Authorship in Composition Studies – Howard, Carrick, etc

The summaries are flying fast and thick now; I’m on a roll.

This little book is a series of short essays on various aspects of, duh, authorship in composition studies. It apparently sprang from a 2001 doctoral-level class taught by Rebecca More Howard, with seven grad students and a few professors collaborating. It seems to have been a reasonably long process, as the publication date is 2006.

The first six chapters are pretty good. Howard’s first chapter is by far the highlight. She’s probably the most prominent scholar in this area and it shows; her approach to plagiarism is extremely progressive. And Paul Butler’s (who seems to be the same Butler that now writes on style) Chapter 2 stroll through copyright law is a nice addenum to A. Lindey’s older book, though Butler doesn’t address the DMCA.

Chapter 3 delves into body studies, which has always baffled me (I understand a Kantian emphasis on physiology, but not this) – one day I’ll figure it out, but not right now. Chapter 4 is a nice exploration of cheap shots at students-as-authors; ditto Chapter 5’s take on textbooks’ views of student authorship. Chapter 6 suggests authorship problems with the standard hands-off approach of tutoring.

Chapters 7, 8, and 9 are the weakest of the bunch, though for different reasons. 7 explores, shallowly, the effects of technology on authorship without mention of Ong or much history – but seeing this is a close interest of mine, I’m probably being harsh. 8 and 9 fall into a common trap concerning feminist and multiculturalist takes on comp studies; they’re borderline unreadable, especially 9, which commits an unacceptable drive-by interpretation of MLK’s dissertation, a complex subject that requires more than Keith Miller’s take to digest properly. 8 overreaches a few times, too, especially when discussing the DoI. The theme of those chapters is agreeable, but the delivery is heavy-handed. Feminist critiques (if I use Rebecca West’s classic informal definition, then cultural studies fall under feminism; then again, as Michael Crotty explains quite well, feminism is far from an united front) are the power batters of close reading, the equal of hitting a text with a maul; they really need a light hand.

Chapter 10 is the closer by Carrick; it manages to rescue Chapters 7-9 with a more reasonable delivery of their message, and it contains several nice pedagogical strategies themed around authorship. I was unaware that Howard’s Standing In the Shadows of Giants stresses summaries; it’s on my shelf, waiting to be read, but now it’s much, MUCH closer on the queue, because, as I’ve probably mentioned before, an emphasis on summary-writing is a key concept of my pedagogy.

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