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2014 July College English, v76.6

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Level(s): College

ISBN/ISSN: 0010-0994


College English
Volume 76, Number 6, July 2014

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From the Guest Editors: Reimagining the Social Turn: New Work from the Field
Jacqueline Rhodes and Jonathan Alexander

Writing Material
Laura R. Micciche
Abstract: This essay focuses on new materialist reconfigurations of social theory that alter understandings of agency, identity, subjectivity, and power. This research lends itself to recognizing writing as radically distributed across time and space, and as always entwined with a whole host of others. After overviewing new materialist efforts to draft a robust concept of matter, I explore the value of this work for twenty-first-century writing studies through the lens of acknowledgments, a genre wherein relationality is dramatized.

Sinners Welcome: The Limits of Rhetorical Agency
Steve Parks
Abstract: “Sinners Welcome” explores the relationship between current community partnership models and the political rhetoric that often surrounds them. Taking up the frequent invocation of Cornel West’s “prophetic pragmatism” in such partnerships, this article investigates what it might mean to understand this term as a call to work for actual systemic justice for those most oppressed by the current political moment. To make this concrete, the article discusses a community partnership project that resulted in an activist organization being created by local residents in response to a large-scale redevelopment effort in the neighborhood. Once created, this organization became the site of a concerted countereffort to defund and discredit such partnership work. It is this tension between community partnerships and activism, between prophetic pragmatism’s theoretical goals and its actual practice, that represents a fundamental choice within English studies. Ultimately, the article poses the question of how far our field is willing to go in the name of a “transformative politics.”

Rhetorical Education and Student Activism
Jonathan Alexander and Susan C. Jarratt
Abstract: On February 8, 2010, eleven student activists at the University of California–Irvine protested a speech by Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States. The disruptive nature of the protest by these students—advocates of Palestinian de-occupation and members of the Muslim Student Union—led to disciplinary action against their student organization and criminal prosecution in the local county court for disturbing the peace. This essay offers the results of an interview-based study exploring the rhetorical education of five of these college activists. The interviews reveal the powerful influence of family histories of activism and thoughtful reflections on the rhetorical dynamics of the Middle East conflict within local, national, and international publics. They also show student awareness of the limitations of the liberal-deliberative rhetorics that underpin most college writing courses. That students reported only a tenuous sense of connection between college courses and self-sponsored activist education suggests that teachers and scholars of rhetoric and composition may need to give cocurricular activism more consideration in the next phase of the “social turn.”

Unwelcome Stories, Identity Matters, and Strategies for Engaging in Cross-Boundary Discourses
David Wallace
Abstract: Our fields need stories that are unwelcome—stories that bother us because we have not fully embraced the notions that our identities matter in our scholarship, our teaching, and our lives. We also need to embrace the multifaceted, intersectional nature of identity, and we need new strategies for engaging in cross-boundary discourses. I offer a queer reading of the work of three African American rhetoricians to explicate three concepts that are critical for engaging in responsible cross-boundary discourse as well as three trajectories for moving forward.

One Train Can Hide Another: Critical Materialism for Public Composition
Tony Scott and Nancy Welch
Abstract: The viral video Kony 2012 is the point of departure for our argument that composition’s public turn is marked by a concern with discursive features and digitized forms at the expense of attention to historical context and human consequences. The alternative we propose, critical materialist pedagogy, reconnects discursive and digitized arguments to the extradiscursive interests they serve. By urging teachers and students to “think through the body,” this critical materialist pedagogy tests fetishized appearances against lived reality—and reconnects public rhetoric to embodied examples of struggle and material potential for creative action.

Response: Writing, Rhetoric, and Composition in the Age of Obama
Morris Young


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Index to Volume 76

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