A Journal of Rhetoric, Writing, and Culture

“/” “And” “-”?: An Empirical Consideration of the Relationship Between “Rhetoric” and “Composition”

Eric Detweiler, University of Texas-Austin

(Published October 27, 2015)

1. Introduction

It has been roughly ten years since Enculturation published the double issue "Rhetoric/Composition: Intersections/Impasses/Differends." As Lisa L. Coleman and Lorien Goodman put it in their editors' introduction, the issue was dedicated to the question of "rhetoric's (current) relationship to composition," and many of the articles within it focus explicitly on the myriad ideological, rhetorical, and disciplinary implications of the linguistic construction "rhetoric/composition." More specifically, these articles challenge any taken-for-granted linkage between "rhetoric" and "composition." The very title of Sharon Crowley's contribution to the issue, for instance, states that "Composition Is Not Rhetoric," and Crowley goes on to claim that "modern" composition could threaten "they very survival of the academic study of rhetoric." In "Rhetoric/Slash/Composition," Cynthia Haynes asks, "Will the slash between rhet/comp persist?"

A decade later, the scene is a bit different, and the answer to Haynes' question seems like a cautious "no." Of the 74 members of the Doctoral Consortium in Rhetoric and Composition listed on the organization's website, only one uses the construction "Rhetoric/Composition" to denote its program, with one other slashing up "Composition/Rhetoric/Literacy." Meanwhile 18 use "Rhetoric and Composition," and an additional six go with the inverted "Composition and Rhetoric" ("Members").1 To Haynes' subsequent question of whether the slash represents a "disjunctive," "conjunctive" and/or "undecidable" relationship, the rise of the "and" seems like a push to answer "conjunctive." This may seem like a simple, and perhaps incidental, shift in punctuation. However, the increasing institution of this conjunctive linking of "rhetoric" and "composition" has run parallel with broader calls to formally unite the two, thus potentially foreclosing on some of their more persistent differences and foregrounding points of conjunctive overlap.2

In other words, while many contributors to "Intersections/Impasses/Differends" felt called to question and problematize the relationship of "rhetoric/composition," many are now calling for "rhetoric and composition" to settle down and accept the "and." This is not necessarily a bad thing. In their 2010 College Composition and Communication (CCC) article "Making the Case for Disciplinarity in Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing Studies: The Visibility Project," Louise Wetherbee Phelps and John M. Ackerman note that the lack of denotative stability in "rhetoric" and/or "composition" programs makes it difficult to receive recognition from such organizations as the National Research Council and the National Center for Educational Statistics. The authors perform this instability as they comment on it, referring over the course of their article to "rhetoric, composition, and writing studies" (180), "rhetoric and composition" (181), "rhetoric and composition/writing studies" (185), "rhetoric/composition and writing studies" (185), and "writing and rhetoric" (208)—and of course the article is published in a "composition and communication" journal. Though they appreciate the field's "dynamic multiple identities" (200), Phelps and Ackerman see value in greater denotative standardization for the sake of visibility and recognition.

Even more recently, discussions about MLA group structure have resulted in similar claims. Noting that "Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing Studies" is currently one sub-category nested within the MLA's "Language Studies" group, Richard Grusin argues,

Over the past 20 years ... I have seen the field [of] rhetoric and composition mature as a major element of the profession of English Studies ... deserving of its own group, with its own sub-categories. It is misleading to place it under "Language Studies," particularly as some of the most interesting and important work in the area over the past couple of decades has been in visual and other non-linguistic forms of rhetoric (and composition) ... I think it is high time that the MLA granted it an equal seat at its taxonomic table. (Grusin)

Grusin's comment highlights both the importance of recognition and the fact that such recognition does not necessarily have to serve a leveling function--it can, for instance, lead to further sub-categorization and draw attention to inventive scholarship.

Whether conjunctively linking "rhetoric" and "composition" is the most representative or effective way to group scholarship in "rhetoric," "composition," and/or "writing" is, however, not a foregone conclusion—though it is an increasingly pervasive trope and topos in the categorization of such scholarship. Phelps and Ackerman, for instance, report that the National Center for Educational Statistics has now added the designation "Rhetoric and Composition/Writing Studies" to their Classification of Instructional Programs.3

Phelps and Ackerman also note the lack of qualitative and quantitative data that might make defining, naming, and taxonomizing the field more feasible: "debates about disciplinarity throughout the history of the field ... are ... strikingly non-empirical. For all our self-study and reflexivity, seldom do those arguing the nature of the field and its identity rest their claims on actual data" (202). The aim of this project, then, is to provide the sort of data Phelps and Ackerman position as lacking via a comparative, quantitative examination of works-cited lists in prominent scholarly journals on both sides of the "rhetoric" and/or "composition" coin: CCC and Rhetoric Society Quarterly (RSQ). I undertake a diachronic examination of citation practices in these journals, examining how those practices have overlapped and differed, changed and remained the same, from 2001-2002 to 2011-2012—from the years leading up to the difference-oriented arguments of Enculturation's 2003 double issue to the current period marked by (relatively) unification-oriented arguments. This data is not a priori intended to reify the conjunctive relationship of "rhetoric and composition"; it might equally serve as evidence that fresh unsettling of that relationship is needed. In either case, whether re-cited or deconstructed to institutional and/or theoretical ends, the data does offer one means of approaching—to redeploy Coleman and Goodman's phrase—"rhetoric's (current) relationship to composition." I use it to consider the norms, knowledge-building practices, and methodologies that divide/join these journals—significant features given the ideological and potentially existential ramifications of their relative diversity and unification—as well as to show what is emphasized or covered over by the crystallized terminology that metonymically stands in for "rhetoric" and "composition."

