"This book uses the 25th anniversary of North's controversial study as an occasion to think about the current state of our field and where we are now headed. Following North's lead, the essays in this volume are lively and well informed, written by scholars unafraid to take stands and push against received wisdom."
—Joseph Harris, author of Rewriting and A Teaching Subject
"The Changing of Knowledge in Composition should be required reading in every graduate program in Composition, as The Making of Knowledge in Composition once (largely) was. This collection not only focuses on some of the more pressing issues facing compositionists today, but it also contains some of the most influential voices in the field, and a short review like this one cannot capture their sophistication, elegance, and clarity."
The Changing of Knowledge in Composition suggests that we may be moving toward another fundamental shift in how composition understands itself as a field.
Lance Massey and Richard Gebhardt offer in this collection many signs that composition again faces a moment of precariousness, even as it did in the 1980s—the years of the great divorce from literary studies. The contours of writing in the university again are rapidly changing, making the objects of scholarship in composition again unstable. Composition is poised to move not from modern to postmodern but from process to postprocess, from a service-oriented "field" to a research-driven "discipline." Some would say we are already there. Momentum is building to replace "composition" and the pedagogical imperative long implied in that term with a "writing studies" model devoted to the study of composition as a fundamental tool of, and force within, all areas of human activity.
Appropriately, contributors here use Stephen M. North's 1987 book The Making of Knowledge in Composition to frame and background their discussion, as they look at both the present state of the field and its potential futures. As in North's volume, The Changing of Knowledge in Composition describes a body of research and pedagogy brimming with conflicting claims, methodologies, and politics, and with little consensus regarding the proper subjects and modes of inquiry.
The deep ambivalence within the field itself is evident in this collection. Contributors here envision composition both as retaining its commitment to broad-based, generalized writing instruction and as heading toward content-based vertical writing programs in departments and programs of writing studies. They both challenge and affirm composition's pedagogical heritage. And they sound both sanguine and pessimistic notes about composition's future.