Student Writings as “Mutt Genres” and “Unique Performances”: The Course Papers of Kate Hansen, Spring 1900

Student Writings as “Mutt Genres” and “Unique Performances”: The Course Papers of Kate Hansen, Spring 1900

Peitho Volume 25 Issue 1, Fall 2022

Author(s): Sarah E. Polo

Dr. Sarah E. Polo is an Assistant Professor of English at Cottey College, a private women’s college in Nevada, MO. She teaches courses such as first-year composition, professional writing, digital and multimodal composition, and archival research. She also serves as the Coordinator of Cottey’s First-Year Writing Seminar program. Her research focuses on areas such as histories of composition, rhetorical genre studies, writing program administration, and parenting in academia. Her work appears in The Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics. 

Abstract: This article uses a rhetorical genre studies approach to examine the archived writings of twenty-year-old Kate Ingeborg Hansen, a student at the University of Kansas at the turn of the twentieth century. A detailed examination of Hansen’s papers for a course called “Advanced English Composition” demonstrates that the flexibility in Hansen’s uptakes of genres stand in contrast to the otherwise systematic structure with which KU’s Department of English strove to operate. More largely, Hansen’s course papers—which are effectively what Elizabeth Wardle calls “mutt genres”—illustrate Edward J. Comstock’s theory regarding the development of nineteenth century writing instruction and its shifts from rhetoric to composition. As such, this study emphasizes that studying women students’ individual responses to writing instruction and the unique performances in which they engage provides a fuller picture of composition’s past.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Recent feminist historiographies in the field of Rhetoric and Composition continue to yield nuanced understandings of the past rhetorical practices, including those engaged in by women, people of color, and other marginalized subjects and sites. Ranging from book-length studies to chapters in edited collections and scholarly articles (Enoch; Gold and Hobbs; Ostergaard and Rix Wood; Schultz), our understandings of writing, broader rhetorical practices, and marginalized subjects continue to grow. Within Peitho’s own recent issues, particularly poignant examples of archival studies of women’s rhetorical practices include Julie A. Bokser’s reclamation of women’s contributions to the 1893 Columbia Exposition, Liz Rohan’s examination of the writings of students Mabel and Max, students using Jane Addams’ service-learning methods at the Northwestern University Settlement in 1930, and Marion Wolfe’s exploration of women’s missionary society publications.  

In many recent feminist historiographies, the origins and evolution of Rhetoric and Composition itself is a frequently recurring thread, including with regard to formalized writing instruction. Within Lori Ostergaard and Henrietta Rix Wood’s 2015 collection, In the Archives of Composition, Edward J. Comstock’s “Toward a Genealogy of Composition: Student Discipline and Development at Harvard in the Late Nineteenth Century” provides such an origin story. To do so, Comstock builds on past composition historians and primarily cites Carr, Carr, and Schultz, Connors, and Kitzhaber. Rather than composition emerging as a response to capitalism and the need to prepare students for the workforce, as James Berlin contends, with a pedagogy marked by repetition and rote practice, Comstock argues that what is actually going on in writing classrooms at this time is not a “decline” in writing instruction (202), but instead a shift “from the classical pedagogy of ‘mental discipline’ to the pedagogy of body discipline” (186).[1] Further, this shift is actually one that uses modes and significant practice in writing more heavily and beneficially centers students and their experiences: “Now the student, and his or her development, becomes the location where knowledge is formed. By making the disciplined body the site of disciplinary knowledge, the student becomes, in fact, the subject of writing[…]” (Comstock 194).  

As evidence, Comstock analyzes samples from an archive of student self-reports which are “written in response to a question asked of all students taking English courses (including the Lawrence Scientific School and Radcliffe College) by the [Harvard English Faculty Committee of Composition and Rhetoric] in 1869” (187). Comstock’s examination of these Harvard students’ self-reports provide not only insight into the shift from the old rhetoric to the new composition, but also provides an opening for new ways to view student writing produced in actual courses around the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  

In this article, I use Comstock’s framework as I focus on the writings of one woman student, twenty-year-old Kate Ingeborg Hansen. Hansen was enrolled in a course titled “Advanced English Composition” at the University of Kansas in the spring of 1900, a course that was co-taught by Edwin M. Hopkins and an Assistant Professor, Raphael D. O’Leary. In contrast to Hopkins, who is a well-known figure in Rhetoric and Composition due to his advocacy for fair labor conditions for writing teachers[2], Hansen is a figure unknown to the field, a seemingly-ordinary student pursuing an education. Born in 1879 as the daughter of an American mother and a Danish political refugee father, Hansen was the eldest of six children. Hansen first came to KU along with her brother, George, to obtain a teaching certificate (though she returned again in 1903 to complete a Bachelor’s degree) (Bales et al. 110). Hansen went on to become a career-long missionary and music teacher at the Miyagi College in Japan, eventually becoming the dean (“Guide to the Kate I. Hansen Collection”). 

Although she would later go on to achieve these feats, Hansen’s writings for “Advanced English Composition” were produced when she was only twenty years old, a regular college student just beginning to make her way in the world. Her forty-two handwritten assignments for this course are archived at Kenneth Spencer Research Library, the special collections library of KU. These papers comprise just one folder within the thirty-six box collection, which was donated by a female relative (“Guide to the Kate I. Hansen Collection”). While another student’s notes from an earlier iteration of the course do exist (Margaret Kane, Spring 1899), Hansen’s writings are the only known assignments submitted for the course to be preserved, and they have not been a subject of study in previous rhetoric and composition examinations of KU. This study of Hansen’s writings, particularly the ways she responds to genre-based assignments, is therefore all the more significant, as it presents an opportunity to engage with a rare archival find, further verify Comstock’s theory regarding the shift from rhetoric to composition, and reinforce research about student use of genre. 

Searching for Student Writings; Finding Kate Hansen 

In her 2002 College English article titled “The Platteville Papers: Inscribing Frontier Ideology and Culture in a Nineteenth-Century Writing Assignment,” Kathryn Fitzgerald opens by stating that her work investigates “a kind of writing not usually deemed culturally significant—school assignments” (273). Indeed, this notion that school assignments and student writing are typically not viewed as valuable is confirmed by other scholars. Patricia Donahue and Gretchen Flesher Moon, for instance, note that locating teachers’ assignments and student writings responding to them is challenging because students often did not save their writing and teachers lacked the space to store all of their students’ writings indefinitely (7-8). Robert J. Connors suggests that freshman composition writings in particular may not have been viewed as valuable by student writers, and therefore not saved (“Dreams and Play” 58). Julie Garbus points out that this lack of value may extend to the level of the archive, as well, since “institutional archives tend to show a preference for the papers of committees, administrators, and professors over students (Sullivan 365, 366; Moon 2-3)” (564-5). Given student writing’s low status on the hierarchy of preservation-worthy documents, within the eyes of the archives, instructors, and perhaps even students themselves, it seems all the more important to carefully examine and prioritize student writing from the past when we are so lucky as to find it. 

In addition to their rarity, Hansen’s writings also have the unique feature of having been “labeled” with the course and assignment title. Though some of Hansen’s writings lack specific labels for their genres, a notion discussed below, the full range of explicitly-labeled genres in Hansen’s papers from Spring 1900 include: descriptions, exercises in paragraphing, an exercise in outlines, a definition and synopsis, an exercise in editorial and news paragraphs, an exercise in letter writing, an exercise in theses, exercises in briefs and brief-making, exercises in refutations, an exercise in brief and amplification, an exercise in characterization, a theme, and an oration. Although Hansen’s papers do contain brief feedback and scores that appear to be from her instructors, I do not explicitly analyze them in the scope of this piece. Hansen’s papers alone are a treasure trove of insight, with topics ranging from things like “The Greatest Need of the University of Kansas” (a new fine arts building) to a “Description of a Library Chair.” Working at the intersection of archival research and rhetorical genre studies, this article performs a case study of this woman’s responses to writing instruction and her performance of Comstock’s “rhetoric vs. composition” through the genres she composed. 

Combining Comstock’s framework for approaches to writing instruction emerging in the late nineteenth century with contemporary understandings of genres, I argue that Hansen’s course papers demonstrate Comstock’s theory of the struggle that students evidenced when trying to mesh rhetorical training with the new mode requirements for composition, creating what Elizabeth Wardle refers to as “mutt genres” (774).  This article explores Comstock’s framework through the guise of student writing (rather than students’ self-reporting about their writing), and in doing so, contributes to our understandings of the ways that students attempted to navigate the use of older rhetorical practices within the confines of the new “composition,” which in turn encouraged the production of mutt genres.     