In taking works-cited lists as my artifact, I am following various scholars—Danette Paul, Dorothy Winsor, Maureen Daly Goggin, and most recently Derek Mueller—who have noted such lists' rhetorical significance. Paul describes citations as both "tools of persuasion" and "a measure of communal acceptance" (185), with citation studies thus having "the potential to provide interesting and important information about field development over time" (186). Mueller builds on such claims by linking citation studies with the "distant reading" methods of Franco Moretti. In his 2012 CCC article "Grasping Rhetoric and Composition by Its Long Tail: What Graphs Can Tell Us about the Field's Changing Shape," Mueller sets up his project as follows:

Departing from studies of citation that have focused exclusively on the most frequently referenced figures, I argue that graphing the relationship between the most frequently cited figures and the changing distribution of infrequently referenced figures produces a unique perspective on a changing disciplinary density. (197)

Such graphs, "as a form of distant reading ... help us see with fresh perspective continually unfolding tensions among specialization, the interdisciplinary reach of rhetoric and composition, and the challenges these present to newcomers to the scholarly conversation" (Mueller 196). Mueller's interests in "density" and "reach" echo Susan Peck MacDonald's investigation of disciplinary density in Professional Academic Writing in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Drawing on Stephen Toulmin, MacDonald positions compact disciplines as characterized by a "sufficiently agreed goal or ideal, in terms of which common outstanding problems can be identified" (364). Diffuse ... disciplines, on the other hand, are ... characterized by their "absence of a clearly defined, generally agreed reservoir of disciplinary problems" (22).

Mueller observes that citations in CCC are increasingly less clustered around a concentrated group of especially influential scholars, but claims this is not clear-cut evidence of increasing disciplinary diffusion: "Depending on one's vantage point ... the field can appear to be highly focused ... or, it can appear as a loose amalgamation of pocketed clusters and enclaves" (218). My study pursues similar questions of relative compactness and diffusion within and across RSQ and CCC, both building on and differing from Mueller's in a few key ways: As he does, I both tabulate the most frequently cited scholars in my data set and attempt to move beyond this measurement. While Mueller examines the "long tail" of "infrequently referenced figures," however, I compile tables of frequently cited journals as an alternate means of exploring the networked bodies of scholarly knowledge driving the field(s). While individual scholars have an important figural influence in rhetoric and composition scholarship, I argue that journals, given their important role in determining and disseminating what counts as scholarly knowledge and practice, offer an alternate set of topoi for considering a body of scholarship's relative density. Additionally, while Mueller draws exclusively on the works cited in CCC articles—thus implicitly positioning CCC as representative of "rhetoric and composition" scholarship—my use of references from both CCC and RSQ positions the "continually unfolding tensions among specialization" as a central question.

Let me take a moment to elaborate on that last sentence, which raises a methodological issue I also address in section 2.1 below. In this introduction, it may seem I've positioned this article's comparative look at citation practices in RSQ and CCC as a way of examining an intradisciplinary issue: What is the relationship between two halves of the discipline or proto-discipline of rhetoric and (or "/," or "-") composition? Given my allusions to the Modern Language Association, writing studies, and English studies, perhaps I've seemed to suggest that this is a sub-disciplinary issue located within English studies—that, in short, English studies and/or writing studies somehow owns or subsumes the disciplinary issues surrounding "rhetoric" and "composition." Given that scholars publishing in CCC are predominantly—though certainly not universally-situated in or tied to English departments, a study that focused exclusively on CCC might well reiterate this assumption, whether intentionally or unintentionally. By focusing on RSQ as well as CCC, I instead attempt to demonstrate that the various issues bound up in rhetoric's relationship to composition extend beyond English studies: Given that nearly half of scholars publishing in RSQ are situated in or tied to departments of communication studies, we are not dealing with English studies' intradisciplinary issues here.4 As Roxanne Mountford and William Keith recently put it (in a piece published in RSQ, I might add),

One hundred years ago, formal instruction in writing and speaking were severed from one another in American colleges and universities. In the hands of separate disciplines, they evolved disciplinary ... lives of their own ... Throughout the twentieth century, faculty on both sides of the English/Speech divide lamented the sundering of these two modalities of rhetoric and periodically worked to reunite them. (1)

In short, then, this project demonstrates—particularly via its engagement with RSQ—that there is no clearly identified disciplinary heading under which "rhetoric and composition" proceeds. Even if English studies is the provenance of "composition," various "modalities of rhetoric" unfold across disciplinary or departmental boundaries. Because RSQ and CCC are primarily associated with professional organizations (the Rhetoric Society of America and the Conference on College Composition and Communication, respectively) rather than particular departments or crystallized disciplines, then, this study is more directly demonstrative of professional and organizational rather than disciplinary trends. And yet, given the way that calls for disciplinary (re)figuration often occur via the conferences and journals overseen by such organizations (cf. Hauser; Mountford and Keith; Phelps and Ackerman), neither are this study's findings purely non-disciplinary. Admittedly, however, it comes at issues of disciplinarity from an oblique angle.

In any case, two journals, though still a limited sample, is also one step towards heterogeneous representation. While my data is more chronologically limited than Mueller's, then, my examination of multiple journals opens up alternative lines of inquiry. Finally, while Mueller's article relies primarily on graphs to supplement its tables, I rely on alternative visualization methods, which I discuss below.

2. Methods

2.1 Sample Selection

I selected CCC as the journal representing "the world's largest professional organization for researching and teaching composition": the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), which is part of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) ("Welcome"). I selected RSQ as the journal that plays an analogous role for the Rhetoric Society of America (RSA), an organization that both (1) has historical and institutional ties to the Conference on College Composition and Communication, and (2) foregrounds its interdisciplinary conception of rhetoric—a balance that suggests RSQ's simultaneous ties to and differences from "composition" scholarship as represented in CCC. As RSQ's purpose statement reads, "Readers of RSQ are rhetoricians working in communication, composition, English, history, philosophy, politics, classics, and other allied fields" ("About Us"). Both journals are thus tied to prominent organizations with significant influence within "composition" and "rhetoric." Again, this study primarily foregrounds on scholarship and citation practices at the level of organizations and their publications rather than a discipline or disciplines as such—though these organizations and their journals do play significant roles in severing, reunifying, and refiguring disciplines.

