CFP: The Purpose(s) of English: A Conference on the Future of English Studies (7/15/07; 10/19/07-10/20/07)

full name / name of organization: 
Cordell, Sara Frances
contact email: 

The Purpose(s) of English: A Conference on the Future of English Studies

University of Illinois @ Springfield

October 19 & 20, 2007

Keynote Speakers: John Schilb and Christine Farris

University of Indiana, Bloomington


Since at least the 1980s, it has been fashionable to speak of English =
Studies as being in a state of crisis. Budget cuts, theory wars, hiring =
limits, and identity politics have made the curriculum a site of great =
contention among the teachers and scholars who inhabit English =
departments. In addition, changes to our national economy and political =
landscape have forced English Studies to re-examine its role in =
contemporary higher education and, at times, to explain its relevance in =
the ever-increasingly corporatized university. Some on the political =
right have called for more generalized curricula and assessment methods, =
as well as tighter controls over what gets taught and how in colleges =
and universities (as demonstrated in David Horowitz's "Academic Bill of =
Rights" and in the recent Spellings Commission Report). Such calls =
affect English Studies acutely. Because college English is perhaps the =
most visible nexus of humanistic education and skills training in higher =
education, it is particularly susceptible to conservative pressures for =
standardized curricula and workforce preparation. We might say, then, =
that the current crisis for English Studies is one of purpose.


Whether or not we invoke the rhetoric of "crisis," it is easy to see =
that English Studies needs to square its configuration with the current =
economic and political climates. To do so, it must be prepared to =
articulate the purposes and benefits of its curricula to students, =
administrators, and legislators. Such articulation requires us to =
reflect on how we structure our curricula in the first place, and how =
those structures hinder or enable our responses to economical and =
political pressures. One place to start, we believe, is at the =
relationship between English's two largest areas of instruction and =
research: composition-rhetoric and the study of literature.


Of course, much has been written about the comp-rhet/lit-crit divide, =
and the scholarship has promoted ideas ranging from the abolition of the =
first-year writing course to the development of separate programs in =
composition and literature to integrated curricula based on the classic =
trivium. This conference seeks to apply a different lens to the =
conversation: What does the question of the relation between comp-rhet =
and literature have to do, if anything, with the marketplace pressures =
on English departments?=20


We welcome proposals on any topic concerning the relation among =
comp-rhet, literature, and the English curriculum. We are especially =
interested in papers that address the following questions:


* In light of the growing pressures on colleges and universities to =
offer transferable curricula that teach workplace literacy skills and =
career-specific knowledge, what should the English curriculum look like?

* How can the comp-rhet/lit-crit divide be a productive force in English =
departments and curricula?

* How do professionals rely on knowledge grounded in =
composition-rhetoric and literature courses in their jobs and lives?

* How can literature be taught from a rhetorical perspective?

* How might current trends in composition and rhetoric that emphasize =
cultural studies or service learning affect the study of literature?

* In what ways are old hierarchies still in place in English =
departments? In what ways are they being dismantled? To what end?

* Can English Departments and the study of literature survive in an =
environment where composition and rhetoric courses are housed in Writing =

* Do different types of institutions require different types of English =
curricula? What students get what kind of English education?

* How do online courses in English represent the pressures of a =
corporatized, globalized university? How do/should they respond to such =


Please submit 500-word abstracts for individual papers or panels to Sara =
Cordell ( or William Carpenter ( by July =
15, 2007. Email submissions preferred. Acceptances will be sent by =
August 15, 2007.


Sara Cordell, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor=20
English Program
University of Illinois at Springfield
University Hall 3066
One University Plaza, MS UHB 3050
Springfield, Illinois 62703-6217
Ph: 217-206-7213
Email: <>=20

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Received on Thu Apr 26 2007 - 18:05:44 EDT