5531 Readings for October 6

I thought I’d post a couple quick notes about the readings for 5531 this week. This is briefer than posts for 8011, because they are not required for 5531…

This week, we handled the following:


Gage, J. T. (1991). On “Rhetoric” and “Composition”. In E. Lindemannn & G. Tate (Eds.), An Introduction to Composition Studies (pp. 15-32). New York: Oxford University Press.

This study tackled the meanings of “rhetoric,” “composition,” and “rhetoric and composition.”  He comes to a conclusion that seems altogether commonplace:

  • Rhetoric is “reasoning down from wholes to functional parts” (30)
  • Composition entails the process of “reasoning up from constituent parts to wholes” (30)

Nevertheless, he did “show his work” in the analysis. Maybe a good source for further discussion on this topic…


Carroll, L. A. (2002). Preface and Chapter 3. In Rehearsing New Roles: How College Students Develop as Writers. Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press.

Carroll offers a longitudinal study of writing by undergrads at Pepperdine over their time there, based on portfolios and interviews. She states her purpose: “I want to demonstrate in this volume why a one- or two-semester, first-year course in writing cannot meet all the needs of even our more experienced writers and show how students’ complex literacy skills develop slowly, often idiosyncratically, over the course of their college years, as they choose or are coerced to take on new roles as writers.” (xi-xii)

Carroll generalizes a little from her study, but wisely restrains herself from doing much; this study is small, and Pepperdine has an unusual student population (wealthy, etc.)

Herrington and Curtis

Herrington, A. J., & Curtis, M. (2000). Chapter 2 Claiming the Essay for Himself: Nam. In Persons in Process: Four Stories of Writing and Personal Development in College (pp. 54-133). Urbana, Ill.: National Council of Teachers of English.

This is a report of a longitudinal study of four students through a year of writing in college. Chapter 2 is regarding one student, Nam, a Vietnamese immigrant with some language challenges attending UMass Amherst for a year before heading to seminary to be a Catholic priest. He struggled with language; previous training that emphasized the five-paragraph theme; and fear that secular education would taint him.

This long, detailed account includes the full text of several of Nam’s compositions and authors’ analysis of them. Nam is a very sympathetic character, and this account is actually quite moving.

Herrington seems very reluctant to generalize – good!


Clark, J. E. (2010). The Digital Imperative: Making the Case for a 21st-Century Pedagogy. Computers and Composition, 27, 27-35.

This selection was Clayton’s pick for us to read as a class; he will lead discussion.

Clark states her purpose: ‘In our nascent digital culture, the traditional essayistic literacy that still dominates composition classes is outmoded and needs to be replaced by an intentional pedagogy of digital rhetoric which emphasizes the civic importance of education, the cultural and social imperative of “the now,” and the “cultural software” that engages students in the interactivity, collaboration, ownership, authority, and malleability of texts.’

She gives several examples of the approaches she recommends, including use of ePortfolios (29); use of multi-media to tell “digital stories” (31-32); using Second Life and the novel Jennifer Government (and associated online game Nation States) to engage students in collective effort as prompt to write about it (33-34); use of blog posts, quick arguments, low-stakes from grading standpoint but high-stakes from authorial and authority standpoint (34).

Clark tells the interesting story of a student, an illegal immigrant, whom she required to remove a story from the student’s portfolio because it could be used to deport the student. (31)

My sense is that this article is full of good ideas, but I’m a little overwhelmed. I feel as if I’m just finding my legs teaching technical writing for the first time this semester. I’m not sure whether I’m ready to use these methods, on the one hand; on the other, I buy the arguments Clark makes about the importance of these techniques. What to do, what to do?


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