- Who We Are, Why We Care
In their forthcoming review of Local Histories: Reading the Archives of Composition, Cinthia Gannett, John C. Brereton, and Katherine E. Tirabassi describe a shift away from generalized studies of the history of composition programs to a more complicated account of our disciplinary past. "As composition studies has undergone its social turn(s)," they write, "we increasingly focus on the situatedness of practice, pedagogy, people, and programs, and our disciplinary attention has been drawn anew to questions of local origins and local histories: of movements, moments, mentors, and mandates." This shift from broad accounts of the discipline to more complicated, concurrent narratives of disciplinary norms and practices parallels a shift in the discourse of the profession at large. Such disciplinary histories help us come to terms with the constructed and contingent nature of our professional norms and practices. Moreover, by locating ourselves in our disciplinary histories we become more conscious of our local commitments to our students, colleagues, and institutions.
The Reviews section of Pedagogy makes visible the scholarship that arises out of teaching and the lively conversation that ensues as we think together across the subfields of English studies. My predecessors, Christine Chaney and George Drake, brought into the light those all-important dialogues we teachers are always having. Our roundtable reviews raise important pedagogical questions about anthologies as well as the challenges of teaching from critical editions in the age of electronic archives and Web-based editions. Our single-author reviews offer more in-depth engagements with [End Page 257] subfields of English studies for all of us whose training and expertise may be in another area. And the Forum allows authors to reflect on the text that has proven most useful in their teaching, offering readers a glimpse into how a particular text has shaped the course of a teaching life.
The opportunity to join the editorial team of Pedagogy has been especially rewarding for me. It renewed a collaboration with two of my favorite colleagues, Jennifer Holberg and Marcy Taylor, with whom I shared a large office in the basement of the University of Washington's Padelford Hall. For three years we shared responsibilities as assistant directors of the Expository Writing Program. One of the strengths of the writing program at Washington was that it was staffed mostly by teaching assistants studying literary criticism and theory, creative writing, linguistics, cultural studies, comparative literature, and composition. The program brought together students whose intellectual experiences and preoccupations enriched our common job of teaching first-year writing for the university. We were fortunate, I now see, to have made the most of those heady conversations about teaching and student learning. Those conversations—in part the seeds of inspiration for this journal—offered all of us a wider perspective on the profession of English studies we were seeking to enter.
Those formative years instilled in me the conviction that our conversations about teaching are best when conceptions of the discipline and our professional identities remain in play. In a commentary published in the Fall 2005 issue of this journal (Pedagogy 5.3), I argued that reimagining teaching as intellectual work required that we rethink the divide between teaching and research, as well as acknowledge the distinct academic cultures. Only by so doing could we reimagine the traditional model of English studies organized around the values of the research university. "Where Do You Teach?" called for members of the profession to claim professional identities more consistent with where they teach so that we might better understand the need to transform the local institutional cultures that we create and that support and reward the work we do.
Leafing through the back issues of Pedagogy, I now see that this is precisely what the Reviews section has been doing all along. I also am reminded of my efforts to feature books, essays, and voices from a range of institutional types—public and private, urban and rural, two-year and four-year, college and university, baccalaureate and masters—as well as positions in the profession—graduate student and assistant professor, associate and full professor, non–tenure track positions, dean and independent scholar. This chorus of...