With 2018 nigh upon us, it’s time to look back at the best contributions from independent rhetoric and composition journals over the past year. I’m moving through the process of evaluating a number of essays for inclusion in a “Best of the Independent Rhetoric and Composition Journals 2018” anthology, so my mind is already geared toward a list like this one. There are certainly other articles published within the past year within major journals that merit inclusion on any “Best Of” list, but here I’m choosing to limit this discussion to only essays published in independent, often-underfunded journals. So, without further ado, here are brief summaries of three of the best journal articles published in independent rhetoric, composition and communication journals over the past year.
- Looker’s “Writing About Language: Studying Language Diversity with First-Year Writers.”
- Golden’s “Subalternity in Juvenile Justice: Gendered Oppression and the Rhetoric of Reform.”
- Composition Studies’ “Where We Are: Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Writing Programs.”
- Blake’s “From Spectacular to Vernacular: Epideixis in Tactical Urbanism.”
My rationales for selecting the above essays ranged widely and broadly, but in the end converged around two central tenets: I view contributions of something original to composition and attempted engagement of a wider audience as paramount to the success of a journal article in this discipline.
First, the slam dunk: Looker’s essay “Writing About Language…” tackles an important topic in our field, examining the exigence of native and non-native English-speaking students’ writing in a way that allows for heterogeneous understandings of SRTOL. Responding in-part to many in the field that have dismissed SRTOL because of its assimilationist undertones, Looker attempts to move beyond a for/against debate on this issue by heavily incorporating WAW into our collective understandings of how we teach language diversity in writing courses. We need to continue to have and promote serious conversations about how language users come into our classrooms, the ways they alter their own discursive use, and the frankness of how we evaluate their writing in ways that impede growth.
Next, Golden’s “Subalternity in Juvenile Justice…” The essay marks academic writing as it should be: careful and extrospective. Golden successfully carries out her mission to let this stigmatized population speak for themselves, which is so important in rhetorical scholarship about oppressed/marginalized communities.While not targeting a broad audience, Golden’s essay has uses beyond pure academia. I can certainly envision using this essay within a FYC course utilizing Writing About Writing pedagogy.
Thirdly, “Where We Are…” This essay collection examines broadly and widely the various issues experienced by Historically Black Colleges and Universities and their writing programs, which are underrepresented in the field of rhetoric at the present moment. Obviously, re-articulating the values and perspectives these institutions can contribute to the field is one of the chief returns of including a series of essays such as these. The essays here combine focus on hip-hop pedagogy, feminism, writing centers, etc. into a discussion of what HBCU composition programs can do to address how their instructors teach writing in today’s distinct historical period– relevant to both disciplinary readers and those outside of the field (or outside of academia altogether).
Briefly, these three essays touch upon core sub-disciplinary fields in rhetoric that will likely not be represented on a lot of other lists. There are certainly many other essays written in 2017 that make original and valuable contributions to the field, but these three essays (plus the one I neglect to analyze, as I’m preparing an expanded response as we speak) represent a small but valued slice of the best of Rhet/Comp in the past year.