Blog post #1

Begin by reading Berlin’s piece and Fulkerson’s “Four Philosophies” as representative of Composition’s first delineations of its content and purpose as a field, especially in relationship to ideological approaches to writing instruction. In contrast, Fulkerson’s second, more recent piece, in some ways laments the social turn and the its implications for the field, while the “Critical Introduction” gives an historical overview of competing ideologies and the present state of the field. Looking at these four readings, please articulate: 1. your definition of composition studies pre and post social turn. 2. The ideologies that influence your views of writing instruction using the articles to answer these questions. Please integrate summaries and quotes from the articles listed above. The purpose here is for you to begin to recognize composition studies as both a field of pedagogical and theoretical inquiry, and, of course, for me to learn where you are beginning to situate yourself within the field and how well you comprehend the source material. This will be due (at the latest) by the next class period (Wednesday 2/8) to the blog.


13 thoughts on “Blog post #1”

  1. In the “Critical Introduction” to Relations, Locations, Positions, the authors clearly outline one of the main differences between teaching composition now and in the 70’s at composition studies’ height. That difference is the rise of minorities and “demographic change in college enrollments suggest[ing] the need for a more robust, democratic, and inclusive model of literacy instruction” (6). Based on the readings, in my opinion, composition studies pre social turn focused primarily on the writing process as a means to an effective rhetorical, expressive, or analytical end. Based on demographic changes in writing classrooms, which Berlin and Faulkner emphasize, however, the definition of composition studies post social turn develops new and interesting variables. Post social turn, composition studies have had to become more inclusive in order to appeal to a network of differing class structures and cultures entering their studies. Therefore, composition study has become more diverse in order to appeal to the variety of students within the class. In short, it has become a variety of functions to different teachers and students. A route for expression, for argument and for study. Specifically, I see composition studies as a blend of the different theories, which Faulkner proposes in his 1973 article. Not all writing is focused towards the same rhetorical end; therefore, students must be taught how to access all possible realms of composition practices.
    I feel personally influenced by Faulkerson’s expressive and rhetoric theories of composition studies alongside Berlin’s New Rhetoricians. As Faulkerson outlines, expressionism focuses on self-discovery through free-writes, teaching students to access their most authentic and credible voice. Considering composition studies must change to meet the diverse group of students in the classroom, applying expressionist theory to the classroom is essential in creating a comfortable space for students to share and develop their writing. In my own composition studies, expressionism studies lacked, though rhetorical strategies thrived. However, I think both the expressionist and rhetoric philosophies are essential for writing instruction. Expressionist practices are important in order for students to access their most authentic self, while rhetoric strategies are important in order to teach students how to prepare, defend, and present an effective argument or speech. Though different, both types of composition effectively reflect the individual composer. I think individuality is essential in ones writing, especially now. Intersectionality of one’s class, gender, race, religion, etc. creates a unique perspective for each composer, so in my theoretical practice I aim to support these differences in my students’ reading and writing.


  2. To define composition studies before the turn of the century, I would say it is the basic analysis of writing and its relationship with the reader. How the writer and her/his audience interact and communicate seems to be an important concept of pre-turn-of-the-century composition studies. In Fulkerson’s “Four Philosophies of Composition,” he provides an in-depth overview of each concerning not only the role of the reader and writer, but also how an instructor might evaluate and teach writing according to the expressionist, formalist, mimetic, and rhetorical perspectives. As for Berlin, he too presents a history of four ideologies in the field of composition. Berlin describes Neo-Aristotelian, Neo-Platonist, positivist or current traditional rhetoric, and new rhetoric. Berlin, like Fulkerson, provides an historical account of the role of the reader and writer. And, like Fulkerson three years prior, presents the evaluation, style, process, pedagogy, and epistemology of each ideological approach. In these two articles, Fulkerson and Berlin simply recount four main composition ideologies. Each article is a collection of descriptions with little critique concerning each approach. However, the articles written later describe a field through a critical lens – especially in Fulkerson’s “Composition at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century.” Due to an ever-changing dynamic of diversity in the classroom, composition studies has grown to include a social responsibility to suit multiple cultures and multiple languages. Fulkerson covers the “alternate axiologies” such as sociocultural pedagogies and critical cultural studies that have taken steps to develop writer’s social awareness (655). Fulkerson argues that “cultural studies has been the major movement in composition studies” (659). This allows students to write with an authentic voice as they may be more inclined to be committed to writing about a topic they have deep feelings about.
    In terms of where I currently situate myself on this ideological spectrum is a process-oriented Neo-Platonist who encourages an authentic voice and style. I would also consider myself a minimalist formalist. I have always been a fan of Donald M. Murray’s free-writing exercises. I believe these write-without-pausing activities help writers develop and hone not only an authentic voice, but a unique style as well. I also support research and pre-writing simultaneously as it helps writers work out the paper in their heads before putting thoughts and ideas onto paper. I argue that all writing contains an argument, so with that in mind, having an authentic voice and distinctive style is an effective rhetoric. Being persuasive through the use of an authentic voice and style lends to the most effective writing. I do subscribe to the student-focused” aspect of the Neo-Platonist philosophy. Students create the class, and they can develop most effectively if they (and their developing skills) are placed at the center of the class.


