Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Carnival: Trimbur and Writing Studies

Following Donna's renewed call for the late February Trimbur carnival, here are a couple of floats in response to "Changing the Question: Should Writing Be Studied?" from Composition Studies 31.1 (2003).

For now I'll try to keep it to just two or three ideas. I've heard passing mention of "writing studies" as an alternative name for the knot (bow?) where rhetoric and composition are tied together. When I used it myself once, I think someone suggested that the "writing studies" designation is typically claimed by discourse analysts--those whose encounters with texts are measured for pattern and (ir)regular features. Perhaps that's only of value inasmuch as it sheds light on my own baggage with the phrase: a moment of correction, definition, and re-association. And whether this is right or not is less the point, I think, than the contemplation of writing studies' orientation to particular methods and research agendas. As I read Trimbur's article, I also thought about another passing conversation with a colleague who described someone else's work in film this way: "[S.h]e does film studies, not production. Students who take film classes want production rather than all of the history, theory, and methodology that go along with film studies. They're impatient and even bored with film studies." That was the gist of it, anyhow. Out of this half-remembered conversation comes one question about a shift from workshop to seminar room and toward writing studies: at the cost of what? If the answer is that we study writing (n.) at the expense of writing (p.v.), the proposition becomes considerably messier. Of course, nobody is saying this explicitly, but to what degree is a quiet displacement of something else implied by the asking?

At SU, we're in a somewhat unique situation with a standalone writing program and a bona fide writing minor (also an undergraduate major inching toward approval and formalization). English majors at SU take up a program of study in what is called "English and Textual Studies." I don't know a whole lot about the curriculum, but the "Textual Studies" addition has always given me pause. As a generic concept detached from actual curriculum and teaching practices, it sounds an awful lot like a bridge between the work done in the writing program and the English Department (even if it's something more like the Königsberg bridge). Where is the slippage between "textual studies" as it matches with the work of colleagues in literature and "writing studies" as the basis for a four-year undergraduate curriculum?

Finally, for this entry at least, I'm interested in the relationship among the three questions Trimbur poses: 1. Can writing be taught? 2. How can writing be learned? 3. Should writing be studied? Changing the question suggests, in a certain sense, that Trimbur treats these questions as substitutive rather than additive or accumulative. Even as the discipline has matured, the staggered development of programs and practitioners leads me to think the questions should be additive--a layered, nested and continuous flow of inquiries. I mean that we mustn't too hastily retire either of the first two questions simply because they've been thought through and addressed by others before us.

Donna's Belatedly: Trimbur and "writing studies"
Jeff's The Call to Write
Collin's Trimbur Calling
Bill's Trimbur, "Should Writing Be Studied?"
Jenny's Studies of Writing (Carnival Post)
Jeff's The Call to Write II: Critical Gestures
Alex's Trimbur Carnival
Lance's (Carnival.) To Trimbur: Yes.
Nels's "Write Me a Letter..."
Jeff W.'s Writing Studies I and II

Added: I couldn't resist running Trimbur's essay through TagCrowd.

created at TagCrowd.com
Bookmark and Share Posted by at February 20, 2007 3:30 PM to Academe