculty development, program assessment and evaluation, and program-related textual production. The statement includes guidelines to evaluate this work, pointing out that not all work by every WPA should be considered intellectual work; only work that has produced knowledge which results in activities and products that can be peer-evaluated (whether that knowledge is innovation, improvement, dissemination, or empirical research results) should be considered scholarship. The goal of the Council is to prove how academic service, which consumes a WPA’s daily existence, is just as important, rewardable, and scholarly as faculty research and teaching.

Quotable Quotes

Administration “has for the most part been treated as a management activity that does not produce new knowledge and that neither requires nor demonstrates scholarly expertise and disciplinary knowledge” (366).

Goal: “refiguring writing administration as scholarly and intellectual work,” it is “worthy of tenure and promotion when it advances and enacts disciplinary knowledge within the field of Rhetoric and Composition” (366)

Notable Notes

exchange value and use value of teaching & research v. service

three tenure case studies of faculty who have concentrated in research, teaching, and service

not all service counts as scholarship – just that work that involves disciplinary knowledge (theory informing practice)

Ernest Boyer, Scholarship Reconsidered

February 8, 2009

Julier, Community Service Pedagogy

Julier, Laura. “Community Service Pedagogy.” 132-148.

Community service pedagogy (or service learning) became a cross-disciplinary higher education reform movement in the 1980s and was embraced by some compositionists because it answered many of the needs instructors found in their first-year composition classrooms: it gave students a real audience to write for; it increased students’ motivation; it allowed students to work with a variety of discourses, genres, and rhetorics; it encouraged context-driven writing; it had close connections with critical pedagogy and cultural studies; and it brought writing back to its civil, public rhetorical roots. Service learning in composition can take several forms: writing about the community, writing for the community, and writing with the community. Writing courses that incorporate service learning should have students think, discuss, and write critically about the power dynamics inherent in service projects.

Quotable Quotes

A problem with service learning: “The rhetoric of sending stduents ‘out’ into ‘the’ community may, in some settings and course designs, confirm for students an insider-outsider understanding of academic purposes, and replicate condescending models of charity and missionary work that do more to undermine than to advance the goals of multicultural education and social transformation” (142).

Notable Notes

service learning is not located in any one discipline; it is seen as a reform movement in higher ed that seeks to transform the cultures and mission of higher education.

service learning in composition has just recently been more theorized; much of the earlier scholarship told narratives of other peoples’ success stories with it.

service learning has a legitimacy problem. Scholars who devote time to service projects sometimes get docked on tenure and promotion; often it is not seen as an area of research because it is so multidisciplinary and cross-cultural in its appraoach.

Zlotkowski; Adler-Kassner; Crooks; Watters; Stotsky, Connecting Civic Education and Language Education; Jacoby et al; Waterman; de Acosta; Greco; Anson; Cooper; Rosemary Area; Linda Flower (Carnegie Mellon)

negotiate the educational project of service learning with the needs and wishes of the community organization.

importance of having students reflect on their service experience.

January 23, 2009

Shaughnessy, “Diving In”

Shaughnessy, Mina P. “Diving In: An Introduction to Basic Writing.” In The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook, 3rd ed. 321-326.

Citing that it is the teachers of basic writing, not the students, who need to change in order to succeed in the academy, Shaughnessy outlines four stages teachers of basic writing progress through in learning about basic writers and accepting the challenge of teaching them. The four stages, as Shaughnessy describes them, are Guarding the Tower (exclusionary policies and attitudes); Converting the Natives (trying old pedagogical techniques to help a few students who seem promising); Sounding the Depths (confronting the contradictions in the expectations of students’ many discourse communities); and finally, Diving In (committing to study and change teaching practices to answer the challenges of the new student populations.)

Quotable Quotes

“Are they aware, for example, after years of right/wrong testing, after the ACTs and the GEDs and the OATs, after straining to memorize what they read but never learning to doubt it, after “psyching out” answers rather than discovering them, are they aware that the rules have changed and that the rewards now go to those who can sustain a play of mind upon ideas – teasing out the contradictions and ambiguities and frailities of statements?” (324)

“The greatest barrier to our work with [basic writing students] is our ignorance of them and the very subject we have contracted to teach” (325)

“Diving in is simply deciding that teaching them to write well is not only suitable but challenging work for those who would be teachers and scholars in a democracy” (326)

“By underestimating the sophistication of our students and by ignoring the complexity of the tasks we set before them, we have failed to locate in precise ways where to begin and what follows what” (325).

Notable Notes

medical terminology used to describe basic writers

put onus on teachers, not students, to find the solutions.

January 19, 2009

Swarts, “Mobility and Composition”

Swarts, Jason. “Mobility and Composition: The Architecture of Coherence in Non-places.” Technical Communication Quarterly 16.3 279-309.

