Constructing Knowledges

The Politics of Theory-Building and Pedagogy in Composition

By Sidney I. Dobrin

Subjects: Composition And Rhetoric Studies
Paperback : 9780791433447, 181 pages, March 1997
Hardcover : 9780791433430, 181 pages, March 1997

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Table of contents


Patricia Bizzell

1. Composition and the Politics of Theory Building

What is Theory ?

Big Ts and Little ts

Anti-Foundationalism and Theory Fear

Anti-Theory from Without

Anti-Intellectualism and the Battle Within

Theory, Knowledge Making, and Composition

2. Postmodernist Thought and the Teaching of Writing

Toward Poststructuralist, Postmodernist Thought

Foucault's Archaeology

Contending with Poststructuralism in Composition

Applying Foucault

Finding Balance Between Theory and Praxis in Composition

Postmodernism and Dialogic Pedagogy

Perceiving Theory in Composition

3. Postprocess Theory and the Pedagogical Imperative

New Pragmatism and Contingencies of Language

Alternative Tools and Triangulation

Postprocess Theory

Postprocess and the Composition Classroom

Postprocess Composition and Anti-Foundational Fear

4. Feminist Theory and Its Interaction with Composition Pedagogy

Validating Feminist Theory

Disrupting Composition

Neutralizing Theory

Writing (with) Feminisms

Teaching Conflict

Feminism and the "Identity" of Composition

Feminist (Academic) Discourse

5. Ideology, Literacy, and Radical Pedagogy in Composition Studies


False Alarm(?)

Literacy Debates

Cultural Literacy

Literacy and Liberatory Learning

Composition and Radical Pedagogy

Getting It Right(?)

6. Continuing the Theory Debates

Where Are We Going?

Theory, Theory, Theory

Final Thoughts

Gary A. Olson


Works Cited


Examines the relationship between theoretical and practical knowledge, within the academy in general and composition studies in particular.


In this thought-provoking and gracefully written new book, Sidney Dobrin examines current debates over the relative value of theoretical and practical knowledges, both in the academy in general and in the discipline of rhetoric and composition. He explores arguments about whether theorizing is an appropriate mode of scholarly inquiry for a field that is primarily informed by practical knowledge, whether theory-building in general speaks to local concerns, and whether the production of theory in composition leads to scholarship that is more obfuscating than illuminating. Ultimately, Dobrin argues that theoretical investigation should be an indispensable form of knowledge-making in composition and that theory and practice must necessarily inform one another.

Sidney I. Dobrin is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Kansas, Lawrence. With Gary A. Olson, he co-edited Composition Theory for the Postmodern Classroom, published by SUNY Press, and is co-editor of JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory.


"One of the first book-length studies to investigate the nature and ramifications of something that has come to be called 'post-process' theory in the areas of composition and rhetoric. I believe that the post-process theory represents the most important new development in composition research during the last twenty years or so, and that this book contributes significantly to both composition scholarship and writing practice. " — Thomas Kent, Iowa State University

"The topic is very timely and much in keeping with contemporary debates over the role of theory in composition studies. Constructing Knowledges succeeds in coalescing these debates into a manageable scope, and the analytical apparatus is helpful in recognizing the various forms that the debates take. I particularly appreciate Professor Dobrin's rigorous attempt to link theory and practice throughout. An enjoyable read that made me think and think again. " — J. Rocky Colavito, Northwestern State University