  3. Before the “social turn” in composition studies, there was variety in the ways instructors saw the purpose, utility, and epistemological underpinnings of “good” writing, but they often did not take into account the variety of social and institutional constructs that affect a writer’s and instructor’s worldview, process, and ideas on “correctness” or knowledge. As outlined by Fulkerson’s “Four Philosophies,” composition instructors often could be categorized as expressivist, mimetic, rhetorical, and formalist. While these definitions are simplifications, expressivists saw writing as a way to gain knowledge of yourself and to develop a personal voice, not taking the audience much into account and focusing on the dialectic between the student and the page. Mimetic focused on reasoning and saw writing as a mode of thinking that can be improved through strong logic and reasoning. The rhetorical camp worked in a similar way but emphasized the audience and the writer as persuader, whereas the formalist philosophy focused on limited errors of writing, stressing the importance of a “correct” functional composition. Berlin outlines a similar set of philosophies, but again, pre-social-turn composition studies focus on a fairly set definition of “correctness,” whether it is in the form of logic, persuasiveness, or even “authenticity” in a writer’s voice. There was also a sense of certainty in the ways in which the processes looked in order to reach the desired truth or correctness in “good” writing (although as Fulkerson discusses, there can be inconsistencies in what an instructor views as ‘good’ and the type of writing they ask for students to create).

    The social turn led the field to question existing ideas of “truth” and “correctness” based on the many variables that exist within the student’s and instructor’s lives and the classroom itself. As Fulkerson states, “virtually no one in contemporary composition theory assumes any epistemology other than a vaguely interactionist constructivism. We have rejected quantification and any attempts to reach Truth about our business by scientific means, just as we long ago rejected ‘truth’ as derivable by deduction from unquestioned principles” (662). Identities began to play a much larger role and most aspects that seemed to be too fixed and standard were questioned. Although the pre-social-turn pedagogies (like the rhetorical philosophy) sometimes took the context of the writing into account, after the social turn, that context expanded to explore power relationships, previous experiences, social institutions, and as described in Relations, Locations, Positions, “material and conceptual spaces that speakers and writers engage each other for the purpose of making and remaking the world in which we live” (14). This led to classrooms in which themes of social justice, consumerism, and power relationships are questioned and explored in student writings.

    Personally, I find the introduction of cultural studies into the composition classroom to be very interesting, but like Fulkerson, very problematic in terms of student/instructor expectations and contradictions. Also, while I think it is important to take into consideration the variables that are explored in many new composition theories, such as those outlined in the Relations, Locations, Positions introduction, I have yet to see any practical applications in the classroom that allows a teacher to take into account so many variables without facing a pedagogical paralysis. I would say I am most influenced by a Neo-Aristotelian and New Rhetoric, as both take into account how writing differs based on audiences and contexts, as well as what the end goal of the writing is. In the Composition Theory course, I was most influenced by James Kinneavy’s “The Basic Aims of Discourse,” and although Fulkerson takes issue with Kinneavy, stating that, “Most teachers have seen student writing that was impossible to classify as one of Kinneavy’s four types of discourse and that would be evaluated quite differently depending upon which of the four philosophies one applied,” I still think the ideas are a good starting point to teach students the versatility and types of writing that can be molded and shaped based on rhetorical and context based decisions (“Four Philosophies” 347).


