The Society for Critical Exchange
Cultures of Writing


New Histories of Writing: Remediating English
A Special Issue
Genre: Forms of Discourse and Culture
(Forthcoming, ed. Lisa Maruca and Martha Woodmansee)

The issue collects essays from the SCE’s “Cultures of Writing” project, initiated in 1997.  The project developed in reaction to and has been catalyzed by ongoing discussions of the “crisis” in English Studies. Our professional organizations and disciplinary leaders point to declining enrollments and an eroding public perception, both serious concerns, as external causes. At the same time, however, the situation is exacerbated by the widening division within departments of English themselves between literary and composition studies. The division is disabling, the editors believe, since it prevents the discipline from projecting a unified profile that is readily comprehended by undergraduates and their parents.

This growing division in the discipline—resulting from historical circumstances dating back over two hundred years as well as from the 21st century economic realities of the corporate university—is, nonetheless, based in a conception of English that needlessly, and often anachronistically, bifurcates consumption and production. “New Histories of Writing” collects essays that, together, point to another vision of English as they illustrate the common nature of much of the work being done in literature and composition alike. 

From its inception, the Cultures of Writing project has insisted that English is the only discipline that makes writing an object of inquiry in its own right. Whatever our individual focuses may be, we all study and teach writing. There are many ways this can be configured, from theories of textuality to studies of authorship, from rhetorical complexity to the concept of genre. The essays gathered here, however, take on the material basis of writing—its diverse technologies, sites, and economies; its conventions, forms, and pedagogies; and its practices and uses, both contemporary and historical—as the feature that perhaps most saliently links literary and composition studies. Each discussion highlights a local instance that has larger ramifications for understanding the unified nature of the discipline.

Drawing on the rich variety of instances provided in this collection, the editors propose a model for future research that situates the multitude of individual writing practices–whether rooted in canonical literature, student papers, or new media--as part of the larger matrix of material communication. This model is already reflected in a number of projects and new curricula emerging from both literature and composition. However, individual instances of this sort of work have not yet been linked and don’t seem to understand themselves as part of a cohesive, coherent trend that transcends distinct areas of research.  “New Histories of Writing” hopes that conversations started around these commonalities may lead to a more integrated projection of what it means to “do English.”


Essays Included:

1. Douglas A. Brooks, "Im-pressing the Realm: The Imprint of Royal Authority in Henrician England"

2. Jane Greer, "Clips & Snips: Tradition and Possibility in Progressive-Era School Girl Scrapbooks"

3. Anne C. Henry, "Grammarians on the Dash"

4. Andrew Piper, "What Hands Are Here? Miscellanies, Handwriting, and the Art of Sharing in the Nineteenth Century"

5.Silvie Plane, "The Materiality and Temporality of Writing: The Role of the Medium in Literature"

6.James E. Porter, "Recovering Delivery for Digital Rhetoric and Human-Computer Interaction"

7. Michael D. Rectenwald, "'Ours and for Us': The Periodicals and Politics of 'Useful Knowledge'"

8. Lisa Gitelman,  Review essay on the National Endowment for the Arts reports: Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America (2004) and To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence (2007)

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