Flynn, Elizabeth A.

Shirley Rose asked me if I wanted to write an epilogue to “Re-viewing Peer Review” to reflect on the experience of revisiting a piece I wrote nearly three decades ago. Her request reminded me that I have done a lot of these retrospective pieces, and I wondered if it is unusual to have done so many. College Composition and Communication published “Composing as a Woman” in 1988 and then “Composing ‘Composing as a Woman’” two years later. Gesa Kirsch reprinted both essays in Feminism and Composition: A Critical Sourcebook and then asked for an additional reflective piece. John Schilb and John Clifford asked me to reflect on “Gender and Reading,” published in 1983, for their book Writing Theory and Critical Theory in 1994. A revisitation can serve a number of different purposes. In the case of “Composing as a Woman,” I was largely defending it against charges that I essentialized in representing gender differences between male and female writers too dichotomously. The response to “Gender and Reading” was defensive too. I was partially responding to Nina Baym’s charges that my reading of my student papers was “transcendental” and that I was imposing my own ideological framework on my students. I also dealt with the essentialism issue in this piece.

I am happy, then, to be reflecting on a piece that has not come under attack, though I suspect one reason it has not is that “Students as Readers of their Classmates’ Writing” has perhaps not had a wide readership. Reflecting on this current essay, “Re-viewing Peer Review,” is even happier because it has been neither attacked not ignored—not yet at least. Reflecting on “Re-viewing Peer Review” is different, too, in that the distance in time is greater—nearly three decades of developments in my own thinking and within the field of rhetoric and composition.

One consequential change is that I no longer use student essays as evidence in articles that I write. I am much more aware than I was of my ethical responsibilities to my students when I use their work in my research and try to avoid time-consuming reviews by the university’s Institutional Review Board. Also, my conception of the field of rhetoric and composition has broadened so that I no longer feel that everything I write has to be centered on my teaching of first-year English. Indeed, I have not taught first-year English in years. I discuss my dissatisfaction with the field’s demand that every inquiry be brought back to the U.S. classroom in my essay,”Beyond College Composition,” arguing that the mandate has resulted in inattention to international concerns. The research I did in preparation for “Re-viewing Peer Review,” however, reminded me that the U.S. classroom is becoming increasingly international. A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Colleges Adapt to New Kinds of Students From Abroad,” finds that international students are younger than in the past, often from China, are often sponsored by foreign governments, and are a product of a burgeoning middle class in places like Shanghi, Seoul, Delhi, and Taipei. A consequence of increasing internationalism is that the boundary between the composition classroom and the English as a second language classroom is beginning to blur, as Paul Matsuda’s work makes clear. Also, composition is beginning to be taught abroad so the field is less U.S.-centric than it had been.

The intellectual landscape of the field of rhetoric and composition has also changed dramatically in the past 30 years, largely as a result of the influence of European critical theory with its theorizing of subjectivity and power and, later, the influence of postcolonial theory with its theorizing of processes of colonization and struggles for independence. The field has moved from the individual U.S. classroom to the world.

Another development that the research I did in preparing “Re-viewing Peer Review” makes evident is the pervasiveness of the use of technology within rhetoric and composition classrooms and English as a second language classrooms and the dramatic increase in research about this use. There was barely a hint of this development in 1984 when I wrote “Students as Readers of their Classmates’ Writing.” As I recall, I got my first home computer that year. The journal Computers and Composition, housed originally at Michigan Tech, morphed from a newsletter to a journal in 1985 (see http://computersandcomposition.osu.edu/html/history.htm). In 1984, I could not even imagine conducting peer reviewing sessions using a computer. I also could not imagine that software would be developed that would enable reviewers to edit other students’ papers, add marginal and terminal comments, and send them to the original writer via e-mail. I certainly could not imagine that software would be developed that would reduce the role of the teacher in the evaluation process.

Revolutionary changes that I have lived through have occurred within rhetoric and composition over the past 25-30 years. Work in the area of peer review has embodied these changes. I began my position in reading and composition at Michigan Tech in 1979 when the field of rhetoric and composition was in its infancy. I was hired to help develop a writing across the curriculum program. Luckily I didn’t stop there but moved ahead to reading studies, circled back to my dissertation area in helping develop gender studies and feminist studies within the field, and took a considerable leap ahead in moving into the area of postcolonial studies. My situation in an interdisciplinary Department of Humanities had definitely facilitated these moves as I work on a daily basis with colleagues in communication, philosophy, modern languages, linguistics, technical communication, technology studies, literature, and rhetoric and composition. I do wonder what the next 30 years will bring. Will the changes be evolutionary or revolutionary? What will peer review look like? What will the field of rhetoric and composition look like? What will the world look like?

Works Cited

Baym, Nina. “The Feminist Teacher of Literature.” Gender in the Classroom: Power and Pedagogy.” Ed. Susan L. Gabriel and Isaiah Smithson. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1990. 60-77.

Fischer, Karin. “Colleges Adapt to New Kinds of Students From Abroad.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. June 3, 2011, Vol. I.VII, No. 38. http://chronicle.texterity.com/chronicle/20110603a/

Flynn, Elizabeth A. “Beyond College Composition.” College Composition and Communication. 61:2 (December 2009): 474-483.

---. "Composing 'Composing as a Woman': A Perspective on Research." College Composition and Communication 41 (February 1990): 83-89. Reprinted in Feminism and Composition. Ed. Gesa Kirsch et al. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2003. 512-519.

---. "Composing as a Woman." College Composition and Communication 39 (December 1988), 123-35. Reprinted in Feminism and Composition. Ed. Gesa Kirsch et al. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2003. 243-255.

---."Contextualizing 'Composing as a Woman.'" Feminism and Composition: A Critical Sourcebook. Ed. Gesa Kirsch et al. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2003. 339-341.

---. "'Gender and Reading' Revisited." Writing Theory and Critical Theory. Ed. John Clifford and John Schilb. New York: Modern Language Association, 1994, 313-318.

Matsuda, Paul Kei, Michelle Cox, Jay Jordan, and Christina Ortmeier-Hooper. Second-Language Writing in the Composition Classroom: A Critical Sourcebook. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s. 2006.


This text was accepted for publication after an anonymous peer review process.

Publication date: 
No votes yet