  4. As “Critical Introduction” describes, composition’s “social turn” indicates the field’s acknowledgement of the “writer-in-context” by addressing “communal interaction,” the “societal functions,” and the “unacknowledged relations of unequal power” of writing instruction and writers (3). Before this social turn, composition emphasized writing as a process, but dismissed the significance of the writer’s identity and self situated in a larger social context. Prior to this social turn, as Berlin outlines in Rhetorics, Poetics, and Cultures composition had a complicated relationship with the poetic in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As composition began forming as its own field, much of the process theory encouraged empirical studies and scientific research to largely justify the field. However, as user r2doy2 emphasizes from the introduction, as the demographics in college attendance diversified, theories and pedagogical practices within composition naturally evolved as well to address the social implications of writing instruction. The theories that the article defines as theories of relations, locations, and positions, categorize the theories within composition post social turn and are a natural evolution of composition post process.
    Based on Fulkerson’s description of three axiologies of composition, I mostly align with critical/cultural studies [CCS] instinctively (yes, despite Fulkerson’s burning criticism) as well as procedural rhetoric as I continue to learn as both an instructor and a student. While I wholeheartedly acknowledge and agree that CCS possesses many limitations and sometimes negative consequences, I instinctively support critical pedagogy’s focus for education. In fact, I remember saying something similar to George’s and Berlin’s definitions in my TA interview before I even knew the term critical pedagogy. As George states and Fulkerson includes: “[C]ritical pedagogy engages students in analyses of the unequal power relations that produce and are produced by cultural practices and institutions…” (660). Berlin points educators to a “larger” goal to “encourage our students to resist and negotiate [ . . .] hegemonic discourses– in order to bring about more personally human and socially equitable economic and political arrangements” (660). Certainly, as Fulkerson discusses in great detail, there are potential problems with critical pedagogy in composition, which is why I also am appreciating rhetorical pedagogies as a first-year writing instructor and graduate student the more that I learn about them. While it may seem like a large burden for educators to take on, I do support encouraging students to become aware of their own identity politics and to address power inequalities in society while being able to articulate and formulate effective arguments through using rhetorical principles. I am most drawn to critical pedagogy in the composition classroom to use both traditional and non-traditional texts to generate awareness regarding the larger social context and instruct writing while also using rhetorical principles.


  5. Pre-social turn, different camps such as Current Traditional, Expressionist, Neo-Aristotelian, and New Rhetoric sought to establish and explain certain truths and realities. In reaction to objective CTR, the following three groups differed in their approaches to writer-reader responsibilities and relationships, the process of writing, and epistemological and pedagogical elements. Apart from New Rhetoricians, it seems no other group had yet acknowledged that truth is changing and differs for every individual. Expressivists may have agreed that truth cannot be taught or relayed to another, but expressivists do not appear to explicitly express that truth may be dynamic. Berlin argues, “[T]o teach writing is to argue for a version of reality. . . ” (766). Competing versions of reality are discussed further post-social turn.
    Post-social turn, cultural and critical studies began to influence composition and largely question truth and reality in context to social and cultural components. After the social turn, less emphasis was placed on strict forms of process and instructors and scholars embraced “post process” by asking questions about other motivations and influences which infiltrated the production of writing. Social, cultural, and feminist theorists, contemporary expressivists, and rhetorical approach-based instructors developed and shifted the scheme of the composition classroom. Different and diverse classroom populations called for this shift. Here, I believe varying truths and realities begin to become acknowledged and challenged more so than pre-social turn. Rhetorical approaches still emphasize teachable process but without “linear rigidity” (Fulkerson 670).
    If I evaluate my current teaching philosophy, expressivism and critical and cultural studies play a large part in my classroom. For example, an assignment that I find significant in the curriculum of English 103 is unit one’s Literacy Education Narrative. It is a type of personal essay aligned with expressivism but students must also realize and convey the larger social significance in alignment with their own experiences. My students use journals to free-write, pre-write, document their process and challenges with their own writing processes, and whatever else they may feel compelled to write about. I collect and grade journals, but I grade for completion and effort. The Literacy Education Narrative combines two of my important standards of writing: personal expression and critical interpretation. Due to the combination of these factors, students may speak from their point of view and branch out to larger social and cultural significance without their writing appearing self-serving. If I were given the liberty to create my own syllabus and curriculum, I would focus on social injustice as the overarching content of my course and expressivist, critical, and rhetorical approaches would all be necessary to write and speak as an individual, to situate oneself, and to persuade and inform an audience effectively.


