The Resistant Writer

Rhetoric as Immunity, 1850 to the Present

By Charles Paine

Subjects: Composition And Rhetoric Studies
Series: SUNY series, Literacy, Culture, and Learning: Theory and Practice
Paperback : 9780791440506, 261 pages, February 1999
Hardcover : 9780791440490, 261 pages, February 1999

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Table of contents



Part One: Introduction

1. On the Idea of Discourse Immunity, or the Public Health of Rhetorical Instruction

Part Two: History

2. The Uses of Composition History

3. To "Fortify the Immunities of a Free People": Edward T. Channing's Response to Emerging Forms of Popular Public Discourse

4. A. S. Hill (i): Nineteenth-Century Journalism and the Making of a Patrician Intellectual

5. A. S. Hill (ii): Reforming the Public and Its Discourse at the Modern University and in the Writing Course

Part Three: Contemporary Pedagogy

6. Classroom Argument, Responsibility, and Change

7. Conflict, Change, and "Flexibility" in the Composition and Cultural Studies Classroom


Works Cited


A cultural history of the origins of composition studies that sheds new light on contemporary debates regarding the role of rhetoric in student transformation.


The Resistant Writer integrates two lively sub-fields in rhetoric and composition: nineteenth-century composition history and contemporary issues about teaching cultural studies in composition. Examining the broad cultural anxieties that nineteenth-century intellectuals faced reveals that training in composition was envisioned as more than the means for producing competent writers. The training also reacted to and tried to ameliorate the nineteenth-century "crisis in public discourse," this one brought about not by television, commodity capitalism, or the World Wide Web, but by the then-dominant medium of public discussion, the newspaper.

Paine carefully reveals that today's writing teachers are not the first to desire that the composition classroom have social import beyond the academy. These thoughtful new insights from composition's origins form an intriguing critique of contemporary "cultural studies and composition" theories of student transformation.

Charles Paine is Assistant Professor of English at the University of New Mexico.


"I see this book as a highly original contribution, full of new information, based on careful scholarship and bristling with original juxtapositions. Paine has reconceptualized the recent history of rhetoric, producing a book everyone in the field will need to read and absorb." — John C. Brereton, author of The Origins of Composition Studies in the American College, 1875–1925: A Documentary History

"I appreciate Paine's argument that the situated history of composition has cooperated with a protection, not an activation, of the student-as-individual who is not a participant in receiving and forming public persuasion. This argument about the isolated, self-protected 'individual' student is quite important now, as is Paine's critique of Berlin and others' histories on the basis of their avoiding 'local,' more thorough investigations." — Susan Miller, University of Utah