As mentioned above, my data set includes the years 2001-2002 and 2011-2012. In the latter period, these organizations have arguably turned from relatively agonistic articulations of difference toward pragmatic unification projects aimed at institutional visibility and stability. Comparing and contrasting citation practices across these two periods thus speaks to a variety of organizational questions: To what extent have the citation practices of scholars in RSQ and CCC diverged and/or homogenized over the past decade? Has scholarship in these journals become more or less compact over the past decade? To what extent are calls for the denotative standardization of "rhetoric and composition" representative of increasing similarities in scholarly practice across these two major journals published by preeminent organizations in "rhetoric" and "composition," and/or to what extent might divergences in the bodies of scholarship drawn on in RSQ and CCC—whether stable or fluctuating over the past decade—represent a challenge to organizational and professional figuration?

Included in the 2001-2002 CCC data set are issues 52(3)-54(2). The 2011-2012 CCC set includes 62(3)-64(2). The 2001-2002 RSQ set includes volumes 31 and 32; the 2011-2012 set includes 41 and 42. (Henceforth, the 2001-2002 RSQ data set is referred to as "R1," the 2011-2012 RSQ set as "R2," the 2001-2002 CCC data set as "C1," and the 2011-2012 CCC set as "C2.") Special issues are excluded from the data sets in order to avoid skewing results toward further sub-specializations within the journals' audiences and authors. Thus excluded are RSQ 32(1) and 41(3), as well as CCC 63(1) and 64(1). Also excluded from these sets are book reviews, speech transcripts, and other artifacts that serve different rhetorical purposes within scholarly discourse and frequently do not include lists of citations. Within the remaining issues, the works-cited lists of all articles and shorter scholarly exchanges (e.g. the "Interchanges" section of CCC) are included in the data sets represented in this article. All told, R1 includes 29 pieces of scholarship and 1418 citations—a mean (m) of 49 citations per piece of scholarship. For R2, those respective figures are 34 and 1529 (m=45); for C1, 49 and 1558 (m=32); and for C2, 22 and 1094 (m=50).

2.2 Calculation of Most-Cited Citees and Journals

After selecting the data, I created four discrete spreadsheets for R1, R2, C1, and C2. In each spreadsheet, I coded all citations within the respective set by citee(s),5 the citation's genre (e.g. book, anthology selection, journal article, blog post, etc.), year of publication, and the article in which the citation occurred. I further coded citations of scholarly journal articles with the name of the cited journal.6 In addition to authors, I included the names of cited anthology editors in my lists of citees in cases where entire anthologies were cited. Though editing an anthology might represent a different variety of disciplinary clout than authoring a book or journal article, both represent some degree of disciplinary influence. Given the various other methodological decisions and distinctions required for this project, I did not quantitatively distinguish cited editors from cited authors. For similar reasons, no quantitative distinction was made based on whether a coauthor was listed in the primary, secondary, tertiary, etc. position in a citation. If a scholar cited a source with two authors, I credited both authors with a single citation. I then used two methods to calculate the most-cited citees in each of the four data sets. The first method tracked the total number of times each citee was cited in each set. The second method tracked the total number of articles in which each citee was cited per set. The former thus provides a representation of the depth of the citee's influence on published scholars in the journal, while the latter more accurately captures the breadth of a citee's influence across scholars and articles; I thus refer to them below as "depth-based" and "breadth-based" measures.

Once all four spreadsheets were complete, I calculated the citation rates of the citees within each data set. In order to make this article's results statistically consistent, only those citees and journals whose citation rates reached a certain threshold are included below. For the depth-based measure described above, I used a citation rate of 0.5% as the cutoff point for citees (in C1, for instance, this required that a citee be cited at least 8 times in the set's 1558 citations). Citees only cited in a single article were excepted from the study's results in order to avoid skewing the lists toward the particular projects and interests of single scholars. For instance, despite being cited 20 times in Carol Poster's 2001 RSQ article, Theodore Alois Buckley is excluded from the following as no other scholars in R1 cite Buckley.

Because the breadth-based measure is calculated using citees' prevalence across articles rather than their raw number of citations, and given that the number of articles in the four data sets is significantly smaller (m=34) than the number of citations (m=1400), I used a higher citation rate to determine breadth-based statistical significance: 10% (in C1, a citee thus had to be cited in at least 5 of C1's 49 pieces of scholarship).

I compiled the same data—depth-based and breadth-based citation counts and rates—for the most-cited scholarly journals in both data sets. I calculated journals' depth-based citation rates among the total number of citations of journals in each data set. R1 included 281 journal citations (m=10 journal citations per piece of scholarship), R2 included 368 (m=11), C1 included 397 (m=8), and C2 included 391 (m=18). For the depth-based measure, I used a citation rate of 1.0% as a cutoff point. Because the breadth-based measure for journals remained dependent on the number of articles in the data sets, I kept 10% as the cutoff rate for breadth-based significance. Once all this information was gathered, I generated tables and comparative Euler diagrams based on R1, R2, C1, and C2 in order to track noteworthy overlaps and differences.

