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Composition Forum 35, Spring 2017

From the Editors

Christian Weisser, Mary Jo Reiff, and Anis Bawarshi

As the editors of Composition Forum, we often look for themes in each volume to get a sense of how the journal both reflects and fosters developing trends in rhetoric and composition. Sometimes, as with our recent special-themed volumes on genre, veterans, transfer, and emotion the trends are obvious and intentionally advanced through careful selection and placement. At other times, though, trends emerge organically; a volume’s theme can reveal itself to us as the interviews, articles, and reviews come together, and that process often provides some insight into an emerging trend or conversation in the field.

The latter is the case with Volume 35. In fact, we believe this volume, overall, reflects a theme that has become predominant in the recent scholarship in rhetoric and composition: the growth of materialist and affective perspectives in rhetoric and composition. Collectively, this volume reveals the ways in which scholars are examining material environments and the embodiment of rhetoric in increasingly diverse and sophisticated ways. Of course, this is not the first example of materialist perspectives in the field, nor even the first instance in this journal. We note this only to indicate its presence in this volume and how it reflects a larger trend in rhetoric and composition.

This volume begins with two interviews that say much about the material conditions of scholarly work in rhetoric and composition. The first is Kairos, Resilience, and Serendipity: An Interview with Elizabeth Flynn. In this interview, Flynn discusses the ways in which her life experiences and material circumstances have influenced the direction of her scholarship, with a particular focus on the challenges facing women in the field. The second interview, Generating the Field: The Role of Editors in Disciplinary Formation, addresses the role of publishing in creating a disciplinary identity from the perspective of three editors. Cynthia Selfe, Victor Villanueva, and Steve Parks provide insights on the material conditions that led them to editorial work; discuss changes in publishing over the past three decades; and explore the role of technologies in contemporary publishing. We are thrilled to share these interesting interviews with our readers. If you’d like to propose or suggest an interview with a leading scholar in rhetoric and composition, contact our Interviews editor.

The volume features seven articles addressing the intersections of theory and pedagogy in writing studies, and these articles touch upon materialist, affective, and environmental factors in rhetoric among other topics. In Proliferating Textual Possibilities: Toward Pedagogies of Critical-Creative Tinkering, Danielle Koupf seeks to establish in composition pedagogy tinkering’s playful, exploratory ethos by introducing a practice called critical-creative tinkering. Jane Fife’s Composing Focus: Shaping Temporal, Social, Media, Social Media, and Attentional Environments reviews recent research in composition studies and psychology about writing and attention, discussing the results of a survey of undergraduate writers’ composing practices, and sharing insights from assignments that help writers notice important elements of their environments. In the article Down the Rabbit Hole: Challenges and Methodological Recommendations in Researching Writing-Related Student Dispositions Dana Lynn Driscoll, Gwen Gorzelsky, Jennifer Wells, Carol Hayes, Ed Jones, and Steve Salchak describe a failed attempt to code for five key dispositions in a longitudinal, mixed methods, multi-institutional study that otherwise successfully coded for other writing transfer factors. In Let’s Disagree (to Agree): Queering the Rhetoric of Agreement in Writing Assessment, Paul Walker adopts a queer sensibility approach to describe and theorize a failed writing program assessment, which questions the influence of “the rhetoric of agreement,” or reliability, on writing assessment practice and its prevalence in validating institutional mandated assessments. In Toward a Pedagogy of Materially Engaged Listening, Christina M. LaVecchia suggests that a rhetorical approach applicable to (or derived from) print texts is not enough to help students listen actively, and she offers instead a materially engaged practice of listening that helps students to understand their interactions with compositions on a material level that involves bodily activity. Mark Blaauw-Hara’s ‘Learning Shock’ and Student Veterans: Bridging the Learning Environments of the Military and the Academy provides an overview of student veterans’ experiences learning in the military, from the ways the armed forces operate as a community of practice to how they build the competence of their service-members through application of andragogical principles. And J. Blake Scott and Lisa Meloncon’s Writing and Rhetoric Majors, Disciplinarity, and Techne proposes and elucidates techne—rhetoric as the productive art of enacting knowledge—as a conceptual tool for identifying connections across writing and rhetoric majors.

The three program profiles in this volume also address the diverse material conditions of writing instruction at different locations. They include Closing the Loop: Strengthening Disciplinary Writing in an English BA Program by Miranda Wilcox; Welcoming Linguistic Diversity and Saying Adios to Remediation: Stretch and Studio Composition at a Hispanic-Serving Institution by Bethany A. Davila and Cristyn L. Elder; and Communication for the Health Professions: A Program Profile by Emily Harms, Debbi Johnson, and Sara Rabie. If you’d like to propose a profile of your institution’s program, please send a query to our Program Profiles editors.

Volume 35 includes one review essay and two reviews. The review essay is entitled Trying to Contain Ourselves: A Dialogic Review of the MLA Handbook, Eighth Edition by Janice R. Walker and Erin E. Kelly. In the essay, Walker and Kelly address the ways in which the new MLA format engages with pedagogical challenges regarding students’ information literacy, habits of source citation, and understanding of knowledge-making. The reviews include a Review of Nancy Welch and Tony Scott’s Composition in the Age of Austerity by Amy Lynch-Biniek and a Review of Sarah Hallenbeck’s Claiming the Bicycle: Women, Rhetoric, and Technology in Nineteenth-Century America by Melissa Nivens. Please send review queries—not unsolicited manuscripts—to our Reviews editor.

Finally, an announcement about our retrospectives. This section has traditionally provided a space for authors of seminal articles or books to revisit earlier ideas and dialogue with others in the field about how their ideas have changed since publication. While we’ve generated some excellent reflections on previous scholarship through this section, we believe that our Retrospectives section would benefit from an even broader scope. We imagine this unfolding in two ways. First, we will now consider retrospectives from multiple authors who wish to collaboratively reflect on a particular idea or theme that was launched by a landmark article or a specific author.¬†And second, we will now consider retrospectives that serve as “memorials” to scholars who had a groundbreaking impact on the field but have recently passed away. These could be Retrospectives of that scholars’ work written by a single author who was close to them, or collaboratively-written pieces of any type. Please send Retrospective queries or nominations to the Retrospectives editor.

We will continue to use Composition Forum’s Weblog to disseminate news and updates about the journal more quickly. We encourage readers to contribute timely and pertinent information to the blog. Add our feed to your newsreader to receive alerts about new volumes of Composition Forum and other news from the field of rhetoric and composition. Please send questions or comments about the Composition Forum website to

Return to Composition Forum 35 table of contents.