Conceding Composition: A Crooked History of Composition’s Institutional Fortunes

By Ryan Skinnell

Conceding Composition is a wide-ranging historical examination of first-year composition’s evolving institutional value in American higher education over the course of nearly a century. First-year composition became the most common course in American higher education not because it could “fix” underprepared student writers, but because it has historically served significant institutional interests. That is, it can be “conceded” in multiple ways to help institutions solve political, promotional, and financial problems.  

The book considers the rhetorical, political, organizational, institutional, and promotional options conceding composition opened up for institutions of higher education and considers what the first-year course and the discipline might look like with composition’s transience reimagined not as a barrier but as a consummate institutional value.

Skinnell comes from the perspective of discovery and invention. In doing so, his goal is to provide a new position to view an old history or, as he explains, a genitive history, and in this, he succeeds. Across five chapters, Skinnell illustrates a version of composition’s history that cannot be ignored, nor should it.” — Craig A. Meyer, Texas A&M University–Kingsville

Skinnell’s book shifts the rhetorical possibilities available to us and calls on us to respond with new theories and activity of navigating our institutional situations.” — Andrew Hollinger, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

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