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Function of Theory in Composition Studies, The

Raul Sanchez

Publication Year: 2005

How can theory improve our knowledge of writing? Raúl Sánchez answers this question by examining dominant theoretical trends in composition studies over the last fifteen years, citing their common origins in a narrow, representational metatheory of writing. He argues that this adherence actually leads the field away from its objects of study: writing and the writing subject. Through this extended critique, he elaborates an alternative metatheory, one that restores writing to the conceptual center of composition studies by emphasizing its generative—rather than its representational—characteristics, particularly in increasingly networked and textualized cultures.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

"There are many to thank, but I begin with my colleagues in the University Writing Program and the Department of English at the University of Utah. Their support and encouragement have helped me see this project to..."

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1 The Current State of Composition Theory

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pp. 1-14

"The function of theory in composition studies is to provide generalized accounts of what writing is and how it works. These accounts can both guide and derive from the results of empirical research and, in the case of student writing, from classroom..."

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2 The Discourse of Knowledge in Composition Theory

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pp. 15-39

"Composition studies has long claimed that writing represents, emerges from, or helps shape humans’ mental, emotional, or sociocultural states of being. It has also situated the act of writing at the beginning, middle, or end of the many features that comprise these states of being, and it has investigated writing’sparticular relation to these features. In sum, composition studies..."

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3 Compsotion's Ideology Apparatus

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pp. 41-60

"James Berlin’s theory of ideology has been an influential and explicit attempt to reorient composition’s approach to its objects of study: writing and writing subjects. It has underwritten a range of theoretical and empirical research on the cultural and institutional dimensions of writing.1 But that theory’s understanding of both rhetoric and ideology emerges from a representationalist..."

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4 Theories of Culture in Composition Theory

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pp. 61-83

"Cultural theory of one kind or another has been a valuable resource for composition theory. But it has tended to arrive composition theorists as a powerful tool for analyzing and interpreting texts rather than as a potential means by which to theorize writing itself. This means that while versions of composition..."

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5 Writing Without Subjects

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pp. 85-100

"Throughout this book, I have argued that composition theory since the early 1990s has described writing as little more than a technology of representation. Instead of offering different theoretical descriptions of writing, composition theory has inserted the old representationalist account of writing into various..."


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pp. 101-105

Works Cited

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pp. 107-115


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pp. 117-123

E-ISBN-13: 9780791483152
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791464779
Print-ISBN-10: 0791464776

Page Count: 133
Publication Year: 2005

OCLC Number: 63148857
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Function of Theory in Composition Studies, The

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Subject Headings

  • English language -- Composition and exercises -- Study and teaching.
  • English language -- Rhetoric -- Study and teaching.
  • Report writing -- Study and teaching.
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