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Foreword Frank J. D'Angelo INVENTION AS A SOCIAL AcT IS AN IMPORTANT AND TIMELY STUDY. It connects, on the one hand, to current work in literary theory and, on the other, to work in composition theory. Traditional literary theory assumes a solitary, autonomous author who is solely responsible for the mode of existence of a literary work. But in his essay "What Is an Author?" (Partisan Review, 42 [1975]), Michel Foucault argues that the concept of the author as one who authorizes, authenticates, originates, brings into being, creates, or invents a text is of relatively recent origin. There was a time, Foucault writes, when literary narratives, poems, and plays were composed and circulated without the question of authorship ever being raised. In fact, the concept of the author may be nothing more than a convenient fiction . "One comes to the conclusion that the author's name does not refer to a real person but that it exceeds the limits of the texts, that it organizes them, that it reveals their mode of being, or at least characterizes them. Though it clearly points to the existence of certain texts, it also refers to their status within a society and within a culture.... The function of an author is thus characteristic of the mode of existence, circulation, and operation of certain discourses within society." Like traditional literary theory, traditional composition theory depicts an ideal writer, isolated from the social world, who works alone, using various kinds of compositional strategies to plan, organize, and produce a text. But in a recent College English article , "The Ecology of Writing" (Aprill986), Marilyn Cooper argues that this image of the solitary composer is a myth. "Language and x Foreword texts," she asserts, "are not simply the means by which individuals discover and communicate information, but are essentially social activities , dependent on social structures and processes not only in their interpretive but also in their constructive phases." It is in the context of this kind of criticism of the concept of the author that Karen LeFevre's study might more fruitfully be understood. In Invention as a Social Act, Karen LeFevre contends that American composition theory and pedagogy of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is founded on the "Platonic" view that invention is a solitary act in which the individual, drawing upon innate knowledge and mental structures, searches for the truth, using introspective self-examination and heuristic methods of various kinds. Composition favors this view of composing, states LeFevre, because of the influence of traditional literary studies on the teaching of composition , the persistence of the romantic myth of the inspired writer, and the effects of capitalism and individualism on the concept of invention . Although this view is valuable in emphasizing internal resources and in showing how invention relates to the composing process , it depicts invention as a closed, one-way system; assumes and promotes the concept of the atomic self as inventor; abstracts the writer from society; neglects studies of writers in social contexts; and fails to acknowledge that invention is collaborative. Invention is best understood as a social act, LeFevre reasons, even when the agent is an individual. However, more often than we realize, agency may more appropriately be attributed to two or more people who collaborate to create something new. As a social act, invention has four aspects. First, invention is social even when the agent is a single individual because the inventing "self" is socially influenced. Second, human agents always act dialectically-in the context of their interconnections with others and the socioculture . Third, although invention is initiated by an agent, the inventor always requires the presence ofan "other"--either the rhetor himself or herself as internalized other or a perceived audience of actual others. Finally, invention as a social act has classical precedents . These include Socratic dialogue, the rhetorical enthymeme for which the audience must supply the premises, the three kinds of Aristotelian proof which presuppose an audience that may not accept them, and the concept of ethos which arises from the relationship between the individual and the community. After discussing how invention can be perceived as a social act, Foreword xi LeFevre presents the reader with four perspectives on invention. (I) The Platonic perspective, based on Plato's myth of the soul, considers invention a private activity by an individual who possesses innate knowledge to be recollected and expressed or innate cognitive structures to be projected onto the world. (2) The internal dialogic perspective, based on Freud's model of...


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