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Open Access Dissertation

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First Advisor

Ellen Barton


Although reviews have been a part of two flagship composition journals, College English and College Composition and Communication throughout their publication histories, little attention has been shown to them in any full length research studies. This dissertation study provides a historical genre analysis of reviews to illustrate the role of reviews in reflecting and contributing to composition's struggle for full disciplinary status.

Methodologically, this mixed methods study uses historical analysis, genre analysis, and an interview study to investigate reviews and their functions in the field of composition. A corpus of 90 reviews, 45 from each journal, was analyzed from 1939 to 2007, to study how reviews reflect the disciplinary trajectory of composition studies, the genre trends of reviews as they reflect the development of changing research and scholarship in composition, and the editorial perspectives and contextualization of the review genre and the development of reviews in the field.

The research finds that historically, reviews prove to reflect the development of the field over time; that textually, the review genre displays four moves, describing, evaluating, situating, and theorizing; and that professionally, the editors contextualize the reviews as an important contributor to the scholarship of the discipline. The main findings include a genre shift from short reviews and book reviews to the review essay. The shift is a move from a focus on description and evaluation to a focus on situating the review and the books within composition studies and using the review as a launching point for further disciplinary theorization. The findings also indicate that while reviews are not a primary genre in the field, they do reflect and contribute to the historical publication record of composition in its development as an academic discipline.

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