Carlton, “Comp as a Postdisciplinary Formation”

Susan Brown. "Composition as a Postdisciplinary Formation."
Rhetoric Review 14.1 (1995) 78-87.

Carlton levels a complicated argument about whether or not composition ought
to be framed as a discipline. She begins with North’s concerns about a
preponderance of lore and multiple, contending methods from The Making of
Knowledge in Composition
, and she echoes North’s "ambivalence" about
conferring disciplinary status on composition studies. Perhaps, Carlton
suggests, a postdisciplinary characterization is more appropriate, given that
postdisciplinary practitioners "reproduce the complex features representative of
disciplines" and they "generate material disciplinary apparatuses that make
representation possible" (79) even while they "think and act beyond the limits
of the traditional discipline" (79).

Carlton considers the rise of doctoral programs in composition (a turn
commonly viewed a synonymous with professionalization and credentialing, which
also render permanent a laboring underclass of contingent faculty). Especially
with the production of composition studies (a kind of institutional "power
play"), we must continue to be concerned with how we represent disciplinary
activity (both textual and extratextual) in such a way that accounts for "a
complex set of cultural practices" (79).

Included here is a recap of a disagreement between Janice Lauer and Patricia
Harkin at the ’91 CCCC in Boston over the status of lore as a legitimate form of
disciplinary knowledge (reread this section). Carlton prefers a postdisciplinary
stance (an appropriation of the "post" logics figured in postructural currents)
over the antidisciplinary stance. Finally, the article argues that we must
expand on programmatic and curricular gains and resist compromising lore or
favoring a monolithic methodological orientation to gain disciplinary status.

Terms: "postdisciplinary" (78)

"Many of us in composition studies oscillate among these three attitudes of
ambivalence, celebration, and hostility; but I believe that ambivalence is the
most productive stance, as it acknowledges the complexity of composition
studies’ relationship to the disciplinary apparatus
" (78).

"Without denigrating our recent epistemological and ideological ventures, we
can still claim that their continued transformative power is limited by the
extent to which we are able to make good decisions now about how to structure
the current institutional spaces we inhabit
and how to construct additional
institutional spaces for ourselves" (80).

"I agree with Rankin that if a type of knowledge or relationship is to
flourish within the university beyond a single classroom or a small, local
community of practitioners, it must be coded in a way that makes it
congruent with contemporary ideas of what knowledge can be
" (82).

"A rhizomatic structure runs counter to the prevailing norms
of disciplinarity
. It constitutes a material, extratextual critique and
alternative to a university norm" (82).

"Why a teleconference? By using new technology, the practitioners
represent their discussion as ‘cutting edge’ knowledge. By using expensive
technology, the practitioner conference acquires ‘value.’ These appeals to
disciplinary, university codes of authority allow a postdisciplinary
practice to be smuggled in under the very gaze of the disciplinarians"

"Instead, we need a critical mass of compositionists in tenured
, not a few isolated and outnumbered representatives, if we are
going to expand the spaces for cultural critique and democratic action" (84).

Related sources:
Bourdieu, Pierre. An Outline of a Theory of Practice. Trans.
Richard Nice. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1977.
Lauer, Janice. "Rhetoric and Composition: A Rhizome." CCC Convention.
Boston, 22 Mar. 1991.
Winterowd, W. Ross. Contemporary Rhetoric: A Conceptual Background with
. New York: Harcourt, 1975.