The Gift of Feminist Mentoring

Lisa Ede was my first feminist mentor. I say that now knowing what feminist mentoring is because of her. At the time, I didn’t know what feminist mentoring meant. What I did know is that Lisa cared. Lisa wanted her students to succeed and supported them in every way she could. I will always be in her debt for the great gift of feminist mentoring she gave me and so many others. 

Lisa was the first person to introduce me to writing centers. I started working at the Oregon State University Writing Center before I ever knew I wanted to study rhetoric and composition, but I quickly learned that writing center pedagogy would fundamentally shift my understanding of teaching and writing. Back then, I had no idea who Lisa Ede was to rhetoric and composition as a field. To me and the other tutors worked with her, Lisa was a calm mentor with seemingly endless resources and support for our questions. Even though Lisa was such a well-known scholar, she never flaunted any acclaim she had received and instead always wanted to know about our interests. For me, this is the epitome of Lisa’s feminist mentoring: decentering herself and lifting those around her. 

After taking multiple classes with her and expressing uncertainty about studying literature, Lisa asked me if I’d considered studying Rhetoric and Composition. Lisa introduced me to the study of writing and rhetoric through feminism, which sparked a passion in in me that now drives my work. She wrote my first grad school recommendation letter and encouraged me to pursue the PhD. That was the start of what is now my career. My whole life changed because of that conversation, and I can never thank her enough.  

Because of Lisa, I pursued writing research and feminist pedagogy in my MA, which led me to my first CCCC. I remember running into Lisa on Wednesday night of the conference, where she greeted me with her characteristic big smile and hug. Lisa invited me into the meeting she was attending, which happened to be the Coalition of Women (now Feminist) Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition. Once again, I owe Lisa a great debt for this invitation. Little did I know that this organization would become my scholarly community, for which I am grateful Lisa’s memory will continue to be honored through the mentoring award.  

Lisa was an unassuming intellectual powerhouse. Her work on collaborative writing and feminist pedagogy continue to shape my approaches to teaching, mentoring, and scholarship. I’ll always cherish our conversations about feminism, writing pedagogy, and Oregon gardening. Thank you for everything, Lisa. 

How to Get a Nonacademic Position An Essay on Serendipity—Personal, Professional, and Intellectual

The title of my first Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) presentation is there on my vita for anyone to see. But I expect that few who look at my vita, if anyone does other than to count up numbers of talks, article, books, and so on, have noticed that my first CCCC conference talk was on the subject of “How to Get a Non-Academic Position.”

There’s a story behind that talk, which when I gave it I assumed would be both my first and last CCCC presentation. Here it is in brief: I entered the PhD program in English at Ohio State University in the fall of 1970 not even knowing that it was possible to undertake study in the field that we have come to call rhetoric and composition (or some related title). My area was Victorian literature, and by the time that Susan Miller and Andrea Lunsford came to Ohio State (Susan to direct the writing program and Andrea to cobble together the first PhD program of study in rhet/comp in the English department), I was well underway on a dissertation on the Victorian nonsense literature of Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll.

I was also quite involved with the writing program—not only through my own teaching but also as a result of my participation in the teaching assistant (TA) council that advised the Director of Writing. To say that Susan Miller brought energy and intellectual excitement to the writing program is an understatement. Susan brought in outside speakers (David Bartholomae! Rick Coe! Erika Lindemann!), and she spoke of the development of a newfield. (Later I would learn that depending on your perspective the field wasn’t so new. I would also learn of the important role that OSU Professor Edward P. J. Corbett played in the field’s contemporary formation. At the time, I knew Professor Corbett primarily as a scholar of eighteenth-century literature.)

I still remember the moment when, in the spring term of my final year of grad school, I was sitting in Susan’s office discussing some matter related to the TA advisory council that I then chaired. “Lisa,” Susan said to me, “you are going to have to make some decisions about your future career. You’re going to have to decide how seriously you want to take the teaching of writing as a profession.” Given the job market at the time—reportedly the worst for PhDs in the humanities since the depression—the notion of a “future career” in the academy was hard to imagine. By the time Susan and I had that conversation, I had already gone on the job market once (earlier that year) with no luck, and I was getting ready to put myself out there a second time. I would support myself during what I hoped would be a transitional year by working as an editor at a sociology research center on campus, and I was grateful to have that opportunity for full-time employment.

The year that I completed my dissertation is a blur now, and it probably was then too. But at some point in 1975, I realized that the upcoming 1976 CCCC would be in Philadelphia. My good friends and graduate school colleagues Andrea Lunsford and Suellynn Duffey were planning to go to the conference and would share a university van. I could travel with them if I proposed a talk and had it accepted. Attending the conference would give me a chance to learn more about the emerging field of rhet/comp, and giving a talk there would look good on my vita. I had already decided that when I went on the job market the following year I would apply both for Victorian literature and (newly created) rhet/comp positions and see what happened.

