Academic journal article College Composition and Communication

Locating Oklahoma: Critical Regionalism and Transrhetorical Analysis in the Composition Classroom

Academic journal article College Composition and Communication

Locating Oklahoma: Critical Regionalism and Transrhetorical Analysis in the Composition Classroom

Article excerpt

Oklahoma as an Ecology

As Marilyn Cooper establishes in "The Ecology of Writing," no one writes in isolation. Sidney I. Dobrin and Christian R. Weisser rightfully acknowledge that "Cooper's essay was central to the post-process move," insofar as she ar- gues that process-oriented composition pedagogy generally assumed a lone, idealized writer (260). Published in the mid-1980s, the text functions as an example of Cooper's argument that instead writing processes "are essentially social activities, dependent on social structures and processes" (184). As Dobrin and Weisser explain, in the historical context of the field to which Cooper was writing, and simultaneously constructing, composition theory was shifting "from examining individual writers' cognitive processes to inquiries regarding the interactions between writers and the social forces that acted upon them and upon which they had an effect" (260). Cooper provides a map of scholars participating in contemporary discussions on writing as a social act as a con- text for her argument for ecologies composed of writing systems; Dobrin and Weisser's article offers a similar map for the growth of ecocomposition as a subfield in the discipline. Together they contribute tremendous work to con- textualizing and theorizing the concept of "locations of writing" as it informs what I present here. In mapping out a part of the system, as Cooper puts it, within which student writing and certainly my writing take place in Oklahoma, I want to establish new connections and reestablish historic ones between my location and others. I want to write Oklahoma differently.

In this task, Cooper characterizes an ecology of writing as an extension of the individual writer in relationships with other writers toward the creation of a collaborative, cumulative agency through which "writers interact to form systems" (187). As she explains, "systems are not given, not limitations on writers; instead they are made and remade by writers in the act of writing" (187). In a concrete sense, "writing changes social reality," rhetorically and physically. Language and text are part of the social reality, and in the process of their co-construction between writers in locations, they change systems of writing and the larger ecology in which these systems operate (Cooper 184). Interaction, exchange, and cooperation between writ- ers create the agency for reform. Likewise, isolation, contest, and competition also impact systems and ecologies. Individual writers who seek reform should privilege collaborative values. Collaboration joins locations across local and regional networks through which writers accumulate agency to change social reality through the exchange of ideas, texts, and rhetorics. In this exchange- which I characterize as transrhetorical-language, texts, and locations change.

My project takes Oklahoma as a location of writing informed by two sites of archival inquiry, the Green Corn Rebellion of 1917 and Folk-Say: A Regional Miscellany, a series of four volumes published by the University of Oklahoma Press from 1929 to 1932 (Botkin). In investigating these sites, I develop an analytical device to chart the transrhetorical changes that occur in rhetorics as they move across locations of writing. I use recent critical regionalist theory (Powell; Rice) to understand a historic group of writers, the New Regionalists, and 111 e / Folk-Say project as a site of regionalist production that connected them to local historical rhetorics and broader networks of regionalists located else- where. It also connected them to a historical legacy of rhetorical suppression in the aftermath of the Green Corn Rebellion. For me, as an Oklahoma writer, these two sites reveal the system of writing in which I am located, and in which my students in Oklahoma are located. They model the value of local texts and encourage their use in writing classrooms. I use composition theory (Reynolds, "Composition's"; Fleckenstein) to join critical regionalist goals with pedagogy and offer an extended locally focused course example from my experience. …

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