Academic journal article Reader

Terms of Engagement: A Snapshot of Scholarly Exchange in Rhetoric and Composition's Professional Journals

Academic journal article Reader

Terms of Engagement: A Snapshot of Scholarly Exchange in Rhetoric and Composition's Professional Journals

Article excerpt

Writing and Response: Theory, Practice and Research (1989), "Minimal Marking" (1983), "Responding to Student Writing" (1982), "The Components of Written Response: A Practical Synthesis of Current Views (1985)," 'Voices in Response: A Postmodern Reading of Teacher Response" (1992), "Responses to Student Writing From New Composition Faculty" (1982). This rather eclectic sampling of books and articles demonstrates that the subject of response has long been important to writing theorists and to the field of rhetoric and composition studies. Composition scholars have been most concerned with finding new and better ways to formatively and summatively evaluate student writing; generally, they have sought and continue to seek methods of response which are ethical and sensitive to student differences, which encourage and challenge students to think more critically about their subjects, and which move students toward meeting the overall goals for a particular assignment and course. While, thankfully, such exchange between students and teachers has long been the focus of much composition scholarship, the equally complex exchange between authors within composition scholarship itself has only relatively recently, over the past 10 to 15 years or so, become the focus of discussion and critique.

The emergence of postmodern and feminist critique and the re-emergence of scholarly interest in classical rhetoric has led many writing theorists to question and pose alternatives to traditional conceptions of argument and academic discourse and has led to some important critiques of authority and tone in scholarly exchange (see Bishop, Bizzell "Praising," Franke, and Sommers 'Oetween"). Yet, despite this critique, a sustained, book-length analysis of scholarly exchange in composition studies has yet to be published, and only a handful of essays have been published that explore the tone and manner of exchange in conjunction with particular genres and venues where most scholarly exchange takes place, including: full-length articles, book reviews, professional listservs, and published responses to articles.1 In this project, I define scholarly exchange as the explicit ways authors respond directly to the work and research of others, as well as the implicit, and often subtle, ways authors "respond," through aligning their work with particular scholars and/or defining their own work as somehow different or distinct from authors whose voices have previously influenced the scholarly conversation on a particular topic or issue.

Like the range of content, methodologies, and diversity of authors who participate in a given field's professional publications and discourse, scholarly exchange is equally important to study and critique, as it powerfully shapes and impacts a discipline's professional values and ethos. This is especially true of the exchange which occurs in highly visible and influential forums, including the four, widely circulated "key" disciplinary journals, in my own field of composition studies, which I examine here2 : College Composition and Communication, Composition Studies, JAC, and Rhetoric Review.3

In my project, I primarily focus on the key forum for exchange in each journal, published articles, over a recent fiveyear period. Specifically, I analyze the 54 "regular" issues and 248 non-commissioned, peer reviewed articles published across CCC, CS, JAC, and RR from 1998-2002.4 Among the questions I address and explore include: What general approaches or orientations characterize authors' engagement with previous scholarship? What specific discursive moves do authors utilize to set their work apart from other scholarship, or to make their work appear "novel" or new? How can the construction of novelty potentially impair productive or collegial scholarly exchange? And finally, are there viable alternatives to traditional novelty claims and, if so, what might such alternatives look like? While I explore these questions in conjunction with published scholarship in my own field of composition studies, I believe my analysis of scholarly exchange is also applicable to other disciplines, particularly those in the humanities, whose scholarship features similar modes of inquiry and types of novelty claims. …

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