restricted access 8. Crafting New Approaches to Composition
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C r a f t i n g N e w App r oac h es to C o m pos i t i on Kristin Prins In her essay “Writing on the Bias,” Linda Brodkey describes her childhood approach to ballet as a series of rules that taught her “that dance is discipline , and discipline is a faultless physical reenactment of an ideal.” She notes that while codifications of practice into rules are meant to instruct, their use by those new to a practice “as often as not ground a ritual fascination with rules, the perfection of which is in turn used as a standard against which to measure one’s devotion to dance, religion, or writing rather than their performance as dancers, religieuses, or writers” (530). The relationship to writing Brodkey implies here is one between a writer and rules, the text produced and an ideal text. This relationship is asocial, ahistorical, and immaterial. As Brodkey illustrates, however, writing is actually “seated in desires” and “subject to the contingencies of performance,” just like dancing and sewing, practices that are also called skill, art, craft (547). Echoing Brodkey’s dissatisfaction with writing instruction, Anne Frances Wysocki, in “Opening New Media to Writing,” describes much writing pedagogy as “attempts to get abstract thought present in the most immaterial means possible,” concealing “the kinds of embodied, temporal positions that we need to be able to see” (22). In what follows, I will be arguing that by revising our understanding of writing to understand it as craft—as a particular set of actions and relationships between people and between people and things—writing’s value explicitly shifts from being located in a writer’s ability to reproduce ideal discourses to the roles textual production plays in shaping writers and the uses a made object such as writing has in social circulation. Craft invites us to consider things and actions, craft as noun and verb. It calls to mind a maker, the tools that maker uses, and the materials that maker shapes into an object. And as the tradition of craft guilds illustrates, craft also implies a complex of relationships between a maker’s identity, her interactions with others, and the things she makes. This way of thinking about writing brings to the foreground many issues already important to Rhetoric and Composition, but I believe that considering them together as craft can help us to understand these ideas in new ways that can guide us as composing and composition continue to shift in the twenty-first century. 8 146   composing (media) = C omposing (EMBODIMENT) Wh y s h i fti ng how we thi nk ab ou t wr it ing matters In “Rhetoric and Ideology in the Writing Class,” James Berlin argues that “social-epistemic rhetoric” should shape our teaching of writing. This approach to rhetoric—which Berlin believes is shared by no fewer than fourteen named scholars (including Kenneth Burke, Kenneth Bruffee, Ann Berthoff, Lester Faigley, David Bartholomae, and Patricia Bizzell)—is grounded in the belief that rhetoric is “always already ideological,” already has embedded in it assumptions about what exists, what is good, and what is possible (717, 719). For Berlin, writing is “a political act involving a dialectical interaction engaging the material, the social, and the individual writer, with language as the agency of mediation” (717, 730). He asserts that rhetoric “cannot escape the ideological question, and to ignore this is to fail our responsibilities as teachers and as citizens” (736). Broadly, I share Berlin’s beliefs about rhetoric and feel compelled to address “the ideological question” at hand: in first-year composition (FYC) courses, what do I believe to be, what do I believe to be good, and what do I believe to be possible? I believe that FYC courses can be opportunities for students to examine their various positions—“embodied and temporal,” as Wysocki writes—and to consider how those positions influence the kinds of writing students can choose to do. Because the writing students do in FYC is constrained by what instructors ask of them, I believe assignments, classroom activities, and goals for FYC courses should be designed to solicit consideration of these positions from students. My goal for this consideration is for students to understand themselves and their writing as working in complexes of social, historical, and material conditions that all people are embedded in—and that they can work to change. I believe that through the acts of considering our positions, learning more about...


Subject Headings

  • English language -- Rhetoric -- Computer-assisted instruction.
  • Online data processing -- Authorship -- Study and teaching.
  • English language -- Rhetoric -- Computer network resources.
  • Report writing -- Study and teaching -- Data processing.
  • English language -- Rhetoric -- Study and teaching.
  • Report writing -- Computer-assisted instruction.
  • Mass media -- Authorship -- Study and teaching.
  • Report writing -- Computer network resources.
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