I proceed by first detailing this conception of genre and its intersections with archival research, focusing in particular on the concept of uptake. Next, I situate Hansen’s writings within their particular local context, drawing heavily on other archival materials. Afterward, I move to a detailed analysis of her papers themselves. 

Combining Genre Studies with Archival Work 

In order to undertake this analysis of Hansen’s work through Comstock’s lens, I utilize the concept of genre furthered by rhetorical genre studies. Within our field’s expanding range of archival studies, genre is utilized by some histories, though in varying degrees. For some of these scholars, genre is a briefly-mentioned term used to label a specific form of writing (see Lowry; Mannon). And certainly school-based writings more broadly, including those that came to prevalence with the increase in what some historians have termed “current-traditional” or rhetoric or “composition-rhetoric”, have been a focus of some scholarship (see Schultz; Connors, Composition-Rhetoric). In contrast, genre plays a much more dominant role in some archival scholarship on women’s writings and rhetoric. Particularly exemplary examples include: Wendy Sharer’s use of genre to look at bulletins from the Women’s Bureau; Suzanne Bordelon’s analysis of Louise Clappe’s use of genre to construct ethos in The Shirley Letters from the California Mines, 1851-1852; and Risa Applegarth’s examinations of women’s vocational autobiographies in the 1920s and 30s, which women used to push against the strict separation of personal and professional identities of the day and allowed women to disrupt “professional spaces of labor” (531). These examples demonstrate that genre can be of particular utility to feminist scholars engaged in recovery work.  

While these examples clearly demonstrates that genre is, as Dara Rossman Regaignon notes, a useful “tool” for engaging with “historically distant texts” and that many scholars’ usage of genre aids in their ability to perform highly rich, successful analyses of women’s archived writings, little scholarship exists that uses genre to explore women’s rhetorical educations in formal school settings (141). Perhaps the clearest examples take place in Fitzgerald’s work with archived student papers at the Platteville Normal School in Wisconsin (“The Platteville Papers”; “The Platteville Papers Revisited”). The forty-four student papers that are the subject of her analyses are authored by seniors at the Platteville Normal School in 1899 to “commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Wisconsin’s statehood” (“The Platteville Papers Revisited” 117). Using conceptions of genre by Carolyn Miller, Carol Berkenkotter, and Thomas Huckin, Fitzgerald is able to demonstrate that the genres of these student papers are simultaneously empowering and constraining (“The Platteville Papers Revisited” 133). Thus, even though Fitzgerald’s analyses contribute to a fuller understanding of writing instruction in normal schools, they also have implications for our understanding of the generic nature of student writing. 

Miller argues that the definition of genre should be based on the action the genre accomplishes and defines genres as “typified rhetorical actions based in recurrent situations” (159). This conception of genre provides a lens for viewing student writing—whether historical or contemporary—as situationally-embedded rhetorical actions. The set of archival documents this article examines—Hansen’s forty-two course papers—constitute particular genres of writing, ones which Hansen was expected to produce to successfully complete her “Advanced English Composition” course. Hansen’s writings are typified in form and in function. That is, these texts are similar in features and in purposes to other writings of the same genre. Even so, rhetorical genre studies recognizes the role of individuals in selecting, using, and shaping genres. Amy Devitt writes that recent genre scholarship “recognizes and helps to account for the variation that necessarily occurs every time someone performs a genre in a particular text” (2). This variation within genres occurs because “genres are at once shared and unique” (Devitt 2). Devitt continues,  

Each performance of a genre demonstrates its degree of prototypicality, disciplinary membership, historical moment, authorial identity, and many other qualities shared with other members of its category. Yet all of those sources of variation gathered together cannot account for the unique text that an author performs in a unique moment in a unique rhetorical situation, its unique action carrying out a unique communicative purpose through a unique process. In the end, each text is a unique performance. (2) 

I extend this same consideration of genres as “unique performances” to the writings of Kate Hansen, examining her course papers not simply as evidence of the genres students produced, but, more significantly, as evidence of her unique response to writing instruction as she worked to straddle her sense of rhetoric with that of composition.  

In addition to the notions of genres as social action and unique performances, a closely-connected and useful concept is that of uptake. Anne Freadman describes uptake, a term from J. L. Austin meaning the “bidirectional relation” between texts (“Uptake” 40), using the metaphor of tennis players exchanging shots (“Anyone for Tennis?”). According to Freadman, genres need to be understood as series of uptakes or “interaction[s]” (“Uptake” 40). Summarizing Freadman’s conception of uptake, Anis Bawarshi and Mary Jo Reiff explain that uptake is “The ability to know how to negotiate genres and how to apply and turn genre strategies (rules for play) into textual practices (actual performances)” (85). In other words, uptake is both knowledge and application of genres; it is understanding the “rules” for negotiating meaning as well as carrying these rules out within “textual practices.” Part of this negotiation relates to genre selection, of which Bawarshi and Reiff write that “knowledge of uptake is knowledge of when and why to use a genre; how to select an appropriate genre in relation to another or others; where along the range of its uptake profile to take up a genre, and at what cost; how some genres explicitly cite other genres in their uptake while some do so only implicitly, and so on” (86). Uptake, then, can be understood in part as the phenomenon by which individuals and groups select genres to employ based on their memory and understanding of which genres are appropriate to given situations, as well as the individual composing decisions users make within the genres they select, including possible deviations from genre norms. In other words, uptakes are individual uses of genres, resulting in Devitt’s “unique performances.” 

Since Freadman’s initial work, rhetorical genre studies scholars have continued to articulate and add nuance to the notion of uptake and the ways in which processes of uptake occur, and several features of uptake as articulated within this scholarship make it a fitting lens for my own study of the writings of Kate Hansen. First, uptake is frequently utilized in rhetorical genre studies scholarship to examine writing within academic settings, a context in which Hansen’s writings belong. Reiff and Bawarshi, for instance, consider the antecedent genre knowledge that students bring to their first-year composition courses. One implication of their study advocates that instructors should attempt to disrupt their students’ “habitual uptakes,” such as by assigning tasks that begin with metacognitive exercises that ask students to reflect on their prior knowledge (Reiff and Bawarshi 331-332). Likewise examining contemporary students’ utilization of genres in the first-year writing classroom, Heather Bastian describes the usefulness of uptake in that it “allows [her] to highlight the ways in which the individual as well as genre and context influence how writers take up texts and make use of their discursive resources” (“Capturing Individual Uptake”). To make largely invisible uptake processes more visible, Bastian employs “disruptive pedagogical interventions” within her study by giving students a writing task but not specifying the genre in which they are expected to complete it. As work by Reiff and Bawarshi and Bastian indicate, genres scholars are concerned with the cognitive processes by which students recall and select genres to achieve desired outcomes, as well as the ways in which instructors can assist students with that process.  

A second important facet of uptake relates to the subjectivities which uptakes reinforce. In “Acknowledging the Rough Edges of Resistance: Negotiation of Identities of First-Year Composition,” Melanie Kill explains the fittingness of uptake for describing students’ positions in the university: 

If we understand the academic writing of first-year students to be largely delimited both by these students’ position within the university and by the materials and assignments provided to them, this formulation [uptake] seems to describe their situation quite well. To participate successfully in the academic and intellectual communities to which they are presumably pursuing entrance, they must write in genres, and thus assume subject positions, for which they might not yet understand the motivations or possibilities. (219) 

Thus, more than just the selection of genres and strategic composing decisions within selected genres, Kill’s conception of uptake draws attention to the risks and affordances of particular genres through the subjectivities they construct. Kill’s focus on subjectivities and the ways which genres and uptakes of genres construct student identities within the university is particularly fitting to my study of Hansen’s writings, as her uptakes of required genres necessarily position her within the academy in particular ways and demonstrate Comstock’s sense of students straddling the old rhetorical training with the new composition. Importantly, though, Kill notes that this positionality does not mean that students are completely without agency (219). This is something confirmed in the studies above in which instructors study their students’ individual uptakes and create tasks designed to encourage new, productive uptakes.  

Thus, by studying Hansen’s work closely, I gain an understanding of how she accepts, resists, or transcends her positionality as a woman student via her particular uptakes. Like most students, Hansen wrote within genres that she was required to produce for successful completion of her “Advanced English Composition” course. I explore Hansen’s particular, individual uptakes, her “abilit[ies] to know how to negotiate genres and how to apply and turn genre strategies (rules for play) into textual practices (actual performances)” (Bawarshi and Reiff 85).  

