Thursday, April 19, 2012

connors' history

Connors, Robert. “The Rise of Technical Writing Instruction in America.” Journal of Technical Writing and Communication 12.4 (1982): 329-352.

I didn’t think that I would, necessarily, come back to Connors' seminal essay for a close reading. I’ve covered this historical ground already, but as I got back into it I was again drawn into the progress narrative. His reliance on written records and textbooks was what first attracted me to the piece. This time around, that reliance is helping me flesh out my taxonomy and map, specifically in the way Connors frames two disciplinary binary debates that continue within Tech Comm: 1) Being a writer of technical material or being a technician (or SME?) who writes; and 2) Being a technical writing teacher or being a teacher of writing in a technical discipline (WAC?) -- one debate addressing the practice of technical communication, the other addressing the teaching of technical communication.

I don’t want to revisit Connors' history lesson here. I have always like how he cleanly identifies the early 1920s as the point at which “technical writing was becoming more self-aware” (18). Then noting how it would be another 20 years before the discipline of Technical Writing (not necessarily Technical Communication) would begin a forty-year emergence (1940-1980) from English.

Some 30+ years later, Connors’ optimism speaks to the very essence of my exams: “… technical writing is not without problems… There are still arguments being made that the technical writing course should be taken out of the hands of English teachers, but these arguments are as old as technical writing instruction itself and will likely prove no more effectual now than they were in 1920” (17).

No comments: