An introduction attempt

Chapter two has become my “quick and dirty history to invention” chapter. It’s weird to think about this as a book, with chapters that should connect and all. I’m not sure how an introduction to a second chapter that really is a continuation of the first chapter should look: do I need to “hook” to draw in readers, or should I have a quick recap and connection from the first to the second chapter? I’m not sure. Here’s an attempt I made, which will probably not end up in the final draft, but it was a necessary writing exercise for me, I think.


Ch. 2: The Place of Place in  Invention Studies 


“Of the classical rhetorical canons, invention is the least amenable to prescription” (152)—Sharon Crowley “The Evolution of Invention in Current-Traditional Rhetoric: 1850-1970” (1985).


            The OED gives many definitions for the word prescription, creating more complexity in Sharon Crowley’s insight about invention. Prescription can mean “restriction; limitation; circumscription”; “written or explicit direction or injunction”; or “uninterrupted use or possession from time immemorial, or for a period fixed by law as giving a title or right” (OED). Crowley’s suggestion that the rhetorical canon of invention is “the least amenable to prescription” touches upon these three definitions in some way along with the many layers attached to what we mean when we use the word “invention”[1]. Historically, the field of invention studies has included theories gleaned from classical rhetoric, cognitive psychology, expressivist pedagogy, creativity studies, social constructionist pedagogies, and genre theory, among others, which demonstrates that there are few “limitations” or “circumscriptions” on what invention studies might encompass as a field. In addition, there have been specific invention approaches such as expressivist uses of freewriting —those focused mostly on what Patricia Bizzell calls “inner-directed” approaches to invention[2]— which defy the use of “written or explicit direction or injunction” during invention processes (I have a feeling Crowley’s statement relates most directly to these uses of the words prescription and invention). On the other hand, invention heuristics have been developed which rely on “explicit direction or injunction” to help student writers begin a project, a fact that implies at least some invention theories embrace prescription as an appropriate method or pedagogical choice. The third definition of prescription–“uninterrupted use or possession from time immemorial, or for a period fixed by law as giving a title or right”—is in fact an opposite description of the historical treatment of invention as belonging within the field of rhetoric. In other words, invention’s inclusion in the history of rhetoric is one of many interruptions and debates as to the “right” of rhetoric to claim invention as a canon at all. In this case, Crowley’s epigraph might read “Of the histories of classical rhetorical canons, invention is the least amenable to prescription.” Despite Crowley’s advice that the canon of invention is the least amenable to prescription, I find myself interested in creating a historical account of invention through a new lens—place.

             In the previous chapter, I outlined my theory of place as a topos in the field of invention studies. In particular, I connected the topos of place to both Bizzell’s description of inner-directed and outer-directed approaches to invention and Karen LeFevre’s rhetorical invention continuum, which identifies invention perspectives as Platonic, Internal Dialogic, Collaborative, and Collective. In this chapter, I will reconstruct a brief history of invention studies using the topos of place as my guide, examining the theoretical and pedagogical shifts of where and when invention occurs for writers as well as where invention has been placed in relation to rhetoric (and composition): as an area of study central to rhetoric, a marginal concern to rhetoric, or as a field entirely outside of rhetoric’s borders.


[1] See chapter one for a short discussion of the many different definitions associated with invention in rhetoric and composition.

[2] I am referring again to Patricia Bizzell’s terms “inner-directed” and “outer-directed” to describe invention theories, which she uses in her 1982 article “Cognition, Convention, and Certainty: What We Need to Know about Writing.” Please see chapter one for a longer discussion of these terms and how I am using them in this dissertation.

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