Visions and Revisions: Continuity and Change in Rhetoric and Composition

Visions and Revisions: Continuity and Change in Rhetoric and Composition

Visions and Revisions: Continuity and Change in Rhetoric and Composition

Visions and Revisions: Continuity and Change in Rhetoric and Composition

Synopsis

A history of contemporary rhetoric, Visions and Revisions: Continuity and Change in Rhetoric and Composition examines the discipline's emergence and development from the rise of new rhetoric in the late 1960s through the present. Editor James D. Williams has assembled nine essays from leading scholars to trace the origins of new rhetoric and examine current applications of genre studies, the rhetoric of science, the rhetoric of information, and the influence of liberal democracy on rhetoric in society.

Given the field's diversity, a historical sketch cannot adopt a single perspective. Part one of Visions and Revisions therefore offers the detailed reminiscences of four pioneers in new rhetoric, while the essays in part two reflect on a variety of issues that have influenced (and continue to influence) current theory and practice. In light of the recent shift in focus of scholarly investigation toward theory, Williams's collection contextualizes the underlying tension between theory and practice while stressing instruction of students as the most important dimension of rhetoric and composition today. Together, these chapters from some of the most influential scholars in the field provide a range of perspectives on the state of rhetoric and composition and illuminate the discipline's development over the course of the last forty years.

Excerpt

Continuity and change—what they are, what they mean, where they lead—have become important issues in rhetoric and composition. Within a relatively short period, from the early 1960s through the beginning of the new millennium, we witnessed the emergence of the field; the influence of linguistics and psychology in shaping an empirical agenda; the waning of that influence as the field aligned itself more closely with the goals and objectives of traditional English departments; the shift toward postmodern perspectives on language, place, and self; and, more recently, a movement toward what might be called post-postmodern concerns. Visions and Revisions: Continuity and Change in Rhetoric and Composition examines continuity and change from several perspectives as it considers the rise of new rhetoric and what followed.

One of the ironies of the change our field has undergone during the last forty years is that we have a hard time naming what we do. For many, the term rhetoric is all inclusive, subsuming public speaking, composition, the study of using language in a performative way, and investigations of classical and medieval texts. For others, the term is restrictive, being too closely associated with the classical period and failing to reflect the distinctly American focus on composition. Among the contributors to this book, we find a variety of terms used to name the field— rhetoric, traditional rhetoric, composition-rhetoric, rhetoric-composition, and rhetoric and composition. Initially, this wealth may seem confusing, but I believe that in each case the author’s context makes clear how he or she is using a particular term.

In a text that is primarily historical, it seems appropriate that the first part of Visions and Revisions consists of autobiographical reflection from four pioneers—Richard Lloyd-Jones, Ross Winterowd, Frank D Angelo, and John Warnock. These chapters offer readers personal memoirs that preserve some of the history of the early days of new rhetoric. They also provide insight into the hopes and aspirations the contributors had for the field in the early days. D’Angelo and Warnock take another step and go beyond memoir to comment on the ways rhetoric and composition has changed in their lifetimes, making an important connection between their visions as they helped forge the field and the various revisions that have occurred over the last two decades.

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