Week 2: Expediency and TPC as a connective tissue

I went into this week’s readings with the expectation of discovering why the TPC concentration falls under ECU’s English Department instead of under Communications. The first few articles were really helpful, and I can definitely say that I was blown away by just how deeply political the division is and how complex territorial disputes in academia can be. I suppose that my original, “shouldn’t this be in communications” question may be the result of my conviction that communications would have fought to gain TPC, and much less with any suggestion that there would have been a lack of desire, or even an aversion to claiming the field. Porter and Sullivan’s assertion that “the most interesting places for curricular action and innovation and for institutional change are in the cracks” (5), in conjunction with Harlow’s suggestion that the expanse of divisionary lines is the space perhaps most perfectly suited for the discipline since those in it act as “boundary spanners” (9) resonated perfectly with my own experiences here at ECU.

I chose English Studies because I couldn’t decide which path to take. I couldn’t really become entrenched in any one segment of the department, and then my brief excursions into the first two TPC courses I took in my first year of the MA program gave me the rhetorical means to cross the lines of all the disciplines, and I was able to justify English Studies as the only practical choice. I understand and appreciate the power that the TPC discipline has in its near homelessness. Here it may be in the English Department, but it covers so many areas and is utilized by students from all over the university. I also found that Harlow’s claim that the discipline’s “challenge is communicating the knowledge that scholars have gained in a way that resonates with others outside the narrow discourse community that produced it” (14), is of particular importance in teaching scientific writing and, to a lesser degree, even in teaching our new 2201 course. I can also understand how, despite the huge benefits that come with being academically “homeless,” there are problems with things like funding, authority, and viability that can severely limit the discipline within the institution, as discussed in the Rentz, Debs, and Meloncon article. All in all, it was really nice to be able to better understand why our program stands as it does.

The last two articles were of particular interest to me both because I am teaching scientific writing this semester, and because (though a great many would argue it’s not the same thing) the rhetorical practices of expediency rely heavily, if not exclusively, on science and technology to justify and perpetuate our treatment of animals in agricultural and research settings. The articles also resonated with my current research interests into medical rhetoric and the medicalization process. As I discovered with my research into the drug Flibanserin (Female “Viagra”) the public rhetoric was despicable, but even the scientific rhetoric employed in the briefs and other materials submitted to the FDA utilized many of the principles outlines by both articles.

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