The field’s foundations and conversations continue to grow, making it difficult to take either a purely synchronic or a purely diachronic approach to our reading. On the one hand I will take 1949 as one defining moment in the formation of “Composition Studies” (or “Rhetoric and Composition”), owing to the organization of the first meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication in that year. On the other hand, many of the field's influences reach further back, challenging our ability to define the field’s origins according to a single ideology or intellectual framework. To cope with this dilemma of beginnings and origins, we will read synoptically through the field, selecting some signature turns on which to focus. In some cases, this means we are focusing on ideas that are situated in a particular decade, but we will allow those ideas to help us look forward and back, so that we can identify their possible antecedents and their more contemporary expressions.
Reading synoptically allows us to ground our investigation of Composition Studies in specific chronological moments, while also being aware of what that chronology excludes. This approach allows us to see feminist, multicultural, and technological perspectives at work throughout our whole syllabus, rather than relegating those perspectives to single decades. Finally, this approach equips us to investigate particular “aspects” or topics (e.g., race, radical pedagogy, collaboration, assessment, dis/ability, digitality, ecocomposition, visual rhetoric, performance, style, service-learning, etc.) by reading across various theoretical turns and by realizing that many of these “turns” are still ongoing. By the end of the semester, you will likely have accomplished the following:
- learned ways to comprehensively investigate the critical issues in the field, so as to better understand how those issues reflect your own interests, in and beyond the university;
- developed a critical vocabulary for theoretical work in Composition Studies;
- interrogated historical timelines for the development of Composition Studies and considered competing perspectives on the rise of the field;
- investigated connections between the history and theory of composition and those of related disciplines, i.e., rhetoric, communication, philosophy, literature, technical and professional writing, and English education;
- acquired a range of advanced reading and research methods for tracing germane developments throughout our course texts, and for use in your own scholarship and teaching.