Disciplinary Resistance: Promoting Possibility for the Writing Program

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Association of Teachers of Advanced Composition


In "Disciplinary Purification: The Writing Program as Institutional Brand," Jeanne Gunner describes the ways managerial discourse and "our own accommodation of market forces" have encouraged the purification ofthe writing program: both the purification of and the purification to disciplinary content knowledge (619). She uses Stanley Fish's work as an example of the purification of disciplinary content, where the teaching of writing is "purified of theoretical, historical, and pedagogical content and purified to a form(ula), a brand whose specific embodiment is secondary if not irrelevant, one that is portable, mobile, and able to be staked out according to contingent locales and prevailing conditions" (Gunner 620). The purification to disciplinary content is exemplified for her in Sid Dobrin's Postcomposition, where "Dobrin calls for a purification of[the field] as a theoretical entity that divests itself of teaching, labor issues, and administration, to be reborn in a new disciplinary space: writing freed of and from the subject," detaching it from writing programs proper (Gunner 623). Through both of these purifying moves, the writing program, she argues, becomes "deployed as a 'brand' offamiliar institutional activity rather than as an academic site of disciplinary research and/or informed work in rhetoric and composition" (Gunner 615). The risk entailed in this branding is the potential for writing programs to "jump track"-to align with "quite different, even antithetical institutional agendas" (Gunner 619).1