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On January 29th, our little composition and rhetoric group will be having a full-day retreat.  It will be our first official retreat and it couldn’t come at a better time.

With several new courses on the books, a program in the final stages of approval, and a load of ideas about where we go from here, it’s going to be good to be able to spend some sustained time hammering out our plans.  I also thinks it’s a good time to formalize some of the principles that shape both our programmatic identity and our pedagogical practices.  From my perspective, this is our chance to discuss what we want to be as a distinct intellectual and teaching community as well as how we want to be as a community.

So, here’s to a spectacular spring 2010 semester!


Followers of this blog will know that we have been building toward a concentration in Composition, Rhetoric, and Literacy Studies for the past year or so.  We just got confirmation today that our third new course is on the books!

Here’s our three new courses:

ENG 260 – Issues in Composition and Rhetoric Studies

This course provides undergraduate students an introduction to the history, traditions, issues, problems, and debates of Composition and Rhetoric Studies. Despite its long history and growing influence in academia, many students of English are unfamiliar with the depth and breadth of the field of Composition and Rhetoric. It is the goal of this course to familiarize undergraduate students with the historical development of Composition and Rhetoric Studies and the shape of the filed today. This course will include inquiry into the major theoretical, professional and disciplinary issues and challenges of the field. The course also provides an introduction to research methods and resources in Composition and Rhetoric, as well as experience writing academically in and about Comp / Rhet Studies.
Prerequisites: English 023 or 025.

ENG 274 – Women, Writing and Rhetoric

While the spoken and written word have long been studied for their rhetorical intent and success, this study has been conducted primarily through a male lens. As such, women’s contributions to rhetoric throughout history, like so many other aspects of women’s experience, have yet to be fully explored. Women, Writing, and Rhetoric seeks to expand the study of rhetoric with a multi-layered consideration of how rhetoric has been informed by, and informs, a female consciousness. This is an elective course for English majors, Women’s Studies minors, and those seeking a concentration in Composition, Rhetoric, and Literacy Studies.
Prerequisites: ENG 023, 025, or equivalent.

ENG 316 Rhetoric, Democracy, Advocacy

The connection between rhetoric and democracy is an old one dating back to the origins of both concepts in Western traditions.  Simply put rhetoric—the skilled use of argument and persuasive discourse—and democracy were seen as ways to replace violence as the primary means of governing and resolving conflict. This course argues that the intimate connections between rhetoric and democracy are critical to retain and reclaim for the health of democratic society and culture. American democracy has been defined not only by its institutions and Constitutional frameworks, but also by vibrant traditions of citizenship advocacy that have relentlessly stretched the boundaries of democratic freedoms, identities, and protections. A healthy democracy requires citizen advocates who are skilled in the analysis of public discourse and the rhetoric of advocacy. This course will be a sustained study of the theory and practice of advocacy rhetoric, primarily in the American context. In addition, this course will raise practical questions about what citizenship advocacy means in a context of increasing globalization and new media. PREREQUSITE: ENG 023 or its equivalent.

While you’re at it, check our our growing number of courses here.

There are just three days left in the semester and we’re wrapping things up. Like most of my colleagues, I am deep in grading mode. However, I thought I would take a few minutes this morning (before I head into campus and while my son is sleeping) to post.

This past academic year has been pretty incredible for our little composition program.  We have one new class on the books, ENG 316 Rhetoric,  Democracy, Advocacy, which will be offered in spring 2010 for the first time.  We also have two classes heading for college and university curriculum committees after passing our department unanimously: Women, Writing, Rhetoric and Issues in Composition and Rhetoric Studies.  A very productive year for course development and another step toward rounding out a solid concentration in Composition, Rhetoric, and Literacy Studies at KU. 

