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thresholds and concepts

Benjamin Miller EngLit 2525-1000, Class Number 31016
email: Spring 2020, Wed 2:00–4:50pm
office: Cathedral of Learning 617-N class location: CL 2322
office hours: W 12:00-1:30pm, or by appointment

Our course website:

All this information and more is posted there. Please sign up as soon as you can!

Table of Contents
I. Course Description
II. Required Textbooks
III. Welcome Letter
IV. Avoiding Plagiarism
V. Available Resources at Pitt
The Writing Center
Special Assistance
Counseling Services
VI. Class-by-Class Schedule
VII. Project Descriptions
VII. Grading Policy

This seminar will offer an introduction to Rhetoric/Composition/Writing Studies as an academic
discipline – including some of the reasons for, and consequences of, its difficulty finding a name for
itself. Drawing on both historical and current scholarship, we will explore threshold concepts of the
field and consider the range of both methodologies and subjects engaged by RCWS research. Over
the course of the semester, a series of short projects will help students locate themselves in relation
to the field, whether they identify as compositionists or not. At the end of the semester we will hold
a public colloquium, with students presenting revised versions of their earlier work. The final
assignment is a portfolio, including an introductory reflection on the course.

1. Please obtain the following textbook, which should be readily available on Amazon, etc.
(ebrary has a copy, too.) We’ll have readings from this book just about every week.
Miller 2020 Spring Syllabus – Composition Studies – page 2

Adler-Kassner, Linda, and Elizabeth Wardle, eds. Naming What We Know:

Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies. 1st edition. Logan: Utah State
University Press, 2015.

2. The bulk of our readings will be articles and chapters that you can find online or in one of the
anthologies in section 4, below. You’re responsible for printing or downloading these; if
they’re not available through the library databases, I’ll have them scanned and accessible on our
website’s “Readings and Handouts” page. Please bring the assigned readings to class. Digital
versions are fine, if that’s your preference.

3. In addition to those required primary sources, for the purposes of orientation to the field, I highly
recommend these secondary sources:

Reynolds, Nedra, Jay Dolmage, Patricia Bizzell, and Bruce Herzberg. The Bedford
Bibliography for Teachers of Writing. Seventh edition, Bedford/St. Martin’s,

Unlike the other books in this list, the Bedford Bibliography doesn’t actually contain any full-
text articles: instead, it offers brief annotations (usually just one paragraph) of over 800 texts
deemed important by the authors. The texts are organized into five large categories – “Histories
and Theories,” “Composing and Literacy,” “Rhetorics of Writing,” “Writing Programs,” and
“Curriculum Development” – each of which is further subdivided; many texts and sections are
also cross-referenced to others. At only 300-ish pages, it’s not a bad choice as either a source of
quick-access takeaways or as a starting point for deeper reading.

Ritter, Kelly, and Paul Kei Matsuda, eds. Exploring Composition Studies: Sites,
Issues, Perspectives. Utah State University Press, 2012.

A collection of essays by scholars in various subfields within Composition Studies, offering

historical perspective on various lines of inquiry as they developed from the late 20th century
into the 21st. Topics include Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC), Writing Centers, Basic
Writing, Technical Communication, Writing-About-Writing Pedagogies, and more. The Pitt
Library has an unlimited license to the full text online.

4. Finally, you may want to have one of the following anthologies on your shelf: many’s the time
I’ve stumbled into some new area of inquiry and thought, “Um, was I supposed to know this?”
and then turned to the anthologies and found, indeed, some orienting starting point.

Miller, Susan, ed. The Norton Book of Composition Studies. New York: W. W.
Norton & Company, 2009.

The most comprehensive of the three anthologies listed here, with summaries and headnotes for
each included text and alternate tables of contents for easier remix. Especially strong on history
and theory, so go with this if you're aiming to do or teach that kind of research and/or you're a
fan of extremely thin pages.

Villanueva, Victor, and Kristin L. Arola. Cross-Talk in Comp Theory: A Reader. 3rd
edition. Urbana, Ill: National Council of Teachers of English, 2011.
Miller 2020 Spring Syllabus – Composition Studies – page 3

Like the Norton, it's intended as a thick entree into the field for graduate students. As the title
suggests, this is more oriented toward debates within the field, but not in any particularly heated
way. As the title might not suggest, the book is mostly oriented toward how we might or do
teach writing, including digital writing. A good option for any compositionist (I used edition 2
in grad school), perhaps especially if you're interested in writing program administration.

Johnson, T. R., ed. Teaching Composition: Background Readings. 3rd ed. New York
NY: Bedford/St. Martins, 2008.

A decidedly slimmer volume, but still including a lot of key scholarship on writing process and
writing pedagogy, including assessment. If you don't see yourself especially invested in the field
of comp/rhet per se, but suspect you will be involved in teaching it, this is a solid choice.

