A Field of Dreams: Independent Writing Programs and the Future of Composition Studies

A Field of Dreams: Independent Writing Programs and the Future of Composition Studies

A Field of Dreams: Independent Writing Programs and the Future of Composition Studies

A Field of Dreams: Independent Writing Programs and the Future of Composition Studies

Excerpt

This volume, like so many texts, grew out of lived experiences. When the idea for this book took hold, the three of us were working in a newly constructed writing and linguistics department at Georgia Southern University (see Agnew and Dallas, this volume, for more information). Larry was chair of the department (after serving as acting chair), and Angela and Peggy were assistant professors fresh from graduate school. Like the rest of the department, we didn’t have any experience working in a freestanding writing unit—most of us had come through English departments and expected to spend our professional lives in English departments—but we were committed to the possibilities we envisioned in a writing department separated from traditions of literature scholarship. As the three of us struggled—along with the rest of the department—to figure out life in a writing department, we looked to the literature about the formation of writing as an academic field to help us define and legitimize ourselves in the campus community. We found a selection of scholarly texts on the disciplinary formation of English and the history and formation of composition studies; however, we didn’t find much discussion about stand-alone—i.e., independent—writing departments.

We knew, though, about several stand-alones through informal sources such as conferences, listservs, or an occasional article, but we needed scholarly work. We wanted to learn from others, to resist making the same mistakes others may have made, and to situate our department in the disciplinary field of composition and rhetoric; but it was difficult to find resources—especially scholarly publications, the form of research most valued by the larger campus community. So in the midst of working to build a viable department, we decided to create a book that would collect stories of the formation of independent writing programs—writing programs or departments that are institutionally separated from literary studies and English departments—not only to document various institutional . . .

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