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Solidarity or Service

Composition and the Problem of Expertise

By John Trimbur

These essays seek to understand how institutions set boundaries between professionals and ordinary people, how ideologies organize expert and lay knowledge into cognitive and cultural hierarchies, and what the implications might be for teachers, theorists, and program administrators who believe that writing instruction should promote rhetorical agency and popular participation in public life.

John Trimbur

Solidarity or Service:  Composition and the Problem of Expertise examines the origins, contradictions, consequences, and prospects of what it means to professionalize Composition Studies....

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These essays seek to understand how institutions set boundaries between professionals and ordinary people, how ideologies organize expert and lay knowledge into cognitive and cultural hierarchies, and what the implications might be for teachers, theorists, and program administrators who believe that writing instruction should promote rhetorical agency and popular participation in public life.

John Trimbur

Solidarity or Service:  Composition and the Problem of Expertise examines the origins, contradictions, consequences, and prospects of what it means to professionalize Composition Studies.  What are the gains and losses of specialization?  What values does it inculcate in faculty and graduate students?  How can we best teach and effect real change among our students, our institutions, and our communities?  

John Trimbur, such questions vex our understanding of “the specialist,” of what it means to promote genuine rhetorical agency and meaningful and constructive participation in academic and public life.  Considering this subject from a variety of scholarly perspectives, Trimbur illuminates how professional authority shapes the identities of experts, how the actual and symbolic economies of expertise play out in communities and classrooms, and how public rhetorics might renegotiate the relations between experts and lay people in the name of solidarity.

Among its varied subjects, Solidarity or Service considers:

  • the founding of CCCC to the taxonomy wars of the 1980s
  • the influence of post modernism on the politics of composition
  • the current turn to transform composition into writing studies as an academic discipline.

Ultimately this thoughtful and provocative book asks us to extend the social mission of composition through solidarity rather than service—and to redefine and rearticulate expertise in order to realign it with popular aspiration.  

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