  6. When I think of composition studies pre social turn, I think product. Before social movements (a few that specifically come to mind: Civil Rights Movements, Women’s Rights, etc.) composition classrooms wanted students to focus on the final product of their writing. The debate was not whether the teachers were there to help improve the students’ writing abilities; the debate was how to go about this and which pedagogy should be utilized. Though this is still heavily debated, composition studies post social turn shifted focus from product to process. The curriculum is no longer bypassing the steps taken to get to the product; the focus is more so concerned with the actual steps taken. Fulkerson notes: “the major new area of scholarly interest in composition as we begin first century, critical/cultural studies (CCS), showing the postmodernism, feminism, and British cultural studies” (657). During the 1980’s, focus on process was still a relatively new idea; however, cultural studies quickly crept into the curriculums. The notion of process-focused writing became (and still is) liberating.
    I think a big part of what has influenced my views on writing instruction stemmed from my passion for this liberation. As a teacher now, it is extremely apparent to me how strongly this wave of cultural studies has worked its way into the curriculum. Most of the readings we assign our students openly discuss oppression—not only from an academic standpoint but socially, as well. Post social turn composition studies attempts to fight the dominating discourse in order to give voice to those that have been silenced. Berlin suggests that composition studies should prepare students to participate in democracy. This notion is a powerful one, as it suggests that each student has something to offer society. I believe this has become an integral part of my own views on writing instruction. Writing is no longer simply a task or a skill; it is a liberating and humbling gesture. I often encourage my students to free write about what matters to them—I suppose this aligns me partially with Peter Elbow, the notorious Expressivist. It is true—I love workshops and peer-reviewed activities. I really believe students often times learn so much from one another. Ideas and beliefs will always clash and cause disagreement. Yet, the fact that disagreement is okay and even encouraged at times is proof that composition studies has shifted its focus. Teachers are no longer only asking the question: “what’s good writing?” but, “how do we get the students to believe their writing is authentic and find their own voice?” Of course, there will always be overlapping pedagogies and pedagogies that butt heads. Current Traditional Rhetoric is still very much present and even dominating, yet I see myself straying away from it. Pedagogues such as Murray and Hariston recognized this shift in thought. Murray declared: “we are not teaching a product, we are teaching a process.” Furthermore, in Critical Introduction, Maxine Hariston’s belief that a paradigm shift had occurred was confirmed: “The bestselling composition textbooks, rhetorics, readers, and handbooks all reflect what Maxine Hairston, in 1982, declared a “paradigm shift” in writing about and teaching college writing—a change in focus from product to circumstances of production.” It seems that the post-social turn-thinking is a force to be reckoned with.


  7. Composition studies pre-social turn can best be categorized by Fulkerson’s “Four Philosophies of Composition”: expressive, mimetic, rhetorical, and formalist. These four philosophies focus more on the relationship between the reader and the writer. While expressive gives power to the writer through self-exploration and allows the reader very little analytical responsibility other than to simply enjoy the work, rhetorical gives most of the power to the reader who has to then decide whether or not they’ve been persuaded by the writer’s argument. Similarly, mimetic and formalist are based in logic, reasoning and form/function. These two philosophies emphasize that “good writing” is determined not only by “good thinking” but a structured way of putting words to a page. Prior to the “social turn” Donald Murry wrote, “’we are not teaching a product, we are teaching a process’”. (1). As we learn in “Critical Introduction” the ideas behind process which includes “what writers actually do as they write” led to the basis of writing instruction. Since the turn of the twenty-first century writing instruction has “diverged” to now include the new concept of composition. According to Fulkerson, “the importation of cultural studies from the social sciences and literary theory” has made writing instruction much more complicated. The four philosophies now have morphed into various axiologies which include “critical cultural analysis; an expressive one; and a multi-faceted rhetorical one”. (655)
    My personal experiences with writing has always either been expressive or rhetorical. I never had any analytical perspective until my undergraduate classes and I still struggle with writing in that format. As a younger student, I wrote personal narratives and journal entries and then as I progressed I mainly wrote argumentative speeches that were performed orally at a competitive level. While I think it’s imperative to include the first four philosophies in early writing instruction to allow students to realize where they fit within the constructs. I realize the importance of “critical cultural analysis” and what impact its having on composition classrooms and how it’s changing the way we teach writing now and in the future.


