Composition and Rhetoric

Composition and Rhetoric in the Department of English

Social engagement and transformation through writing, rhetoric and literacy

Our composition and rhetoric program is committed to writing as an expression of social justice, civic engagement and community partnership. We frame this work as “imaginative reasoning,” a deeply complex intellectual, creative, and political act. We use the phrase “imaginative reasoning” to capture all the ways we come to know our place, identities, and positions in the world through writing. Reasoning expresses the writer’s ability to understand the complex interplay of logical, emotional, and ethical approaches to literacy, composition, and pedagogy. Toward this end, our undergraduate and graduate students are invited to engage in the radical work of revision, of reframing again and again how we look at the world, at texts, and at ourselves.

Our Core Principles

Writing is a meaningful, purposeful practice.

The strongest writing emerges from writers who are invested in their projects, so we regularly invite students to develop their own purposes for composing. We view writing as valuable not only during college, but also throughout one’s personal, professional, social, and civic life.

Writing, reading, and teaching are transformative processes.

These processes allow us to create knowledge with others, engage new perspectives, rethink our own, and ultimately, to discover new possibilities for understanding, imagining, and acting in the world.

How we define “good writing” is shaped by culture and dependent upon context.

We analyze with students how ideas of “good” and “correct” writing are shaped by culture, and we consider what kinds of writing, and which writers, may be excluded by those standards in order to question these practices and enter longstanding conversations in composition. As we move into an increasingly digital world, we also aim to develop students’ facilities to compose and critically analyze online texts.

Reflection is key to both writing and learning.

Students regularly reflect on their writing choices and their intended effects. Reflection is a key component of revision; as we understand the choices we’ve made, we can imagine new ways of creating texts and to see and re-see the world we live in and the world we want to live in.

Writing and the teaching of writing are collaborative processes.

At all levels of our program, writers and teachers work together across boundaries and through community engagement to create effective texts for a variety of purposes and communities. Our teachers develop their classes in collaboration with other teachers (often across grade levels), and our program’s many research projects involve collaborative inquiry.

Responsible, ethical inquiry and argument occur when differences are respectfully engaged.

We are committed to fostering learning that encourages students to partake in the important civic process of recognizing the complexity and richness of human difference as they read, write, and converse with one another. Our diversity statement articulates this commitment.

Community Engagement and Writing Programs