2.3 Compilation of Most-Cited Journals' Self-Descriptions

Finally, I gathered editorial information for all journals in any of the four data sets with citation rates above 10% according the breadth-based measure described above. Specifically, I gathered the journals' statements of their aims and scope—the disciplinary, theoretical, and methodological ranges they cover. For example, RSQ's aims and scope statement currently reads as follows:

Rhetoric Society Quarterly, the official journal of the Rhetoric Society of America, features original articles on all areas of rhetorical studies including theory, history, criticism, and pedagogy. The journal addresses an interdisciplinary audience of scholars and students of rhetorics who work in communication studies, English studies, philosophy, politics and other allied fields. ("Rhetoric Society Quarterly")

This information thus does not include formatting or submission guidelines for authors, copyright information, or other sections of editorial policies not tied to discipline-related self-description. For R2 and C2, I compiled this information, which I henceforth refer to as "self-descriptions," from current issues of relevant journals. For R1 and C1, I gathered self-descriptions published as close as possible to the beginning of 2001—R1 and C1's chronological starting point.7 I then generated tables and word clouds using these sets of self-descriptions. The tables represent the most frequently used words in the aggregated self-descriptions of the most-cited journals in R1, R2, C1, and C2. Because the tables draw from a relatively large pool of data and represent words' raw frequency rather than prevalence across journals, I used the same statistical cutoff as the depth-based citee tables: 0.5%. Excluded from these tables are prepositions, deictic terms, and other common English words. Also excluded are generic words that apply to all scholarly journals: "manuscript," "publishes," "articles," etc. I also weighted my word-frequency calculations based on journals' breadth-based citation rates. For instance, a journal with a breadth-based citation rate of 40% in C1 would have twice as much influence on my calculations as a journal with a rate of 20%. I provide more concrete examples of this weighting in section 3.2. In short, I argue that this aggregated and weighted data provides a way to track the key disciplinary, theoretical, and methodological terms driving the bodies of scholarship surrounding CCC and RSQ. These tables represent broader networks of journals rather than just the two at the center of this study, thus they also capture what counts as scholarship in "rhetoric" and/or "composition" in a broader manner than the tables derived solely from CCC and RSQ—though those tables provided an important step toward this subsequent data.

I then used Wordle.net to generate four word clouds, each representing all the words included in the most-cited journals' self-descriptions from R1, R2, C1, and C2. Before further describing my methods for generating these clouds further, however, a quick definition and aside on my reasons for using word clouds in this piece. Word clouds measure word frequency in a selected body of text and generate a vaguely cloud-shaped visualization of all words contained therein. The cloud varies the sizes of words depending on their prevalence in the selected text. For instance, a word cloud of this article might look like Figure 1.8

Figure 1: Sample Word Cloud

Recently, these clouds have been used by a variety of writers and publications to a variety of ends. Rhetoric instructors have had students turn writing assignments into word clouds in order to recognize vocabulary patterns and tics (Nelson), the New York Times has used clouds to track word frequency in presidential speeches ("Inaugural Words"), and scholars in the sciences have used them to map differences between men's and women's online language use (Schwartz et al.). On one hand, then, word clouds have been put to a variety of both high-profile and everyday uses, and a variety of audiences and users have attributed a certain value to them. On the other, their rise to ubiquity might be seen as evidence of a certain trendiness or even kitschiness—to be blunt, it's easy to imagine scholars interested in inventive means of visualization being flat-out irritated with word clouds' prevalence.9

I try to extend the word-cloud bubble in this article because of these clouds' strange mode of associational aggregation. To re-quote Richard Grusin, "some of the most interesting and important work in [rhetoric (and composition)] ... over the past couple of decades has been in visual and other non-linguistic forms." Word clouds mark an interesting space at the border of rational and linear linguistic forms—historically, perhaps the staple forms of rhetoric and composition—and the sorts of visual forms to which Grusin refers. Neither simply linear nor nonlinguistic, word clouds possess a potential similar to that which Victor Vitanza once ascribed to the Internet Anagram Server—a defamiliarizing approach to language that works over both what we call "language" and "writers" in order to open up a plethora of aleatory possibilities (Vitanza, "From Heuristic to Aleatory Procedures"). Between Vitanza; Mueller's Clouds, Graphs, and Maps; and what I hope to gesture toward with the clouds below, I argue word clouds have curious, compelling, and not-yet-exhausted valences.

Returning to my methods: I used Wordle.net's word-cloud generator to create the clouds for this project. I adjusted some of the generator's settings to keep certain aspects of the word clouds consistent: font, color scheme, the orientation of the words, and the general shape of the clouds. I also adjusted the settings so that the clouds, unlike section 3.2's tables, include every word—with the exception of prepositions, articles, deictic terms, and other common English words—in the aggregated journal self-descriptions, and so that they render all letters in the source text lower-case. This latter adjustment prevented "Administration" and "administration," for example, from being counted and represented separately. Finally, in order to impose a certain degree of comparative consistency on the clouds, I adjusted the settings so that all words appear in an approximation of alphabetical order—those starting with "A" farthest left, those starting with "Z" farthest right.

3. Results

3.1 Most-Cited Journals and Citees

3.1.1 Citees, Depth-Based Measure

Figure 2: Euler Diagram of Most-Cited Citees Across Data Sets, Depth-Based Measure10

I begin by tracking trends and diachronic changes in each of the two journals (R1 and R2, then C1 and C2), then turn to comparing the two journals with each other. By this study's depth-based measure, the most dramatic change in citees from R1 to R2 is the rise of Kenneth Burke and, relative to Burke, the decline of Aristotle. Given the comparable prominence of Aristotle in R1 (3.3%) and Burke in R2 (3.5%), it seems that rhetoric scholarship as practiced in RSQ during the periods examined here is notably tied to these individual scholar-subjects. While their respective prominence is partially attributable to the presence of articles focused specifically on Arisotle in R1 and Burke in R2, the very willingness of RSQ to publish multiple articles on these figures so close together seems to suggest a marked interest in particular influential rhetors/rhetoricians. One might also gloss these two figures' prominence as representing the influence of the methodologies associated with them—Aristotelean and Burkean criticism—rather than the figures themselves. Even in this case, however, the fact that these methodologies are metonymically linked to specific people rather than schools, time periods, etc., resonates interestingly with the singular prominence of individual rhetor(ician)s in RSQ scholarship.

