“Although some accounts suggest that feminism, until recently, has been absent or at least late-blooming in the field, we find a more complex relationship in our reading of essays and books in composition written from a feminist perspective–in particular, the many accounts of personal experience in the field written by feminists and by women since the 1970s.”
—Joy Ritchie and Kathleen Boardman
Key Terms: Aporia
In “Feminism in Composition: Inclusion, Metonymy, and Disruption,” Joy Ritchie and Kathleen Boardman set out to “document and celebrate the vitality of feminism in composition,” to “point out that much early feminist work in composition is not documented in our official publications,” to put forth ways of examining and theorizing first-hand experiences with feminism in composition, while also giving serious consideration to “the causes and consequences of the delay in feminism’s emergence in the published forms of our discipline and the extent to which feminism, despite its recent vitality, has remained contained or marginalized in composition” (587-588). “Finally,” they note, “we hope to speculate on the positive and negative potential of inclusive, metonymic, and disruptive strategies for feminism’s contribution to composition’s narratives” (588).
“We are looking for the pedagogical arts of the contact zone. These will include, we are sure, exercises in storytelling and in identifying with the ideas, interests, histories, and attitudes of others; experiments in transculturation and collaborative work and in the arts of critique, parody, and comparison (including unseemly comparisons between elite and vernacular cultural forms); the redemption of the oral; ways for people to engage with suppressed aspects of history (including their own histories), ways to move into and out 0/rhetorics of authenticity; ground rules for communication across lines of difference and hierarchy that go beyond politeness but maintain mutual respect; a systematic approach to the all important concept of cultural mediation.”
–Mary Louise Pratt
Key Terms: Contact zone, autoethnography, transculturation, imagined communities
Mary Louise Pratt’s “Arts of the Contact Zone” was first presented in 1990 as the keynote address at the Responsibilities for Literacy conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She opens with an engaging anecdote from years earlier, when her young son and his friend were discovering baseball cards–and occasionally struggling phonetically to pronounce unfamiliar names, such as “Yastremski.” For Pratt’s son, Sam, baseball became a medium for literacy, not only in a linguistic sense but also in terms of history, such as that of racism in baseball, and other areas, ranging from architecture to meteorology. She writes of her delight at aiding in this process–but also at her disappointment that such discoveries were not coming as part of her son’s experience in school. From here, she transitions into her primary subject: a discussion of a 1613 letter written by Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala.
“Having a certain image of students is not problematic in itself; images of students are inevitable and even necessary. Without those images, discussing pedagogical issues across institutions would be impossible. An image of students becomes problematic when it inaccurately represents the actual student population in the classroom to the extent that it inhibits the teacher’s ability to recognize and address the presence of differences.”
–Paul Kei Matsuda
Key Terms: Myth of linguistic homogeneity
In his 2006 article, “The Myth of Linguistic Homogeneity in U.S. College Composition,” Paul Kei Matsuda makes it his mission statement to question and problematize issues of language difference in the composition classroom, in particular what he terms “the myth of linguistic homogeneity”–that is, “the tacit and widespread acceptance of the dominant image of composition students as native speakers of a privileged variety of English” (638). This myth renders students “invisible in the professional discourse,” while “pedagogical practices based on an inaccurate image of students continue to alienate students who do not fit the image” (639).
“We believe that focusing primarily on distinctions between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ rhetoric has led to unfortunate oversimplifications and distortions. Consequently, our purpose in this essay is to survey the distinctions typically drawn between classical and modern rhetoric, to suggest why these distinctions are inaccurate and, most importantly, to note the compelling similarities between classical and modern rhetoric. These similarities, we believe, can helpo clarify the features essential to any dynamic theory of rhetoric.”
–Andrea A. Lunsford and Lisa Ede
Key Terms: Ethos, pathos, logos, enthymeme, paradeigma, krisis
In “On Distinctions Between Classical and Modern Rhetoric,” first published in Essays on Classical Rhetoric and Modern Discourse in 1984 and later included as a chapter in Writing Together: Collaboration in Theory and Practice, Andrea A. Lunsford and Lisa Ede set out an argument that the distinctions typically drawn between classical and modern rhetoric are inaccurate. It should be noted here that the now-dated term “classical rhetoric” seems to refer, as was then typical, to the Greco-Roman rhetorics of antiquity.
“Invention, conceived broadly as the process of actively creating as well as finding what comes to be known and said in the discourse of any discipline, is, I think, best understood as occurring when individuals interact dialectically with socioculture in a distinctive way to generate something.”
In this chapter of Invention as a Social Act, included as part of the full-length work under that same name, Karen LeFevre argues that “the inventing ‘self’ is socially influenced, even socially constructed,” and that one invents within a socially created medium–language–by building on knowledge inherited from previous generations; in some cases this process may involve an internal dialogue learned by social interaction, while in others it may be a literal collaboration with editors and others who give feedback, and it is influenced by “social collectives, such as institutions, bureaucracies, governments, and ‘invisible colleges’ of academic disciplinary communities” that transmit both expectations/encouragement and prohibitions/discouragement (33-34). Moreover, the actual impact of any invention is largely defined by its “reception, evaluation, and use” (35). Thus, broadly stated, invention can be defined as a social act across at least seven major factors.
“In short, we want to move beyond the essentialist act of situating ourselves as scholars authorized to speak about specific issues; we want instead to argue for a kind of universal authorization of discourse.”
–Gibson, Marinara, and Meem
In this article, Michelle Gibson, Martha Marinara, and Deborah Meem argue for a fluidity of a teacher’s identity in the classroom. They advocate for engaging with contradiction, for speaking from the social margins, and for acknowledging the “changing shapes of difference–so we can locate ourselves within/as the process of negotiating class and sexuality” (474). They call for composition scholars to be self-aware and self-critical, examining their own positions and identities within the classroom. “We must think seriously about the identities we bring with us into the classroom, remain conscious of the way those identities interact with the identities our students bring, and insert ourselves fully into the shifting relationships between ourselves and our students at the same time that we resist the impulse to control those relationships” (486). They discuss the shifting nature of identity, the “paradoxical nature of power in the academy,” and the difficulty of negotiating that identity within those power structures (486).
“We need, I believe, a far more integrated theoretical vision which can explain how context cues cognition, which in its turn mediates and interprets the particular world that context provides.”
In “Cognition, Context, and Theory Building” (1989), Linda Flower problematizes a dichotomy between “cognition” and “context” models of composition studies. She explains how the cognition-based approach, such as The Hayes/Flower cognitive process model, identify a role for environment, they fail to “account for how the situation in which the writer operates might shape composing” (740). On the other hand, the social-based or context approach “is likewise limited by a failure to account for the experience of individual students or writers within a group and to accommodate a vision of human agency, original contributions, and personal or intellectual development” (740). An interactive theory, Flower argues, must go farther than either of these models and cannot be limited by their dichotomy. Flower moves quickly to call for the practical needs of any theoretical framework, noting that “Educators do not work with abstractions; they work with students. As a teacher, I need an interactive vision of the writing process that can address the hurdles student writers often face, that can account for the cognitive and social sources of both success and failure, and that can talk about the experience of writing by being adequately fine-grained and situated in that experience” (Flower 741). Thus she has set out the practical needs of such an interactive theory.
“Key assumptions, goals, and pedagogical practices fundamental to the literature on critical pedagogy–namely, ’empowerment,’ ‘student voice,’ ‘dialogue,’ and even the term ‘critical’–are repressive myths that perpetuate relations of domination. By this I mean that when participants in our class attempted to put into practice prescriptions offered in the literature concerning empowerment, student voice, and dialogue, we produced results that were not only unhelpful, but actually exacerbated the very conditions we were trying to work against, including Eurocentrism, racism, sexism, classism, and ‘banking education.'”
“What diversity do we silence in the name of ‘liberatory’ pedagogy?” asks Elizabeth Ellsworth in “Why Doesn’t This Feel Empowering? Working Through the Repressive Myths of Critical Pedagogy” (1989). In her article, Ellsworth details her experience in critical pedagogy and how she found that this approach to education ultimately failed.
“We affirm the students’ right to their own patterns and varieties of language–the dialects of their nurture or whatever dialects in which they find their own identity and style. Language scholars long ago denied that the myth of a standard American dialect has any validity. The claim that any one dialect is unacceptable amounts to an attempt of one social group to exert its dominance over another. Such a claim leads to false advice for speakers and writers, and immoral advice for humans. A nation proud of its diverse heritage and its cultural and racial variety will preserve its heritage of dialects. We affirm strongly that teachers must have the experiences and training that will enable them to respect diversity and uphold the right of students to their own language.”
The CCCC’s “Students’ Right to Their Own Language” sets out to explore then-common (and sadly still often prevalent) assumptions about the realities of “standard” English, particularly the belief that this “correct” use of English is somehow superior to other forms. The statement proceeds to explain the nature of dialect and acknowledge the privileged status of some dialects–those usually called “Standard English.” Further, it identifies the cultural connections that often accompany dialects, often linked to specific ages, localities, or ethnic groups. Also key to the discussion is the notion that most dialects of, in this case, American English are highly compatible and may be understood even by those who are accustomed to another dialect.
“More important, as I have already indicated and as I plan to explain in detail later on, in teaching writing we are tacitly teaching a version of reality and the student’s place and mode of operation in it. Yet many teachers (and I suspect most) look upon their vocations as the imparting of a largely mechanical skill, important only because it serves students in getting them through school and in advancing them in their professions.”
–James A. Berlin
Key Terms: Neo-Aristotelian Rhetoric, Current-Traditionalist Rhetoric, Neo-Platonic Rhetoric, New Rhetoric
James A. Berlin’s “Contemporary Composition: The Major Pedagogical Theories” (1982) seeks to outline four contemporary approaches to composition studies: Neo-Aristotelians/Classicists, Positivists/Current-Traditionalists, Neo-Platonists/Expressionists, and the New Rhetoricians. He acknowledges his own identification as a New Rhetorician and seeks to illustrate that it is the “most intelligent and most practical alternative available” (Berlin 256). He further puts forth claim that “in teaching writing we are tacitly teaching a version of reality and the student’s place and mode of operation in it. […] This essay will argue that all writing teachers are perforce given a responsibility that far exceeds this merely instrumental task” (Berlin 257).