A Quick Comp Primer

Let’s play a game. This is kind of an extension of my question about who would be composition’s Hank Williams a while back, and I hope you’ll help me out: it’s related to a nascent project I’m thinking about working on, but I’m also just curious to see what folks say.

Imagine you’re teaching a section of composition, but you’ve got no grounding whatsoever in composition theory or pedagogy. You’ve got very limited time — classes start in, say, three days — but you want to be the best teacher you can. So you go to your three wise, well-read composition colleagues, and you ask: “What’s the single most important issue I need to think about in my teaching, and what three article-length pieces of composition scholarship are most helpfully representative of the range of current thought on that issue?”

What do your wise, well-read composition colleagues — one of them, or all three — say?

[Naturally, there’ll be conflict and argument among the three, and that’s kinda the point. In effect, this is a poll asking for a hyper-condensed and updated version of a bibliographic collection like Tate et al.’s recent Guide, or — well, OK — of Bedford. For example, one colleague might say, “Error — and you need to read Joseph Williams’s ‘Phenomenology,’ David Bartholomae’s ‘The Study of Error,’ and Andrea Lunsford’s ‘Cognitive Development.'” To which another colleague might groan and roll her eyes and say, “No, it’s plagiarism — and you need to read Rebecca Moore Howard’s ‘Sexuality, Textuality,’ Margaret Price’s ‘Beyond Gotcha!,’ and Kelly Ritter’s ‘Buying In, Selling Short.'” You get the idea.]

A Quick Comp Primer

19 thoughts on “A Quick Comp Primer

  • September 12, 2006 at 1:09 pm

    Elbow’s article on responding, the one with the title of something like Evaluating, Responding, and Liking or something like that. Not sure what else, but I quickly thought of that.

  • September 12, 2006 at 4:32 pm

    Nels, what other two current-canonical articles would you pair it with to give a quick, good sense of “This is how composition talks about responding today”?

  • September 12, 2006 at 4:43 pm

    Sorry to be a downer, but I think the issue is not one of articles. Faced with a similar problem, the coordinator of BIOL 101 would likely take the class away from this newbie on the grounds that no amount of cramming could make this person useful in the classroom. Never mind that the articles mentioned so far emerge out of–and respond to–a disciplinary conversation that the tyro wouldn’t have access to.

    Now back to lurking . . .

  • September 12, 2006 at 5:58 pm

    Dude. Work with me here. It’s a game.

    Like, somebody says to you, “What do you think are the three most important novels of the second half of the 20th century?,” you’re not all like “Well that question presupposes some absolute Platonic model of importance and fails to take into account the whole bourgeois problematic of evaluation in its own right.” No way. You’re like, “Dude. Gravity’s Rainbow, Beloved, and Midnight’s Children. Hands down, no contest.”

    So c’mon, help me out. Let’s do this little game-thing for comp, too.

  • September 12, 2006 at 9:42 pm

    Responding to/assessing student writing

    1. Richard Straub, “The Concept of Control in Teacher Response: Defining the Varieties of ‘Directive’ and ‘Facilitative’ Commentary” (CCC 1996)

    2. Lil Brannon and Cy Knoblauch, “On Students’ Rights to Their Own Texts: A Model of Teacher Response.” (CCC 1982)

    3. Summer Smith, “The Genre of the End Comment: Conventions in Teacher Response to Student Writing.” (CCC 1997)

  • September 12, 2006 at 9:45 pm

    Ethos. As in “who do you trust.” The Carolyn Miller Trio on technical writing (or you could just use Dale Sullivan’s article “Political-Ethical Implications of Defining Technical Communication as a Practice’). If you can cheat by using Sullivan, I would throw in Byron Hawk’s recent article in TCQ and something from Ulmer.

    But I’m a real posthuman electrate practice guy, so what. do. I. know?

  • September 12, 2006 at 9:48 pm

    Mine’s not so much “how we talk about response today” as it is “here are some ways we’ve talked about it” — a primer of sorts.

  • September 12, 2006 at 9:49 pm

    (as in your title. D’oh!) Your examples are more specific primers, though.

  • September 12, 2006 at 9:56 pm

    I’m on a roll!

    A good current one is “Effective faculty feedback: The road less traveled” by Lesa A. Stern and Amanda Solomon in the 11.1 (spring 2006) issue of Assessing Writing — a journal I should read more often, BTW.

  • September 12, 2006 at 10:22 pm

    Doc and Clancy — most excellent, and thanks! Clancy, like you I’m negotiating the now-that-I’m-a-faculty-critter which-journals-to-read-regularly question.

    So: Nels and Clancy both say “responding” is a big, big category. DocMara says ethos, which maybe could be expanded to audience concerns, too? And then of course there’s the tech twist DocMara calls attention to, which seems to be an abiding concern, as might be expected of bloggers.

