Notes: Kyle P. Vealey and Nathaniel A. Rivers, “Dappled Discipline at Thirty: An Interview with Janice Lauer”

Vealey, Kyle P. & Nathaniel A. Rivers. (2014). Dappled discipline at thirty: An interview with Janice M. Lauer. Rhetoric Review, 33(2), 165-180.


Vealey and Rivers take up many of the issues and ideas that Lauer wrote thirty years prior to talk about how the field has grown, changed, and remained the same. The authors discuss how Lauer’s article helped shape the conversation around composition studies and how that framework she established for talking about composition studies helps frame many of the current conversations around composition.

Keywords: composition, disciplinarity, disciplinary history, interview, rhetoric, writing studies


Trimbur, John. (1993). Composition studies: Postmodern or popular. In Anne Ruggles Gere (ed.) Into the field: Sites of compositions. New York: MLA, 117–32.

Vitanza, Victor. (1991). Three countertheses: Or, a critical in(ter)vention into composition theories and pedagogies. In Patricia Harkin & John Schilb (eds.) Contending with words: Composition and rhetoric in a postmodern age. New York: MLA, 139–72.


“Lauer contests the boundaries of composition as a discipline—marking, in particular, the way boundary-crossing and boundary-blurring are distinctive features of composition’s disciplinarity. In other words, what makes composition unique as a discipline is its resistance to traditional disciplinary characteristics” (p. 166).

“As Louise Phelps has so insightfully written, rhetoric and composition is characterized by reflexivity, which allows it to question itself, critique itself, and understand itself without those doing so being censured. Such reflexivity, I believe, can produce healthy growth, modification, and correction if such reflexivity is done respectfully” (p. 178).


Between the two articles pertaining to Lauer, she seems to put composition at odds with English departments–is that part of the articulation of what composition is? not literature?

How can Lauer’s does Lauer’s ideas of composition’s reflexivity inform its pedagogical practice?

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