Conceding Composition

A Crooked History of Composition’s Institutional Fortunes

by Ryan Skinnell

First-year composition became the most common course in American higher education not because it could "fix" underprepared student writers, but because it has historically served significant institutional interests. That is, it can be "conceded" in multiple ways to help institutions solve political, promotional, and financial problems. Conceding Composition is a wide-ranging historical examination of composition’s evolving institutional value in American higher education over the course of nearly a century.

Based on extensive archival research conducted at six American universities and using the specific cases of institutional mission, regional accreditation, and federal funding, this study demonstrates that administrators and faculty have introduced, reformed, maintained, threatened, or eliminated composition as part of negotiations related to nondisciplinary institutional exigencies. Viewing composition from this perspective, author Ryan Skinnell raises new questions about why composition exists in the university, how it exists, and how teachers and scholars might productively reconceive first-year composition in light of its institutional functions.

The book considers the rhetorical, political, organizational, institutional, and promotional options conceding composition opened up for institutions of higher education and considers what the first-year course and the discipline might look like with composition’s transience reimagined not as a barrier but as a consummate institutional value.


Ryan Skinnell is assistant professor of rhetoric and composition and assistant writing program administrator in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at San José State University. He is a coeditor of What We Wish We’d Known: Negotiating Graduate School and his research has appeared in Composition Studies, Enculturation, JAC, Rhetoric Review, WPA: Writing Program Administration, and edited collections.

Imprint: Utah State University Press

Book Details

  • Paperback Price: $26.95
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60732-504-8
  • Ebook Price: $21.95
  • 30-day ebook rental price: $5.99
  • EISBN: 978-1-60732-505-5
  • Publication Month: September
  • Publication Year: 2016
  • Pages: 208
  • Discount Type: Short
  • Author: by Ryan Skinnell
  • ECommerce Code: 978-1-60732-504-8