    I’ll strongly agree that (1) responding and (2) audience are two of the most significant things that our hypothetical tyro (thanks, Fosen, for invoking the term) might be thinking about. Let me add three more, two of which might be hard to separate, and one of which was in my hypothetical example: (3) revision, (4) process, and (5) error.

    For (3) and (4), I still think Donald Murray’s “Process Not Product” is worthwhile, but maybe I’m backwards that way. I’d probably put it with some post-process stuff for balance, but nothing comes to mind immediately. What about for (5): do we still think and talk about error? Is it largely a settled matter? Are the Williams, Bartholomae, and Lunsford superannuated?

    And what fundamentals are missing?

    Critical pedagogy? Visual rhetoric? Cultural studies?

  • September 12, 2006 at 11:53 pm

    Ah, thanks for the correction, Mike. In my world this kind of thing is not a game but a pretty regular occurrence, so perhaps I overreacted. In those situations I have generally refused to play, and not just out of epistemological or cultural-studies peevishness.

  • September 13, 2006 at 10:21 am

    Error is big (although you stole my thunder with the Williams Phenomenology). I might take the Reception/Invention turn here. Perhaps Ann Bertoff, Elbow, and Flower’s rivaling stuff.

    What about the rhetoric/comp split?

  • September 13, 2006 at 8:01 pm

    Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of what Fosen is talking about, and it does have a chilling effect on the game.

    Having said that, I think “must” reading for any comp teacher, any level, and regardless of specific categories include Mike Rose’s Lives on the Boundary, Bartholomae’s Inventing and Knoblauch/Brannon’s Students’ Rights. All the oldie but goodies.

  • September 13, 2006 at 9:55 pm

    Understood re the chilling effect, pi — which shows me I shouldn’t have been so flip with you, Fosen. You both might be interested to know, though, that there are certain unique institutions where instructors with no background in comp are given four sections and told to go forth and teach. 😉

    For that reason, under the category of “process,” I might propose these three: Donald Murray, “Teach Writing as a Process and not Product” (is this available anywhere online?), James A. Reither’s “Writing and Knowing: Toward Redefining the Writing Process” (CE October 1985), and John Trimbur’s “Taking the Social Turn: Teaching Writing Post-Process” (CCC 1994). They’re what’s accessible to me here — I’d probably want to see if I could get Thomas Kent’s 1999 post-process edited collection via ILL, too.

  • September 13, 2006 at 9:55 pm

    I’ve been meaning to chime in with something/anything, Mike. The trapdoor for my suggestions might be immediate relevance to teaching, but I want to blur that with the spirit of here, read these. Three sets then:

    Geisler, Cheryl. “Toward a Sociocognitive Model of Literacy: Constructing Mental Models in a Philosophical Conversation”
    Prior, Paul. “Resituating the Discourse Community: A Sociohistoric Perspective”
    Miller, Carolyn. “Genre as Social Action”
    Miller, Carolyn. “Rhetorical Community: The Cultural Basis of Genre”

    Rhetoric as Epistemic
    Scott, Robert, “On Viewing Rhetoric as Epistemic”
    Ehninger, Douglas, “On Systems of Rhetoric”
    Scott, Robert. “On Viewing Rhetoric as Epistemic: Ten Years Later.”

    Disciplinary Formation
    Nystrand, Martin, et al. “Where Did Composition Studies Come From?”
    Phelps, Louise. “The Domain of Composition.”
    Emig, Janet. “The Tacit Tradition: The Inevitability of a Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Writing.”

    And I’m tempted to add a set on stasis, but I’d have to dig around for three that fit together. Also, I’m not sure how broadly representative of varied perspectives those above would score.

  • September 13, 2006 at 10:05 pm

    For the rhetoric/composition split, I’d have them read Andrea Lunsford’s chapter on Rhetoric and Composition in Introduction to Scholarship in Modern Languages and Literatures and Sharon Crowley’s Composition Is Not Rhetoric.

  • September 14, 2006 at 10:48 am

    Crowly and Lunsford. Good catch Clancy.

  • September 15, 2006 at 11:56 am

    Um…Crowley. Not Crowly (as in, “My diet is tastes mighty crowly right now”).

  • September 15, 2006 at 8:53 pm

    Wow. Good stuff. So now I’m wondering about ranking terms and our hypothetical tyro: “process,” “invention,” “audience,” and “response,” would seem to me to be most important, and I might propose to the tyro that she devote her attentions in that order. Would I be wrong? Would you argue with me? How might you sequence this hypothetical tyro’s rapid and necessarily shallow engagement with composition’s Keywords?

Comments are closed.