Dear members of Pitt’s Finest Graduate Programs,
Welcome to Composition Studies: Thresholds and Concepts!
In giving the course this title, I’m mindful of a few adjacent courses – alternate possible
futures for our next 14 weeks – that I’ve tried to remain distinct from. This is not a pedagogy
course, though I think there are some clear pedagogical implications of the concepts we’ll be
studying. And though I expect we’ll encounter many of the wide-ranging research methods and
approaches to knowledge-making in composition, it’s not really a research methods course, either.
It is, in some ways, a history course, in that we’ll touch on some key moments in the history of the
field – but that’s also not quite right, because I’m less focused here on what happened, when, or on
causes and effects, than I am on the shared commonplaces that emerged. I guess what I’m hoping
you’ll take away from the course is a sense of being-in-composition – what the world might look
like from that perspective, and what your colleagues or future colleagues might mean if they say
they’re “in composition,” and why.
The course takes its subtitle and general structure from a recent book, which is the only
required book for the course: Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts in Writing Studies,
henceforward NWWK. As the editors explain in their introduction, it was collaboratively authored:
29 leading scholars participated in an extended conversation on a wiki (NWWK 3-4) to determine
what declarative knowledge they could agree was commonly understood within the field, but
surprising or even counterintuitive or troublesome to those outside it. All together they proposed 51
statements, edited them extensively, and put into the book the 37 most “final-for-now definitions of
some of what our field knows” (4). Now, you may already know this, or you may come to realize it
Miller 2020 Spring Syllabus – Composition Studies – page 4 About the Course

soon, but this is not a neutral thing to do: there will be (have been) people within comp/rhet who
oppose any sort of codification or generalization of knowledge, no matter how many hedge-words
get attached to it.
A little background on these two editors: Linda Adler-Kassner is a recent chair of CCCC
(the Conference on College Composition and Communication), and the title of the conference she
led in 2016 was Writing Strategies for Action. She’s also the author of The Activist WPA (that’s
“writing program administrator,” not “works progress administration”), and she was for several
years the coordinator of something called the WPA Network for Media Action, which worked to
promote the voices of composition scholars on the national stage of education policy. She’s not one
to shy away from a fight. Elizabeth Wardle is the author of quite a number of things, but she’s
perhaps best known for her work with Doug Downs on Writing About Writing pedagogy, advancing
the apparently radical idea that students in first-year composition (e.g. our SC) should study
scholarship about rhetoric, literacy, and writing process – i.e. that composition students should read
and write about how people read and write, and learn to write.
Full disclosure: I tend to agree that the field has content, that we’ve learned things in
studying composition for the last 75 years. Not everyone does! Even within the field there are
voices asserting that writing is too context-dependent to support declarative claims about it. My
sense, though, is that even as things change over time, even as the local context may be infinitely
varied in its particulars, there is still value in producing some kind of picture, or map, or set of
principles, if only so we can understand and know what’s changed. But more than that, I’m
someone who has at various points in his life felt like everyone around me knew far more about
what was going on than I did, and so I make a point of offering guideposts, ways of orienting
newcomers within the overwhelm.
Ultimately, that’s what this course is intended to provide. It doesn’t cover every
conversation in the field – the map can’t be the terrain – but it does try to give you ways in to a
number of those conversations, whether active research areas or assumed understandings.
I’ll ask you to read about 100 pages a week, mostly articles, most of which you can find
online. (If you can’t, I’ll post a scan to the website’s “Readings and Handouts” page.) Many of the
texts I’ll assign will be “classic” texts in composition studies: the award-winners, the frequently
cited, the pieces that changed a lot of minds. Some will be later arguments or studies by similarly
major players. But some will be more contemporary pieces, with which I’ll try to show how the
Miller 2020 Spring Syllabus – Composition Studies – page 5 About the Course

conversation has evolved, or where it seems to be heading now. The selections are, unavoidably,
somewhat idiosyncratic; they show where my mind has been or gone. But I hope you won’t hold it
too much against me.
Each week we’ll follow one thread through the threshold concepts, though not in the order
set out by Adler-Kassner and Wardle. The concepts are highly interlinked by their nature, for one
thing; for another, I’ve tried to double-count them toward a loose historical overview of the field.
So we’ll start, after one week of the big picture, back in the process era, the late 1970s to early
1980s, to get at the fundamental idea that “Writing is a knowledge-making activity” (among others).
We’ll spend some time thinking about writer’s block, error, and what is generally called Basic
Writing, before making “the social turn” to intersections of audience, ideology, identity, and
community. We’ll swing back to questions of assessment and improvement by way of genre and
conventions, and we’ll conclude with reflection and transfer, and whether “learning to write” is
possible. (Spoiler: most say yes, but not for all situations, and there’s always more to learn.)
All of this, I say, is how the readings are arranged; but this is, still, a composition class, and
so there will be writing, all the way through. Within each class meeting, I’ll ask you to do some
quick writing and ask that everyone share something from what you wrote – a pedagogical tradition
known as inkshedding.1
Between each class, you’ll rotate through a series of three writing roles: serve, return, and
 Serve. In no more than 1-2 paragraphs, open a space for conversation on our online
discussion forum. Note that we’re not looking for aces here, but response: I’m not
asking for essays. Instead, pose questions you don’t already have the answer to. It
may help to focus our attention on a particular passage or two, or offer a lens through
which to consider the readings. What struck you that you hope your classmates will
help you think through?