Moving beyond Aristotle and Burke, the only citee appearing in both R1 and R2 is Michel Foucault. Scholars and figures associated with classical rhetoric appear in both data sets—e.g. Plato, George Kennedy, and Edward Schiappa in R1; Jeffrey Walker and Richard Lanham in R2—though it is noteworthy that scholars are relatively more prominent than classical figures themselves (Aristotle, Plato) in R2 as compared to R1, which could indicate an increasing sense of indebtedness to scholarly precedent rather than primary sources alone in RSQ. Overall, the number and distribution of citees in this range of citation rates are similar across R1 and R2.

The citation rates for the most-cited citees in C1 and C2 also remain relatively constant—1.0% for Mikhail Bakhtin and David Bartholomae in C1, the same for A. Suresh Canagarajah and Bruce Horner in C2. Horner, Min-Zhan Lu, and John Trimbur are the only citees to appear in both tables. Bakhtin and Bartholomae are completely absent from C2, while Canagarajah and Paul Kei Matsuda are absent from C1 but highly prominent in C2. This might suggest a shift from the more theory-driven scholarship practiced by Bakhtin and Bartholomae in C1 to particular interests in L2 language learning and World Englishes in C2.

Mueller notes that "the prominence of the top-most cited authors [in CCC from 1987-2011] is gradually and relatively steadily declining" ("Grasping" 205). The data here suggests this is not happening in the same manner in RSQ. In C1 and C2, as noted above, the most-cited citees have citation rates of 1.0%. This is less than a third than that of Aristotle's and Burke's respective rates of 3.3% and 3.5% in R1 and R2. There are also a greater number of citees included on the tables for C1 (14) and C2 (20) compared to R1 (9) and R2 (10). This suggests that, even at the top, a greater number of citees are having a more diffuse influence on scholarship in CCC, while a relatively smaller group of citees is having a greater quantitative influence on RSQ. Also noteworthy is that only two citees appear on both R and C tables: Kenneth Burke (R2 and C2) and Michel Foucault (R1, R2, and C2).

3.1.2 Citees, Breadth-Based Measure

Figure 3: Euler Diagram of Most-Cited Citees Across Data Sets, Breadth-Based Measure

The breadth-based measure both corroborates and complicates the data represented in R1's and R2's depth-based tables. Aristotle and Burke remain predominant, with Aristotle cited in 27.6% of articles in R1 and Burke in 35.3% of articles in R2. The breadth-based measure, however, suggests these two figures' more stable influence over time. By this measure, Aristotle's influence drops just 1.1% from R1 to R2, while Burke appears as one of the third-most-cited citees in R1. Michel Foucault, George Kennedy, Michael Leff, Plato, and Jeffrey Walker are the other citees appearing in both R1 and R2, further suggesting the persistent influence of classical rhetoric on RSQ scholarship. Also noteworthy: All these scholars are male. R2 actually includes fewer female citees (3) than R1 (6), though the R2 table also includes fewer citees overall.

As for the CCC tables, Bartholomae again appears at the top of C1. However, Kathleen Blake Yancey—CCC's editor during the period covered by C2—appears as the most-cited citee in C2 by this measure. Horner and Lu are again constant across both data sets, along with Patricia Bizzell, Robert Connors, and Mike Rose. Overall, the number of citees with a citation rate above 10% nearly triples from C1 to C2: C2 includes 46 versus C1's 16. Two corporate authors are also present on the C2 table: the NCTE (the publisher of CCC and College English) and the Council of Writing Program Administrators.

So while the number of citees having a marked influence on CCC scholarship across authors and articles seems to be increasing by this study's breadth-based measure, that number seems to be decreasing in RSQ—even though the citation rates increase for a small number of R2's top citees. This might offer an interesting caveat to Mueller's claims regarding rhetoric and composition's long tail. Mueller's calculations rely on what I have called a depth-based measure: the total number of times citees are cited in his data set. While CCC's long tail of infrequently cited scholars may be lengthening by that measure, this study's breadth-based measure suggests a potential counter-trend: It is possible that even as top citees are cited fewer times overall, an increasingly large group of citees is providing a more mediated set of scholarly touchstones that extends across contemporary authors and publications in CCC. In other words, while depth-based measures might indicate a certain level of citational fragmentation and specialization, breadth-based measures might suggest a degree of homogenization and compactness. This seems to be less the case, however, in RSQ.

On another note, female citees also seem to have greater clout in CCC, with women accounting for 37.5% of the citees on C1's breadth-based table and 52.1% of C2's. By contrast, female citees' presence has held steady across R1 and R2 at 21.4%. This is an area where this study's focus on two journals might be particularly limiting: Are such scholars as Donna Haraway and Cheryl Glenn—both of whom appear on R1's table but not R2's—being taken up in other rhetoric journals, or is the citation of women relatively stagnant across rhetoric scholarship in general, especially in comparison to composition scholarship as represented by CCC? One might also pursue similar questions regarding the racial and ethnic diversity of the citees represented on the various tables above.

In terms of overlaps between the data sets, Andrea Lunsford and James Berlin appear in both R1 and C1, while Carolyn Miller appears in R2 and C2. Robert Connors appears in R1, C1, and C2, while Kenneth Burke and Michel Foucault stretch across R1, R2, and C2. The rhetorical focus of many of these citees' work could indicate greater crossover from rhetoric to composition than vice versa.