Before situating Hansen’s course papers within their local context and their embodiment of Comstock’s framework for the shifts in writing instruction that occurred at the end of the nineteenth century, it is important to consider the specific generic nature of Hansen’s set of course papers. The genre labels that appear on some of Hansen’s papers—and likewise, the genres these papers constitute—provide evidence of Wardle’s “mutt genres” (774). Mutt genres are those which writing teachers assign which “mimic genres that mediate activities in other activity systems, but within the [First-Year Composition] system their purposes and audiences are vague or even contradictory” (Wardle 774). In other words, mutt genres are those that only exist within the context of composition courses. Though Wardle is speaking specifically of modern-day assignments in FYC courses, this very much is the case for some of Hansen’s papers as well, particularly since many are labeled as “exercises” in various genres, rather than just the genre names alone. They are similar to what Amy J. Lueck, citing Ronald J. Zboray and Mary Saracino Zboray, calls “‘boundary-blurring items’ in the archives…which are those that do not easily fit in the categories of diary, scrapbook, commonplace book, and so forth” (384). Thus, Hansen’s writings can be understood as school genres that might not necessarily perform a full function outside the context of the classroom but that are nevertheless deserving of careful study for what they can tell us about her uptakes and what these moves can demonstrate about disciplinary shifts in composition.  

Situating the Old Rhetoric and the New Composition: Writing Instruction at KU & “Advanced English Composition” 

Next, it is important to situate Hansen’s writings within the local context in which they were produced. Throughout this section, I strive to frame secondary scholarship on KU history and material contained within the university’s archive through the lens of how they relate to Hansen and her “Advanced English Composition” course, seeking to center this woman and what affected her work as a writer. These primary and secondary sources promote an understanding that the writing curriculum at KU was systematic and rule-governed; likewise, they show a writing faculty who were aware of the labor-intensive nature of writing instruction and actively sought to make that work more manageable. Students, then, were expected to abide by those rules and expectations. Further, and perhaps explaining this rule-governed emphasis, the writing instruction occurring at KU at this time is illustrative of the same kind of shift Comstock and others say was going on at elite, eastern schools as they moved from the old rhetoric to new writing instruction. The result of this was often the production of mutt genre writings such as Hansen’s. 

The University of Kansas officially opened in Lawrence, Kansas on September 12, 1866 (Griffin 33). Archival materials documenting the history of the Department of English show that it consistently sought to create clear systems for managing the grading of student writing, particularly as it moved away from a more rhetoric-based curriculum to the newer writing instruction, which was much more likely to involve frequent, repeated writing exercises, “a system of daily written work” (Comstock 193). KU underwent a number of curricular changes in its early history, but courses in English had remained a requirement throughout each of these shifts, as Skinnell points out (Conceding Composition 9). Offering these courses became more challenging as enrollments at KU continued to grow. Enrollment numbers totaled 1150 in 1899-1900, the year of Hansen’s “Advanced English Composition” course. By this time, the Department of English faculty listed in the university catalog included two full professors (Charles G. Dunlap, Professor of English Literature, and Edwin M. Hopkins, Professor of Rhetoric and English Language), one associate professor of elocution and oratory (Charles Vickrey), and two assistant professors of English (Raphael D. O’Leary and H. Foster Jones) (1899-1900 Course Catalogue 65-6).[3]  

In addition to rising enrollments, the difficulty of managing the teaching of writing was further compounded by the forensic system in place at KU. David R. Russell broadly defines the forensic system as “various college wide writing requirements from entrance to graduation, which endured in the curriculum until 1900 at Harvard and elsewhere into the 1920s” (Russell 51). After moving away from a system of orally-delivered rhetoricals, KU moved to a forensic system beginning in the 1886-87 school years. KU’s forensic system consisted of themes, theses, and forensics. A daily (or near-daily) theme, as Comstock notes, is very much “an artifact of the classroom with only an arbitrary relation to ‘outside’ forms of communication. The system was legitimized in the institution to the extent that it made intelligible the development of the student him/herself, and vice versa” (193). Students were, in effect, regularly producing mutt genres for their themes and other assigned genres.  

While the distinctions between these three genres of writing within the forensic system are not always clear[4], each of them were graded by Department of English faculty (and, most likely, manuscript readers). These required writings within the forensic system certainly contributed to the labor required of Department of English manuscript readers and faculty, including Hopkins and O’Leary, the co-instructors for Hansen’s “Advanced English Composition” course.  

Due to the quantity of text that students produced in the new composition-based program, the Department of English had to find ways of making the work of grading forensic system writings more sustainable. To help manage this work, the Department of English published its English Bulletin for the first time in 1894. This booklet was written by the department and appears intended to be read by all students engaged in English coursework (which itself also sometimes included the production of themes, theses, and forensics) and all students engaged in forensic system writings as required by their individual schools. The 1899-1901 English Bulletin opens by articulating its purpose, remarking heavily on the “need of a system” for handling its immense number of themes, theses, and forensics received by the department (8).[5] The Bulletin remarks that 

The English Department receives each year from 1,100 students about 45,000 pages of manuscript aggregating nine million words, requiring for critical reading and correction the equivalent of four years’ labor by a single reader working four hours per day, which is the limit of endurance for such work. Only by making it as systematic as possible can it be done at all; and it is evident that in the handling of such a mass of material every detail, however minute, is of importance [. . .] every student is required, by careful attention to these instructions, to aid the department in the most burdensome part of its duty. (1899-1901 English Bulletin 8) 

The Bulletin goes on to detail its systems, including providing criteria such as exact specifications for paper size and folding methods to follow, precise “superscriptions” to write on the outside of completed work, and protocols and locations for submitting work, picking up graded work, and re-depositing it again “for permanent filing” (1899-1901 English Bulletin 9-10, 17).  

Further, much like a contemporary handbook, the English Bulletin also provided expectations for quoting and citing material and constructing bibliographies and structuring outlines (1899-1901 English Bulletin 11-12, 13-14). Much like a modern syllabus, the Bulletin also provided late work submission policies, office hours, and a grading system and scale (English Bulletin 18). Thus, the Department of English at the time of Hansen’s “Advanced English Composition” courses had very specific procedural expectations for the submission and handling of student work in their writing courses and in their completion of themes, theses, and forensics, and the English Bulletin served as a genre through which those expectations could be conveyed. 

And so, in addition to preparatory requirements that aimed to standardize the courses, textbooks, and content that students were taught prior to enrolling at KU, the English Bulletin suggests that the department sought to be systematic and rule-governed in its approaches to receiving, responding, and returning student work once they were fully-fledged students fulfilling their forensic system requirements. In this way, similar to what Comstock observes at Harvard, “training in writing becomes disciplinary and largely physical” (189). 

By the time Hansen was a student at KU, individual schools within the University set the requirements for their students. Hansen’s school (the School of Fine Arts) and her specific Pianoforte program required that she take “Advanced English Composition.” Although courses in the Department of English were frequently restructured in the years surrounding Hansen’s course, in 1899-1900 the course was grouped within English B, “Rhetoric and English Language,” relating more strongly to rhetorical and language concerns than to literature. For Hansen, a student in the School of Fine Arts, this course was required, and she opted to take it during the second semester of her first year (Hansen enrollment card). 

The ways in which Hansen’s “Advanced English Composition” course is described varies somewhat across the documents and genre systems of the university and department. The course description for the class in the course catalog during the year of Hansen’s course describes it as “A study of the general theory of all forms of discourse, with copious original exercises” (119). Within the English Bulletin of 1899-1901, the course is a “Study of the forms of discourse with reference to structure and style; lectures, exercises, reference reading, and seminar” (6). These descriptions of the course are helpful in shaping an understanding of the course, and they reflect an emphasis on repeated, “copious” writing exercises that seem more about “disciplining of the body” using routine than “training of the mind” (Comstock 189). But how did students—in particular, women students—actually respond to the instruction they received? What did they actually write? What were their unique performances of the genres they were expected to produce? These are questions that university/departmental documents such as the course catalog or the English Bulletin cannot answer. 

Analyzing Kate Hansen’s Course Papers 

I now move to an examination of the forty-two course papers archived at KU’s Kenneth Spencer Research Library which Hansen produced for her specific “Advanced English Composition” course in the spring of 1900. Each of these papers is handwritten with pencil on lined paper, and each is labeled with a superscription and folded in half, as the English Bulletin indicated was required. The information contained in the superscriptions of Hansen’s papers are highly valuable for a study of her writings. Students’ superscriptions were required to list the following: “First, the subject of the paper; then, in this order: the writer’s name, the writers’ class, and the date of presentation” (1899-1901 English Bulletin 10). Hansen’s superscriptions are most often full and complete, and their dates provide a clear indication of the order in which her papers were submitted throughout the course. The earliest paper’s date is February 2, 1900, and the latest May 28, 1900. Only four of her papers are missing dates within their superscriptions.  

