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Discord And Direction

The Postmodern Writing Program Administrator

edited by Sharon James McGee & Carolyn Handa

Publication Year: 2005

The argument of this collection is that the cultural and intellectual legacies of postmodernism impinge, significantly and daily, on the practice of the Writing Program Administrator. WPAs work in spaces where they must assume responsibility for a multifaceted program, a diverse curriculum, instructors with varying pedagogies and technological expertise—and where they must position their program in relation to a university with its own conflicted mission, and a state with its unpredictable views of accountability and assessment.

The collection further argues that postmodernism offers a useful lens through which to understand the work of WPAs and to examine the discordant cultural and institutional issues that shape their work. Each chapter tackles a problem local to its author’s writing program or experience as a WPA, and each responds to existing discord in creative ways that move toward rebuilding and redirection.

It is a given that accepting the role of WPA will land you squarely in the bind between modernism and postmodernism: while composition studies as a field arguably still reflects a modernist ethos, the WPA must grapple daily with postmodern habits of thought and ways of being. The effort to live in this role may or may not mean that a WPA will adopt a postmodern stance; it does mean, however, that being a WPA requires dealing with the postmodern.

Published by: Utah State University Press

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pp. ix

Like many good ideas, the one for this collection came during a conversation we had at a CCCC Convention a few years ago. By the following CCCC we brought our idea to the Utah State University Press booth and talked with Michael Spooner who expressed interest in our proposal. From that point forward, Michael has been an outstanding editor. We thank him for his vision, timely responses to even the most mundane...

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Introduction: Postmodernity and Writing Programs

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pp. 1-16

A cliché in academe generally and English departments particularly, postmodernism has come to characterize nearly every facet of contemporary life from Architecture, art, and film to feminism, music, lifestyles, photography, and popular culture. One day soon, we suspect, we might even find that someone has constructed a Zoo labeled “postmodern.”...

Appendix: Schematic Differences between Modernism and Postmodernism

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pp. 17

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1: Where Discord Meets Direction: The Role of Consultant Evaluation in Writing Program Administration

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pp. 18-27

Over the last fifteen years there have been numerous, often successful, attempts to define and theorize the role of the WPA and the place of writing programs, Writing Across the Curriculum, and the like on campus. For instance, in “Ideology, Theory, and the Genre of Writing Programs,” Jeanne Gunner writes...

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2: Cold Pastoral: The Moral Order of an Idealized Form

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pp. 28-39

Approaching the topic of WPAs and change from a pastoral perspective might strike readers as a bit far-fetched; the writing program is hardly known as a bucolic landscape. And yet WPAs are usually quite experienced with paraklausithyron—a song sung before a closed door; well versed in amoebean song—a contest of alternating strains in an...

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3: Beyond Accommodation: Individual and Collective in a Large Writing Program

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pp. 40-58

In the 1993 volume of College English, former TA Nancy Welch chronicled the disheartening story of her move from a process-based writing program (Program A) to one centered around cultural studies (Program B). Welch’s narrative details an inexorable process by which teachers who resisted the group ethos of their new employer/community were...

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4: Overcoming Disappointment: Constructing Writing Program Identity through Postmodern Mapping

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pp. 59-71

Frustration. Disappointment. Anger. Exhaustion. Silence. WPAs often experience these emotions as part of their work as evidenced by frequent discussions on the WPA listserv and at conferences.1 These negative feelings have even caused a backlash among some WPAs, who prefer only to talk about the “happy times” of being a WPA. Certainly, positive...

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5: The Road to Mainstreaming: One Person's Successful but Cautionary Tale

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pp. 72-83

At the University of Louisville (U of L), we have thought about mainstreaming our composition courses since at least the mid-1990s. A combination of factors raised the possibility that mainstreaming might be the best way to structure our mandatory writing courses, including the success of mainstreaming in other English departments and...

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6: Developmental Administration: A Pragmatic Theory of Evolution in Basic Writing

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pp. 84-94

The college is an unusual organization, a hybrid of business and charity, partly responsive to economic forces and partly insulated from them. Businesses that look only at profits change in response to what people are buying, striving to evolve swiftly in response to changing economic realities. Colleges, by contrast, answer in part to a noneconomic call to...

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7: Information Technology as Other: Reflections on a Useful Problem

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pp. 95-104

For a number of years, I have been troubled by what Richard Young, following Dewey, taught me to think of as a felt difficulty—a sense of dissonance, inconsistency, and inappropriateness. My difficulty dates to my initial efforts, shortly after I had become WPA for the first time (a curious reward for earning tenure), to expand the role of information...

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8: Computers, Innovation, and Resistance in First-Year Composition Programs

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pp. 105-122

Writing instruction has traditionally drawn its legitimacy from an essentially Platonic and largely intuitive presumption that perfect form in writing exists and that successful writing students should model their writing on it. Our long-term dedication to prescriptive grammar and the modes of discourse have both drawn from this presumption and fed it...

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9: Minimum Qualifications: Who Should Teach First-Year Writing?

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pp. 123-139

Who is qualified to teach the first-year writing course? Only scholars who have earned doctoral degrees in rhetoric and composition studies? English professors? Part-time lecturers with an interest in literacy? Graduate students working in the language arts? Anyone who wants to? Anyone who can be made to? Anyone who will? One could argue that the discipline of composition studies was brought into being at the moment institutions for higher education...

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10: The Place of Assessment and Reflection in Writing Program Administration

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pp. 140-154

Assessment is, as any reader of this collection doubtless knows, one of the hottest words in higher education today as well as one of the most irritating. Many a dean, provost, accrediting agency, or faculty colleague heralds assessment as a cornerstone of academic work, embracing its potential to inspire reflective practice and to generate new ideas. Peter...

Appendix A: WCC Three-Year Plan

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pp. 155-157

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11: New Designs for Communication across the Curriculum

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pp. 158-180

Clemson University conducted its first Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) Workshop in 1989. It was an entirely voluntary grassroots affair: there was no mandate, no administrative support, and no extrinsic reward for participating. Sixty of Clemson’s approximately nine hundred faculty signed up for a one-day workshop and journeyed to a retreat center eight miles from campus where they met, talked, and...

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12: Mirror, Mirror on the Web: Visual Depiction, Identity, and the Writing Program

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pp. 181-202

And so. It’s always that fairy-tale thing with the mirror. You gaze at the shiny surface. It caters to your ego, whispering that YOU are the center of the universe, the fairest of all. The most handsome. It reflects your very best self. That is, until one day it tells you something you’ve secretly feared: one day you are no longer the fairest. You have been supplanted....


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pp. 203-206


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pp. 207-217


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pp. 218-219


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pp. 220-222

E-ISBN-13: 9780874215205
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874216172

Publication Year: 2005