 Return. Choose two of the serves, and respond to the questions, provocations,
enticements, incitements, whatever you find. Directly responding to other return-
posts is optional but heartily encouraged. These posts, taken together, will become

I recognize that this kind of in-class work is easier for some body/minds than others, and encourage you to use
whatever mode facilitates your thinking: write with a pen or a keyboard, record full sentences or just words, or no
words (i.e. pictures). Or a combination.
Miller 2020 Spring Syllabus – Composition Studies – page 6 About the Course

the starting points for our next in-class discussion.

 Project. This one’s a pun: it has to do with projecting outward from the readings, but
in doing so you’re also working on a project. Twice before Spring Break, you'll do
some outside investigation to contextualize the pieces, places, people, or publications
that make up the disciplinary landscape. (I have some suggestions on the website for
what this might look like.) Then, when it’s your turn in this role, you'll bring your
findings back and present to the class for 5-10 minutes. You can think of it as a low-
stakes conference talk, giving us something to examine together. Visual aids or other
forms of multimodality are warmly welcomed! I’ll also ask you to submit a brief
reflection along with a copy of your presentation.
When your third turn to "project" comes around, you’ll instead bring in an
annotated bibliography toward a more extended research project, ideally expanding on
something you wrote earlier: e.g. in a serve, a return, or a project. (We should talk
around midterm about what you might want to pursue; collaborations are possible.)
To make these roles function, serves will be due by Saturday at 9pm; returns will be due by
Tuesday at 9pm. They’ll all be posted to a discussion board on our site. This timeline is not my way
of being mean, but rather a means of making time to find ways into the conversation. The general
shape I’m imagining for each lesson will have time at the end of every class for groups to prepare:
for those on serve in the coming week to read ahead, and divvy up their approaches; for those on
return to begin thinking about a project; and for those on project to get feedback or get work done.
The first half of class will be discussion, ideally led by those on serve.
My goal here is to help scaffold your work toward a final presentation and write-
up to share in a more public forum. At the end of the semester, we’ll have a public
symposium, or mini-conference, to present final-for-now versions of your expanded
projects. I’ll also ask you to re-mediate your presentation as something more like an
article draft, recognizing that “article” has taken on expanded forms, especially but not
exclusively in digital environments. The final assignment for the course is to assemble a
digital portfolio, collecting your best work from the semester, and to introduce it with a
For the coming week, I’ll be on serve, and you’ll all be on return; the rotation will start for
the following week (lesson 3). It’s a lot of moving parts, I know, but I can honestly say that I’m
excited to see what it all builds into!
Miller 2020 Spring Syllabus – Composition Studies – page 7 Policies and Resources


This is a collaborative class, in which we offer each other suggestions and constructive criticism.
However, the goal of all this collaboration is to clarify the expression of original ideas – never to
substitute someone else's ideas for our own, or to impose our ideas on someone else.

To misrepresent the origins of an idea is plagiarism, and it will not be tolerated.

If you want to cite an outside source, there are ways of giving credit to the original author; section
33 of the Pocket Style Manual presents one standard method of documenting sources, and the
English department has some useful resources at

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask, because Pitt takes a very hard stance on plagiarism.
It could get you expelled. Here's an excerpt from the official Policy on Academic Integrity, to give
you the flavor:

Cheating/plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students suspected of violating the University of Pittsburgh
Policy on Academic Integrity, from the February 1974 Senate Committee on Tenure and Academic
Freedom reported to the Senate Council, will be required to participate in the outlined procedural
process as initiated by the instructor. A minimum sanction of a zero score for the quiz or exam will
be imposed.

A student has an obligation to exhibit honesty and to respect the ethical standards of the profession in
carrying out his or her academic assignments. Without limiting the application of this principle, a
student may be found to have violated this obligation if he or she: […]

8. Depends on the aid of others in a manner expressly prohibited by the faculty member, in the
research, preparation, creation, writing, performing, or publication of work to be submitted for
academic credit or evaluation.
9. Provides aid to another person, knowing such aid is expressly prohibited by the faculty member,
in the research, preparation, creation, writing, performing, or publication of work to be submitted
for academic credit or evaluation.
10. Presents as one's own, for academic evaluation, the ideas, representations, or words of another
person or persons without customary and proper acknowledgment of sources.
11. Submits the work of another person in a manner which represents the work to be one's own.
12. Knowingly permits one's work to be submitted by another person without the faculty member's

You have the right to a fair hearing, and I’ll talk to you before I talk to anyone else, but it’s far
easier just to avoid plagiarism in the first place. All clear cases of deliberate plagiarism will be
referred to the appropriate Dean for disciplinary action, including an Academic Integrity Board
hearing. For the University's full policy on Academic Integrity and the adjudication process for
infringements, including plagiarism, go to
Miller 2020 Spring Syllabus – Composition Studies – page 8 Policies and Resources


