E504 – Situating Composition Studies: Theories, Practice, and Disciplinary Politics

Credit Hours:

Course Level:

Semesters Offered:
Fall Spring

Prerequisite: E 501.

Description: This course is intended to enhance students’ understanding of the contexts in which composition programs operate, the administrative roles that composition specialists often assume, and the professional opportunities and communities available to composition teacher/scholars. These issues are often only implicitly addressed, in what Henry Giroux calls the “hidden curriculum” of graduate study. To explicitly discuss the importance of institutional contexts in higher education, to address models of administration, to explore a repertoire of strategies for administrative work, and to demystify the process of publication and national participation in professional organizations—to address these topics gives graduate students an opportunity to understand and enact the intellectual work of Rhetoric and Composition in exciting and important ways.

While the instructors of this course will vary, and while each instructor will draw from his/her expertise when selecting course readings and designing course assignments, this course will be structured according to three, interrelated topics:

1. The institutional history of Rhetoric and Composition as a discipline, and the role of Rhetoric and Composition programs in departments of English. This section of the course will provide an historical context for the development of Composition programs in the U.S. In addition to a discussion of the growth of Rhetoric and Composition since the 1960’s (particularly in light of changes in university governance structures), the course will address important topics in the field, such as the preponderance of adjunct faculty in composition instruction, the “abolition” movement (i.e., the move to abolish first-year composition as a required course), the connections between composition programs and national- and state-level educational mandates, issues of diversity as they affect pedagogical and administrative decisions (e.g., debates about the “feminization” of composition, the “Students’ Right to Their Own Language” NCTE resolution, etc.), the shifting student populations at two-year colleges and universities, the “digital divide” that continues to shape the confluence of technology and composition studies, etc.

2. The administrative theories and practices that inform much of the intellectual work of Rhetoric and Composition specialists. Because most composition specialists will assume administrative roles in their careers, this section of the course will provide an overview of theories of and strategies for administrative work. In light of issues raised in Section I of the course, this section will address models and theories of writing program administration, including coordinating writing programs, writing centers, and writing across the curriculum initiatives.

3. The professional opportunities and communities available to Rhetoric and Composition specialists. In addition to educating graduate students about venues for and approaches to the publication and presentation of their work, this section of the course will focus on national and local organizations available to composition specialists. Designed to foster in students a sense of professional identity and membership in the field of Rhetoric and Composition, this section of the course will introduce students to various professional organizations (e.g., The Association of Writing Program Administrators, National Council of Teachers of English, College Composition and Communication, Colorado Writing Center Association, etc.) and foster awareness about the role of such organizations in developing national and local educational policy.