Brooke Notes: Phelps, Louise “The Domain of Composition”

Phelps, Louise. “The Domain of Composition.” Rhetoric Review 4.2 Taylor & Francis, Ltd., 1986. 182-195. Print.


Phelps discusses how understanding composition in the classroom has moved from an individual perspective toward a discourse of composition which students and teachers interact in communion to understand composition, literacy, the acquisition of these skills, the process through which they develop, and the questions which continue to arise (the constraints and advantages). Furthermore she discusses how the domain of composition can only work within other fields of study or knowledge if the writer has a knowledge of the field and argues points of contest which other writers are also interested in.


written discourse, symbolic activity, performance, skill, literacy, teaching writing, development orientation, theory-praxis, “discourse about discourse”


Bruner, Jerome S. “Skill in Infancy.” Beyond the Information Given: Studies in the Psychology of Knowing. Ed. Jeremy M Anglin. New York: Norton, 1973. 239-308.

Laurer, Janice M. “Composition Studies: Dappled Discipline.” Rhetoric Review 3 (1984): 20-29.


“The writer’s thought, composed in the writing act and invested in the text, acquires fullness, actuality, and power to act on the world only through the cognitive contributions and responses of a reader. The text is a script for a thought process that readers enact in infinitely various ways to produce meaning; by itself it is only potentially meaningful. Yet readers, despite their own essential contributions, experience texts as authored, as expressions of human intentions and thus the locus of the meaning that readers construct” (184).

“As Lauer remarks, there is always the grave danger of outrunning our own capacities to assimilate the knowledge of other fields and bring it to bear on our own problems. We can only sample the information to begin with, and then we may not grasp the original context well enough to use it appropriately” (191).


Is there a distinction between learning how to compose text with learning how to compose oral arguments or persuasive methods? Or are they one in the same and are learned in tandem?

If we treat reading or writing as performance, would an individual rationalizing a theory or speaking rhetorically also be considered as performance?