This past year we also completed two successful tenure-track faculty searches.  In the fall, we will welcome Mysti Rudd from Lamar State College-Port Arthur (IUP PhD candidate) in Texas and Moe Folk from Michigan Tech.   Over the summer I am going to ask Mysti and Moe to introduces themselves to you, but for now let me just say that both of these folks promise to contribute to our program in exciting ways.  As I have suggested before on this blog, our program has at its core an ethic of “conversation.”  That is, we are interested in a diversity of approaches at our composition table that can contibute to a lively conversation over the teaching of writing, literacy in the 21st Century, and all things composition and rhetoric.  Many of us got into this field because of its lively discussion over the purpose and nature of writing, rhetoric, and literacy…so, it only makes sense that we would want to use that energy, that commitment to discussion as the model of our program.  I am sure that Mysti and Moe will both expand and deepen our conversations. 

This past spring saw another successful Composition Conference for student writers.  This 5th annual conference was expanded to include student writers from all levels of composition courses, which exceeded our expectations.  Despite a very miserable weather day, attendance at this year’s conference was the best yet.  Our keynote speaker, Steve Parks from Syracuse University, gave an engaging talk entitled “Once I was a Washing Machine: Worker/Writer Alliances at the Edge of the Economic Abyss” (see the pics below).  His talk was both well attended and sparked conversations that echoed through our conversations for weeks. 

Over the course of this summer we will be planning for what promises to be an exciting new academic year.  We will be hiring an additional tenure-track faculty member in Multicultural/Multiethnic Rhetorics; formally submitting our concentration for department approval; expanding our course offerings; deepening our use of new media; and continuing conversations in our weekly meetings and reading groups.  Toward the end of this semester, we began some interesting and exciting conversations with our fellow rhetoricians in the Speech Department (soon to be Communications Studies).  Frankly, the promise of reuniting rhetoric just gets me all happy (yes, I am a rhetoric geek). In short, I think we are in great shape…or, given that today is Obama’s 100th day in office, maybe I should say: “the state of our program is strong!”  🙂

Yesterday was a great day at CCCCs. All four of the panels I went to were fantastic. I did make one change in my schedule. I didn’t go to “We Have Been Here Forever” as I initially planned. Instead, I went to the session, “Community Literacies and Deliberative Democracy In and Beyond the University,” with Eli Goldblatt, Juan Guerra, Michelle Kells, and Carlos Salinas. Our panel, “Labor Rhetoric and Academic Organizing,” went extremely well…we had a packed house, our papers worked incredibly well together, Eileen Schell posed several key questions in her response, and many audience members walked with us over to the Serrano Hotel for our Labor Caucus Interest Group meeting. More on all of this when I have a little time (right now I am sitting in the hotel lobby waiting for my ride to the airport).

I was really looking forward to being here this year…and my expectations were more than met. The non-panel discussions I had with people who I haven’t seen since the last CCCCs and colleagues I see on a more-or-less regular basis were invigorating…which is, after all, why we come to these conferences in the first place, right?

More to come!

After spending some time reading through all of the sessions running tomorrow, I think I have my schedule for tomorrow:

Last week’s Composition Conference for First-Year Student Writers was an unqualified success! Over 150 230 students participated in the conference!

Amy Lynch-Biniek and Kevin Mahoney would like to thank the members of the Composition Conference Committee for helping make this event possible: Barbara Belejack, Tony Bleach, Liz Casner, Linda Cullum, Todd Dodson, Joanne Emge, Dan Featherston, Melissa Nurczynski, Carissa Pokorny-Golden, Patty Pytleski, Don McNamara, Rebecca Stewart, and Todd Williams. A special thanks goes out to Annette Christman, the English Department secretary, whose knowledge of the university and help has been indispensable.

Thanks to Janice Chernekoff, the Chair of the English Department, for her continued support of the conference; to Joanne Emge for helping bring the Foust Lecture and the Composition Conference together this year; to the Provost, Dr. Carlos Vargas for his moral and institutional support; and to LAS Dean, Dr. Bashar Hanna for supplemental funds to help bring Keith Gilyard to KU. Thanks to all of the faculty who have encouraged their students to participate in this conference as panelists and audience members. Finally, thanks to all the students who took a big step in submitting and presenting their papers. We welcome you to the conversation.

April 2018
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