Notes: Janice Lauer, “Composition Studies: Dappled Discipline”

Lauer, Janice. (1984). Composition studies: Dappled discipline. Rhetoric Review, 3(1), 20-29.


Lauer undergoes a discussion about the field of composition’s origins and key ideals, by not only going through a sort of history of the field, but by reflecting on analysis of how the research within composition had been conducted to its date of publication. She points to chief issues within composition, such as negotiating with already established disciplines within English studies, and navigates the benefits and costs of composition’s interdisciplinary reach.

Keywords: composition, disciplinarity, disciplinary history, interdisciplinarity multimodality, research methods, writing studies


Linda Flower and John Hayes, “A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing,” College Composition and Communication, 32 (1981), 365-87.

Maxine Hairston, “The Winds of Change: Thomas Kuhn and the Revolution in the Teaching of Writing,” College Composition and Communication, 33 (1982), 76-88.


“Through this process, the field has been seeking warranted consensus about knowledge of written discourse. But the kind of consensus it reaches differs from that in technical fields. Farrell, distinguishing between social and technical knowledge, helps clarify the nature of the judgmental process. He explains that while both social and technical fields grant epistemic status to new work on the basis of consensual agreement, in technical fields, that consensus about methods of investigation can be more rigorously verified. But social fields like composition studies depend on attributions of consensus that act as preconditions for arguing the validity of any theory” (23).

“He implies another distinction that has important implications for this discipline. In social fields, advocates have two kinds of audience: 1) the epistemic court of experts and 2) larger affected populations for whom social knowledge exercises a rhetorical function, attempting to gain their acceptance of its conclusions and to induce their action” (23-24).


With writing existing across disciplines, what do writing methods look like and how can they remain responsive to fluid and expansive interests within the research of writing?

Are the benefits of remaining and embracing the multimodality greater than their costs? And, if so, what would be the articulation of the field centered on this–beyond collaboration?

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