  8. According to “Critical Introduction,” after the social turn, composition studies turned its attention to writer-in-context. Questions about “the nature of knowledge, the relationship of writing to communal interaction, and the larger societal functions of writing instruction” (3) became more prevalent in composition scholarship. Whereas the writing process, including prewriting, drafting, and revising was a main focus before the turn, the value of it seemed to be underscored after the turn. In short, composition studies were about the process before the social turn but is has moved beyond the process and involves a “’web of cultural practices, social interactions, power differentials, and discursive conventions governing the production of text’” (4).
    I think that the ideologies that most influence my writing instruction as a high school instructor would be a mix between Fulkerson’s expressive, mimetic, and rhetorical philosophies and Berlin’s New Rhetoric. I believe that it is important for writers to use their own personal knowledge in their writing and complete activities like journals. However, I feel that the audience is more important than those in the expressive camp. As a high school teacher, good thinking is of the utmost importance in my student’s writing. This is a stage where good research habits are developed, making the mimetic philosophy important. Similarly, persuasion is a technique that my students need to learn in high school, which makes the rhetorical philosophy a camp that influences my instruction. Gathering evidence and supporting opinions is a major part of my writing curriculum. Finally, Berlin’s New Rhetoric philosophy is one that influences my teaching. I agree that “knowledge is not simply a static entity available for retrieval” (Berlin 774). Instead, I think that writers must find truth through communication between themselves, their audience, the language, and their research or experiences. Although I admit that aligning with 4 different philosophies may be a little much, it seemed impossible to narrow my influences down to two or even three of the philosophical camps as it is my job to develop many different types of writing in my students.


  9. Composition studies prior to the social turn separated into four main camps: Neo-Aristotelians, Current-Traditional Rhetoric (CTR), Expressivism, and New Rhetoric. The dominant group, CTR, caused other pedagogical theories to emerge as a response to the product based pedagogy, such as expressivism. Although CTR remains the dominant approach, the present state of the composition classroom has expanded “well beyond the focus of the first-year writing class to embrace Writing Across the Curriculum, professional writing, and even major programs in writing” (Vandenberg 7). Many teachers utilize classroom practices, such as critical pedagogy, to teach students to look beyond the traditional CTR, and prepare students for the world outside of their college campuses.

    As an English 103 instructor, I try to incorporate expressivism, critical pedagogy, and process pedagogy. In my class, students complete many free write assignments where they express reactions to texts we have read, as well as relate them to current issues facing our society today (a bit of critical pedagogy). As stated in Relations Locations and Positions: Composition Theory for Writing Teachers, “by engaging differences and encouraging them to the fore, writing teachers can allow students to explore the ways they have been positioned and perhaps position themselves differently” (Vandenberg et al. 16). Teachers have the opportunity to help students understand the world around them. James Berlin in Rhetoric and Reality calls upon teachers to help “prepare students for citizenship in a democracy” (Berlin 189). Rather than focus on the “surface correctness,” I hope that my students understand how they can apply what they are learning outside of the classroom.

    Collaborative activities and the “prewriting, drafting, and revising” process encourage students to learn how to bring their ideas together (Vandenberg et al. 3). Donald Murray’s “Teach Writing as a Process Not a Product” reveals this shift from CTR against only teaching students to arrive at a particular product. Process pedagogy influences numerous pedagogical practices that focus on the process and not the product; however, teachers utilize different techniques in classroom applications. I plan activities that emphasize writing as a process in the classroom to help students understand the importance of the stages, especially drafting, to writing any paper. Readings such as Anne Lamott’s “Shitty First Drafts” help students see, with some added humor, that drafting and revising can apply to not only writing, but real world applications past English 103.