The Writing Center

The Writing Center, located at 317B O'Hara Student Center, is an excellent resource for working
with an experienced consultant on your writing. Although you should not expect consultants to
“correct” your paper for you, they can assist you in learning to organize, revise, and edit your work.
Consultants can work with you on a one-time basis or throughout the term. In some cases, I may
require that you go to the Writing Center for help on a particular problem; otherwise, you can
decide on your own to seek assistance. To make an appointment, come to the Writing Center or call
412-624-6556. For more information, including answers to frequently asked questions, visit

Disability Resources
If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are
encouraged to contact both your instructor and the Office of Disability Resources and Services, 140
William Pitt Union, 412-648-7890 / 412-624-3346 (Fax), as early as possible in the term. Disability
Resources and Services will verify your disability and determine reasonable accommodations for
this course. For more information, visit

Counseling Services
Pitt also offers free counseling for students who are experiencing personal or emotional difficulties.
The Counseling Center, located on the 2nd Floor Nordenberg Hall, offers Psychological Services
and Sexual Assault Services (412-648-7930) (8:30 am-5:00 pm, Monday-Friday) or (412-648-7856)
(after 5 pm, Monday-Friday or on weekends). For more information, see
Miller 2020 Spring Syllabus – Composition Studies – page 9

The following schedule is just a preview; the full and most up-to-date version will be posted on the
course wiki (, including more detailed explanations of each
homework assignment and full lesson plans with space for collaborative notes. This gives me more
flexibility to adapt the specifics to our needs as a reading and writing community.

Reading assignments are listed on the day they are due to be discussed, not the day they are assigned.
Unless specified as [scan], all assigned texts not in Naming What We Know should be retrievable online,
either through PittCat+ or Open Access journals and websites.

"Serves" for these readings are due by 9pm on the Saturday before that class; "returns" are due by 9pm
on Tuesday. (See welcome letter, above, for more on what that means.) This timeline is not my way of
being mean, but rather a means of making time to find ways into the conversation.

In addition to posting to the wiki, you should in general also bring a copy of assigned readings and
your written work to class, so that we have access to it for in-class discussion and/or revisions.
Electronic copies are fine, as long as you can take notes.

Class meeting:

Week 1: Introductions; Names; Structures; Plans

Week 2: Writing is an Activity and a Subject of Study

For Wednesday, January 15, read:
 Adler-Kassner, Linda, and Elizabeth Wardle. “Naming What We Know: The Project of
This Book.” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies (NWWK).
Ed. Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle. Logan: Utah State University Press,
2015. 1–11.
 Phelps, Louise Wetherbee, and John M. Ackerman. “Making the Case for Disciplinarity
in Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing Studies: The Visibility Project.” College
Composition and Communication (CCC) 62.1 (2010): 180-215.
 Reynolds, Nedra, et al. "A Brief History of Rhetoric and Composition." The Bedford
Bibliography for Teachers of Writing, 7th edition. Boston and New York: Bedford/St.
Martin's, 2012. 1-17. [scan]
 Harris, Joseph. “Foreword(s): Research and Teaching” + "Preface to the New Edition" +
"Acknowledgments." A Teaching Subject: Composition Since 1966, New Edition, Utah
State University Press, 2012, pp. xv–xviii. [Library has full e-book.]
 Ritter, Kelly, and Paul Kei Matsuda. "Introduction: How Did We Get Here?" Exploring
Composition Studies: Sites, Issues, and Perspectives (ECS), edited by Kelly Ritter and
Paul Kei Matsuda, Utah State UP, 2012.
 Royster, Jacqueline Jones, and Jean C. Williams. “History in the Spaces Left: African
American Presence and Narratives of Composition Studies.” CCC, vol. 50, no. 4, 1999,
pp. 563–84. JSTOR, JSTOR, doi:10.2307/358481.

Optional EXTENSION readings for each week will be posted on the website.
Miller 2020 Spring Syllabus – Composition Studies – page 10 Schedule of Readings