While determining the precise genres students were expected to produce is not always possible, in many cases, clues to the genres in which Hansen composes are likewise provided by her papers’ superscriptions. Twenty-seven of her papers’ superscriptions include a title, while fifteen of Hansen’s papers lack this exterior title. In these cases, I rely on the title that appears at the top of the interior first page of the assignments. These titles in either Hansen’s superscriptions or her papers’ interior first pages frequently provide what I call genre labels, named indications of what genre she was asked to write. For instance, her February 25 paper is titled an “Exercise in Editorial and News Paragraphing,” which indicates that Hansen was asked to produce the genre of editorial and news paragraphs, or at least exercises closely connected to the imitation of these genres. As described above, the range of labels present within Hansen’s paper set suggest that students in “Advanced English Composition” were required to write within a wide variety of genres, some of which were certainly mutt genres brought on the by the movement from the old rhetoric to the new composition. These pieces contain those “purposes and audiences” Wardle describes as “vague or even contradictory,” and they appear to only exist within the context of a composition course (774). Of Hansen’s forty-two papers, eleven do not contain a direct indication of their intended genre via a label.  

Remaining Within Genres 

Hansen’s course papers demonstrate that she often remained largely within the conventions of the genres she was expected to produce. When I use the term “within,” I mean that Hansen takes up the assignment and produces a text that appears in keeping with the form and function of the genre she has been assigned to produce. This is often evident based on expectations presented in the English Bulletin because, although Hansen’s writings in her paper set are for her “Advanced English Composition” course and not for the additional forensic system writings to which the Bulletin most often directly refers, it is logical that her instructors maintained many of the same logistical expectations for the writings produced within the courses they taught.  

My analysis of Hansen’s course papers demonstrates that there are three primary overarching genres in which Hansen makes no obvious deviations from the genres’ form, content, or function, instead maintaining the “habitual uptakes” expected by the assignment, and each of these certainly function as mutt genres that do not exist outside classrooms: outlines, briefs and refutations (refutations are identical to briefs, yet involve arguing for an opposing claim to the one presented in a brief), and descriptions (Reiff and Bawarshi 331). In her outlines, for instance, which discuss topics such as “What I think of Being Vaccinated” or “Some Advantages of Eight O’Clock Classes,” Hansen follows the parameters and models provided in the English Bulletin to carry out her own outlines for “Advanced English Composition” (Hansen, “Exercise in Outlines” 1; Hansen, “Some Advantages” 1; 1899-1901 English Bulletin 13). Likewise, in each of her briefs, Hansen begins with a clear thesis and then follows with outline-like structures, detailing reasons that the thesis is true, another expectation presented in the Bulletin. Some thesis statements which begin her briefs include: “Industrial education should be given a place in the public schools,” “The study of German is preferable to that of Latin,” “All teachers in country schools should be required to pass an examination in music,” “Students should not study on Sunday,” “Students in college should help frame the laws by which they are governed,” and “Undergraduate students should devote themselves to a single line of study” (Hansen, “Exercise in Briefs” 19 Mar 1900 1; Hansen, “Exercise in Brief-Making” 21 Mar 1900 1; Hansen, “Exercise in Brief-Making” 23 Mar 1900 1; Hansen, “Exercise in Brief-Making 25 Mar 1900 1; Hansen, “Exercise in Briefs” 27 Mar 1900 1; Hansen, “Exercise in Briefs” 11 Apr 1900 1). 

However, even within these mutt genres for which Hansen performs seemingly normal uptakes, she frequently includes clear traces of her own interests and experiences, as well as her past experiences. For example, nearly all of Hansen’s arguments in her briefs connect closely to the subject of education, a subject Hansen has an investment in as both a former educator in rural Kansas schools and as a current student herself at KU. Only one brief’s thesis, “The poet makes use of his earlier writings in his Latin works” does not directly address education or students (Hansen, “Exercise in Briefs” [4 Apr 1900] 1). Likewise, some briefs showcase Hansen’s knowledge of the German language. In other words, the briefs Hansen produces are still unique performances of those mutt genres because they reflect her own interests and experiences; her uptake of writing instruction to produce these very mutt-genre-esque briefs that are largely about repetition and following prescribed rules does not preclude her ability to do so in ways that are unique to her as an individual.  

Further, Hansen’s papers demonstrate that her engagement with assignments relies on her personal interests even in genres that would not necessarily require student writers to draw on the personal as the basis for their work. To return to Hansen’s briefs to illustrate this, the personal connections Hansen utilizes do not appear to be required components of the form and function of briefs as established in the English Bulletin, which instead appear very logic-based, requiring an argument and evidence or proofs. However, writing within the genre of a brief seems to intrinsically require an insertion of the self and an investment in the selected proposition or thesis. Hansen must have familiarity with the argument she presents in order to readily and successfully convey it. As such, Hansen’s use of personal connections within her briefs does not seem to constitute a deviation from the genre. Or, at least, having familiarity with her topic and argument serves as an aid and makes producing a brief more feasible. This notion of making academic tasks more personal is similar to observations made by Sue Carter Simmons in her study of Radcliffe student Annie Ware Winsor Allen. Simmons argues that Allen, who was likewise writing for male professors, was able to learn and eventually manipulate the academic discourse she was taught to “[transform] the hostile curriculum she met into a more personally fulfilling one that enabled her to meet her own goal of becoming a school teacher” (270). In this way, Simmons demonstrates that Allen made use of her daily themes—themselves a genre—to help achieve her own educational and personal goals. Though it is not clear if this was likewise a motivation for Hansen, it is clear that Hansen’s affinity for taking up genres in ways that draw on her personal interests and experiences spans across genres, and doing so appears to allow her to more readily enact the mutt genres she was expected to produce.  

Pushing Against Genres 

While Hansen’s enactments of the genres of outlines, briefs and refutations, and descriptions most certainly demonstrate her working within these mutt genres in expected ways, as well as using her personal interests and experiences to assist herself in doing so, she engages in other kinds of uptakes, as well. There are other clear instances in her writings for “Advanced English Composition” that instead show her pushing against the mutt genres she was expected to produce. Hansen is not a passive recipient of writing instruction and the bodily discipline teaching methods that Comstock demonstrates were becoming the new method of writing instruction at the end of the nineteenth century. I illustrate this by providing examples from Hansen’s work where she either expresses difficulty with producing specific genres or where she uses genre imitation in ways that show her understanding of mutt genres’ forms and function, yet also her manipulation of them to evoke humor. 

Challenges in Completing Writing Tasks 

First, there are instances in Hansen’s course papers in which she attempts to take up the mutt genres she has been assigned to produce but expresses her difficulty with doing so. On April 23, Hansen submits an assignment—one whose contents reveal is the genre of a theme—titled “One Student’s Directions for Cultivating Cabbages.” This assignment opens as follows: 

The cultivation of cabbages! Dire dismay overwhelmed the mind of at least one long-suffering student, when this subject was announced. “What do I know about the cultivation of cabbages?” she exclaimed. “I never cultivated a cabbage in my life! I do not know if cabbage grows from a seed or a bulb!” For two days she worried over those cabbages. She searched every nook and corner of her brain for “subject” or “theme material”, but she searched in vain. She annoyed all her friends with questions about cabbages. They knew but little more than she did. She obtained only two bits of information which she thought of any value- the first, that cabbages do not grow from bulbs, and the second, that the plants must be transplanted to make them grow well. But that could never be made into a five hundred word theme, she thought. At last, into the gloomy emptiness of her brain there flashed a dangling light. It was, an idea- at last. “Now,” she thought, “I have been studying reasoning for these past six weeks, and I surely ought to know something about it. Why should I not reason out the proper manner of cultivating cabbages?” She did so, and here is the result of her reasoning […] (Hansen, “One Student’s Directions” 1) 

In this theme, Hansen spends nearly half of her two-page assignment expressing the difficulty she has with completing this writing task. Narrating her pre-writing process, she begins by explaining that she took an inventory of her already-held knowledge. Finding nothing useful to aid her in writing about cabbages, she writes that she then consults friends, which yields some information, yet not enough for a “five hundred word theme,” which is apparently the required length for her paper. After narrating this process, she claims that she draws on her skills of “reasoning” to write the remaining page of her two-page paper (Hansen, “One Student’s Directions”). 

