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    Disciplinarity of Composition Studies

    Some History of Composition Classes in the United States

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    The historical landscape of Composition Studies is complex, multidisciplinary, and messy. It is, to use a phrase from Janice Lauer, a “dappled discipline” (27). While an essay of this length cannot do full justice to the multifaceted discipline that is Composition Studies, my hope is to point to important themes that have surfaced since the 1960s, and which have advanced the field to where it stands today. My approach to this endeavor will be both chronological and multi-modal, an approach I believe will serve best in this case. As I move through the four decades that encompass the 1960s-1990s (with some reference to Composition Studies before and after those dates), I will use four criteria set forth for disciplinarity by Janice Lauer in her foundational essay “Composition Studies: Dappled Discipline” (1984). The four criteria for disciplinarity set forth in the piece are (1) the domain of study (2) the modes of inquiry (3) the history/theoretical assumptions and (4) the discipline’s epistemic courts (25). This framework, along with a chronological and multi-modal template, will serve as the canvas from which I shall display some of the dappled landscape that is Composition Studies.

    Major Understanding of Writing in Composition Studies Since the 1960s

    Composition Studies History and Connection to Writing Instruction

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    The field of Rhetoric and Composition has advanced through a number of changes since the 1960s. Theoretical and pedagogical shifts have occurred which not only influence the rhetoric and writing classroom but society at large. Among these shifts are theories about the act of writing. This essay will discuss major shifts that occurred in the field with an emphasis on writing, focusing on the periods known as Expressivist/Expressionist, Cognitivist, Social Construction, Social Epistemic, and Post-Process.

    The Role of Capitalism on Racialization

    Critical Race Theory

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    Capitalism has played, and continues to play, a major role on racialization in the United States and other parts of the world. The forming of racial identities, the perpetuation of racial and racist discourse, and the racialization of social realities are all caught up in this economic system. While capitalism has led to numerous innovations and vast economic growth and freedoms, it is also directly implicated in the historical process of racialization and the historical, economic, sociological, and ideological presence of racism. Caught up in (and in many ways, creating) the web in which capitalism and racialization are connected is rhetoric.

    Using a Western Lens to Analyze Non-Western Rhetorics

    Analysis of Rhetorics

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    Viewing non-Western rhetorics through a Western lens is both important and problematic. The importance lies in making rhetoric in the West more inclusive and sensitive to the fact that there are important rhetorics that bare little or no connection to traditional Western rhetorical models and thinking. Problems lie in the fact that non-Western rhetorics can fall victim to simplification and misrepresentation and, at worst, devaluation, colonization, and oppression by those using Western models of analysis. Two terms can help us categorize the polar opposites in approaches to non-Western rhetorics: etic and emic. The etic approach uses a strong Western lens in viewing the non-Western, using Western rhetorical models and concepts to discuss these “othered” rhetorics and also attempts to find matches in non-Western rhetorics of Western rhetorical concepts (e.g. ethos, pathos, logos, rhetoric). In contrast, the emic approach “prefers[s] to study the ‘rhetoric’ of the Other in its own terms rather than [Western terms]” (Swearingen 213). Both models have been used by prominent rhetoricians, along with a mixture of the two.

    History of Rhetoric: Landscaped and Re-landscaped

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    Jacqueline Jones Royster uses the metaphor of “landscaping” to describe rhetorical historiography. In her introduction to “Disciplinary Landscaping, or Contemporary Challenges in the History of Rhetoric,” she states:


    What we choose to showcase depends materially on where on the landscape we stand and what we have mind. The imperative is to recognize that the process of showcasing space is an interpretive one, one that acknowledges a view and often re-scopes that view in light of aesthetic sensibilities—values, preferences, beliefs. We landscape. (148)


    This notion has been echoed by numerous contemporary theorists who understand that rhetorical historiography has been dominated by the voices of the “elites” for hundreds of years, and that a major objective of contemporary historiography is to “re-landscape” the terrain.

    Heidegger and the Questioning of Technology

    The Essence of Technology

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    Technology, in its many forms, has been a central piece of human history for thousands of years. The “thousands of years” may surprise those who link only the mechanical and electronic to technology, but technology can include basic tools and even writing. Walter Ong professes that writing is a technology in Orality and Literacy in stating, “…writing (and especially alphabetic writing) is a technology, calling for the use of tools and other equipment (81). Certainly there is a strong link between writing, rhetoric, and technology in our modern world. As Cynthia Selfe writes in “Learning in the Twenty-First Century,” “the truly disadvantaged learner in [this] century will be the learner without technology” (50). So should technology be a major part of Rhetoric and Composition? It seems the question “should it” should be replaced with the statement, “it is.” Those who fail to critically incorporate technology into their scholarship and pedagogy will injure their students and simply be blind-folded passengers on a ship that set off long ago. A major figure in helping us theorize about technology is Martin Heidegger. In this essay I shall explicate some of Heidegger’s thoughts on technology and connect those with my own views and uses of technology.



    Metaphoric Language and Double Consciousness

    Racial and Ethnic Oppression

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    Metaphor is a powerful rhetorical trope that can be used to discuss encounters with racial and ethnic oppression. This is true in the writings of W.E.B. Du Bois, Victor Villanueva, and bell hooks. The metaphors they employ express the writers’ historical and personal experiences and illustrate their doubly-conscious and complex realities. Du Bois defines double consciousness as a state of personal division. It is the knowing of oneself through the eyes of others while at the same time struggling to create a self-identity that is neither split nor conflicted. It is a “second-sight” of sorts in which a person (in his case, the African American) can “see himself through the revelation of the other world” (citation needed). But this reality is not innocent or free of ideology and judgment. I may be wearing a silly hat and understand the glares and comments coming from others, but this is not the same as being judged and scorned for one’s physical and mental identity. For Du Bois it is much deeper than surface-level judgment, it is scorn that goes to the center of a person, his/her soul.

    Discussion of "Food, Body, Person" by Deane W. Curtin

    Food and Philosophy

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    The concepts discussed in Curtin’s introduction were very enriching. What I found most interesting was how Curtin connected the culinary field with the philosophical field. Since I have taken a class on Buddhism I had read a little bit about “eating mindfully” and the codependence of our existence but never to the extent with which it was discussed here. I really enjoyed how he not only discussed the Platonic and Cartesian visions of reality (mind/soul over body) but more importantly how they have a long-ranging effect on societies. To say that Plato has something to do with next-door-neighbor-Mary’s anorexia is quite a statement. And what makes that statement most intriguing is that the argument seems to make much sense.

    Black and Brown in Hip Hop: Tenuous-Solidarity

    Race Relations and Hip Hop

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    As integral parts of Hip Hop culture, rap music lyrics, rap music videos and Hip Hop films are in many ways the rhetorical voice of that culture and can teach us much about racial interactions within and beyond that culture. With its beginnings in New York African American communities in the 1970s, rap music and Hip Hop culture have catapulted into the American ethos and cannot be ignored when discussing the continual formation of an American identity. More specifically, because of its popularity, Hip Hop has been incorporated by other racial groups and created opportunities for physical and rhetorical interaction between those groups and African Americans. One of these groups is the Latino American community.