front cover of Before Shaughnessy
Before Shaughnessy
Basic Writing at Yale and Harvard, 1920-1960
Kelly Ritter
Southern Illinois University Press, 2009

In Before Shaughnessy: Basic Writing at Yale and Harvard, 1920–1960, Kelly Ritter uses materials from the archives at Harvard and Yale and contemporary theories of writing instruction to reconsider the definition of basic writing and basic writers within a socio-historical context. Ritter challenges the association of basic writing with only poorly funded institutions and poorly prepared students.

Using Yale and Harvard as two sample case studies, Ritter shows that basic writing courses were alive and well, even in the Ivy League, in the early twentieth century.  She argues not only that basic writers exist across institutional types and diverse student populations, but that the prevalence of these writers has existed far more historically than we generally acknowledge.

Uncovering this forgotten history of basic writing at elite institutions, Ritter contends that the politics and problems of the identification and the definition of basic writers and basic writing began long before the work of Mina Shaughnessy in Errors and Expectations and the rise of open admissions. Indeed, she illustrates how the problems and politics have been with us since the advent of English A at Harvard and the heightened consumer-based policies that resulted in the new admissions criteria of the early twentieth-century American university. In order to recognize this long-standing reality of basic writing, we must now reconsider whether the nearly standardized, nationalized definition of “basic” is any longer a beneficial one for the positive growth and democratic development of our first-year writing programs and students.




front cover of Before the Dissertation
Before the Dissertation
A Textual Mentor for Doctoral Students at Early Stages of a Research Project
Christine Pearson Casanave
University of Michigan Press, 2014

“This very readable book is what every graduate student needs as they start a program. I wish my own MA and PhD students, during my 40 years of supervising, could have been demystified by having Casanave's ‘textual mentor' as a companion."

                                                                                        --Merrill Swain, Professor Emerita, OISE, University of Toronto

 “Before the Dissertation is an insightful, relevant, and accessible resource for doctoral students at any stage. Full of reflections and advice not found in other books, it serves as an indispensable guide for students and their supervisors. And the dispelling of myths is a superb idea!”

                                                                                                --Robert Kohls, PhD candidate, University of Toronto


Before the Dissertation concerns issues to consider before students start writing, indeed before they commit to a major high-stakes dissertation project, whether qualitative or quantitative or something in between. It is especially relevant for students who wish to do projects that involve a lengthy research period (which can add to stress), and that also involve reading, data collection, and writing in more than one language. From the earliest stages of doctoral work, even before the proposal stage, and during intermediate stages of preparation for a project as well, there are things to think about and discuss with friends, family, and advisers such as: Why do you want to pursue a doctoral degree? Do you fully understand what you are getting into? How will you manage to develop an appropriate topic? What will your role be in your project and what languages will you use with multilingual participants? How might you engage with reading, people, and personal writing at early stages in ways that will contribute to your project's development? How much attention should you pay to quality-of-life issues?

Before the Dissertation speaks to an audience in the social sciences, but in particular to doctoral students who have experience with and interest in international, multilingual, as well as native English speaking students and settings and who wish to investigate topics in (second) language and multicultural-transcultural education. Athough appropriate for use in English-dominant doctoral programs throughout the world, the book will relate more closely to students in the North American educational system than to ones, for example, in the British system. The main audience for this book is thus doctoral students who are first or second/additional users of English, who are interested in pursuing topics in one of the social sciences, including education and multilingual inquiry, and who may just be finishing course work in an English-dominant university and are wondering what might happen next.



front cover of Between Talk And Teaching
Between Talk And Teaching
Reconsidering the Writing Conference
Laurel Johnson Black
Utah State University Press, 1998

The teacher-student conference is standard in the repertoire of teachers at all levels. Because it's a one-to-one encounter, teachers work hard to make it comfortable; but because it's a pedagogical moment, they hope that learning occurs in the encounter, too. The literature in this area often suggests that a conference is a conversation, but this doesn't account for a teacher's need to use it pedagogically. Laurel Johnson Black's new book explores the conflicting meanings and relations embedded in conferencing and offers a new theoretical understanding of the conference along with practical approaches to conferencing more effectively with students.

Analyzing taped conferences of several different teachers and students, Black considers the influence that power, gender, and culture can have on a conference. She draws on sociolinguistic theory, as well as critical theory in composition and rhetoric, to build an understanding of the writing conference as an encounter somewhere between conversation and the classroom. She finds neither the conversation model nor versions of the master-apprentice model satisfactory. Her approach is humane, student-centered, and progressive, but it does not ignore the valid pedagogical purposes a teacher might have in conferencing. Between Talk and Teaching will be a valuable addition to the professional library of writing teachers and writing program administrators.


front cover of Beyond Productivity
Beyond Productivity
Embodied, Situated, and (Un)Balanced Faculty Writing Processes
Kim Hensley Owens
Utah State University Press, 2023
In Beyond Productivity, a wide range of contributors share honest narratives of the sometimes-impossible conditions that scholars face when completing writing projects. The essays provide backstage views of the authors' varying approaches to moving forward when the desire to produce wanes, when deciding a project is not working, when working within and around and redefining academic productivity expectations, and when writing with ever-changing bodies that do not always function as expected. 

This collection positions scholarly writers' ways of writing as a form of flexible, evolving knowledge. By exhibiting what is lost and gained through successive rounds of transformation and adaptation over time, the contributors offer a sustainable understanding and practice of process—one that looks beyond productivity as the primary measure of success. Each presents a fluid understanding of the writing process, illustrating its deeply personal nature and revealing how fragmented and disjointed methods and experiences can highlight what is precious about writing. 

Beyond Productivity determines anew the use and value of scholarly writing and the processes that produce it, both within and beyond the context of the losses, constraints, and adaptations associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

front cover of Breaking Up (at) Totality
Breaking Up (at) Totality
A Rhetoric of Laughter
D. Diane Davis
Southern Illinois University Press, 2000

Rhetoric and composition theory has shown a renewed interest in sophistic countertraditions, as seen in the work of such "postphilosophers" as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Hélène Cixous, and of such rhetoricians as Susan Jarratt and Steven Mailloux. As D. Diane Davis traces today’s theoretical interest to those countertraditions, she also sets her sights beyond them.

Davis takes a “third sophistics” approach, one that focuses on the play of language that perpetually disrupts the “either/or” binary construction of dialectic. She concentrates on the nonsequential third—excess—that overflows language’s dichotomies. In this work, laughter operates as a trope for disruption or breaking up, which is, from Davis’s perspective, a joyfully destructive shattering of our confining conceptual frameworks.


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