3.1.3 Journals, Depth-Based Measure

Figure 4: Euler Diagram of Most-Cited Journals Across Data Sets, Depth-Based Measure11

Perhaps the most surprising result from the depth-based journal tables for R1 and R2 is that the Quarterly Journal of Speech (QJS)—not RSQ itself—is the most-cited journal in both data sets. QJS accounts for 10.0% of journal citations and 2.0% of all citations in R1, and an even greater 13.3% of journal citations (3.2% of all citations) in R2. RSQ is the second-most prevalent journal in both sets, while Philosophy & Rhetoric (P&R) holds the third spot. Overall, these tables are much more congruent than the RSQ citee tables above. In addition to the top three journals remaining constant across R1 and R2, College English (CE), Communication Monographs (CM), Rhetorica, Argumentation & Advocacy, the Western Journal of Communication (WJC), and Written Communication (WC) also appear on both tables. This suggests a greater degree of stability in the journals driving scholarship in RSQ compared to individual citees. Also noteworthy is the marked influence of communication journals (QJS, CM, WJC, etc.) on scholarship in RSQ, though the persistent presence of CE and WC also indicates the influence of English and writing studies. One noteworthy change is the disappearance of Signs and Women's Studies in Communication from R2. Does this indicate that women's studies scholarship in rhetoric is becoming more self-contained (i.e. with Signs citing Women's Studies in Communication and vice versa, but with fewer "generalist" rhetoric journals citing scholarship in women's studies journals), or that scholarship at the intersections of rhetoric and women's studies is becoming less prominent? Might there be a connection between this shift and the decrease in female citees by this studies' breadth-based measure? RSQpublished a special issue on feminist historiography in 2002, so it is highly likely this drop-off would be even more dramatic if the study did not exclude special issues.

C1's and C2's depth-based journal tables are also relatively stable compared to their citee tables. CCC itself is remarkably dominant in both tables, accounting for 30.0% of journal citations (7.6% of all citations) in C1 and 25.1% (an even more dramatic 9.0%) in C2. It would seem CCC itself has a central influence on articles published in its pages that RSQ does not. CE is the second-most prominent journal, with 55 citations in both C1 and C2.12 Like CCC, however, its statistical influence increases from C1 (13.9% of journal citations, 3.5% of all citations) to C2 (14.1% of journal citations, 5.0% of all citations). The other top journals—JAC and WC—are relatively stable across C1 and C2, and Composition Studies and Rhetoric Review (RR) also appear in both tables.

The journals with the most significant influence on both RSQ and CCC are thus relatively stable over the time periods considered here. In both cases, however, the number of journals that comprise at least 1.0% of journal citations has decreased slightly over the past ten years—from 19 journals to 17 in RSQ and 13 journals to 10 in CCC. In addition, the very top journals seem to have a greater quantitative influence on the field. The scholarship in both journals might thus be described as more compact than it was a decade ago. Even as they grow more compact and thus potentially discrete, however, there are some signs of greater overlap between RSQ and CCC. For instance, only two journals appear on the tables for both R1 and C1—CE and RR—but R2's and C2's share five journals: CCC, RSQ, WC, and, again, CE and RR. Of particular note for this study is that CCC and RSQ seem to be having an increasingly marked reciprocal influence, with RSQ appearing in C2's tables but not C1's, and CCC in R2's but not R1's.

3.1.4 Journals, Breadth-Based Measure

Figure 5: Euler Diagram of Most-Cited Journals Across Data Sets, Breadth-Based Measure

The breadth-based tables for R1 and R2 corroborate much of what the depth-based tables suggest. QJS, RSQ, and P&R again appear particularly influential. The influence of all three increases from R1 to R2, with QJS cited in 58.6% of R1 articles versus 64.7% of R2's, RSQ in 48.8% versus 58.8%, and P&R in 17.2% versus 29.4%. Also present in both tables are CE, CM, Rhetorica, RR, and WJC. Again, communication journals are particularly prevalent. The women's studies journals present in the depth-based table for R1, however, do not appear in R1's breadth-based table.

The breadth-based tables for C1 and C2 make CCC's singular influence unmistakably apparent. While CCC is cited in 69.3% of the pieces of scholarship included in C1, its citation rate is an incomparable 95.5% in C2: All but one article cites at least one CCC article. CE is also surprisingly prevalent, getting cited in 90.9%—or all but two—of the pieces included in C2. This is nearly a doubling of its 46.9% citation rate in C1. JAC is the third-most influential journal in both C1 and C2 by this measure, with RR and WC also appearing on both tables. Supporting my speculations about the rise of scholarship on L2 language learning in CCC (see section 3.1), both TESOL Quarterly and the Journal of Second Language Writing are new additions to C2.

Scholarship in both RSQ and CCC seems increasingly clustered around a small number of journals. Though the number of journals on C2's breadth-based table is actually greater than the number on C1's, the centralizing across-the-board influence of CCC, as well as CE, is a strong counterbalance in terms of quantitative diversification. Scholarship in RSQ also shows a slightly more compact indebtedness to prior scholarship in both RSQ and QJS, though not to the same degree as in CCC. Especially given that journal citations account for 25.5% of total citations in C1 versus 35.7% in C2, it seems that the scholarly conversation in CCC is becoming an increasingly compact one. Whether it is occurring at the level of submitters, reviewers, and/or editors, scholars publishing in CCC seem to be experiencing an increasing obligation to demonstrate familiarity with the journal's internal conversation. Again, this increase in the compactness of journal citations could offer an interesting counterpoint to CCC's lengthening tail of citees. This compacting seems less dramatic though still present in RSQ. Given RSQ's explicitly "interdisciplinary" focus, it makes sense that the journals its writers reference would be more dispersed. It is perhaps more surprising that CCC, a journal that still retains "communication" in its title, is so much less intertwined with communication scholarship than RSQQJS is arguably the only "communication studies" journal on the breadth-based tables for either C1 or C2 (See Figure 5).

3.2 Most Frequent Words in Journal Self-Descriptions

Figure 6: Euler Diagram of Most-Used Words Across Data Sets

To restate one of my earlier methodological points more concretely, the tables above represent the most frequent words in the collective self-descriptions of the most-cited—according to this study's breadth-based measure—journals above. Thus the C1 table draws from the collected self-descriptions of CCC, CE, JAC, the Harvard Educational Review, WC, the Journal of Basic Writing, and RR. As stated in section 2.3, the calculations behind these tables are weighted so that a more frequently cited journal has a greater effect on the results. For instance, if the word "writing" appeared in the 2001 self-description of JAC—cited in 12 articles in C1—it would have twice as much effect on the prominence of "writing" in the C1 table as if "writing" appeared in the self-description of WC, which is cited in only 6 articles in C1. My intention with this weighting is to have the tables' results reflect the relative impact of the corresponding journals on the data sets.

