Lauer, “Composition Studies: Dappled Discpline”

Janice. "Composition Studies: Dappled Discipline." Rhetoric
3.1 (1984): 20-28.

Lauer deals with the disciplinary of composition studies in this piece.
She is particularly concerned with qualities of the discipline that should
inform the planning of graduate programs in composition studies. Briefly
she acknowledges pioneers of the field who, in the 1960s, balanced teaching
responsibilities with the problems of how best to pursue training (of themselves
and others). This led to deeper investigations of the nature of writing
and, as well, how best to teach it. Lauer notes that not only did these
early scholars in composition studies seek answers to early theoretical
questions about teaching, they also too risks in venturing into other
disciplinary areas to inform their questions. Lauer goes on to explain
that the interdisciplinary theoretical influences were complemented by an early
commitment to multimodality in methods (ranging from linguistic and
hermeneutical work to empirical studies and so on). Compositionists
recognized early on the value in a wide range of methods to get at answers to
the persistent questions that concerned them.

To account for the stages of the field’s development, Lauer relied on
Habermas’s levels for consensus: everyday communication, warrant-testing,
warrant-establishing, self-reflection on the nature, function, and purpose of
knowledge itself (^apply this to C&W). Notably, two audiences also enter
into consideration: 1.) the epistemic court of experts and 2.) the general
population. She adds a third audience: teachers of writing who are not
informed about scholarship and who do not contribute to it. Lauer contends
that one problem with the emergence of the field is that arguments are made to
the wrong audiences (textbooks contribute to this problem) (24).

Lauer calls multimodality a "mixed blessing" (25). It tends to be unkind for
newcomers, requiring them to become acquainted with a wide range of methods and
theoretical orientations. Modes also recruit interested specialists which
leads, in turn, to "narrower and narrower circles" (25). [Close to Fulkerson’s
concern.] Multimodality does, however, "cultivate a fruitful reciprocity among
modes. On the other hand, it becomes very difficult to keep fresh with
work in other fields. Returning the questions of disciplinarity and
training to graduate programs, Lauer notes Winterowd’s contention that "English
studies as a whole are responsible for literacy." (27).

"At its deepest level, a discipline has a special set of phenomena to study,
a characteristic mode or modes of inquiry, its own history of development, its
theoretical ancestors and assumptions, its evolving body of knowledge, and its
own epistemic courts by which knowledge gains that status" (20). ^Consider
matching these criteria up with Phelps in "Domain of Composition."

"From the start, then, this field has been marked by its multimodality and
use of starting points from a variety of disciplines, all marshaled to
investigate a unique set of pressing problems" (22).

"Composition studies suffers from this problem which is exacerbated by some
of its journals which, for historical reasons, have build readerships too
diverse to warrant argumentative exchange at the cutting edge of the field"
(24). ^This applies to listservs, too, no?

"The field sustains itself through a lifeline connected to the composition
classroom where many of its problems for research are generated and to which its
theory returns for implementation and testing" (28).

Terms: "epistemic court" (22), "presuppositions of consensus" (23), tone of
composition studies (27), bibliographic starting points (20)

Related sources:
Habermas, "Theories of Truth," trans. Richard Grabau.
Kinneavy, James. A Theory of Discourse. New York: Norton, 1980.
Young, Becker, and Pike. Rhetoric: Discovery and Change. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970.