Growing Pains: The Writing Major in Composition and Rhetoric

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In the fall of 2005, as the result of various local factors, we called ourselves together to consider reshaping the writing concentrations available for students within the English degree. Our "we" at Eastern Michigan University is happily broad; depending on how we count, those of us invested in writing studies number between eleven and eighteen. (Seven of us are most closely aligned with composition and/or rhetoric; four with technical communication; another four with English education, although three of those have extensive background in composition and rhetoric; and another three in journalism and public relations. Additionally, four creative writers work within our department.) The expertise on which we could draw when considering curriculum issues is concomitantly rich. Our curriculum redesign effort was prompted by a multitude of context-specific and external factors, including our:

* Awareness that, despite emphases in professional writing and technical communication, the disciplinary traditions and research practices of composition and rhetoric remained underemphasized for students;

* Growing understanding that there existed, between first-year composition and master's level courses in composition and rhetoric, a body of students who those of us with the closest ties to composition and rhetoric wanted to teach and didn't have access to;

* Collective sense of the myriad backgrounds and specialties we had as a group of faculty that could lead to a dizzying array of thoughtful, exciting possibilities for courses not yet dreamed up;

* Attendance at Kathleen Blake Yancey's 2004 "Made Not Only in Words" keynote address to the CCCC

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