Week 3: Writing and Revision are Knowledge-Making and Meaning-Making Activities

For Wednesday, January 22, read:
 NWWK 1.1: "Writing is a knowledge-making activity." 19-20
 NWWK 1.9: "Writing is a technology through which writers create and recreate
meaning." 32-34
 NWWK 5.0: "Writing is (also always) a cognitive activity." 71-74.
 NWWK 3.2: "Writers' histories, processes, and identites vary." 52-54
 NWWK 4.4: "Revision is central to developing writing." 66-67
 Berthoff, Ann E. “Learning the Uses of Chaos.” The Making of Meaning: Metaphors,
Models, and Maxims for Writing Teachers. Boynton/Cook Publishers, 1981. [Norton,
TC:BR, scan]
 Emig, Janet. “Writing as a Mode of Learning.” CCC, vol. 28, no. 2, May 1977, pp. 122–
 Perl, Sondra. “The Composing Processes of Unskilled College Writers.” Research in the
Teaching of English 13.4 (1979): 317–336. [CTCT]
 Perl, Sondra. “Understanding Composing.” CCC 31.4 (1980): 363–369. [TC:BR]
 Flower, Linda, and John R. Hayes. “The Cognition of Discovery: Defining a Rhetorical
Problem.” CCC 31.1 (1980): 21–32. [Norton]
 Sommers, Nancy. “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult
Writers.” CCC 31.4 (1980): 378–388. [Norton, CTCT, TC:BR]
 Murray, Donald M. “Writing and Teaching for Surprise.” College English 46.1 (1984):
 Lindenman, Heather, et al. “Revision and Reflection: A Study of (Dis)Connections
between Writing Knowledge and Writing Practice.” CCC, vol. 69, no. 4, June 2018, pp.

Week 4: Writing is Neither Natural Nor Learned Only Once

For Wednesday, January 29, read:
 NWWK 1.6: "Writing is not natural." 27-29
 NWWK 4.2: "Failure can be an important part of writing development." 62-64.
 NWWK 2.1: "Writing represents the world, events, ideas, and feelings." 37-39
 Flower, Linda. “Writer-Based Prose: A Cognitive Basis for Problems in
Writing.” College English 41.1 (1979): 19–37.
 Rose, Mike. “Rigid Rules, Inflexible Plans, and the Stifling of Language: A Cognitivist
Analysis of Writer’s Block.” CCC 31.4 (1980): 389–401. [TC:BR]
 Bartholomae, David. “The Study of Error.” CCC 31.3 (1980): 253–269.
 Beason, Larry. “Ethos and Error: How Business People React to Errors.” CCC, 2001, pp.
 Watson, Missy. “Reworking the Policing of Plagiarism: Borrowings from Basic Writing,
Authorship Studies, and the Citation Project.” Journal of Basic Writing, vol. 36, no. 2, pp.
Miller 2020 Spring Syllabus – Composition Studies – page 11 Schedule of Readings

Week 5: A Writer is Never Alone: Writing as Social, Rhetorical, Transactional

for Wednesday, February 5, read:
 NWWK 1.2: "Writing addresses, invokes, and/or creates audiences." 20-21
 NWWK 1.3: "Writing expresses and shares meaning to be reconstructed by the reader."
 NWWK 1.0: "Writing is a social and rhetorical activity." 17-19
 Ong, Walter J. “The Writer’s Audience Is Always a Fiction.” PMLA 90.1 (1975): 9–21.
 Ede, Lisa, and Andrea Lunsford. “Audience Addressed/Audience Invoked: The Role of
Audience in Composition Theory and Pedagogy.” CCC 35.2 (1984): 155–171. [CTCT]
 Elbow, Peter. “Closing My Eyes as I Speak: An Argument for Ignoring
Audience.” College English 49.1 (1987): 50–69. [TC:BR]
 Khost, Peter H. “‘Alas, Not Yours to Have’: Problems with Audience in High-Stakes
Writing Tests and the Promise of Felt Sense.” The Journal of the Assembly for Expanded
Perspectives on Learning, vol. 21, no. 1, 2016, p. 8.
 DePalma, Michael-John, and Kara Poe Alexander. “A Bag Full of Snakes: Negotiating
the Challenges of Multimodal Composition.” Computers and Composition 37 (2015):

Week 6: Identity and Language, Representation and Negotiation

for Wednesday, February 12, read:
 NWWK 4.6: "Writing involves the negotiation of writing differences." 68-70
 NWWK 1.8: "Writing involves making ethical choices." 31-32
 NWWK 3.1: "Writing is linked to identity."
 NWWK 3.5: "Writing provides a representation of ideologies and identities." 57-58
 Royster, Jacqueline Jones. “When the First Voice You Hear Is Not Your
Own.” CCC 47.1 (1996): 29–40. [Norton, CTCT]
 Villanueva, Victor. “‘Memoria’ Is a Friend of Ours: On the Discourse of Color.” College
English 67.1 (2004): 9–19. [CTCT]
 Canagarajah, A. Suresh. “The Place of World Englishes in Composition: Pluralization
Continued.” CCC 57.4 (2006): 586–619. [Norton]
 Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC). “Students’ Right to
Their Own Language (with Bibliography).” Apr. 1974, updated Nov. 2003, Aug. 2006,
Nov. 2014. 5 Jan. 2017. <>.
 Duffy, John. “The Good Writer: Virtue Ethics and the Teaching of Writing.” College
English, vol. 79, no. 3, 2017, pp. 229–50.

