Seasonal Visitors

Early in The Function of Theory in Composition Studies, Sánchez
discusses the differences between applying theory and writing
theory. He refers to Hairston’s "The Winds of Change," as a moment that
inaugurates "an enduring method for ‘doing’ composition theory: take a term or
concept from a more respected or respectable field such as philosophy and use it
to illuminate some aspect of composition studies" (12). The way of
theorizing about writing, according to Sánchez:
appropriate and apply, appropriate and apply. There follows a soft critique:
methods in scare quotes (i.e., "predominant ‘methods’") and, within a few pages,
a discussion of those who "have reasserted the importance of empirically
oriented theorizing" (13). Sánchez echoes
Linda Flower with his interest in ways "that composition theory might generate
new theories rather than retrofit existing ones" (14). I haven’t finished
reading The Function of…, but I’m wondering at the end of the first
chapter whether the retrofit and the new can coexist, whether they are hybrid
and integral.

This feeds into another impression. In his chapter on "The
Philosophers" (The Making of…), North draws on a metaphor of the marina
to describe the group’s turn-style make-up:

Given their backgrounds, the best first option of most of these movers
(i.e., Practitioners), is the Scholars’ community; and since Philosophical
inquiry, in an area still so new, is so wide open–requiring the least
retraining, demanding access to no special materials, and offering the
chance of relatively quick publication–many have given it a try. A few,
frustrated by what they perceive as the limitations of Philosophical work,
are drawn on to try other modes of inquiry. Most presumably return to
whatever they did before, finding themselves uninterested in or not suited
for the effort involved in sustained Philosophical inquiry. The resulting
demographic pattern is rather like that of a marina: a small core of
full-time residents; a larger group of longer-term types, who may stay as
long as two or three years, or move in and out with some regularity; and
lots of one-time seasonal visitors who nevertheless–by sheet weight of
numbers–leave their mark on the community.
And so, even though we
can say that the community has developed a stronger sense of its own
identity–especially, like the Historians, in terms of a more potent
critical self-consciousness–there are in fact enormous individual
differences in the extent to which such a claim can be true. (92)

A long quotation, I know. I have italicized the line about the
"resulting demographic pattern," in part because I have been thinking about
patterns and disciplinarity, and I think that Sánchez
is building toward a discussion of pattern generation (a theory of
writing as pattern generation) in his push away from hermeneutics, away from
writing as representation, and away from the appropriate/apply method of
theorizing. But I want to add an asterisk, a qualifier, to this
anticipatory sense of where Sánchez is
taking me. Keeping with North’s marina metaphor, might it be that
professionalization and graduate training contribute to the appropriate-apply
method of theorizing writing? Even the multi-year residents at the Complandia
marina moved there at some point, new to the neighborhood with their things not
far behind. Among those things, square boxes packed with "Derrida, Foucault,
Cixous, Wittgenstein, Irigaray, and so on" (13).