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The End of Composition Studies

David W. Smit

Publication Year: 2007

Setting forth an innovative new model for what it means to be a writing teacher in the era of writing across the curriculum, The End of Composition Studies urges a reconceptualization of graduate work in rhetoric and composition, systematically critiques the limitations of current pedagogical practices at the postsecondary level, and proposes a reorganization of all academic units.
David W. Smit calls into question two major assumptions of the field: that writing is a universal ability and that college-level writing is foundational to advanced learning. Instead, Smit holds, writing involves a wide range of knowledge and skill that cannot be learned solely in writing classes but must be acquired by immersion in various discourse communities in and out of academic settings.
The End of Composition Studies provides a compelling rhetoric and rationale for eliminating the field and reenvisioning the profession as truly interdisciplinary— a change that is necessary in order to fulfill the needs and demands of students, instructors, administrators, and our democratic society.

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-4


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pp. v-vi

List of Figures

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

Since its collegiate birth a century and a quarter ago, composition has led a hard life. Orphaned from rhetoric, a servile Cinderella in the begrudging manor of English-as-literature, composition earnestly began pursuing the research that might win a dance at the academic ball only in the 1960s. ...

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pp. xv-xvi

The major arguments in this book may have begun to take shape in my mind as early as the 1970s, when I attended a workshop on reading for public school teachers conducted by Frank Smith. I had taken a break from teaching, but Smith had just published Psycholinguistics and Reading, and his ideas were a hot topic at the time. ...

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pp. 1-14

Of course, my title The End of Composition Studies is a play on the meaning of “end” and is designed to be provocative, alluding as it does to recent titles such as Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature, Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man, and John Horgan’s The End of Science. ...

Part One. Conceptual Limits

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1. What Is Writing and Writing Ability?

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pp. 17-40

The limits of composition studies begin with its subject: writing. Just what does the word “writing” mean, this word that can refer not only to a set of symbols on paper or computer screen but also to the process of putting them there or even what we have to know, what we have to be able to do, in order to put them there? ...

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2. Learning to Write

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pp. 41-62

If composition studies has an underconceptualized notion of what writing is, it has an equally underconceptualized notion of how human beings learn to write. Writing is obviously related to speaking—to Walter Ong, writing is a kind of second-order discourse, a formal self-conscious way of recording speech (82)— ...

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3. How We Compoe

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pp. 63-76

Various scholars in composition studies have argued that the one great contribution of the field to our understanding of writing instruction has been the promotion of the “process approach” (see Crowley, Composition 187–214 for an overview). ...

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4. Writing as a Social Practice

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pp. 77-97

In the last ten or fifteen years, it has become something of a commonplace in composition studies to argue that writing is in some sense “social.” Various composition theorists have called writing “a social activity” or “a social practice”; they have argued that writing is “socially constructed” or “social-epistemic,” ...

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5. Writing and Thinking

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pp. 98-118

I suspect that Peter Caulfield may be wrong, at least in part, when he argues that we need to get our thoughts right before we can get our words right. It depends of course on what he means, and what he means is not at all clear. ...

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6. Transfer

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pp. 119-134

Now we have arrived at what I take to be the heart of the matter in learning to write. If writing is a complex number of related abilities that rely on very different kinds of knowledge, depending on the writer’s purpose and context, when writers learn any particular piece of knowledge or when they learn how to put a particular skill into practice, ...

Part Two. Diagnosis and Proposal

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7. What Is Writing Instruction and Why Is It So Problematic?

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pp. 137-159

In 2001, Gary Tate, Amy Rupiper, and Kurt Schick edited a collection entitled A Guide to Composition Pedagogies. The collection included twelve chapters, each devoted to a different pedagogy used in the teaching of writing: “Process Pedagogy,” “Expressive Pedagogy,” “Rhetorical Pedagogy,” “Collaborative Pedagogy,” ...

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8. What Does It Mean to Be a Writing Teacher?

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pp. 160-180

In 1998, Robin Wilson reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education that a major shift was underway in who taught introductory writing courses at our major universities. Until the late 1990s, these courses were staffed overwhelmingly by graduate teaching assistants and adjunct instructors in English. ...

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9. A R/Evolutionary Program

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pp. 181-200

As Stephen North and a number of other theorists have convincingly demonstrated, composition studies is not a coherent field of inquiry. Rather, it is a set of related subfields, each with its own social practices, its own set of assumptions, its own research methods, and especially its own pedagogical strategies. ...

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10. Furthering the R/Evolution

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pp. 201-226

It is not just composition studies that is in turmoil. The entire discipline of English, or English studies, as some now call it, is in crisis. The primary reasons are two. The first is the shift in the discipline away from the formal study of a limited number of literary texts towards a more comprehensive notion of textuality ...

Works Cited

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pp. 227-244


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pp. 245-249

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Author Bio, Back Cover

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pp. 262-263

David W. Smit is a professor of English at Kansas State University, where for ten years he was the director of the Expository Writing Program. He teaches expository writing, modern drama, and Henry James. He has published numerous articles on literary style, portfolio assessment, and composition theory. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780809387472
E-ISBN-10: 0809387476
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809327515
Print-ISBN-10: 0809387476

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2007