Hansen’s meta-commentary on the difficulty she has with completing this assignment, as well as the percentage of the whole theme that these commentaries take up, show her engaging in uptakes that seem out of keeping with the genre of the theme. The English Bulletin, previous student Margaret Kane’s 1899 course notes, and Hansen’s other themes suggest themes instead ought to begin with a clear focus or point and then proceed in a logical order to address that focus or point. Instead, Hansen devotes substantial time and space to overtly describing why she has difficulty carrying out the assignment. The challenges Hansen faces in taking up this theme are certainly valid—she simply does not know how to cultivate cabbages. But Hansen’s use of the theme itself to describe those challenges pushes against the form and function of the genre she has been assigned to compose. Like the students at Louisville Girls High School described by Lueck who produce or even sign their school memory books (394-9), Hansen recognizes the expected uses of genres while also noting and even pushing back against those same genres’ constraints. This demonstrates her rhetorical savvy when faced with a composition-based task. 

Hansen’s expressions of difficulty with writing tasks are most obvious in this theme on cultivating cabbages. However, shorter commentaries on the challenges of taking up her assignments likewise occur in other papers. In her April 25 paper titled “Two Games of My School Days,” Hansen is apparently tasked with describing games she played as a child. She opens her essay by saying that 

It is indeed a difficult task to go back in memory to the games of childhood. The distance is so great, that very few objects can be recalled with sufficient accuracy for the present scientific investigation. Vague pictures, scraps of verse with their accompanying monotonous chant, one or two names- these are all that now remain. Here is one of the verses which come to me: […]. (Hansen, “Two Games of My School Days” 1) 

Hansen next provides two verses that appear to be nursery rhymes, after which she further elaborates on the lyrics and the actions that accompany them. Hansen could have omitted this opening and moved directly to providing these verses; instead, she chose to open the paper by expressing the challenge this assignment presents. This may be because she feels these “verses” are not in keeping with the “games” her paper’s title suggests she was instructed to write.  

In this paper, as in “One Student’s Directions for Cultivating Cabbages,” Hansen seems to want to produce her assignments in ways consistent with her assigned tasks. But when she feels she is unable to do so successfully, she modifies the genre’s contents to instead devote (sometimes substantial) length to explaining the challenges she encounters. She may do so for a variety of reasons, such as to expand her papers’ lengths to meet their requirements, or perhaps in order to ensure her readers, Hopkins or O’Leary, are aware of the challenges she faced (and perhaps not grade her harshly for remembering verses but not actual games). Or, like the Louisville Girls High School students who Lueck studies (398), Hansen simply has anxieties and difficulties in composing in this new (mutt) genre. For whatever reasons, Hansen’s uptakes may push against the specific assignments with which she is tasked, showing that although she was a recipient of the new composition and the bodily discipline that came with it that Comstock describes, doing so does not mean Hansen did not struggle or engage in uptakes that are individual to her own experiences.  

Using Genre Imitation in an “Exercise in Letter Writing” 

In addition to expressing difficulty with her writing assignments, Hansen subtly pushes against the genres she has been assigned through a use of humor or playfulness. While many of Hansen’s papers demonstrate this usage of humor, it is particularly well-illustrated in her March 9 “Exercise in Letter Writing.” This example is also especially interesting because letters themselves are real-world genres, not classroom mutt genres; however, the ways in which Hansen choses to compose this particular letter shows that she still recognizes the artificiality of a letter-writing exercise; she realizes that she and her classmates are writing letters that will not actually circulate outside the classroom. 

Hansen’s “Exercise in Letter Writing” is dated “Lawrence, Kans. March 9, 1900” and addressed to “Mr. J. S. Bach, The Seventh Heaven.” Hansen writes: 

Most Honored Master:- A poor student, who for the past six months has been laboring, with ardent devotion, but alas! all in vain, to gain some conception of the meaning of your wonderful Inventions and three part Fugues, ventures to address you, the Master, alike of past, present, and future music. Words are indeed inadequate to express my admiration for those sublime compositions. They are also inadequate to express my opinion of the labor involved in mastering them. O, Master, We work so faithfully: we practice, “one, two, three, four,” regularly as the clock ticks, for four weary hours every day. We think we understand your meaning; we go to class full of confidence. We play one measure, or perhaps, in rare cases, two; then our instructor, hard-hearted as he is, interrupts- tell us it is all wrong, that we have not the slightest idea of your meaning, and in short makes us feel that we never can attain any understanding of your works, no matter how we work. We wish, so earnestly, that we might see you, and year you tell us what to do, and how to express your thoughts- But what do these Inventions really mean? One voice says something; then another one begins, then a third one interrupts- All three keep on, each one with a different something to say, until it seems that neither is saying anything. So they keep on quarreling, arguing, disputing. Sometimes one stops for a measure or two, apparently for lack of breath. Once in a while, although rarely, two agree for a measure enough to follow each other in thirds and sixths. Finally, with a last parting thrust, they die away one after the other. Is that what you think people do? Is this meant to be a philosophy of life? Or is it just so much “exercise for the independence of the fingers?” Forgive the presumption of the questions, dear Master, and set at rest the mind of one who is well-nigh distracted with these confusing, conflicting “voices.” With all humility, Your disciple, Hansen Ingeborg Hansen. (Hansen, “Exercise in Letter Writing” 1-2) 

In this letter, Hansen describes the difficulty she has with learning Bach’s musical compositions. This letter clearly shows a connection to Hansen’s own interests as a piano student in the School of Fine Arts. 

Aside from taking up the genre in a way that connects to her personal interests, Hansen’s uptake of the letter genre is significant in that she has addresses it to a non-living recipient. Other features of the letter seem in keeping with the genre: the structure of the heading, paragraphs, salutation, and closing all seem to match the form of a personal letter. But the actual content of these features shows Hansen crafting an imaginative, humorous letter, one addressed to long-deceased composer Johann Sebastian Bach who resides in “The Seventh Heaven,” entreating him to reveal the purpose of his complex musical compositions (Hansen, “Exercise in Letter Writing” 1). In these ways, Hansen shows her understanding of both the form and function of a letter; in this sense, she is writing within the genre and engaging in expected uptakes. However, these modifications to its form and function may likewise show her ability to imitate the genre, to use it in playful ways that do not fit its real-world function. Hansen may also be pushing against the constraints of a fairly prescriptive genre and looking for ways to exercise creativity or choice within those constraints. This is her “unique performance” of the genre (Devitt 2).  

On a deeper level, Hansen may be showing a keen understanding of the artificiality of classroom writing assignment genres, even ones that aren’t necessarily mutt genres. She may recognize that she does not need to write to a living person in order to successfully complete her assignment. Thus, being a recipient of the new, much more disciplined composition does not preclude her abilities to take up genres in her own unique performances. 

Moving Beyond Genres 

Hansen most frequently writes within the genres she is assigned as part of her course. And there are occasions, as I demonstrate above, in which Hansen may even push against the genres she is required to produce. It’s clear that, although a woman being taught by men in a time when teaching writing was becoming more disciplined and rule-governed, Hansen is not a passive recipient of writing instruction, but rather a unique individual engaging in unique performances and uptakes of her assignment genres. In this final section, I analyze ways in which Hansen may do more than write within or against genres. In the two examples that follow, I argue that she may even write beyond genres, utilizing the genres she has been required to write within “Advanced English Composition” in ways that expand beyond their intended forms and functions. In each of these examples, while I have no reason to believe Hansen did not actually engage in the activities she claims she did, the possibility should be acknowledged that the writing Hansen produces were products of her imagination. 

Writing Beyond Genre in “An Experiment in Artistic Observation”  

On May 7, Hansen submits an untitled paper slightly over three pages in length whose interior title is “An Experiment in Artistic Observation.” Unlike most other papers, Hansen opens this one by directly identifying the writing task she has been assigned: “We had been assigned as a subject for composition, ‘A Night in the Deserted House.’ Not being possessed of sufficiently vivid imaginations to manufacture a story about it, and never having been in such a place, several of us were at a loss what to do” (Hansen, “An Experiment” 1). Hansen and her friends have apparently been assigned to construct a paper—perhaps a theme—related to this subject. Though the genre is not completely clear from this opening, it does seem that this assignment requires students to use their “imaginations” to construct this piece of writing. 

Next, Hansen discusses the plan formulated by herself and some fellow students, who she identifies only by their first initials (M., B., and R.), to accomplish this work. She writes that “At last M. had a brilliant idea. ‘Why not go there tonight?’ Four of us agreed to try it. The owners of the place looked surprised at our request, and cast some unkind reflections on our common sense. However, on our explaining our object, they granted us the desired permission” (Hansen, “An Experiment” 1). Hansen and her three friends find their assigned task to be challenging, and, in response, they apparently actually go to a deserted house. The remainder of Hansen’s paper recalls their experience, which includes their arrival at the deserted house, their surveillance of it, and their splitting up to spend the night in separate rooms within it, “In order to make [their] impressions more vivid” (Hansen, “An Experiment” 1). Hansen manages to fall asleep, during which time she experiences a terrible nightmare. She is awakened by a loud noise (which her paper later reveals to be one of her friends falling out of their hammock) that scares Hansen and her companions, many of whom then flee the deserted house (Hansen, “An Experiment” 1-3).  

