Composition and Rhetoric (a.k.a. Writing Studies): A Flexible Field
In his essay, "Teach Writing as a Process not a Product," Donald Murray outlines the major difference between the traditional pedagogy that directed the teaching of writing in the past and his newly hailed model. Traditionally, Murray explains, English teachers were taught to teach and evaluate students' writing as if it was a finished product of literature when, as he has discovered, students learn better if they're taught that writing is a process. For Murray, once teachers regard writing as a process, a student-centered, or writer-centered, curriculum falls into place. Rules for writing fall by the way side as writers work at their own pace to see what works best for them.
While Murray emphasizes the emancipating affect that a process-oriented curriculum has on students, Andrea Lunsford explains how the process approach to writing--adopted by and aligned with the field of Composition and Rhetoric--frees not only students, but teachers and scholars as well. Theories governing Composition and Rhetoric break down boundaries "between disciplines, between the genres of reading, writing and speaking, between the theory and practice, between research and teaching." Janice M. Lauer and Andrea Lunsford similarly point out the cross-disciplinary nature of Composition and Rhetoric and how this creates and directs scholarship in the field.
In their short essay, "The Place of Rhetoric and Composition in Doctoral Studies," Janice Lauer and Andrea Lunsford argue that flexibility and boundary crossing is inherent to research in the field of Composition and Rhetoric as well. In an effort to respond to the many issues that stem from the study of language and its use in culture, scholars of composition and rhetoric can and do employ a variety of methodologies for their research. The prohibition of any methods of inquiry is not productive when examining an all-encompassing topic such as discourse in culture.
In Susan Miller's historical analysis of Composition and Rhetoric, she explains how English studies--emphasizing the study of great works of literature--became the pedagogy of choice within the academy, and how this choice marginalized the teaching of writing, rhetoric, to the mere teaching of style. "In a traditional version of textual history," Miller explains, "people characterized as 'authors' are almost always imagined in control of language." Miller argues that in order to maintain their status as culture makers, the partriarchical power mongers who designed the first writing programs, defined writers as those who wrote great works of literature. Miller is also critical of those scholars of rhetoric who continue to lament and/or deny that classical rhetoric lost its influence over writing instruction during its initial establishment in America. Although it's theoretically unfortunate that rhetoric lost its status for several centuries within the pedagogical practices of...