A Pot-Bound Garden: Some Thoughts on the Present State and Future Directions of Rhetoric and Composition
Since 1950, the terrain of rhetoric and composition has changed substantially. During this time, many scholars, researchers, and teachers have been extending their gaze beyond the confines of the first-year college writing classroom to explore from a variety of angles many different aspects of multiple literate practices in diverse rhetorical settings. Many have recognized that pedagogical questions cannot be entertained in a vacuum. Without a better understanding of how diverse reading, writing, and discourse activities function in disparate temporal, spatial, social, cultural, political, economic, racial, sexual, and gendered contexts, pedagogy stagnates. This is so because without a fuller understanding of what it is we are to teach (never mind how and why), we cannot begin to formulate relevant, let alone effective, questions about pedagogy. Thus, many in the field have directed their gaze elsewhere, and in so doing they have multiplied the disciplinary objects and modes of inquiry, thereby creating a rich source of questions and multiple grounds, although decidedly varied and contradictory, on which other potential questions may be produced and explored. Moreover, those tilling the grounds have changed dramatically over the years. Today, new generations of professionals trained in rhetoric and composition and identifying themselves as specialists in the field have emerged to take their place alongside the autodidactics who, in retooling themselves, served as pioneers willing to take “the step into the field [that] has been viewed by literary colleagues as a downward, not a lateral, move” (Winterowd and Gillespie, “Editor’s” ix).