Williams, Bronwyn T.  “Seeking New Worlds:  The Study of Writing Beyond Our Classrooms.”  CCC 62.1 (2010): 127-146.

  • In this article Williams is arguing that our institutional responsibilities – as departments charged with the teaching of academic discourse – and our specific focus on university-level writing practices has severely hindered a broader, more comprehensive “vision” of what constitutes writing and literacy. W. claims that Rhet/Comp should move outside of college writing to focus on other “literacy-related” fields to cultivate a more flexible identity in relation to literacy and rhetorical studies.  In other words, this is an argument to expand the field into a sub-meta-discipline of literacy and rhetorical studies.
  • W. notes that there have always been strains or sub-fields in the discipline that have taken up the study of literacy practices beyond the college writing course/curriculum; however, when this sort of work is taken up (the work outside the center) there is often little overlap with folks doing literacy work in other disciplines like education, literacy studies or media studies (129).  The cause of this is myriad: tenure review pressures, institutional commitments as WPAs, surviving in literary studies dominated English departments, etc.
  • If the study of literacy and rhetorical practices moves outside the college classroom, does the discipline need to redraw it’s vision of itself (goals, outcomes, etc.)?  Is the influence of “cultural studies” (a la Williams) a main player in this push toward non-university sites of research?
  • W. claims that we need to more thoroughly respond to the theory and practice of writing outside of university contexts because these literacies make explicit the connection between post-secondary writing instruction and literacy practices over the course of a life (130).  Later, W. notes that, “If the claim of rhetoric and composition is to study student writing, it must be in conversation about how writing happens before and after students step on to the university campus” (133).
  • Williams highlights that the professionalization – through conferences, citationality, workshops, etc. – of rhet/comp. points to its own enclosure. . . there simply isn’t cross-pollination among Writing Studies and literacy studies/media studies (135).
  • The development of stand-alone Writing Studies departments offers the opportunity for disciplinary independence but also raises some definitional questions:  what do we study?  Where do we study?  Why do we study?  How do we study?  Can we now bring in folks from other departments/disciplines studying literacy and rhetorical practices?  When not yoked to the English department these questions will take center stage in our disciplinary identity formation.


1.      This article makes me consider the publication apparatus that humanistic/social science disciplines have developed in the early 21st century.  Is it possible that the self-referential nature of disciplinary citationality is the result of new, more demanding publication expectations and the tenure clock?

2.     This article points out that Writing Studies is again caught in a double-bind.  Do we encourage interdisciplinarity at the same time that we’re arguing for disciplinary identity and recognition from the larger institutional hierarchy (a recognition predicated on a serious , coherent body of scholarly work)?

3.     Is there a competitive advantage / industry advantage to having publications from many, many disciplines rather than interdisciplinarily?  In other words, can publishers actually make more $$$ by encouraging disciplinary segregation?

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