CFP: Reinventing (with) Theory in Rhetoric and Writing Studies: Essays in Honor of Sharon Crowley

Ed., Andrea Alden (Grand Canyon University), Kendall Gerdes (Texas Tech University), Judy Holiday (University of La Verne), and Ryan Skinnell (San José State University)

Sharon Crowley embodies the true spirit and practice of an exemplar, for she has done nothing less than lead a profound rethinking of our field.

–2015 CCCC Exemplar Award announcement

In her last book, Toward a Civil Discourse: Rhetoric and Fundamentalism, Sharon Crowley briefly outlines the etymology of “theory,” which derives from the Ancient Greek verb theorein: “to observe from afar” (27). During officially sanctioned events in the Agora—performances, trials, deliberations—a representative would be sent to the highest row of the theater to observe and record the entire proceedings, including, for instance, attendance patterns, speakers’ performances, and audience reactions. The idea was that a more encompassing view of the situation was indispensable for understanding the event and its potential significance. As we understand it, invention always transfigures, and thus reinvents, the field under consideration.

In Crowley’s formulation, theory is a basic building block of rhetoric. When introducing the etymology of theory, she writes “Another way to put this is to say that theories are rhetorical inventions: depictions or assessments produced by and within specific times and locations as a means of opening other ways of believing or acting” (28). Doing theory is the practice of surveying the commonsense of the community (doxa) and discovering the available means of persuasion. The ultimate goal of doing theory in this etymological sense is not to prescribe certain actions (it is not praxis in the familiar sense). Rather, it is to ascertain what options exist for rhetors to shape the world around them. Theory is the invention work necessary for rhetors to see the world differently, to discover new possibilities for thought and action, and thereby to effect change. The goal of this collection is to take Sharon Crowley’s notion of theory as an invitation and her practice of observing the field from afar as a provocation.

We invite proposals for contributions to an essay collection, Reinventing (with) Theory in Rhetoric and Writing Studies: Essays in Honor of Sharon Crowley, which will take up and extend the inventive practice of theorizing that characterizes so much of Sharon Crowley’s work. The goal of this collection is to continue reinventing the field of rhetoric and writing studies with new theorizing that gets us to see differently, discover new possibilities for thought and action, and potentially effect change in the field and beyond. Without prescribing an end goal beyond opening new paths, we invite contributors to do theory.

Some guiding questions might include:

· How might we step back productively and see new directions in the field?
· How could we observe the field’s attendance patterns, audience reactions, &c.?
· How might theory help us veer unexpectedly?
· What other ways of believing or acting are potentially available? What ways are closed?
· What theories of invention do we rely on? What do we ignore? What do we reject?
· How might theory help us reconsider and potentially undo what has been done?

We hope contributors will range broadly in subject matter—as broadly as the study of rhetoric, itself—and that situating the scholarship within the notion of inventive theory will attract diverse and unpredictable responses. Final chapters should be approximately 4000-6000 words.

Please send 250-300 word abstracts, a brief biographical sketch, and/or any queries to Ryan Skinnell (ryan[dot]skinnell[at]sjsu[dot]edu) and Judy Holiday (judy[dot]holiday[at]laverne[dot]edu) by April 1, 2016.

Proposals: April 1, 2016
Notifications: June 1, 2016
Draft Submissions: September 1, 2016

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