Throughout the history of Composition Studies, several scholars have observed that we have been much more interested in the teaching of writing rather than in writing itself (e.g., Bazerman; Dobrin). This panel speaks both to what we have overlooked in focusing on writing in teaching contexts and to what we can gain from studying writing as an object of inquiry: namely, knowledge of everyday writing, the ubiquitous, mundane writing that mediates life.
In this panel, we examine artifacts of everyday writing, arguing that in order to develop a robust understanding of writing and writing practices, we should look to the texts that people compose as part of their everyday lives.
Many in Composition Studies, of course, have already turned their attention to these everyday texts, theorizing how we might reimagine the work of writing and the work of Composition Studies (e.g., Barton & Hamilton; Brandt; Carter; Cintrón; Nystrand & Duffy). This panel synthesizes these contributions into a formal line of inquiry by drawing attention to artifacts of everyday writing and the scenes in which those artifacts are composed. Each speaker takes up one artifact or collection of artifacts in order to demonstrate what more can be understood from concepts of writing that have already received attention (e.g. genre, ecology, affect, and circulation) through the lens of everyday writing. Taking a cue from Rice’s work on graffiti, each presentation responds, in some way, to this inductive question: what is this writing doing? This question allows us to learn (1) how writing genres are patched together, revised, and circulated across private note-keeping in order to construct and maintain a writer’s identities; (2) how discarded memorabilia and writing ephemera from a local bookstore can often speak to the surrounding place’s networked identity; (3) how writing that is closely aligned with sentiment functions within a gift-economy governed by affective exchanges; and (4) how some writing and the meanings attached to it can shift as it transitions from folksonomic channels of circulation toward something more commercial. The purpose of this panel, then, is twofold: to demonstrate a breadth of possibilities opened up by exploring these everyday writings; and to raise reflective questions about, and turn a light towards, areas of writing that are currently in the shadows.