Changing of Knowledge in Composition
Publication Year: 2011
Lance Massey and Richard Gebhardt offer in this collection many signs that composition again faces a moment of precariousness, even as it did in the 1980s—the years of the great divorce from literary studies. The contours of writing in the university again are rapidly changing, making the objects of scholarship in composition again unstable. Composition is poised to move not from modern to postmodern but from process to postprocess, from a service-oriented "field" to a research-driven "discipline." Some would say we are already there. Momentum is building to replace "composition" and the pedagogical imperative long implied in that term with a "writing studies" model devoted to the study of composition as a fundamental tool of, and force within, all areas of human activity.
Appropriately, contributors here use Stephen M. North's 1987 book The Making of Knowledge in Composition to frame and background their discussion, as they look at both the present state of the field and its potential futures. As in North's volume, The Changing of Knowledge in Composition describes a body of research and pedagogy brimming with conflicting claims, methodologies, and politics, and with little consensus regarding the proper subjects and modes of inquiry.
The deep ambivalence within the field itself is evident in this collection. Contributors here envision composition both as retaining its commitment to broad-based, generalized writing instruction and as heading toward content-based vertical writing programs in departments and programs of writing studies. They both challenge and affirm composition's pedagogical heritage. And they sound both sanguine and pessimistic notes about composition's future.
Published by: Utah State University Press
Introduction: Making Knowledge in Composition Then, Now, and in the Future
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Two ideas motivated this project from the beginning of our collaboration on it. On one hand, we have worked to develop a book that revisits Stephen North’s The Making of Knowledge in Composition: Portrait of an Emerging Field (MKC) nearly twenty-five years...
Notes on the Origins of The Making of Knowledge in Composition
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Reading the essays Lance Massey and Rick Gebhardt have assembled here has led me to reflect—not, to be sure, for the first time—on why a debut book by an untenured writing center director should have caused the kind of stir MKC unquestionably did, or enough of one that we are still...
Part One: Personal Responses to The Making of Knowledge In Composition
1. The Significance of North’s The Making of Knowledge in Composition for Graduate Education
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I was among the handful of English faculty teaching a graduate course in writing research when Stephen M. North’s The Making of Knowledge in Composition: Portrait of an Emerging Field (MKC) appeared in 1987. Before it became available, I used two books for the course, the only ones that...
2. The World According to North—and Beyond: The Changing Geography of Composition Studies
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Mapmakers control our view of the world—if we let them. Too often we forget the arbitrary nature of the configuration, its underlying intellectual, political, and linguistic constructs. The Mercator projection of 1569 strategically locates Western Europe in a central and dominant position in the world, thereby giving the tiny British Isles the visual and political prominence...
Part Two: Working the Field: Knowledge - Making Communities Since The Making of Knowledge in Composition
3. The Epistemic Paradoxes of “Lore”: From The Making of Knowledge in Composition to the Present (Almost)
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In The Making of Knowledge in Composition (MKC) Stephen North defined one of the eight types of “knowledge making” in the discipline as “lore,” “the accumulated body of traditions, practices, and beliefs in terms of which Practitioners understand how writing is done, learned, and taught” (1987, 22). Nor must...
4. Philosophies of Invention Twenty Years after The Making of Knowledge in Composition
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In the preface to his 2003 Where Writing Begins, Michael Carter uses Stephen North’s not-entirely-approving description of philosophical inquiry in The Making of Knowledge in Composition (MKC)(1987) as a kind of disclaimer—as a way to fess up to the methodological shortcomings of his argument before he begins making it. Carter admits, for instance...
5. Making Knowledge, Shaping History: Critical Consciousness and the Historical Impulse in Composition Studies
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As the essays in this volume attest, Stephen North’s The Making of Knowledge in Composition: Portrait of an Emerging Field (MKC), published in 1987, is a landmark text in composition, a comprehensive record of key developments, communities, and epistemologies relevant to understanding...
6. Makers of Knowledge in Writing Centers: Practitioners, Scholars, and Researchers at Work
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Stephen M. North’s greatest impact on writing center literature is not The Making of Knowledge in Composition: Portrait of an Emerging Field (MKC), published in 1987. Rather it is his 1984 College English article, “The Idea of a Writing Center,” which explains the purposes and workings of writing centers to faculty and administrators not directly involved with them. Grateful...
