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Teaching Composition As A Social Process

Bruce McComiskey

Publication Year: 2000

Bruce McComiskey is a strong advocate of social approaches to teaching writing. However, he opposes composition teaching that relies on cultural theory for content, because it too often prejudges the ethical character of institutions and reverts unnecessarily to product-centered practices in the classroom. He opposes what he calls the "read-this-essay-and-do-what-the-author-did method of writing instruction: read Roland Barthes's essay 'Toys' and write a similar essay; read John Fiske's essay on TV and critique a show."

McComiskey argues for teaching writing as situated in discourse itself, in the constant flow of texts produced within social relationships and institutions. He urges writing teachers not to neglect the linguistic and rhetorical levels of composing, but rather to strengthen them with attention to the social contexts and ideological investments that pervade both the processes and products of writing.

A work with a sophisticated theory base, and full of examples from McComiskey's own classrooms, Teaching Composition as a Social Process will be valued by experienced and beginning composition teachers alike.


Published by: Utah State University Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix

Many students, teachers, friends, and colleagues have contributed greatly to this project.Writing is, of course, a social process, and I could never have composed this manuscript without their engaging conversations and critical readings. I would first like to thank my colleagues and friends who read portions of this book while it was still in draft form, including Cynthia Ryan, John...

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pp. 1-4

My career as a writing teacher began in the early 1980s, when I was an undergraduate teaching assistant in the composition program at Illinois State University, and since that time I have been a card carrying . . . well, everything. At first, I was intoxicated by the expressivist fervor for individuality and creativity, reading Donald Murray and Peter Elbow on busses home from college and, later, grad...

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1. Three Levels of Composing

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pp. 5-17

Over the years, some scholars in rhetoric and composition have proposed frameworks attempting to “map” composition studies, plumb the depths of its scope, define the borders that divide its practitioners into camps. Richard Fulkerson’s four philosophies of composition (mimetic, expressive, formalist, and rhetorical) and James Berlin’s major pedagogical theories (current-traditional, expressivist,...

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2. Social-Process Rhetorical Inquiry

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pp. 19-41

There is mounting evidence that composition studies has experienced a “social turn,” and, according to John Trimbur, this social turn is the result of an increasing disaffection among certain composition teachers with the radical individualism implied by the early writing-as-process paradigm. In the mid-1980s, fueled by emerging debates about academic discourse, professional writing,...

Appendix A: Advertising Critical and Practical Essays: Assignments

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pp. 42-43

Appendix B: The Cycle of Cultural Production, Contextual Distribution, and Critical Consumption: A Cultural Studies Heuristic for Rhetorical Inquiry into Advertising

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pp. 44-46

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3. The Post-Process Movement in Composition Studies

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pp. 47-62

The term Post-Process has gained some currency in composition studies, yet its meaning remains unclear. Reactions among writing teachers to the term post-process are often as strong as reactions have been among literary theorists to the term postmodern. One of the reasons for such reactions to these terms is that in each idiomatic usage the “post” means something different, ranging anywhere from...

Appendix A: Work Critical and Practical Essays: Assignments

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pp. 63-64

Appendix B: Work Critical and Practical Essays: Invention Heuristic

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pp. 65-67

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4. Composing Postmodern Subjectivities in the Aporia between Identity and Difference

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pp. 69-83

Recent discussions of teaching composition in the context of cultural theory have begun to consider the condition of the writing subject in society, yet these discussions often construct student-writer Subjects according to modernist identity/difference binary oppositions that are politically problematic. The modernist Subject is defined in terms of its objective relationship to reality and...

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5. Critical Discourse Analysis in the Composition Class

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pp. 85-111

Composition teachers often forage in linguistics for new ways to approach issues of style, grammar, and invention in their classrooms; however, in “Linguistics and Composition Instruction, 1950-1980,” Sharon Crowley points out that since traditional linguistics views language as acontextual and has little concern for discourse beyond sentence length, the value of linguistics for composition studies...

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6. Writing in Context

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pp. 113-135

Most writing teachers agree that their courses prepare students for “life” in the “real world,” but few teachers have theorized what sort of “life” they wish for their students, and even fewer describe the condition of this “real world.” Yet, these are crucial tasks that those in academia cannot ignore. “Life” implies activity, and “real world” implies a context for that activity. Thus, in terms of writing...

Appendix A: School Critical and Practical Essays: Invention

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pp. 136-138

Works Cited

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pp. 139-144


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pp. 145-147

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About the Author

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pp. 149

Bruce McComiskey teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in rhetoric and writing at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he recently helped develop a new concentration in professional writing for English majors and a minor in writing for non-majors. A graduate of Illinois State University and Purdue University, McComiskey moved in 1994 to Greenville, North Carolina and...

E-ISBN-13: 9780874213522
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874212839

Publication Year: 2000