Week 7: What Carries Over? Presence, Past, and Possibility

for Wednesday, February 19, read:
 NWWK 3.0: "Writing enacts and creates identities and ideologies." 48-50
 NWWK 3.3: "Writing is informed by prior experience." 54-55.
 NWWK 1.4: "Words get their meanings from other words." 23-25
 NWWK 2.6: "Texts get their meaning from other texts." 44-46
 NWWK 5.3: "Habituated practice can lead to entrenchment." 77-78
Miller 2020 Spring Syllabus – Composition Studies – page 12 Schedule of Readings

 Bartholomae, David. “Inventing the University.” When Writers Can’t Write: Studies in
Writer’s Block and Other Composing Process Problems. Ed. Mike Rose. N.p., 1985.
134–165. [Norton, CTCT, TC:BR]
 Berlin, James. “Rhetoric and Ideology in the Writing Class.” College English 50.5
(1988): 477–494. [Norton, TC:BR]
 Harris, Joseph. “The Idea of Community in the Study of Writing.” CCC 40.1 (1989): 11–
22. [Norton]
 Nowacek, Rebecca S., et al. “‘Transfer Talk’ in Talk about Writing in Progress: Two
Propositions about Transfer of Learning.” Composition Forum, vol. 42, Fall

Week 8: Writing Performs Work in Activity Systems

for Wednesday, February 26, read:
 NWWK 2.5: "Writing is performative." 43-44
 NWWK 1.5: "Writing mediates activity" 26-27
 Brandt, Deborah. “Sponsors of Literacy.” CCC 49.2 (1998): 165–185.
 Monson, Connie, and Jacqueline Rhodes. “Risking Queer: Pedagogy, Performativity, and
Desire in Writing Classrooms.” JAC, vol. 24, no. 1, 2004, pp. 79–91.
 Jones, John. “Network* Writing.” Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and
Pedagogy 20.1 (2015): n.p.
 Herzberg, Bruce. “Service Learning and Public Discourse.” JAC, vol. 20, no. 2, 2000, pp.
391–404. JSTOR.
 Gallagher, John R. “Writing for Algorithmic Audiences.” Computers and
Composition, vol. 45, Sept. 2017, pp. 25–35. ScienceDirect,

Week 9: Writing with the Body and Across Modes

for Wednesday, March 4, read:
 NWWK 5.1: "Writing is an expression of embodied cognition." (74-75)
 NWWK 5.2: "Metacognition is not cognition." 75-76
 NWWK 2.4: "All writing is multimodal." 42-43
 Yancey, Kathleen Blake. “Made Not Only in Words: Composition in a New
Key.” CCC 56.2 (2004): 297–328.
 Yergeau, Melanie et al. “Multimodality in Motion: Disability and Kairotic
Spaces.” Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy 18.1 (2013): n. pag.
4 Jan. 2017. <>.
 Alvarez, et al. "On Multimodal Composing." Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology,
and Pedagogy, vol 21, issue 2, January
2017, [estimate]

Wednesday, March 11:

No class today: SPRING BREAK
Miller 2020 Spring Syllabus – Composition Studies – page 13 Schedule of Readings

Week 10: Discipline, Disciplines, and Being Disciplined

for Wednesday, March 18, read:
 NWWK 3.4: "Disciplinary and professional identities are constructed through writing."
 NWWK 2.3: "Writing is a way of enacting disciplinarity." 40-41
 Elbow, Peter. “Reflections on Academic Discourse: How It Relates to Freshmen and
Colleagues.” College English 53.2 (1991): 135–155.
 Carter, Michael. “Ways of Knowing, Doing, and Writing in the Disciplines.” CCC 58.3
(2007): 385–418.
 Mueller, Derek. “Grasping Rhetoric and Composition by Its Long Tail: What Graphs Can
Tell Us about the Field’s Changing Shape.” CCC 64.1 (2012): 195–223.
 Kynard, Carmen. “Teaching While Black: Witnessing Disciplinary Whiteness, Racial
Violence, and Race-Management.” Literacy in Composition Studies, vol. 3, no. 1, Mar.
2015, pp. 1-20–20., doi:10.21623/

Wednesday, March 25:

No class today: CCCC.

Week 11: Genres and Form

for Wednesday, April 1, read:
 NWWK 2.0: "Writing speaks to situations through recognizable forms." 35-37
 NWWK 2.2: "Genres are enacted by writers and readers." 39-40
 Russell, David R. “Rethinking Genre in School and Society: An Activity Theory
Analysis.” Written Communication 14.4 (1997): 504–555.
 Wardle, Elizabeth. “‘Mutt Genres’ and the Goal of FYC: Can We Help Students Write
the Genres of the University?” CCC, vol. 60, no. 4, 2009, pp. 765–789.
 Lancaster, Zak. “Do Academics Really Write This Way? A Corpus Investigation of
Moves and Templates in ‘They Say / I Say.’” CCC, vol. 67, Feb. 2016, pp. 437–64.