Tables R1 and R2 above indicate a curious inversion over the course of the past decade: While in R1, "rhetoric" is the most frequent word by this study's calculations, "communication" is the most frequent in R2. In fact, "communication" opens up a wider margin in R2 than "rhetoric" had in R1. "Theory" and "studies"—the latter a fairly generic word often appended to more specific disciplinary terms (e.g. "communication studies")—appear in both clouds, while all other words turn over. Not surprisingly given RSQ's interdisciplinary self-conception, "history" and "philosophy" appear on the R2 table.

The C1 and C2 tables are more consistent, which might correspond with the strong and stable influences of CCC and CE across the two time periods in question. "Studies" and "writing" appear at the top of both tables. "Theory," "composition," and "rhetoric" are also key words in both tables. While the frequencies of "studies" and "composition" are relatively constant, "theory," "rhetoric," and "writing" all become much more prominent in C2. Additionally, "research," "practices," "critical," "college," "scholarship," "communication," "teaching," and "English" are present in both sets.

So while the words in C1 and C2 are thus heavily tied to English, higher education, and language studies, those in R1 and especially R2—"history," "philosophy," and the increasingly prominent "communication"—do seem to support RSQ's claims to interdisciplinarity, while intradisciplinary key terms are seemingly on the rise from C1 to C2—"writing," "English," and "rhetoric," for example.13 "Writing" also appears in the R1 table, but drops from the R2 table. "Communication" and "rhetoric" appear in all four data sets, but the former is much less prevalent in the C sets than the R sets.

Rather than drawing further inferences from the tables themselves, I will now turn to the clouds. Given the aleatory potential of word clouds discussed above, I will momentarily refrain from analysis. Instead, I position them here to resonate with and complicate the tables and diagrams above, content to draw one particular conclusion from them below.

Figure 7: Most Frequent Words From Self-Descriptions of Most Broadly-Cited Journals in Data Set R1

Figure 8: Most Frequent Words From Self-Descriptions of Most Broadly-Cited Journals in Data Set R2

Figure 9: Most Frequent Words From Self-Descriptions of Most Broadly-Cited Journals in Data Set C1

Figure 10: Most Frequent Words From Self-Descriptions of Most Broadly-Cited Journals in Data Set C2

4. Conclusions

As this study suggests, there are both clear overlaps and differences within and between the R and C data sets. Though it is not possible to offer universal claims about the broader sub- or cross-discipline(s) of rhetoric and composition from this data alone, this study does provide a relatively thorough picture of the most influential citees, journals, and key terms—as well as the trajectories of these influences over the past decade—in two prominent professional organizations' journals as well as the scholarship clustered around those journals and organizations.

In terms of breadth-based measures and journal citations, it is possible that scholarship in both RSQ and CCC has grown more compact over the past decade. Rates of journal citations in both RSQ and CCC rise from 2001-2002 to 2011-2012, though the increase in C2 is more marked. While the two journals' influence on each other seems to have increased incrementally over the past decade (i.e. CCC appears in the depth- and breadth-based tables for R2 but not R1 and vice versa), the scholarly conversation in both journals seems to have become more internalized, with increasing numbers of citations to past articles in the same journal. Most notably, works-cited lists in CCC increasingly seem to represent engagement with past CCC articles. Meanwhile, even with the relatively greater influence of individual citees in RSQ, the contrasting diffuseness of journal citations between C2 and R2 combined with the increasing prevalence of such interdisciplinary terms as "history," "philosophy," and "communication"—though not "composition"—in the R2 tables above could indicate that "rhetoric" scholarship writ large remains a relatively diffuse undertaking.

There is one indication in the word clouds above that neither "rhetoric" nor "composition" might be the biggest points of dissonance for continuing attempts to unite them under the heading "rhetoric and composition." As one might notice in the word clouds above, "rhetoric" is actually more prominent in C2 than in C1 (see footnote 12). "Composition" remains relatively stable, but "English" and especially "writing" are remarkably more dominant in C2 than in C1. This could resonate interestingly with the increasing influence of TESOL and L2 language learning in C2. On one hand, greater inclusion of scholars and research reaching beyond the limited scope of the American academy and monolingual English-language instruction could indicate a broadening and diffusing of scholarship in CCC. On the other hand, to the extent that such broadening is paired with an increasing focus on writing instruction, even across linguistic and national borders, it might also be taken as a sort of compacting—evidence that questions surrounding "writing" and writing instruction constitute an increasingly "agreed goal or ideal" for scholars reviewing and writing for CCC. Such tensions might indicate that the particular sorts of flux occurring in CCC and RSQ call for a refining of our definitions of disciplinary density. In any case, the prominence of "writing" decreases remarkably from R1 to R2, which could indicate a greater distance between "rhetoric" and "composition." Instead, while "rhetoric" remains relatively constant and "composition" all but invisible in both R sets, "communication" grows substantially in R2. "Writing" and "communication" thus seem to be greater areas of divergent disciplinary flux than "composition" and "rhetoric" themselves.14

One might also consider the departmental distribution of editors and editorial boards as evidence of organizational density and divergence here. According to their respective institutions' websites, all but one member of CCC's editorial board are primarily housed in English departments (the exception here is Jonathan Alexander, chair of UC Irvine's Department of Women's Studies). Meanwhile 13 members of RSQ's board are primarily housed in departments that foreground communication (e.g. "communication studies" departments or Syracuse's Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies), while 11 are primarily housed in departments focused on English (e.g. the University of South Carolina's Department of English Language and Literature). An additional five fall in other departmental categories: the University of Texas at Austin's Department of Rhetoric and Writing, the University of Richmond's Rhetoric & Communication Studies program, and the University of Kentucky's Department of Writing, Rhetoric, & Digital Studies. One could argue that this information renders the findings of this study unsurprising. That is, given the relative departmental homogeneity of its editorial board, of course "English" will appear more prominently in the data surrounding CCC, while the fact that RSQ's board is split between communication- and English-oriented departments makes the relative prominence of "communication" in R2 a foregone conclusion.