  10. It seems–from these readings–that the social turn in composition brought with it new forms (styles or ways) of teaching writing that focused more on collaboration than teachers may have done in the past. To this point, I mean that the social turn in composition allowed for more strategies of teaching and applying the writing “process” to be commonly accepted. Fulkerson writes, “Specifically I shall argue that the ‘social turn’ in composition…has made a writing teacher’s role deeply problematic” (Fulkerson 655). Whereas, before the turn, a writing teacher may teach that writing is to be done one way–Current-Traditional Rhetoric–the turn has brought about numerous methodologies that may better serve an individual student. To think that one pedagogical approach to writing is appropriate for a class of 20 distinct students is surely erroneous, and both Fulkerson and Berlin talk about this in great detail.

    For me, the word process is incredibly problematic. I once thought that I approached writing without a process; that is, I sat down, never wrote a draft, and whatever happened to get on to the page at that time was submitted. But even this approach–this “process-less-ness”–is still a process. Anything that anyone does when putting words on a page is a process, regardless if it falls under any of the pedagogical leanings of any scholar.

    What makes the most sense to me from Berlin’s reading is his final paragraph. He writes, “The numerous recommendations of the ‘process’-centered approaches to writing instruction as superior to the ‘product’-centered approaches are not very useful” (Berlin 777). Indeed, because “process” has become a buzzword in academia–much like it has in sports (where I understand things to a significantly greater degree)–the word has lost its meaning and its authority. Everything–even a “non”-process (if one were to define their own writing as such)–is a process. So, as Berlin notes throughout his essay, to say that a pedagogical approach insisting upon the “process” is ideal makes little to no sense.

    Writing cannot be accomplished without a process, much like building a basketball team cannot be done without a process. Berlin also writes in the same paragraph–which applies well here, “Everyone teaches the process of writing, but everyone does not teach the same process” (777). The same process does not work for every student, and the same process surely does not work for every teacher. What makes the most sense is an individualized plan that incorporates all of the bits and pieces of different pedagogical approaches to ensure that a student best meets the goals of a particular assignment. Again, as Berlin notes, his “sympathies are obviously with (New Rhetoric),” and I think that this approach should serve students and teachers well (777).


  11. Both Fulkerson and Berlin provide taxonomies of pre-social turn composition theories that are based on the emphasis of one of the elements of the composing process – writer, reality, reader, and language. Notably, these theories recognize the existence of a process and focus on writing as a means of audience persuasion, expression of oneself, and conveying truth. Borrowing from Abram’s theories of literature and literary criticism, Fulkerson offers a parallel set of four philosophies of pre-social turn composition: expressive, mimetic, rhetorical, and formalist. Each philosophy has a distinct way of evaluating student writing and a distinct set of practices. Similarly to Fulkerson, Berlin provides a taxonomy of pre-social turn composition theories. He divides theories into four major groups: the Neo-Aristotelian or Classicist, the Positivists or Current-Traditionalists, the Neo-Platonists or Expressionists, and the New Rhetoricians.
    Post-social turn composition theories place “sociocultural pedagogies” at the center. Moreover, process became “the given” in teaching writing; each theory incorporates some version of it. Theories discussed in Fulkerson’s “Composition at the turn of the Twenty-First Century” and Vanderberg, Hum, Clary-Lemon’s “Critical Introduction” address not only the main elements of the writing process, but also changing reality – “a striking demographic change in college enrollments” (6). Post-social turn theories attempt to acknowledge differences existing in classrooms and avoid homogenizing student writing. Examining two volumes on composition theory, Fulkerson records changes and new areas in the discipline of composition: critical/cultural studies, expressivism, and procedural rhetoric. In “Critical Introduction,” the authors offer three categories of composition theories: relations, locations, and positions. These theories prompt teachers “to resist the systematic and to recognize that no conception of ‘good writing’ emerges outside an implied or interpreted context” (16).
    Based on the articles read, I find procedural rhetoric appealing, as described in Fulkerson’s “Composition at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century.” Procedural rhetoric values “writing effectively for different audiences, seeing writing as an extended process of multiple tasks and drafts, and learning to control surface features and formatting” (670). Fulkerson offers three major approaches in rhetorical composition practice: composition as argumentation, genre-based composition, and composition as introduction to an academic discourse community. I believe that boundaries between the three approaches are artificial and it is possible to include elements of all three approaches in a composition classroom.