Week 12: Grammar, Error, and Improvement

for Wednesday, April 8, read:
 NWWK 4.1: "Text is an object outside of oneself that can be improved and developed."
 NWWK 4.3: "Learning to write effectively requires different kinds of practice, time, and
effort." 64-65
 Delpit, Lisa. “The Politics of Teaching Literate Discourse.” Freedom’s plough: Teaching
in the multicultural classroom (1993): 285–295. [Norton, TC:BR, scan]
 Hartwell, Patrick. “Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar.” College
English 47.2 (1985): 105–127.
 Micciche, Laura R. “Making a Case for Rhetorical Grammar.” CCC 55.4 (2004): 716–
 Haswell, Richard H. “Minimal Marking.” College English, vol. 45, no. 6, Oct. 1983, pp.
Miller 2020 Spring Syllabus – Composition Studies – page 14 Schedule of Readings

 Lunsford, Andrea A., and Karen J. Lunsford. “‘Mistakes Are a Fact of Life’: A National
Comparative Study.” CCC, vol. 59, no. 4, 2008, pp. 781–806.

Week 13: Ecologies of Assessment

for Wednesday, April 15, read:
 NWWK 4.5: "Assessment is an essential component of learning to write." 67-68
 NWWK 1.7: "Assessing writing shapes contexts and instruction." 29-31
 Sommers, Nancy. “Responding to Student Writing.” CCC (1982): 148–156.
 White, Edward M. “The Scoring of Writing Portfolios: Phase 2.” CCC 56.4 (2005): 581–
 Elbow, Peter. “Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking: Sorting out Three Forms of Judgment.”
College English, vol. 55, no. 2, Feb. 1993, pp. 187–206.
 Inoue, Asao B. “Chapter 5: Designing Antiracist Writing Assessment
Ecologies.” Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing Writing
for a Socially Just Future, The WAC Clearinghouse, 2015, pp. 283–300.
 Anson, Chris M., et al. “Students’ Perceptions of Oral Screencast Responses to Their
Writing: Exploring Digitally Mediated Identities.” Journal of Business and Technical
Communication, vol. 30, no. 3, July 2016, pp. 378–411. SAGE Journals,

Week 14: All Writers Have More to Learn: Reflection and Revision
for Wednesday, April 20, read:
 NWWK 4.0: "All writers have more to learn." 59-61
 NWWK 5.4: "Reflection is critical for writers' development." 78-79
 Yancey, Kathleen Blake. “On Reflection.” Reflection in the Writing Classroom. Logan:
Utah State University Press, 1998. 1-22.
 Sommers, Nancy. “Between the Drafts.” CCC 43.1 (1992): 23–31.
 Sommers, Nancy. “Across the Drafts.” CCC 58.2 (2006): 248–257.
 Lunsford, Andrea A., and Lisa Ede. “Representing Audience: ‘Successful’ Discourse and
Disciplinary Critique.” CCC 47.2 (1996): 167–179. [Norton]

Final symposium: on Wednesday, April 27th,

I will reserve room 501 during our usual class time, 2:00-4:50.
Miller 2020 Spring Syllabus – Composition Studies – page 15


As part of the assignment rotation, every third week you will be expected to do some projecting
out from or onto the course material. Choose one of the following exercises, or propose
alternatives to Ben with enough lead time to refine and revise. For each, write a brief report (3-5
pages or the equivalent), so that you can present for 5-10 minutes and get feedback and questions
from the class. I’ll also ask you to submit a brief reflection along with a copy of your
presentation: Where would you have kept digging, if you had more time? What new (or newly
urgent) questions, do you have? Post these to the wiki, starting from the Gallery page.

First Rotation: Fertile Soil / Backgrounds

1. Journal scope and features. Publication venues are important for circulating your own
academic work, for understanding the context of what you read, and for locating the most
likely sources of interest to you. Select a journal within Rhetoric / Composition / Writing
Studies and learn more about it by skimming tables of contents, article abstracts, calls for
submissions, editors’ introductions, lists of works cited, etc. What kinds of work does this
journal publish? What features do they have that strike you as conspicuously different
from others you’ve encountered? Have these things changed over time?

Journals to consider include: CCC, College English, Research in the Teaching of English,
Journal of Basic Writing, Written Communication, Rhetoric Review, Kairos, Computers
& Composition, Enculturation, JAC, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, and Composition
Forum. There are certainly more; let me know if you’d like to do one not on this list.
(Writing on the Edge comes to mind as one we're not reading from this semester, but
which might be of interest to creative writers; Journal of Writing Analytics might appeal
especially to digital researchers or folks interested in stylometry.)

2. Academic Genealogy. Part of orienting yourself to the field is learning the associations
that accrue to people and places. In economics, saying "University of Chicago" means
something larger than individual faculty members; in criticism, saying someone was
Derrida's student is likely a comment on their critical approach, not just their letters of

For this exercise, research the connections around one of the assigned authors: Where
did/do they work or go to school? Who else went there? Who did they study with and
who studied with them? Without assuming that these associations over-determine any
scholar's questions or methods – for one thing, people can actively push against their
environments – do you see any signs of kinship? Write about any patterns that emerge, or
links to other authors or ideas in our syllabus.

You can use the Writing Studies Tree as a place to discover or record these connections.
(There are a few quirks in the interface; talk to me and I'll walk you around them. Sigh.)

