Made not Only in Words: Composition in a New Key

Reading through some scholarship I’ve encountered over the last year or so as I work on a couple of seminar projects and think about a capstone project.  Kathleen Blake Yancey’s CCC piece from 2004 (297-328) feels like a nice potential springboard for some things I’m interested in. I see Yancey as positing a kairotic moment in composition studies in this piece and pointing to evolving definitions and conceptualizations of what it means to write in digital and networked environments.

A fuller annotation below, but first, where I really lean in to this piece for consideration in short- and longer-term projects, is Yancey’s discussion of hypertext (317). I am in a Media Ecology seminar and recently presented on Marshall McLuhan. Fun to read, not certain where I place his work, but my task will be to apply his tetrad to a medium.  One of the things I like about the tetrad is its attention to historical context. In this piece, Yancey speaks of the potential of metaphorically imagining the three-dimensionality of hypertext, and that seems to resonate with how I might apply MM’s tetrad as a method of analysis. My thinking is that, instead of hypertext in general, I might  apply the tetrad to hyperlinks specifically. I’ll be revisiting some of Jeff Rice’s work soon, too, in preparation for this project.

As for the rest of Yancey’s piece, first, there’s this quote: “Literacy today is in the midst of a tectonic change” (298). Yancey then moves through a series of “moments.”The first examines increasingly public writing practices. In the next moment, Yancey examines disciplinarity and professionalization, past and present, of composition studies. She looks at the possibility of FYW as both a practice of gatekeeping and clearing a gateway for students. Yancy also situates composition studies as already digital.

In the third moment, Yancey posits a triad of tasks for the field: re-imagine and construct a post-process curricula that strives for authentic audiences, reexamine WAC, and creating comp/rhet majors. A new curriculum would attend to intertextuality; critical awareness of and engagement in rhetorical situations; knowledge transfer; awareness of situated discourse; and an awareness of and participant in public discourse. In shorthand, Yancy offers this triad: 1) Circulation of composition 2) Canons of rhetoric 3) Deicity of technology (312). Finally, in Yancey’s fourth moment, a call for the inclusion of technologies and for vigilant advocacy and civic engagement is sounded.

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