Hansen turns in this assignment for “Advanced English Composition,” and she titles this experience “An Experiment in Artistic Observation.” Again, this title that Hansen writes at the top of the interior first page of her assignment is quite distinct from the assignment Hansen says in the beginning of the paper’s body that she and her classmates have been assigned to write. She writes that “We had been assigned as a subject for composition, ‘A Night in the Deserted House,’” and that it is supposed to be written through use of the imagination alone.  

Hansen’s construction of her ethos within this paper is interesting. On one hand, her movement well beyond the genre she has been assigned to complete shows somewhat of a disregard for the instructions she has been given. However, she is careful to include an indication in her paper that she and her friends did ask permission to stay in the house, and that they were not trespassing or breaking actual laws in modifying their assignment to actually go to a deserted house. Even so, Hansen identifies the sex of at least one of her friends accompanying her on this excursion as male. As such, Hansen spends at least a portion of the night in the house with other male students, a mixing of company that likely would have been frowned upon in 1900.  

While in papers such as “One Student’s Directions for Cultivating Cabbages” or “Two Games of My School Days” Hansen expresses her difficulty with carrying out her writing tasks, and while in “Exercise in Letter Writing” she carries it out in a humorous, genre-imitating fashion, in this “Experiment in Artistic Observation” she moves well beyond the task she has been asked to undertake, and does so using a complicated construction of personal ethos that likely would not have been raised had she remained “within” the confines of the original assignment. Scholar Brad Peters describes his own student’s use of a different genre to accomplish a writing task an “antigenre” (201). Likewise, as Peters says may be the case of his modern-day student, Hansen may “[feel] a need to conceptualize and articulate what she knows about a topic in a new way,” one other than the genre that has been assigned (Peters 201). Rather than imitating or playing with the assigned genre, Hansen experiments with a new genre to achieve her purposes. 

Not only is the genre very different from what she is assigned, but so are Hansen’s methods for completing it. Whereas “A Night in the Deserted House,” Hansen’s actual assignment, asked that she produce a fictional account based on her imagination (and it is possible that is what she did), Hansen and her friends certainly appear to instead enact first-hand field research. Rather than construct their papers from their imaginations, as Hansen’s opening suggests they were asked to do, they actually go to a deserted house to be inspired and gain material for their assignment, moving beyond the assigned genre and task in both their writing process and their final writing product. Comstock argues that the previous rhetorical instruction was about training students’ minds, while the newer composition was more about disciplining their bodies; in this example from Hansen’s papers, the separation between the two is not so clear and may actually be a combination of each. 

Writing Beyond Genre in an “Oration” 

Hansen’s decision to alter the parameters of her assignment in order to produce “An Experiment in Artistic Observation” shows her taking up the assignment in a unique way, though one apparently shared by her three friends. But there is one other instance of Hansen writing well beyond the genre she has been asked to complete. 

On May 28, Hansen submitted the final paper contained within this collection of her “Advanced English Composition” papers. This “Oration” is one, according to the line following the main title, that Hansen “Delivered Before the Freshman Harmony Class.” The full transcript of this oration is as follows:  

Miss President, ladies and gentleman [sic]:-  

It is indeed a sorrowful occasion which calls us together. For nearly nine months we have had toil and suffering in common. Our brains have vibrated in unison as we labored to calculate the ratios of the vibrations in a chord of the augmented sixth. The most violent discords have not disturbed the concord of our relations with our esteemed instructor. Without a word of complaint we have robbed ourselves of our much-needed sleep, which we strove to rid our exercises of parallel fifths, augmented seconds, and doubled leading tones. We have strained our ears to comprehend the difference between consonances and dissonances, until our whole existence seemed to be moving to the time of a diminished seventh. With unmixed patience we have striven to understand the mysteries of mixed chords. With unalterable determination we have wrestles with the difficulties of altered chords. Dominated by the one desire to do our whole duty, we have not shrunk from the multitudinous array of dominant discords. These were comparatively easy. But what shall I say of our last month’s work? it is unnecessary to speak of that; for the pale face, in which the lines of care are all too deep, the tired eyes, the attenuated forms before me bear a far more eloquent testimony than I could every do, to the devotion with which we have given ourselves to the last task-master, the subject of modulations. We have succeeded. Even our professor admits that. The family of keys is to us as our own kindred. The relative minor of the dominant, the opposite mode of the relative minor of the sub-dominant, present no more difficulties to use. Direct extraneous modulations, consecutive dominants, enharmonic exchanges, have become as integral parts of our minds. We have avoided no part, however abstruse or mystifying. At last, our labors seemed about to be ended. it would be only one week, and then freedom, for had not the chancellor decreed it. Do you remember our rejoicing? Alas, that it was in vain! Soon there came to use the awful news, that when all the other schools had ended their work, when all the other students, happy in their release from quizes [sic] and “cramming,” were hastening homeward- we alone were to be compelled to remain, in order to prove our possession of this dearly-bought knowledge of ours. No matter, that our instructor already knows we possess it. Classmates, you do not need to be told that this is unjust and injurious. You all agree that such cruelty must not be. For the sake of our health, which will surely give away under the strain of that extra day; for the sake of our faithful work in the past; for the sake of Harmony in every sense, I move that we present a petition to our instructor, most humbly begging and entreating him to spare us that last crowning ordeal. (Hansen, “Oration” 1-3) 

This particular paper is likewise transcribed in the biography of Hansen written by Dane G. Bales, Polly Roth Bales, and Calvin E. Harbin, though the only commentary or analysis Bales, Bales, and Harbin offer is to say that it was a “good-natured student protest” (117). The situation surrounding this particular assignment is somewhat complicated: Hansen claims that her “Freshmen Harmony” class worked exceptionally hard to learn a difficult set of chords, finally succeeding in doing so. However, even though all the other schools had dismissed for the semester, the Harmony instructor announced the students would still be quizzed on the material and need to “prove” their “dearly bought knowledge” (Hansen, “Oration” 2). Hansen’s oration is an address to her fellow “Freshmen Harmony” classmates (including a “Miss President”), asking them to stand together and petition the music professor for a release from this final exam.  

At the end of this paper, Hansen includes the following parenthetical comment on the outcome of her oration: “The motion was carried unanimously. The petition was written in the most touching style. But the hard-hearted professor, instead of being moved to compassion, seemed only amused at our suffering. The quiz will proceed” (Hansen, “Oration” 3). In other words, Hansen was successful in getting her classmates to agree to petition their instructor for a release from the exam. They then did so; however, their attempts to persuade the professor were unsuccessful. 

In this paper, Hansen produces a writing assignment that, in many ways, resides “within” the genre of an oration. The course notes of student Margaret Kane from May 29, 1899, who was enrolled in a course by the same title and instructors just one year earlier than Kate Hansen, include ample information about this genre, the various classes of orations, and many of their characteristics. Kane’s notes likewise indicate that in her own “Advanced English Composition” course, an “address to a class” was one of the options from which students could select for their assignment (Kane 169). It is likewise feasible that Hansen was given this option during her course a year later. In this sense, Hansen is writing within the parameters her instructors likely set.  

Even so, there are two features of Hansen’s oration that call its “within-ness” into question. First, Hansen actually delivers her oration. Kane’s course notes regarding her own assignment are unclear as to whether this was a requirement; rather, Kane simply writes in her notes that she has as “choice” of six possible orations and that she must “avoid oratorical errors” (Kane 169). But Kane gives no indication as to whether this entails simply writing a script for an oration or whether it must also be delivered. In this sense, it is possible that Hansen may be writing beyond the requirements of her assignments in writing and actually delivering an oration. 

This issue of delivery is unclear, but a second factor, and one which I argue does indicate Hansen moves beyond the genre of the oration, is the particular exigence and function of her oration to her harmony class. Kane’s course notes indicate that, while an “Oration contains persuasion,” its actual likelihood of being persuasive is not likely (Kane 166). Among Kane’s options listed for the assignment are seemingly non-persuasive situations, such as “an after dinner speech” or “a toast to a class” (Kane 169). Kane writes, “One goes to hear an oration expecting to be entertained and expecting the orator to try to convince him against his better judgement & so he is less easily convinced” (Kane 166). Because it is unlikely that a speaker will actually be able to persuade using the genre of an oration, “Oratory is not considered practical now-a-days” (Kane 166). 

