History of Reflection, Theory, and Research on Writing

Paul A Prior, Karen J Lunsford

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The history of theory and research on writing has been narrated through varied genealogies, and the scope of the field has been defined in quite diverse ways. A history of writing theory and research (e.g., Connors, 1993; Crowley, 1998; Welch, 1999) may begin with classical (explicitly oral) Greek rhetoric, take a tour through Roman and (perhaps) medieval developments, note the formation of current-traditional rhetoric (where style emerged as the dominant canon, invention morphed into arrangement, and the cultivation of literary-cultural good taste, belles lettres, assumed a prominent role), and finally narrate a line of research in modern rhetoric and composition studies. Other accounts (e.g., Hillocks, 1986; Nystrand, Greene, & Wiemelt, 1993; Olson, 1994) ignore pre-20th-century rhetoric, focusing on ways that modern disciplines (linguistics, psychology, anthropology, education, composition, and rhetoric) have researched writing over the past 100 years, with a marked up tick in activity beginning around the 1960s. Specific disciplines (e.g., psychology, anthropology, elementary education) also have their own ways of narrating particular lines of inquiry. In this chapter, we propose a broad, inclusive history, one that explores reflection on writing as well as recent theory and research, looks globally (not only to Europe), and seeks to bring work from multiple disciplines into dialogue.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Research on Writing
Subtitle of host publicationHistory, Society, School, Individual, Text
EditorsCharles Bazerman
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherLawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
ISBN (Electronic)9781410616470
ISBN (Print)9780805848700, 9780805848694
StatePublished - 2007


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