A Short History of Writing Instruction: From Ancient Greece to Contemporary America

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James J. Murphy
Routledge, 2012 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 304 pages
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Short enough to be synoptic, yet long enough to be usefully detailed, A Short History of Writing Instruction is the ideal text for undergraduate courses and graduate seminars in rhetoric and composition. It preserves the legacy of writing instruction from antiquity to contemporary times with a unique focus on the material, educational, and institutional context of the Western rhetorical tradition. Its longitudinal approach enables students to track the recurrence over time of not only specific teaching methods, but also major issues such as social purpose, writing as power, the effect of technologies, the rise of vernaculars, and writing as a force for democratization.

The collection is rich in scholarship and critical perspectives, which is made accessible through the robust list of pedagogical tools included, such as the Key Concepts listed at the beginning of each chapter, and the Glossary of Key Terms and Bibliography for Further Study provided at the end of the text. Further additions include increased attention to orthography, or the physical aspects of the writing process, new material on high school instruction, sections on writing in the electronic age, and increased coverage of women rhetoricians and writing instruction of women. A new chapter on writing instruction in Late Medieval Europe was also added to augment coverage of the Middle Ages, fill the gap in students' knowledge of the period, and present instructional methods that can be easily reproduced in the modern classroom.


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1 Ancient Greek Writing Instruction and Its Oral Antecedents
2 Roman Writing Instruction as Described by Quintilian
3 Writing Instruction from Late Antiquity to the Twelfth Century
4 Writing Instruction in Late Medieval Europe
5 Reading Writing and Rhetoric in the Renaissance
Continuity and Change Transitions and Shifts
An Interim Report on the History of American Writing Instruction to 1900
The Twentieth Century and the New Millennium
Not a Conclusion But an Epilogue
Glossary of Key Terms in the History of Writing Instruction
A Bibliography for Further Study

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About the author (2012)

James J. Murphy is Professor Emeritus in the Department of English and the Department of Communication at the University of California, Davis.

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