What is this book?
This book is the composition textbook or reader in my Fall 2014 section of First-Year Writing. Or perhaps it takes the place of them.
My decision to write it stems in part from multiple sources of discontent with the books I've known and used before, at least one of which I'd gladly use again if I could:
- Rosa Eberly and Edward P.J. Corbett's The Elements of Reasoning, has not been updated in a very long time. And because my university houses Rhetoric in the School of Communications, it isn't the best fit for a Writing Studies course in a Liberal Arts (and more specifically, Humanities) department. Yes, I do know that Rhetoric was one of the original liberal arts. As they say on the internet, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
- Speaking of what "they say," I initially loved the concept of They Say I Say, but I did not love that the so-called "Moves that Matter in Academic Writing" were accompanied in the version with readings by a bunch of essays that were not academic scholarship. By that selection, a professor is forced to concede you can learn all about academic writing from reading the Cato Institute or The Washington Post. I did not find all of the essays they included to be objectionable in some way, but once I realized that many students weren't really reading the lists of formulas, or were too readily concluding that they simply needed to learn how to agree or disagree, I decided not to adopt it.
- I started my career teaching with Writing Lives, a book edited by Writing Program Assistants at the Ohio State University. It was primarily an edited collection organized around the concept of literacy (or different kinds of literacy), and though I think both I and my students enjoyed the book, it no longer exists. My next book was Ramage and Bean's Writing Arguments, which uses the Toulmin approach and encourages discussions about enthymemes and warrants. I found those terms useful in my own writing, but I didn't think that vocabulary was used enough (or at all) across the curriculum to provide a common language that students could take with them as the moved forward in their studies.
- I taught with John Ruskiewicz and Andrea Lunsford's Everything's An Argument for quite some time, followed by Lester Faigley's Good Reasons for quite some time, and though I have fond memories of those authors and found their books to be excellent, I wanted to find a way to talk about writing that wasn't rooted entirely in proving something. I also have had a poor time in the past two years getting my students to read from textbooks that are so obviously college textbooks. This experience reflects my own limits as a teacher as much as any limitation in a composition reader or scholar, but it, as much as anything, is behind my attempt to provide my own.
In addition to my feelings about other books, my interest in writing this book was fueled by the very existence of the platform Scalar, which allows us to experiment with content and style and revise in accordance to readers' feedback and at any point I learn something that inspires me to update or change it. Because it is free and not published or owned by a corporation, the book can exist here solely for the purpose of sharing a love for education and intellectual growth rather than as a product sold for profit or a CV line for tenure. In short, Scalar is a lovely model of how academic writing should work. It allows me to promoting and embody the principles that have made me the scholar I am so that my first-year writing course can be a wonderful model as well.
Finally, I've written this book because I want to show that you can be fun, stylish, and silly and still write with substance.