Like many of my peers, I was at a crossroads, and my future looked uncertain. My immediate challenge was to determine a topic and write a proposal. Why not draw upon my good fortune in finding what we would now call an alt academic position? Others might benefit from my experience of turning part-time work that supplemented my TA stipend into a full-time editing position. Hence my topic: How to Get a Non-Academic Position. Given the job market, I knew this would be a useful presentation for others whose situation resembled mine. And indeed the panel on which I participated was well attended.

By the time I gave that talk in the spring of 1976, I thought that my future was clear—and that it would not follow a traditional academic path. I had interviewed for two or three positions (a pitiful but at the time not unusual number) at the MLA the previous December in San Francisco. No job offers came my way. I did get a letter from the State University of New York (SUNY) Brockport saying that they were interested in my candidacy, but their position was frozen. I had been in my editing position for several terms by this point, and I liked it. I had already decided not to put myself through the job market process again. Why humiliate myself a third time?

So I gave that talk. I was energized by the conference, but I thought that my future was set: I would be an editor of scholarly publications—and I was grateful to have work that I enjoyed and that was meaningful to me. Then in the summer of 1976 SUNY Brockport called. Their position was unfrozen. They wanted to interview me on campus. Could I come? I did, and I was offered a tenure-line position of Director of Composition at that university.

Serendipity indeed.

I will have more to say about the role that serendipity has played in my career later in this essay. For now, I want to note the important role that certain key preferences and predilections have played in my life and career. I should perhaps be embarrassed to admit this, but I knew as early as middle school that I wanted to be a teacher, and looking back I can easily identify teachers who made a huge difference in my life. Mrs. Ryan in middle school, who taught me to love history and affirmed my identity as a serious student who cared enough to get my own subscription to my first scholarly (or semischolarly) journal: the hard-bound American Heritage. Mrs. Falk in high school (AP English junior and senior years) who required students to write an essay (some more formal than others) every day of the school year, and who developed what I later realized was an early form of portfolio evaluation.

I also knew as early as grade school that I loved reading and writing and that they were central to my sense of myself, though of course I couldn’t have articulated that at this point. By the time I was in high school I knew what I wanted to be: a high school English teacher. I loved teaching, and I loved literature—and teachers consistently praised my writing. What I discovered when I did my student teaching for my undergraduate English education degree at Ohio State was that I didn’t love the public school system—at least not the crowded inner city school where I taught. So I did what seemed natural to many students of my age and temperament at that turbulent but exciting time: I applied to grad school.

I barely knew what I was doing. I applied to only two universities—Cornell and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. I have no idea how I chose them other than that they were outside of Ohio, where my family lived, but not too far away. I ended up in Madison with an out-of state tuition remission scholarship. The English department had just abolished the first-year writing requirement in retaliation against teaching assistants who had spearheaded a failed move toward unionization, so TA positions were available only to a limited number of PhD students. I supported myself during my one-year MA program by working at the Wisconsin State Department of Education, even as I marched with others in massive campus protests against the Vietnam War.

My time in Madison was difficult. I did well in my courses, but the MA program was huge: some of my MA classes that year were larger than my undergrad English classes had been at Ohio State. While some courses and professors were excellent, the goal of the program—to pass a test that included multiple-choice questions (example: Upon what does the worm sit in Blake’s Book of Thel?) at the end of the year—was uninspiring. So I applied to the PhD program at Ohio State. I did so not as a result of serious research about PhD programs or careful career planning but rather to reconnect with my then boyfriend. When I counsel students who are making decisions about grad school applications, I am astonished at the knowledge and professionalism they bring to this task. I had neither.

It was at Ohio State that I had my first experiences teaching undergraduates and my first involvement with the rhet/comp field. My interest in audience also developed in grad school. A chance conversation with a fellow TA about an assignment that he was experimenting with, one that required students to write to real or hypothetical audiences, piqued my curiosity. I began to experiment with nontraditional assignments—assignments that one way or another encouraged students to engage in writing tasks that at least offered the possibility of something resembling an authentic experience. My first publication, a brief essay entitled “Oral History,” which appeared in CCC in 1977, explored one such assignment. (Ed Corbett, who by this time was a mentor and also the editor of CCC, encouraged me every step of the way in this, my
first publication.) My second publication, also in CCC, attempted to formalize some of the questions that I had begun to ask myself about the role of audience in discourse and in the teaching of writing. This essay, “On Audience and Composition,” appeared in 1979.

As I transitioned from the field of Victorian literature to that of rhet/comp, I experienced a satisfying sense of coming full circle. My earliest aspiration had been to become an English teacher, which I knew meant being a teacher not only of literature but also of writing. When I entered grad school, that goal shifted, and I focused on the scholarly work of English studies—at least in my coursework. But my teaching drew me back to my aspirations as a teacher. With my “conversion” to rhet/comp, I felt a renewed sense of pedagogical commitment and purpose, one that was strengthened with my position directing the writing program at SUNY Brockport.

