Contest(ed) Writing: Re-Conceptualizing Literacy Competitions

Front Cover
Mary Lamb
Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Jan 14, 2013 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 235 pages
This collection is about writing contests, a vibrant rhetorical practice traceable to rhetorical performances in ancient Greece. In their discussion of contests’ cultural work, the scholars who have contributed to this collection uncover important questions about our practices. For example, educational contests as epideictic rhetoric do indeed celebrate writing, but does this celebration merely relieve educators of the responsibility of finding ways for all writers to succeed? Contests designed to reward single winners and singly-authored works admirably celebrate hard work, but do they over-emphasize exceptional individual achievement over shared goals and communal reward for success?

Taking a cultural-rhetorical approach to contests, each chapter demonstrates the cultural work the contests accomplish. The essays in Part I examine contests and riddles in classical Greek and Roman periods, educational contests in eighteenth-century Scotland, and the Lyceum movement in the Antebellum American South. The next set of essays discusses how contests leverage competition and reward in educational settings: medieval universities, American turn-of-the-century women’s colleges, twenty-first century scholarship-essay contests, and writing contests for speakers of other languages at the University of Portsmouth. The last set of essays examines popular contests, including poetry contests in Youth Spoken Word, popular American contests designed by marketers, and twenty-first century podcasting competitions. This collection, then, takes up contests as a cultural marker of our values, assumptions, and relationships to writing, contests, and competition.


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About the author (2013)

Mary R. Lamb is Assistant Professor and Director of First-Year Writing at Clayton State University, Atlanta, Georgia. She co-authored “The Memory Palace in Paula Vogel’s Plays,” in Southern Women Playwrights (2001). Her chapter, “The ‘Talking Life’ of Books: Constructing Women Readers in Oprah’s Book Club,” appears in Reading Women: Literary Figures and Cultural Icons (2005). In writing studies, she focuses on reading-writing-thinking, citation, and collaborative writing, and recently published an article on rhetorical reading in English Journal.

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