Assuming that the instruction that Hansen receives in her “Advanced English Composition” course taught by the instructors one year later is similar, Hansen should not have expected to be successful in actually persuading an audience through the genre of an oration. However, Hansen selected an exigence for her oration that she actually felt was pressing and in need of modification, rather than something she needed to do simply to fulfill the requirements of a classroom mutt genre, as perhaps Hansen does in a paper like her “Exercise in Letter Writing.” Moreover, Hansen used her oration writing assignment from the course to attempt to enact change where she saw need for change. She has created an active situation out of what was likely intended to be passive exercise. Her speech itself was successful, as her classmates were persuaded that they should petition their harmony instructor. Although this later petition to the instructor was not successful and did not yield Hansen’s desired outcome, her speech itself did accomplish what she intended. 

Hansen uses her assignment to attempt to enact change, and the instruction she likely received about the nature of orations suggests that it was very likely her attempts at change would be unsuccessful. But doing so, Hansen shows her desire to move beyond the genre of an oration, do more than entertain, and successfully persuade for a cause connected to her own interests and beliefs. In this way, Hansen has taken up the oration genre in a way that moves beyond the function her instructors expected an oration could feasibly perform. This shows an interesting blending of both mind and body discipline that coincides with the blending that may have occurred between rhetoric and composition in the framework Comstock forwards. 


This study demonstrates that the fusion of rhetorical genre theory and archival research provides meaningful understandings of the factors shaping and shaped by writing instruction at individual universities, as well as by larger, more widespread shifts in writing pedagogy. It prompts a recognition of what can be gained by focusing on individual women students and their responses to that instruction, their unique performances of the genres they are assigned. 

Writing instructors at KU were undoubtedly working under enormous strains as a result of moving toward a newer writing instruction and away from the older rhetoric, and they attempted to mitigate those challenges by creating orderly systems and procedures for themselves and their students. Documents such as the English Bulletin show an English department making concerted efforts to establish its role in the university, attempting to define and teach writing effectively long before the formal establishment of rhetoric and composition as a recognized field with journals, professional organizations, and doctoral programs. In his analysis of Harvard student self-reports, Comstock shows the movement from the old rhetoric to the new composition and its prioritizing of bodily discipline. My own analysis of Hansen’s papers show that the shift from the old rhetoric to the new writing instruction described by Comstock was very much happening at KU and that it resulted in the production of mutt genres. However, there is still more that can be learned about students’ individual uptakes and their work to balance rhetorical moves with composition in this time period when we narrow to a focus on individual students. 

While KU as a site of formal education has been previously examined largely in terms of its instructors and programs, by narrowing in on the previously-unexamined writings and uptakes of writing instruction of a female student, we gain a closer understanding of what it was actually like for such a student to receive that instruction. Even when Kate Hansen was largely writing within the expected confines of specific genres’ forms and functions (thus conforming to the expectations for students presented in documents like the English Bulletin), she still frequently used her own knowledge and past experiences as touch-points for doing so. Her uptakes, movements against, and even movements beyond the conventions of genres further emphasizes that her responses to writing instruction results in unique performances of genres. Though academic genres, including mutt genres, in the new composition may encourage habitualized uptakes, Hansen manages to insert her own identity and assert agency in her individualized uptake of her writing tasks. Hansen’s writings provide a missing piece to understanding writing instruction at this institution, demonstrating how this sort of feminist recovery work can illuminate hidden corners of Rhetoric and Composition.  


I am grateful to Dr. Jane Greer and Dr. Lisa Mastrangelo for their wisdom, guidance, and mentorship at various stages of this research and writing project. 

End Notes

[1] Connors is the first scholar to coin the term “Composition-Rhetoric” to distinguish this shift. While I recognize that Comstock is using Connors as a base model (although he does not explicitly state this), I have chosen to use Comstock here because of his focus on pedagogy and on specific student writing, which provides a more detailed example and an updated read on Connors’ work

[2]For example, histories of writing instruction by Robert J. Connors (Composition Rhetoric)James A. Berlin, David R. Russell, and Ryan Skinnell all discuss Hopkins. Hopkins’ work and life were also extensively studied by Randall Popken. 

[3]Although these five men are the only English faculty listed in the course catalog, documents produced internally by the Department of English. This catalog and the preceding year’s likewise list seminar librarians (Edith M. Clark and Dora C. Renn) and manuscript readers of the department (Robert Wilson Neal, Annie H. Abel, and Will B. Sutton). So, although women helped to comprise and perform important labor within the department during the year of Hansen’s composition course, the professorship roles, those that the university apparently assigned the most institutional credibility by their listing in the catalog that circulated to all of the other schools, belonged only to men. 

[4]In general, themes at KU referred exclusively to the required writing done within most degree plans by sophomores. Themes were expected to be “not less than 1000 words each” and had specific due dates throughout the year (1899-1901 English Bulletin 9). Theses and forensics, which were the junior and senior requirements, differed in that they were “designated forensics when argumentative, and theses when expository” (1899-1901 English Bulletin 15). There is no evidence that students at KU were required to deliver their forensic writings orally (as they had been in the previous tradition of rhetoricals). However, the delivery of approved types of orations or other public addresses could substitute in place of forensics (1899-1901 English Bulletin 16). Students were still required to submit their orations “to an English instructor for criticism at least a week before delivered” (1899-1901 English Bulletin 16-17). 

[5]There are four issues of the English Bulletin preserved in the Department of English artificial records. The 1899-1901 edition is the only one that spans two academic years rather than one, and the document itself offers no explanation as to why.  

Works Cited 

Applegarth, Risa. “Personal Writing in Professional Spaces: Contesting Exceptionalism in Interwar Women’s Vocational Autobiographies.” College English, vol. 77, no. 6, 2015, pp. 530-52, 

Bales, Dane G., Polly Roth Bales, and Calvin E. Harbin. Kate Hansen: The Grandest Mission on Earth from Kansas to Japan, 1907-1951. University of Kansas, Division of Continuing Education, 2000. 

Bastian, Heather. “Capturing Individual Uptake: Toward a Disruptive Research Methodology.” Composition Forum, vol. 31, 2015, 

Berlin, James A. Rhetoric and Reality: Writing Instruction in American Colleges, 1900-1985. Southern Illinois UP, 1987.  

—. Writing Instruction in Nineteenth-Century Colleges and Universities. Southern Illinois UP, 1984 

Bordelon, Suzanne. “‘Private Letters’ for Public Audiences: The Complexities of Ethos in Louise Clappe’s The Shirley Letters from the California Mines, 1851-1852.” Rhetoric Review, vol. 37, no. 1, 2018 pp. 1-13, 

Bokser, Julie. “Inventing the Lady Manager: Rhetorically Constructing the ‘Working Woman.’” Peitho, vol. 21, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1-23, 

Carr, Jean Ferguson, Stephen L. Carr, and Lucille M. Schultz. Archives of Instruction: Nineteenth-Century Rhetorics, Readers, and Composition Books in the United States. Southern Illinois UP, 2005. 

Comstock, Eward J. “Student Discipline and Development at Harvard in the Late Nineteenth Century.” In the Archives of Composition: Writing and Rhetoric in High Schools and Normal Schools, edited by Lori Ostergaard and Henrietta Rix Wood, U of Pittsburgh P, 2015, pp. 185-205. 

Connors, Robert J. Composition-Rhetoric: Backgrounds, Theory, and Pedagogy. U of Pittsburgh P, 1997.   

—. “Dreams and Play: Historical Method and Methodology.” Methods and Methodology in Composition Research, edited by Gesa Kirsch and Patricia Sullivan, Southern Illinois UP, 1992, pp. 15-36. 

—. “Rhetoric in the Modern University: The Creation of an Underclass.” The Politics of Writing Instruction: Postsecondary, edited by Richard Bullock and John Trimbur. Boynton, 1991, pp. 55-84. 

Devitt, Amy J. “Genre Performances: John Swales’ Genre Analysis and Rhetorical-Linguistic Genre Studies.” Journal of English for Academic Purposes, vol. 19, 2015, pp. 44-51, 

Donahue, Patricia, and Gretchen Flesher Moon. Local Histories: Reading the Archives of Composition. U of Pittsburgh P, 2007.  

Enoch, Jessica. Refiguring Rhetorical Education: Women Teaching African American, Native American, and Chicano/a Students, 1865-1911. Southern Illinois UP, 2008. 

