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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2010

E 387M • Composition Theory/Greatest Hits of Composition Theory, Research, and Pedagogy

Unique Days Time Location Instructor


Course Description

Meeting time, location: (Official course schedule)

The one constant in literacy instruction over the centuries is this complaint: "why don't kids these days know how to write?" The complaint often comes coupled with a baffled sense of resentment: "It's not my job to teach them to write!" Whether they are in academia or the general public, the complainants assume that writing is like riding a bicycle or driving a car. Anyone who hasn't become proficient by a certain age should feel embarrassed and seek another line of work. However, contrary to popular belief, we don't really learn to read and write as kids in elementary school. We learn in elementary school and in high school and in college and in graduate school and on the job and in our social and civic lives. The misconception reflects the uncertain nature of writing ability: is it an art or a skill? Can it be taught at all and, if so, how?

Over the past 50 years, great changes have occurred in the field of composition studies. These include the re-emergence of rhetoric as a discipline, advances in the study of grammar, the rise of cognitive and social approaches to writing processes, and changes in styles of pedagogy from teacher- to student-centered classrooms.

This seminar will review these changes, the issues they have raised, the theories/epistemologies underlying them, the evidence supporting them, and their implications for the classroom. It will be of interest to anyone seeking insights for teaching writing, those interested in reflecting on their own facility (or not) with these skills, and those specializing in rhetorical studies.


Emig, J. (1971). The Composing Processes of Twelfth Graders. (NCTE Research Report No. 13). Urbana, IL: NCTE.

Perl, Sondra. (1995). Landmark Essays on Writing Process: Volume 7. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Young, Richard E., and Liu, Yameng. (1995). Landmark Essays on Rhetorical Invention in Writing: Volume 8. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1995. ISBN 188039314X, 9781880393147

Other articles will be provided in a course packet.


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