At the same time, however, I would argue this data complicates as much as it corroborates. Many rhetoric and composition scholars housed in English know all too well how English departments have historically subordinated and relegated their non-"literary" work, and thus how departmental and disciplinary labels can mask inventive and important scholarship, research, and pedagogy. What might it mean, then, that CCC continues to draw heavily on board members who reside in English departments? In a similar vein, we might ask why recently founded departments that explicitly foreground "writing" (e.g. UT-Austin's Department of Rhetoric and Writing, or Kentucky's Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies, which gained departmental status in 2014) are more represented on the board of RSQ, even as the data here suggests CCC is the journal paying increasingly explicit attention to "writing" and as RSQ continues to publish significantly more work by communication studies scholars. To what extent are RSQ and CCC, as well as the professional organizations they represent, both driving and reflecting the formation of new departments that are refiguring how we think of the inter- and/or intradisciplinary scholarship of "composition" and/or "rhetoric," whether in English, communication, education, or elsewhere? In other words, and to return to one of this article's initial concerns, this data might suggest what work, citees, and/or journals get covered over and/or emphasized by standardized disciplinary and departmental labels, even as some of that data matches expectations. In any case, such detailed knowledge of editorial configurations is likely not commonplace for "newcomers to the scholarly conversation" (Mueller 196), and this study's delineation of oft-cited citees, journals, and terms—even when that data corroborates disciplinary commonplaces—provides more detailed avenues of engagement of professional and scholarly organizations' tacit traditions and fluctuations.

Special thanks to Davida Charney for her thorough feedback on multiple iterations of this article. Thanks also to Sarah Frank, Mary Hedengren, Steven LeMieux, and Beck Wise for their advice on early drafts, as well as Enculturation's anonymous reviewers for their thoughts during its later stages.


  • 1. Data presented as current in this article—members of the consortium, members of journals' editorial boards, and so on—was up to date as of December 2013.
  • 2. As we'll see below, for instance, the relationship between "rhetoric" and "composition" may not address the relationship between these two and "communication."
  • 3. That the slash now separates "writing" off from the happy couple of "rhetoric and composition" could generate—perhaps already is generating—a whole new set of scholarship. Cf. Sidney Dobrin's Postcomposition (2011), or Victor Vitanza's "Abandoned to Writing" in the 2003 Enculturation issue discussed above, for very different explorations of the possibilities of "writing."
  • 4. In terms of departmental and disciplinary distribution, consider the following: During 2011-12, of the 30 authors whose bylines appear in published articles in CCC (in keeping with this study's methodology, I'm here excepting special issues), 17 of those authors (57%) explicitly reference "English" in their author bios. Only 2 of those authors (7%) affiliate themselves or their work with "communication." During the same period, 16 of 43 authors (37%) with bylines in RSQ reference "English" in their bios, while 17 of 43 (40%) reference "communication." In both RSQ and CCC, a number of authors foreground their disciplinary and/or departmental affiliation with "rhetoric," "writing," and/or "composition" over either "English" or "communication": In CCC, 12 authors (40%); in RSQ, 9 authors (21%).
  • 5. Henceforth, I use "citee" to refer to those whose work is being cited in the data sets' articles.
  • 6. In cases where the title of a cited journal has changed, I used the most recent title. For instance, articles cited as appearing in the Quarterly Journal of Speech Education are, in my data, included with articles cited under the title Quarterly Journal of Speech.
  • 7. In two cases, these policies are from slightly earlier or later than 2001 due to what information is available in back issues of journals: Argumentation and Advocacy did not include this editorial information in 2001 or 2002, so I used an editorial policy from a 2003 issue. Pre/Text just released its first 2001 issue in 2013. Because that issue did not include an editorial policy, I used editorial language quoted in the introduction to PRE/TEXT: The First Decade (Vitanza).
  • 8. If any readers would like accessible versions or written descriptions of this article's figures, please contact the author at eric.detweiler@utexas.edu.
  • 9. In terms of intellectual capital, it is interesting to note that word clouds play a significant role in the dissertation that precedes Mueller's CCC article, while the article itself relies primarily on graphs.
  • 10. All Euler diagrams in this article represent points of overlap between data points in the four data sets. For the citee diagrams (figures 2 and 3), I have used the last names of most citees, only providing first initials when they are necessary to differentiate between citees with the same last name (e.g. "Miller, T." and "Miller, C." for Thomas Miller and Carolyn Miller). For ease of reference, the names of citees only appearing in one data set are listed in the same order as they appear in the corresponding data set's table. When space constraints required breaking citee or journal names into multiple columns, the list begins with the column with the highest vertical alignment. Names of citees appearing in multiple data sets (e.g. "Horner, Lu, Trimbur" in figure 2) are alphabetized. I use the same principles for ordering journals in figures 4 and 5 and key words in figure 6.
  • 11. Some of the journal titles in figures 4 and 5 are abbreviated due to space constraints. I have included the less obvious abbreviations in tables 9-12 in order to reduce ambiguity.
  • 12. As noted above, College English and CCC are both published under the auspices of the National Council of Teachers of English.
  • 13. Whether "rhetoric" is in fact an "intradisciplinary" term for composition is, of course, an open question in this study. I position it as intradisciplinary in this instance because scholars publishing in CCC seem to view and deploy it, or want to view and deploy it, as such.
  • 14. For supplementary evidence here, see note 4.
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