Elizabeth A. Miles

Building rhetorics of production: An institutional critique of composition textbook publishing

Elizabeth A. Miles

  • School: Purdue University (0183)
  • Degree: Ph.D.
  • Date: 1999 pp: 267
  • Advisor: Porter, James E.
  • Source: DAI-A 60/11, p. 3993, May 2000
  • Subjects: Language, Rhetoric And Composition (0681); Education, Curriculum And Instruction (0727); Business Administration, Management (0454)
  • ProQuest Document Number:
  • ISBN: 0-599-53972-0
  • UMI Number: AAT 9952147

Abstract:

    In this dissertation, I critique composition textbook publishing as an institution. Using interview data from composition publishers, as well as my own theorized experience as a former publishing employee, this study builds on the existing scholarship on writing textbooks. I argue that the majority of composition scholarship on textbooks has enacted a “rhetoric of deproduction” in which textbooks are considered only as finished products, removed from the material conditions of their production. Although much scholarship has established the problems with commercially-available textbooks, none suggest paradigms for workable alternatives. My goal, then, is to propose a “rhetoric of production.” Building a rhetoric of production, however, first requires building a rhetorical methodology. Using Marxian cultural studies as my overriding framework, I examine the processes and economies that circulate around and through college writing textbooks. To this end, Chapter 2 explains the particular methods I use: feminist methods for empirical research (especially interviewing), postmodern mapping, and spatial analysis. Chapter 3 builds a Foucauldian approach to locating agency within (and among) institutional structures. The fourth chapter offers a critical reading of existing scholarship through the economic terms of production, distribution, exchange, consumption, and reproduction. This re-reading unearths several contradictions in the values and assumptions in the scholarship on composition textbooks. In contrast, Chapter 5 considers the stories of publishers (editors, marketers, production workers, and upper management) at three different companies. After illustrating the production processes at each of the three houses, I code the interview data using the same economic terms used to code the scholarship. Not surprisingly, there are significant mismatches in the two readings. In the final chapter, I argue that the mismatches in terminology present spaces for agency and change. As a result, the project concludes with a call for a critical partnership of all involved in the textbook enterprise: students, teachers, writing program administrators, authors, scholars, publishers, and those who (like myself) occupy several positions at once. The final chapter illustrates some alternative models that might be used to enact a rhetoric of production supporting pedagogically- and theoretically-sound materials for college writing instruction.