This study, which looks at how veternarian students use their PDAs to find information and solve problems in the hospital, asks how mobile technologies like PDAs have challenged traditional notions of genre and interpretation and offers suggestions about how these technologies can be better designed to capitalize on the constraints and possibilites inherent in them. Swarts makes a distinction between places (actual physical locations) and non-places (virtual, transit reality), arguing that genres “point to and belong to places,” making it difficult for mobile technologies, situated in non-places, to translate them easily or usefully. The students using the PDAs in the study used elements of the technology, such as the search function, to find information quickly, but by doing so, they bypassed the content that could have given them a contextual grounding of the information, which would be useful in making their medical decisions. Swarts argues that when people design information for PDAs and mobile technologies, it should be in fundamental information units instead of traditional text (from Barthes), provide some contextual information (like publication, date, and audience), and allow for descriptive connective bookmarks between chunks of information to allow the user (who carries the burden for the interpreatation of the information) to create a “meaningful configuration of information” that can be saved and accessed again (306).

Quotable Quotes

“Place implies agents that are stationary and that are working in a stable environment. Non-place implies movement and action across environments” (281).

“Genres point to and belong to places. They embody routine work practices and habits of mind that are supported by surrounding props…The same genres also regularize activities by reinforcing habits of mind shared by those who inhabit a workplace. This ability to regulate and regularize…” (281).

“Mobile technologies accelerate the production of non-place” (282).

Notable Notes

Two kinds of movement in symbol-analytic work: distribution and coordination. “Distribution implies the movement of information outward, across space and time, and through different representational and technological forms. By contrast, coordination is movement toward consolidation, toward synchronization, toward control. The effort behind coordination is one that we often delegate to technologies that comprise the architecture of our work places” (279) Bahktin?

January 12, 2009

Alexander, Ishikawa, & Silverstein, A Pattern Language

Alexander, Christopher, Sara Ishikawa, and Murray Silverstein. A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction. New York: Oxford UP, 1977.

This architectural guide is the second book of a larger work that attempts to define a theory and language for constructing spaces that allow for optimal human happiness and well-being. Alexander et al wrote this book in response to the increasingly unpoetic architectural decisions of the mid-twentieth century, which resulted in large, sprawling buildings and cities that had no elegance or life. The authors present 253 patterns, design problems and their solutions, in the book’s three different sections: towns, buildings, and construction. “Towns” describes how larger, global spaces of cities, countryside, communities, and neighborhoods can be organized; “Buildings” details the attributes that should be considered when constructing spaces and places of work, life, and recreation; “Construction” explains the type of materials and structures that should be used in buildings. Alexander’s patterns contain similiar themes that on the surface might seem contradictorary: harmonious but heterogeneous, complicated and compressed but simple and open. All the patterns are shaped around the rhythm of human life and call for balance, diversity, and specific boundaries. The patterns are further organized by asterisk marks: those that are followed by two are patterns that Alexander believes are universally deep, true, and sound; those with one he is less sure of their universaility, and those with none suggest at patterns that seems to make sense but is not engrained in the soul of human existence. These patterns are not supposed to be the foundation of some master society plan; rather, a society based on this pattern language can only emerge organically from the bottom up, as each individual designer follows the patterns to design their own space, big or small (3).

Quotable Quotes

“No pattern is an isolated entity” – a whole theme about the problem of isolation (of old people, of homes, of workplaces, of shopping areas, of little kid sleeping areas. Human beings, it seems, should be in communication with each other and interact with one another. Human life is a network.)

“This is a fundamental view of the world. It says that when you build a thing, you cannot merely build that thing in isolation, but must also repair the world around it, and within it, so that the larger world at that one place becomes more coherent, more whole; and the thing which you make takes its place in the web of nature, as you make it” (xiii).

“Many of the patterns here are archetypal – so deep, so deeply rooted in the nature of tihngs, that it seems likely that they will be a part of human nature, and human action, as much in five hundred years, as they are today” (xvii)

It is a language “which can make people feel alive and human” (xvii)

Compressing patterns is “the only way of using a pattern language to make buildings which are poems” (xliv)

“The suburb is an obsolete and contradictory form of human settlement” (30).

“The full cycle of life [needs to be] represented and balanced in each community” (145).

“People need an identifiable spatial unit to belong to” (81)

“No one stage in the life cycle is self-sufficient” (189)

Notable Notes

Each of the patterns works in concert with the others. They are organized by general magnitude -the large ones are completed by the smaller ones, the smaller ones compliment the larger ones. (xii)

There are many pattern languages; every society and culture will form its own

It is a network: create structure, embellish structures, embellish embellishments.

The goal is to make a space that resonates a poem: put together the patterns so they are dense, overlapping, and compressed, so that the space becomes meaningful, illuminated, economical, and profound.

Importance of the life cycle and interaction with all people: the old, the young, men, women

Patterns like child caves, four-story limit, row houses, still water, grave sites, roof garden, old age cottage, fruit trees, etc.

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