3. Source Analysis. Formal citation of sources, one of the more conspicuous features of
academic texts, offers a way to reconstruct some of the materials that authors had on hand
Miller 2020 Spring Syllabus – Composition Studies – page 16 Projects

when they were composing. Starting with one of the assigned pieces, go back down the
bibliographic trail and read cited text(s): what moves does the author make with this
source material? Does that change your understanding of how the original argument
works, or how well?

It may be particularly informative to look at what Joseph Bizup calls argument sources:
pieces to agree or disagree with. (Other categories in Bizup's schema of source-use
are background, exhibit, and method. His Rhetoric Review article introducing the schema,
titled "BEAM: A Rhetorical Vocabulary for Teaching Research-Based Writing," also
provides a good model of analyzing source uses in the way I'm suggesting with this
project. I’ll provide a handout covering the basics of BEAM.)

Second Rotation: What Grew / Consequences

1. Bibliometrics. What life have these pieces had since they were published? Who cites
them, when, and where, and what does that suggest to you about this piece’s echoes
within the discipline? How has that changed over time? Google Scholar's reverse citation
search is a good place to begin; some data visualization (the chart tools in Excel and
Google Sheets are fine) is a good next step. If the piece is very highly cited, consider
breaking down the venues of citation (i.e. various journals, presses) to see if that reveals
any hidden differences.

2. Keywords. Is that striking and uncited phrase unique to this author? Does that buzzword
really buzz? When other people use it, do they mean the same thing? Starting with a word
or phrase in one of our shared texts that seems freighted with extra meaning, do some
digging into where else the phrase (or word) appears, and whether our author’s take on it
is new or borrowed, and where it’s blown to since. Try searching for the word in the
extensive glossary at CompPile (, the largest index of publications in
RCWS. If it’s there, what other keywords does it get associated with? What other
keywords does CompPile want to keep it distinct from?

3. Long Careers. Suppose you write one of these best-of articles, and now you're
Academically Famous. What happens next? Find out what else this author has worked
on, whether they're still working, and if they're still working on the issues we read about.
Set yourself up to have more to say to these people in the halls at CCCC than (e.g.)
"You're Nancy Sommers!" (She already knows.)

Third Rotation: Toward an Expansion

By the second half of the semester, you'll begin building toward a final presentation and deeper
write-up (which can be solo or collaborative). Toward that end, after you've done two full
rotations, you'll begin an annotated bibliography, building on a question or idea raised in the
first half of the class.

For each source, include a full citation; a brief summary in your own words; and a brief
explanation of how the source might be useful to your inquiry. (I'll expect a mix of Exhibit and
Argument uses, at a minimum. See, again, BEAM.)
Miller 2020 Spring Syllabus – Composition Studies – page 17 Projects

By the end of the semester, you will have:
 written three serves;
 written ten returns (two each for three rotations, plus two each when I serve);
 projected twice (5-10 minute presentation plus reflection);
 assembled an annotated bibliography; and
 given a public presentation (10-15 minutes plus shared Q&A).

About that presentation: it’s essentially an expanded version of what you’ll do when you’re in
“project” mode, and we’ll hold a symposium (likely in 501) and invite the public (the
department, your students if you’d like, your partners, etc).

 Ideally, your subject will emerge as a revision (however radical the departure or close the
continuation) from something you've already encountered or begun in this class: a forum
post, a project presentation, in-class writing, etc. There may be other options, like using
the course readings and/or threshold concepts to reimagine something you've been
working on outside of the course. But we should talk about it.

 Collaborative presentations, especially but not exclusively for digital projects, are
possible. Again, talk to me about what you have in mind.

The last assignment of the semester is to assemble a digital portfolio that includes the following:

1. An introductory reflection on the semester, the threshold concepts, conclusions and

questions. This can be informal, like a letter; I’ll have more guidelines as it gets closer.

2. A more formal "write-up" of your presentation

o The goal of this remediation is depth of engagement with a conversation in the
field: presumably more depth than you could get into in a 10 minute presentation.
o Genre-wise, this could mean a lot of things, including a rhetorical analysis, an
annotated research bibliography with a synthetic introduction (as per, a grant proposal, a more traditional
essay / article / chapter draft, or a digital/multimodal equivalent.
o Again, collaborations are possible: just give me a heads up.

3. Any other supporting documents, artifacts, or evidence from the semester that you
want to preserve in easy-to-find form and/or that you want to make sure I see. For
example: forum posts, project presentations, grok-writing related to your reflection.
Miller 2020 Spring Syllabus – Composition Studies – page 18 Grades

The grades for the course will be based on a maximum of 100 points, broken down as follows:

Discussion forum: 25 points (2 points each plus one free drop on return)
Project presentations: 10 points (5 points each)
Annotated bib: 10 points
Public presentation: 10 points
Formal write-up: 10 points
Final reflection: 15 points
In-class presence: 20 points

As the course goes on, we’ll talk more about how to succeed or excel at each of these.

MA students and auditors are invited to talk to me about possible workload modifications to the
syllabus, including additional free drops on forum posts or opting out of the public symposium.