Fitzgerald, Kathryn. “The Platteville Papers: Inscribing Frontier Ideology and Culture in a Nineteenth-Century Writing Assignment.” College English, vol. 64, no. 3, 2002, pp. 273-301, 

—. “The Platteville Papers Revisited: Gender and Genre in a Normal School Writing Assignment.” Local Histories: Reading the Archives of Composition, edited by Patricia Donahue and Gretchen Flesher Moon, 2007, pp. 115-33. 

Freadman, Anne. “Anyone for Tennis?” Genre and the New Rhetoric, edited by Aviva Freedman and Peter Medway, Taylor & Francis Ltd, 1994, pp. 43-66.  

—. “Uptake.” The Rhetoric and Ideology of Genre, edited by Richard Coe, L Lingard, and Tatiana Teslenko. Cresskill Hampton Press Inc., 2002, pp. 39-53.   

Garbus, Julie. “Vida Scudder in the Classroom and in the Archives.” Local Histories: Reading the Archives of Composition, edited by Patricia Donahue and Gretchen Flesher Moon, 2007, pp. 77-93. 

Gold, David, and Catherine L. Hobbs. Educating the New Southern Woman: Speech, Writing, and Race at the Public Women’s Colleges, 1884-1945. Southern Illinois UP, 2013. 

Griffin, Clifford S. The University of Kansas: A History. Lawrence, The U. P. of Kansas, 1974. 

“Guide to the Kate I. Hansen Collection.” Kenneth Spencer Research Library. University of Kansas Libraries, 2016, Accessed 1 Aug. 2021. 

Hansen, Kate. “An Experiment in Artistic Observation.” 7 May 1900. MS. PP 19, Box 5, Folder 30. Personal Papers of Kate I. Hansen, University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence. 

—. “Description of a Library Chair,” 30 Apr. 1900. MS. PP 19, Box 5, Folder 30. Personal Papers of Kate I. Hansen, University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence. 

—. “Exercise in Brief-Making.” 21 Mar. 1900. MS. PP 19, Box 5, Folder 30. Personal Papers of Kate I. Hansen, University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence. 

—. “Exercise in Brief-Making.” 23 Mar. 1900. MS. PP 19, Box 5, Folder 30. Personal Papers of Kate I. Hansen, University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence. 

—. “Exercise in Brief-Making.” 25 Mar. 1900. MS. PP 19, Box 5, Folder 30. Personal Papers of Kate I. Hansen, University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence. 

—. “Exercise in Briefs.” 11 Apr. 1900. MS. PP 19, Box 5, Folder 30. Personal Papers of Kate I. Hansen, University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence. 

—. “Exercise in Briefs.” 19 Mar. 1900. MS. PP 19, Box 5, Folder 30. Personal Papers of Kate I. Hansen, University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence. 

—. “Exercise in Briefs.” 27 Mar. 1900. MS. PP 19, Box 5, Folder 30. Personal Papers of Kate I. Hansen, University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence. 

—. “Exercise in Briefs.” 4 Apr. 1900. MS. PP 19, Box 5, Folder 30. Personal Papers of Kate I. Hansen, University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence. 

—. “Exercise in Editorial and News Paragraphs.” 25 Feb. 1900. MS. PP 19, Box 5, Folder 30. Personal Papers of Kate I. Hansen, University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence. 

—. “Exercise in Letter Writing.” 9 Mar. 1900. MS. PP 19, Box 5, Folder 30. Personal Papers of Kate I. Hansen, University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence. 

—. “Exercise in Outlines.” 9 Feb. 1900. MS. PP 19, Box 5, Folder 30. Personal Papers of Kate I. Hansen, University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence. 

—. “One Student’s Directions for Cultivating Cabbages.” 23 Apr. 1900. MS. PP 19, Box 5, Folder 30. Personal Papers of Kate I. Hansen, University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence. 

—. “Oration.” 28 May 1900. MS. PP 19, Box 5, Folder 30. Personal Papers of Kate I. Hansen, University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence. 

—. “Some Advantages of Eight O’Clock Classes.” 14 Feb. 1900. MS. PP 19, Box 5, Folder 30. Personal Papers of Kate I. Hansen, University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence. 

—. “The Greatest Need of the University of Kansas.” 16 Feb. 1900. MS. PP 19, Box 5, Folder 30. Personal Papers of Kate I. Hansen, University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence. 

—. “Two Games of My Schools Days.” 25 Apr. 1900. MS. PP 19, Box 5, Folder 30. Personal Papers of Kate I. Hansen, University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence. 

Kane, Margaret. “Advanced English Composition” Course Notes. 1 Feb. – 31 May 1899. MS. PP 23, Box 1. Margaret Kane Collection, University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence. 

Kill, Melanie. “Acknowledging the Rough Edges of Resistance: Negotiation of Identities of First-Year Composition.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 58, no. 2, 2006, pp. 213-35, 

Kitzhaber, Albert R. Rhetoric in American Colleges, 1850–1900. University of Washington, 1953. 

Lowry, Elizabeth. “Electric Girl No More: Nineteenth-Century Technofeminism, Constructions of Physical Strength, and Scientific Expertise.” Peitho, vol. 21, no. 2, 2019, pp. 380-403, 

Lueck, Amy. “‘Classbook Sense’: Genre and Girls’ School Yearbooks in the Early Twentieth-Century American High School.” College English, vol. 79, no. 4, March 2017, pp. 381-406, 

Mannon, Bethany. “The Life of the Female Mind: Hester Mulso Chapone and the Gendered Rhetoric of Experience.” Peitho, vol. 21, no. 1, 2018, pp. 43-60, 

Miller, Carolyn R. “Genre as Social Action.” Quarterly Journal of Speech, vol. 70, no. 2, 1984, pp. 151-67, 

Ostergaard, Lori, and Henrietta Rix Wood. In the Archives of Composition: Writing and Rhetoric in High Schools and Normal Schools. U of Pittsburgh P, 2015. 

Peters, Brad. “Genre, Antigenre, and Reinventing the Forms of Conceptualization.” Genre and Writing: Issues, Arguments, Alternatives, edited by Wendy Bishop and Hans Ostrom. Boynton/Cook Publishers, 1997, pp. 199-214. 

Popken, Randall. “Edwin Hopkins and the Costly Labor of Composition Teaching.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 55, no.4, 2004, pp. 618-41, 

—. “The WPA as Publishing Scholar: Edwin Hopkins and the Labor and Cost of the Teaching of English.” Historical Studies of Writing Program Administration: Individuals, Communities, and the Formation of a Discipline, edited by Barbara L’Eplattenier and Lisa Mastrangelo, 2004, pp. 5-22. 

Regaignon, Dara Rossman. “Anxious Uptakes: Nineteenth-Century Advice Literature as Rhetorical Genre.” College English, vol. 78, no. 2, 2015, pp. 139-61, 

Reiff, Mary Jo, and Anis Bawarshi. “Tracing Discursive Resources: How Students Use Prior Genre Knowledge to Negotiate New Writing Contexts in First-Year Composition.” Written Communication, vol. 28, no. 3, 2011, pp. 312-37, 

Rohan, Liz. “Service-Learning at the Northwest University Settlement, 1930-21, and the Legacy of Jane Adams.” Peitho, vol. 21, no. 1, 2018, pp. 24-42, 

Russell, David R. Writing the Academic Disciplines: A Curricular History, 2nd ed. Southern Illinois UP, 2002.  

Schultz, Lucille. The Young Composers: Composition’s Beginnings in Nineteenth-Century Schools. Southern Illinois UP, 1999. 

Sharer, Wendy B. “Genre Work: Expertise and Advocacy in the Early Bulletins of the U.S. Women’s Bureau.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly, vol. 33, no. 1, 2003, pp. 5-32, 

Simmons, Sue Carter. “Radcliffe Responds to Harvard Rhetoric: ‘An Absurdly Stiff Way of Thinking.’” Nineteenth-Century Women Learn to Write, edited by Catherine Hobbs, 1990, pp. 264-92. 

Skinnell, Ryan. Conceding Composition: A Crooked History of Composition’s Institutional Fortunes. Utah State UP, 2016. 

University of Kansas. 1899-1900 Course Catalogue. 1899. Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence. 

—. Enrollment card, “Kate Hansen.” 1899. University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence. 

University of Kansas Department of English. 1899-1901 English Bulletin. 1899. TS. University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence. 

Wardle, Elizabeth. “‘Mutt Genres’ and the Goal of FYC: Can We Help Students Write the Genres of the University?” College Composition and Communication, vol. 60, no. 4, 2009, pp. 765-89, 

Wolfe, Marion. “Women and the Way: The Contradictory Universalism of Protestant Women’s Foreign Missionary Societies in the Early 20th Century.” Peitho, vol. 22, no. 1, 2019,