7. Rhetoric, Racism, and the Remaking of Knowledge-Making in Composition
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1987. The year after the PhD in English with an emphasis in rhetoric and composition. There weren’t many of us who could make the claim to a rhet and comp degree. Most of us, like Stephen North says, had been trained in literary studies (116). Me too. But I could claim rhetoric and composition— and an empirical study for a dissertation, a reluctant clinician...
Part Three: The Making of Knowledge in Composition and Education: Undergraduate, Graduate, and Beyond
8. Undergraduate Researchers as Makers of Knowledge in Composition in the Writing Studies Major
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North’s milestone volume, published in 1987, endorses the work of Bruffee and Macrorie, who propose that students within writing courses and writing programs “have more right to textual authority than has been traditionally afforded them” (118). North calls for textual authority for students...
9. Pedagogy, Lore, and the Making of Being
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The first line of the Stephen North’s introduction to The Making of Knowledge in Composition reads: “This book is about how knowledge is made in the field that has come to be called Composition” (1987, 1). By focusing on how people claim to know what they know, North distinguishes what he does...
10. Practice as Inquiry, Stephen M. North’s Teaching and Contemporary Public Policy
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At a time when policymakers are circling higher education with No-Child-Left-Behind sound bites such as “student learning outcomes” (Spellings 4), one of North’s central questions from The Making of Knowledge in Composition (MKC) (1987) is more critical than ever: “What do people know about the teaching of writing...
11. On the Place of Writing in Higher Education (and Why It Doesn’t Include Composition)
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Among other things, The Making of Knowledge in Composition (MKC) was an exploration of the place of writing and writing instruction in U.S. higher education. In the twenty-five years since its publication, the number of such explorations—and, it seems fair to say, the discontentments that drive them...
Part Four: Disciplinary Identities, Disciplinary Challenges: Unity, Multiplicity, and Fragmentation
12. Stephen North’s The Making of Knowledge in Composition and the Future of Composition Studies “Without Paradigm Hope”
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Although I admire Stephen North’s The Making of Knowledge in Composition (MKC) a great deal, I find it difficult to evaluate the book’s impact and influence. MKC came out in 1987, when the field of composition studies was undergoing what has been called the “social turn,” a new recognition of the importance of context in discourse, and a concomitant interest in...
13. Are We There Yet? The Making of a Discipline in Composition
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A frequently debated question among composition scholars during the 1980s, 1990s, and even beyond, was whether the field was a discipline or not. For years, many respected figures in the field have spoken of it as such (e.g., Connors 1999; Goggin 2000; Lauer 2006; Phelps 1988; Slevin 2001), but there are some who firmly disagree or at least express doubt...
14. Coordinating Citations and the Cartography of Knowledge: Finding True North in Five Scholarly Journals
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With The Making of Knowledge in Composition: Portrait of an Emerging Field (MKC), published in 1987, Stephen North took on a daring effort to map complex sets of investigations and practices under the big umbrella of composition, studying disparate sites of research on their own terms. Within a year...
15. Making Space in Composition Studies: Discursive Ecologies as Inquiry
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In the final chapter of The Making of Knowledge in Composition (MKC), published in 1987, Stephen North asks a question that has provoked much discussion within our field: “Is there any chance then for an academically full-fledged, autonomous, multi-methodological, knowledgemaking Composition?” (369). This question surfaced at a time when...
16. The (Dis)Order of Composition: Insights from the Rhetoric and Reception of The Making of Knowledge in Composition
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In the introduction to The Making of Knowledge in Composition (MKC), Stephen North adopts—only partially metaphorically—the stance of participant-observer, offering his sweeping map of composition’s knowledge- making communities as an attempt “to make sense of what I have seen and done in my ten years of ‘living among’ the people of...
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I want to begin this afterword by expressing my appreciation to this book’s editors, Lance Massey and Richard Gebhardt, for undertaking the project in the first place—editing a volume of this kind is always hard work—and then for inviting me to participate. I don’t know that I would have become involved otherwise, and that would have been a shame: I’d...
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About the Authors
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Publication Year: 2011