Rescuing the subject: a critical introduction to rhetoric and the writer

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Southern Illinois University Press, 1989 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 200 pages
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This book surveys the history of the discipline of composition, explaining how the contemporary study of writing is related to both written and oral rhetoric— the ancient and continuing art of discourse.

In situating modern composition theory in the historical context of rhetoric, Miller notes that up through the 18th century, rhetoric referred to oral, not written, discourse. Her history of rhetoric, by contrast, is shaped by an awareness that, from the beginning, oral and written discourse were related. Taking a thematic rather than a chronological approach, she shows how "actual acts of writing comment on both rhetoric and composition."

Stressing the importance of the writer and the act of writing in the history of rhetoric, Miller proceeds on the assumption that contemporary composition study is the necessary cultural outcome of changing conditions for producing discourse.

Miller establishes a foundation for a theoretically informed pedagogy based on a "history that inevitably led to the distinct writing subject, the writer. . Themes in theory, philosophy, and literary criticism point to proposing a new way to rescue this writer, who invites both theoretical recognition and applied help in ways that oral rhetoric does not provide."

She rereads the history of rhetoric, describing it not as a story of the attenuation of speaking but of the gradual and unstable relocation of discourse in conventions, and in critical frameworks, that only written language creates. She concludes by describing the specifically American creation of the "student writer," a particular subjectivity whose qualities allow us to understand the condition of all writers, and "author," within contemporary textuality.

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About the author (1989)

Susan Miller is Associate Professor of English and Director of the University Writing Program at the University of Utah.

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