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Composition Forum 42, Fall 2019

Review of Cheryl Glenn and Roxanne Mountford’s Rhetoric and Writing Studies in the New Century: Historiography, Pedagogy, and Politics

Anne Turner

Glenn, Cheryl and Roxanne Mountford. Rhetoric and Writing Studies in the New Century: Historiography, Pedagogy, and Politics. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2017. 320pp.

With the immense growth of the field of rhetoric and composition in the last two decades, it is vital to reassess the trajectory of the field given the diverse needs of the new generation entering the doors of the academy—needs which include equity in representation and inclusivity of cultural and intercultural rhetoric, voiced by transforming movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter. The “remapping” of the field, as Cheryl Glenn previously called for in a Rhetoric Review article in 1995, is happening in this century (287). But Rhetoric and Writing Studies in the New Century does more than just remap rhetoric: it accomplishes the work of equity and inclusivity in its representation of scholars and scholarship, providing a much-needed contribution to the future of the field, promoting feminism and critical race studies in African-American rhetoric, Asian-American rhetoric, and Mexican-American rhetoric, while distancing itself from the historical and hierarchical structures that enabled discrimination, out-right racism, and “color blind racism” as emphasized by Bonilla-Silva in his 2006 Racism without Racists. This book is critical for scholars and teachers of rhetoric and composition as a solid text representative of diversity of voice that moves towards decolonization of the field.

Cheryl Glenn and Roxanne Mountford address the issues of the field’s trajectory as they continue the original research of Andrea Lunsford, their former teacher, to “offer new insights” into the field through the four areas she influenced in her scholarly work (4). Each of these areas exists as sections within the book: 1) the nature of authors and authority, 2) the genres of student writing, 3) the politics of rhetoric, composition, and writing in the academy, and 4) the impermanence of a canon. The essays in each collection track and project the growth of these areas both in future work and application to historical and literary works. In addition to these sections, readers will also find a preface, introduction, and afterword.

The introduction outlines the emergence of the field of rhetoric and composition in the twentieth century, situates the book in historical context, and provides a simplistic view of what rhetoric and composition of the present entails: “The discipline of this new century pursues, shapes, and investigates rhetoric and writing practices that recognize the communicative competencies and potentials as well as rhetorical displays of all human (and even nonhuman) animals” (4). While this definition is all-inclusive of the work of rhetoric, there is lamentably not as much distinction provided between the rhetoric of the “new century” and past centuries, except for the inclusion of the diverse perspectives published here. The brief introduction is followed by an overview of the four sections, first framing each section in detailed research based on topic, and then addressing the content of each chapter.

In Part 1, The Nature of Authors and Authority, scholars Shirley Brice Heath, Shirley Wilson Logan, and Lisa Ede present their research on authorial authority, audience reception, and issues in collaborative authorship. Heath is especially concerned with the choices of an author to withhold “expression” from an audience and how that choice reflects the author’s ability to navigate kairotic questions about audience; “Writing is ultimately about the writer” she argues, and as such should allow choices specific to the author’s purpose—including choosing what not to write (23). Logan presents her research on 19th-century female rhetor Amanda Berry Smith and her ability to draw on her religious authority to continue the work of activism in a community of women and ultimately persuade on issues of racism and gender equality. Ede presents research on her own experiences with the benefits and challenges of collaborative authorship, situating it within the emphasis on individual scholarship in academia. This section emphasizes the ownership of past and present writers to use their authority and encourages writers of the new century to do so as well.

Part 2, The Genres of Student Writing, complicates the genres that instructors teach and use in research, from Suellynn Duffey’s experiences with graduate student writing to Alyssa O’Brian’s cross-cultural pedagogy, and finally to Melissa A. Goldthwaite’s argument on scholarly presentational genres. In Duffey’s Teaching in Place: A Crucial Connection between the English Department and Its Community she calls for “student access points” into the graduate seminar to intersect the specific needs and backgrounds of students and includes rhetorical examination of the community in which the work—calling this a fresh genre for students due to its more personalized nature. In O’Brian’s Visual Rhetoric, Intercultural Writers: The University’s Turn, she presents her experience with two international universities and the use of multimodal work across cultural and political boundaries through online teaching. The final essay in this section is Pushing Generic Boundaries in Rhetoric and Composition: Three Sites, One Reader’s Response by Goldthwaite; she presents an intriguing argument regarding the choice of scholars to present only within scholarly genres, and how, given the vast experience with teaching a range of writing genres, scholars are limited to the particular styles and structures of academia. Overall this section furthers the work of rhetoric in the new century through the possibilities offered to personalize genres to diverse rhetorical situations.

