Lloyd-Jones, “A View from the Center”

Richard. "A View from the Center." CCC 29.1 (1978):

"A View from the Center" was delivered by Lloyd-Jones as the first annual
chairs address at the 1976 CCCC in Kansas City. Lloyd-Jones attempts both to
characterize the field’s status and assert its legitimacy while also accounting
for who we are. He begins by referring to a commitment to language as the
primary trait of composition studies. From there, he sets up and knocks
down a series of metaphors more or less suitable for describing the deep
structure of composition studies: political, foundational (keeping with the
conference’s theme, "What’s REALLY basic?"), architectural, and

Resonant with his title, the model of centrality Lloyd-Jones chooses is one
of the rural telephone operator, Mrs. Peterson who is, without being celebrated
for it, highly connected and also highly knowledgeable about the inner
workings–discourses, relationships, activities–of the locale. To run
with the comparison just a bit, the invocation of Mrs. Peterson could be framed
as the following question tied to rhetoric,
expertise/authority/legitimacy/respectability and involvement: how
will compositionists perform their centrality
, both in the academy and

Other points:

  • In his discussion of metaphor, Lloyd-Jones makes use of tenor and
    vehicle as helper terms to account for the trope of metaphor.
    These echo I.A. Richards in The Philosophy of Rhetoric.
  • Lloyd-Jones is overt in his skepticism of computers and "deductive
    electronic gadgets" in what he calls an "age of quantification."
  • Without using a vocabulary of networks, this is a talk arguing for
    composition’s centrality, the role of compositionists as well-connected
    language mavens and also as "negotiators, explainers, and referees" (50).
    A high degree of connection is preferable; without it, we "deserve our present
    basic position, that is, our traditional place in the damp cellar of the house
    of the intellect" (50).
  • In his discussion of differing views on the deep structure of the
    field (the best metaphor, even), Lloyd-Jones winds up preferring mutability
    over rigidity.
  • Lloyd-Jones also mentions

    "keeping up"
    and the problems involved with knowing everything (enough)
    when doing work across the disciplines.
  • There is an unusual religious subtext here, and it’s especially evident at
    the end with the line, "Keep the Faith, Babies." Um?

"In an age of quantification, allegiance to the metaphor is subversive,
because it upsets the deductive electronic gadgets we have elected to be our
masters" (45).

"The metaphor, with its dogged insistence on outright nonsense, simply
puts the machine to sleep. Only a human mind can find wisdom in absurdity, and
that is how we know we are not machines" (45).

"Metaphor crafting is the ethical badge of membership in our guild" (46).

"We know, as the computer does not, that if we say our love is a rose, we are
not just confessing to some botanical perversion" (46).

"One metaphor lies, but several in concert lead" (47).

"We are of more than one mind about what really is the deep structure [of the
field]" (48).

"I don’t want to see the view from the center to be the view along a
political line, but rather the view from the middle of the universe" (49).

"Anyway, we do not expect to know everything; we want to master the spaces
between everything" (49).

"Keeping up with new work is getting harder all of the time" (50).

"But if we do not try to be in the center of all knowledge, to report the
view from the center of how disciplines interact, we deserve our present basic
position, that is, our traditional place in the damp cellar of the house of the
intellect" (50).