  12. Composition studies before the social turn were characterized by uncertainty about the nature of writing, reality, and their relationship to the writer and reader, and also a pronounced emphasis on writing as goal- or product-oriented. It was commonly thought that the elements of writing – primarily the writer, the reader, language, and perceived reality – were the core of a “universally defined composing process,” an idea which Berlin strongly opposed (765). Rather, Berlin believed that treatment of composition and the writing process hinged on perception of those elements and how they form the writing process, not varying importance of the elements themselves. This idea largely opposed the previous idea of Fulkerson that writing could be broken into “four philosophies,” each of which stressed a different element of the “communicative transaction” (343).

    After the social turn, composition studies began to account for social contexts, such as the unequal distribution of power in society among different cultural groups, which created an underlying bias in writing perception and evaluation. Awareness of these differences and biases led scholars to question concepts such as truth and reality, which were more flexible than previously thought in social contexts. This shift in attitude coincided with a shift in emphasis from the products of writing to the writing process itself, which included attention towards the writer’s identity – especially within the social system.

    Of the ideologies described in these articles, I identify with a few ideas in particular. First, I agree with Berlin’s analysis of the core factors of writing and their relationship to prevalent ideologies in the evolving field of composition. Specifically, I agree that composition centers around four factors – “writer-reality-audience-language” – and that the varying ideologies of composition can be attributed to varying emphasis on these factors (765). Even looking at composition in all its depth and flexibility, I can see how these form elements play a role – of varying sizes – in each composition ideology. Another idea I support is Fulkerson’s assertion that the “social turn” of composition has complicated the role of the instructor; the constantly shifting ideas in the field of composition, and the increasing emphasis on the writer’s identity and truth as a perception, cloud the role of the instructor in the classroom and in the writing process – and especially complicate grading, which suffers from evaluation bias in social context (655).


  13. Fulkerson’s earlier work, “Four Philosophies of Composition,” published at the end of 1979, seems only able to articulate four approaches that seemed prevalent in composition pedagogy: expressive, mimetic, rhetorical, and formalist. His most significant concern at this time was simply with consistency between pedagogical approach and evaluative expectations, as “in many cases composition teachers either fail to have a consistent value theory or fail to let that philosophy shape pedagogy.” (347). However, his concern with “value-mode confusion” seemed to later be supplanted with a larger concern for a problematization of the entire role of “writing teacher” after composition’s “social turn” (“Composition at the Turn” 655). In his later essay, “Composition at the Turn of the Century,” Fulkerson addresses this very problem, citing “the importation of cultural studies from the social sciences and literary theory” as the source for this complication (655).
    In Berlin’s 1982 article, “Contemporary Composition: The Major Pedagogical Theories,” he, like Fulkerson’s earlier work, identifies four dominant approaches to composition instruction: “the Neo-Aristotelians or Classicists, the Positivists of Current-Traditionalists, the Neo-Platonists or Expressionists, and the New Rhetoricians” (766). However, unlike Fulkerson, he identifies strongly with the latter group throughout his essay. In this way, it seems that the “social turn” had to do with both an importation of literary and cultural theory into the field of composition instruction and a shift in the “aims” of the composition classes from traditional “writing instruction” to the creation of an informed citizenry.
    When completing my undergraduate work in English for Secondary Education, I was highly influenced by critical pedagogy. I recall attempting to explore the phenomenon of “hipsters,” “Portlandia,” and new forms of ironic consumerism in the satire unit with my Honors English 12 students. While they seemed interested in analyzing some of the self-aware brands they wore every day (take “Obey” for example), I could also tell that, for many students, the course was a pit stop, a place to meet the teacher’s expectations and move onward. Furthermore, I noticed that in many classrooms, cultural analysis took precedent over exploration of basic writing techniques and approaches. As an English 103 instructor, I can now see the ways that such cultural approaches can neglect to emphasize the forms of discourse and conventions that will be expected of students upon entering the university setting. While I in no way endorse the hegemonic role of Academic English, it also seems that students come to expect to learn its conventions from an English course (or so my students tell me when beginning class). It is for this reason that my affinity for critical pedagogy (although changing after reading works such as Thomas Rickert’s Acts of Enjoyment) has more recently taken to incorporating what Berlin refers to as the “New Rhetoric,” viewing Truth as “dynamic and dialectical” while still addressing “in depth all of the offices of classical rhetoric that apply to written language—invention, arrangement, and style” (774; 776)


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