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ADE Report on the English Major - craniac@gmail.com - Gmail
Hi all,



I agree with Alex. The mere addition of tracks is insufficient to the task of reinvigorating majors. And it’s not just on literature folks to do the work of re-imagining and re-inventing possibilities.



In our current cultural and political moment when some of the most urgent things we’re dealing with on a regular basis are the degradation of Black, Brown, and Indigenous lives; the expansion of private prisons; the deployment of bots and algorithms to heighten in-group loyalties and cross-group tensions; the circulation of false moral equivalencies; “fake news” and outright lies; gaslighting as a primary means of avoiding shared reasoning; an inability to bridge vibrant, volatile differences; the systematic unraveling of public institutions; the privatization of public resources; and a sometimes debilitating sense of deep uncertainty and precarity, it seems to me that those of us in English Departments and especially in some version of writing studies, broadly construed, bear a unique responsibility for taking up and bringing about the imaginative possibilities of majors, minors, certificate programs, and tracks. We are implicated in the predicaments of our time and also uniquely poised to lay claim to the pragmatic promise and practice of public life, a fragile and aspirational experiment in cooperative interdependence.



The ADE report suggests writing studies might provide inspiration for invigorating the major, and yet here, too, I would advise caution. After all, much of undergraduate writing instruction still relies on labor politics that suggest anyone can teach it; still relies on claim-driven argument that rarely brings about changes in minds, practices, or policies; still relies on assimilationist models of language; still relies on writing as an individual enterprise rather than collaborative knowledge building; still relies on a circulation model of public life, rather than a rhetorical model that constructs joint inquiry and invention with others across deep differences around to-some-degree-shared concerns.



Given the degree of re-imagining this project’s going to take, our discussion about the major cannot only, or even primarily, be an economic one. Alex, Nancy Welch, and others have argued that neoliberalism would have us frame the discussion about the major within an economic framework--what is most useful for students’ career development or as in the case of the ADE report “for sustaining the major” (and thus, particular faculty appointments, often on the backs of other faculty labor and student debt). That economic thrust does tend toward the language of skills and skillsets, of production and marketability and deliverables. And no doubt, we would do well to prepare students to take up meaningful, well-compensated work; as Kathleen Yancey and others have noted, writing needs to be more and more a part of that preparation. And yet writing studies can’t be only this. Nor can it simply be a “Defense Against the Dark Arts” as Kristopher Lotier reminded us at the inaugural conference of the Association of Rhetoric and Writing Studies, an organization focused on the future of undergraduate programs regardless of their institutional configuration. Rather, we must actively build something compelling. To my mind, reinvigorating majors is about poetic world-making: what’s the world we’re calling students to and what tools does the discipline offer for building and re-building that world with others?



In fact, this is the very conversation we’ll be continuing at our upcoming Association of Rhetoric And Writing Studies Conference focused on Inventing Pathways and Possibilities: Enacting the Promise of Rhetoric and Writing Undergraduate Programs.



ARWS is working to foster these conversations across a range of institutional configurations-- from liberal arts colleges to community colleges and regional universities to research institutions; from writing departments to English departments to WAC initiatives to independent writing programs; from long-standing majors and minors to aspirational certificate programs; from English studies to professional and technical writing to user-experience and digital media to rhetoric, writing, and literacies. The premise of ARWS is based not on a particular institutional configuration but instead on a commitment to invigorating what undergraduate rhetoric and writing studies is offering students navigating an increasingly complex world.



ARWS is finalizing a rich line-up for our October 11-12 conference in Austin, Texas, and we invite any of you interested to submit proposals for poster sessions (our panels are full at this point) and/or to suggest or host a focused evening conversation related to a particular exigency you want to continue thinking about, and perhaps problem-solving, with others. If you’re interested, shoot me an email.



And to Jenn Fishman’s question, we’d love to work with folks in sister organizations to design, pilot, and administer a study of majors.
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28 days ago by craniac
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