Friday, July 17, 2009

Susan McLeod, "Scholarly Publishing in Hard Times"

I don't know when I've attended such a stimulating conference. WPA has been my favorite conference since I first attended it. That was in 1985. No, that's not a typo. This is where community, mentoring, and inclusion happen for me. WPA is where I discovered my discipline.

That hasn't changed, even as the conference has grown bigger. What has changed, though, is the quality of presentations. Always fine—no complaints—but this year, terrific. Part of that is no doubt because I've been tweeting all the sessions, and I'm discovering that tweeting them helps me concentrate on them. Nice.

Anyhow, with Sue McLeod's permission, I want to replicate her handout in the session "Scholarly Publishing in Hard Times." As one of my tweets said, she urged WPAs to partner with their campus Office of Institutional Research to produce data-driven research. The WPA may not know about quantitative methods, but the OIR office does. They can then conduct what Rich Haswell calls RAD (replicable, aggregable, and data supported) research. They should then submit book-length reports of their research to Parlor's WPA series. Which Sue edits. This is incredibly important, because many people involved with data-driven composition research find few composition venues for their publications. For all of you out there who are interested: Sue is telling you how to get such research done without completely reschooling yourself, and she's telling you a book publisher that wants this research.

Her handout for the session lists published examples of the kind of research she's promoting, so that people interested in tooling up for data-driven research can see how it's written up:
Hansen, Kristine, et al. "An Argument for Changing Institutional Policy on Granting AP Credit in English: An Empirical Study of College Sophomores."WPA Journal 28 (2004): 29-54.

Haswell, Richard. "Documenting Improvement in College Writing: A Longitudinal Approach." Written Communication 17 (2000): 307-52.

McLeod, Susan, Heather Horn, and Richard Haswell. "Accelerated Classes and the Writers at the Bottom: A Local Assessment Story." College Composition and Communication 56.4 (2005): 556-80.

And Sue recommends this book for all the help it offers with conducting such research:
Rose, Shirley K., and Irwin Weiser, eds. The Writing Program Administrator as Researcher: Inquiry in Action and Reflection. Portsmouth, NJ: Heinemann-Boynton/Cook, 1999.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Deborah Brandt, "The Broader Administration of Writing"

These are necessarily just quick notes before I pack it in for the night. Just listened to Brandt's opening plenary for the WPA conference. She was pulling her talk in part from her new book, Literary and Learning: Reflections on Writing, Reading, and Society, which I haven't read yet but which is now in my shopping cart. Part of it resonated with, if it wasn't pulled from, "'Who's the President?' Ghostwriting and Shifting Values in Literacy" (College English 69.6 (July 2007): 549-571), which I've assigned to undergraduate students and they've received with considerable interest.

Tonight there was something I haven't heard before--or if I have, it didn't sink in: the concept of "authorial residue." Brandt described two ghostwriters. I can't try to recapitulate those descriptions here, but I do want to remark on an assertion she made: that despite feeling that they were ventriloquizing the people for whom they were writing, despite the fact that the ghostwriters got no authorial credit for their texts (beyond a paycheck), and despite one ghostwriter's feeling sullied by the experience, both ghostwriters had some "authorial residue" from the experience, a sense that something of themselves went into the text and that the act of writing had an effect upon their persons. They experienced a pride of authorship.

I was intrigued by Brandt's choice of the adjective authorial rather than writerly: Brandt herself, in my estimation, was attributing authorship to these ghostwriters. That in itself is an interesting move, one that suggests something about Brandt's own philosophy of writing. But it is also an interesting argument, one that diverges from the Tel Quel tradition in which the author is a social construct, authorship a fiction, an attribute conferred from the outside upon those who meet the criteria of originality, autonomy, morality, and ownership. In contrast to Foucault's assertion that "the function of an author is to characterize the existence, circulation, and operation of certain discourses within a society," we have Brandt suggesting that authorship is an experience, a perception/phenomenon within the person who has produced the text.