In American universities, composition describes a wide array of activity. While its disciplinary definition is, for better and worse, tied to the familiar first-year writing requirement, theories, histories, and practices of composition far exceed the narrow aim of teaching an incoming college student how to “write academically.” These histories, theories, and practices extend to what writing is, how we write, what writing does, and what kinds of writing matters in academic, civic, and professional activities. This graduate seminar will trace the emergence and continued evolution of composition as a discipline while paying special attention to the theories that underpin our developing sense of the field and its practices. While inescapably historical, our survey’s primary mode of inquiry will seek to identify and tease out the “controversies” that arise when the field’s theories and practices collide and/or collude, developing our sense of composition as a field.
The seminar’s outcomes are for students to:
- Become knowledgeable about histories and theories of composition;
- Build connections between the field’s theoretical assumptions and its practical implementations of pedagogy & administration;
- Research and compose a semester long project that can serve as the foundation for a conference presentation, dissertation proposal, and/or scholarly article.