In Part 3, essays on The Politics of Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing in the Academy focus on educational rhetoric. In this selection of essays, scholars Gerard A. Hauser, John J. Ruszkiewicz, Davida Charney, Roxanne Mountford, and Cheryl Glenn tackle different approaches to understanding the political issues in higher education, including approaches to pedagogy, identification of students interested in rhetoric, and feminist mentoring. Hauser advocates the merging of two types of rhetorical education in his Citizenship, Rhetoric, and Pedagogypaideia, an approach that focuses on the primacy of student and the instructor’s responsibility to serve them, and Wissenschaft, an approach more focused on the instructor’s research and the responsibility of students to contribute to that research. Ruszkiewicz and Charney, in Who, Then, Is This Rhetoric Major?, define the three major reasons undergraduate students enroll in rhetoric programs: for pragmatic, personal, or social reasons. The final essay in this section is contributed by Mountford and Glenn. They address the challenges that come from the typical hierarchy of mentoring in Networked Feminism in the New Economy and present a better mentoring model that “flattens hierarchies” (176), highlighting their mentoring relationship with Andrea Lunsford.

Part 4 of this collection focuses on the change the field of rhetoric is experiencing through reclamation of important rhetors and rhetoric found throughout the world who are underrepresented in the academy, from rhetorical women in the third and 20th centuries, to welcoming cross-cultural rhetoric that represents a variety of classes, these essays illuminate the growth of the academy in recent years, and the inclusive trajectory it is taking. Susan C. Jarratt’s The Empress and the Sophist: Power and Artistry in the Third-Century Greek Rhetoric examines Roman Empress Julia Domna, whose connection to rhetoric is through her sponsorship of the biography of Apollonius written by Philostratus; this critical piece examines the role of the female rhetor based on her own historical and rhetorical time period. Nan Johnson’s Rhetorical Education at Catholic Colleges for Women in Ohio: 1925-1940 draws on Andrea Lunsford’s preservation of stories, and, upholding that tradition, tells the story about women’s experiences with the impressive courses on rhetoric offered in several Catholic colleges across Ohio. In her essay Feminist Perspectives on Postcolonial Rhetorical Practices: Spivak’s Cosmopolitan Erudition and Nazer’s Surveilled Silence, Elizabeth A. Flynn juxtapositions the privileged woman and the woman slave in order to demonstrate the need for an inclusive, more diverse postcolonial feminism that reflects realities of real lives. Bo Wang’s Translating Nora: Chinese Feminism and Global Rhetoric reveals a way that the institution of rhetoric can transcend cultural and political boundaries through the character Nora in the translation of the Chinese play A Doll’s House.

Finally, in the Afterword: ‘Ain’t No Walls behind the Sky, Baby!’ Funk, Flight, Freedom, Adam J. Banks concludes the compilation with his challenge to keep composition “undisciplined” (280), and to welcome the struggles of teaching and research in a field that embrace the “messy” (282) and continue to change the academy.

To conclude, the need for an inclusive field of study that recognizes culturally-based rhetoric has never been greater. It would be interesting to see more explicit contrast denoting the differences within the field in the past (such as classical and modern rhetoric). But this volume does include recovery of the past, as well as the current work that rhetoric accomplishes as it deconstructs hierarchies and decolonizes the field. This collection still provides an important addition by placing scholars dedicated to those ideals at the forefront of its message. Rhetoric and Writing Studies in the New Century is especially helpful for teachers and researchers interested in equity and inclusivity—which should be all of us.

Works Cited

Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States. 2nd ed. Boulder: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006. Print.

Glenn, Cheryl. Remapping Rhetorical Territory. Rhetoric Review, vol. 13, no. 2, 1995, pp. 287-303. JSTOR,

Return to Composition Forum 42 table of contents.