In my early years at SUNY Brockport, I had a very steep learning curve: I was the sole “expert” on the teaching of writing on my campus, even as I was attempting to educate myself about my new field. In hindsight, I see that serendipity played a role here too. While some of my contemporaries entered the field in the late 1970s and early 1980s as graduate students in rhet/comp, many others “converted” to the field after completing PhDs in literary studies. (For a discussion of this phenomenon, see chapter three of my Situating Composition: Composition Studies and the Politics of Location). The timing was fortuitous. In the wake of a purported literacy crisis (one that ultimately was more about a new generation of students entering college than a real decline of literacy), funding was available to “solve” the problem of illiteracy. Definitions of expertise in the field of rhet/comp were evolving, and commitment and pedagogical/administrative experience in many instances counted as much as a traditional graduate education—particularly given the tiny number of rhet/ comp grad programs at the time.

The more I learned about writing and rhetoric, the more engaged I became in questions about the role of audience in writing and the teaching of writing. This quest for understanding led to additional serendipitous moments in my career. The first was when I was accepted into Richard Young’s 1978–79 yearlong NEH seminar at Carnegie Mellon. My proposed topic? To explore the concept of identification in classical rhetoric, Burke’s dramatistics, and Pike’s tagmemics. At the heart of this study was my continued interest in audience. In the years since I “converted” from Victorian literature to rhet/comp, I had gained a much richer understanding of both the classical and contemporary rhetorical traditions, an understanding that was dramatically enriched by my year of study with Richard Young and with fellow seminarians Jim Berlin, Victor Vitanza, Sam Watson, Charles Kneupper, and others.

The NEH seminar was an intellectual and professional boost, and it gave me the confidence to go back on the job market. I valued my work at SUNY Brockport and enjoyed my colleagues—and I continued to marvel at the serendipity that led to my first tenure-line appointment but in the late 1970s, the college was in the midst of a serious financial crisis. Even my colleagues encouraged me to consider other options, grimly citing the possibility of what one referred to with dark humor as tenure on the Titanic. The time seemed right for a change. I interviewed for the position of Director of Writing at Oregon State and was offered it.

OSU looked like a good professional opportunity, but I have to admit that for my husband and me the thought of living in the Pacific Northwest played an important role in my decision to accept the position. Avid hikers and backpackers, we loved the thought of living in a place where we could be in the mountains in two hours and at the coast in one hour. Our friends Andrea and Steve Lunsford also were living in the Northwest—Andrea’s first job was at the University of British Columbia—and told wonderful stories of life there.

Once we moved to Oregon, the four of us took advantage of every opportunity we could to be together, traveling the eight hours up and down the I-5 corridor at least once a term, and more often in the summer. Andrea’s and my collaboration, which has played such an important role in my career, could not have taken off—especially given the technological limitations of the time (no email, no word processing, etc.) without that physical proximity. Even so, Andrea and I first collaborated almost by accident. With our friend Robert Connors, we were coediting Essays on Classical Rhetoric and Modern Discourse, a collection in honor of our mentor Edward P. J. Corbett. We were vacationing on the Oregon coast, and while on a long walk it suddenly occurred to us that it might be rewarding to write a collaborative essay for that collection. We had each planned on contributing an individual essay. Our memories of our motivation differ somewhat. I remember thinking that it would please Ed Corbett. Andrea remembers thinking that it might be practical and efficient to write together, given our other responsibilities as coeditors. We both agree that serendipity played a role in our decision to write together. Without that chance conversation, our long collaboration might never have happened.

Andrea’s and my essay “On Distinctions between Classical and Modern Rhetoric” was published in Essays on Classical Rhetoric and Modern Discourse in 1984. We were surprised by how much we enjoyed writing together and, especially, how productive our collaboration was. It was clear to us that working together encouraged us to be particularly ambitious and to challenge ourselves in ways that we might not have done if we were writing alone. So to us, it felt natural to continue to undertake significant collaborations—even as we each engaged in individual projects. However, what felt natural and productive to us was anything but to our colleagues. In fact, we quickly realized that many of our colleagues (including Ed Corbett) viewed our collaboration as shocking—even dangerous. “You will never get tenure if you insist on writing together,” Andrea and I remember Ed fretfully warning us. And his concerns were justified. When Andrea prepared her materials for promotion and tenure at UBC she was told by her chair that “of course her collaborative work couldn’t be considered.” Anticipating similar difficulties, my chair invited Andrea to “spontaneously” send him a letter noting that all of our collaborations were equal. Nevertheless, my college’s promotion and tenure committee requested that Andrea and I go through all of our coauthored essays and use colored markers to indicate who had written which sentence. Needless to say, we refused—and fortunately I was promoted and tenured despite this refusal.

Earlier in this essay, I commented on the importance of key preferences and predilections, and in the case of Andrea’s and my collaboration I would have to call attention to our stubbornness. The more people challenged our desire to write together, the more persistent we were in attempting to understand—and critique—the preference for single authorship in the humanities. This led to our 1990 Singular Texts/Plural Authors: Perspectives on Collaborative Writing, and to much additional work. But our very close friendship also played a central role in our collaboration.

In 2012 Andrea and I published Writing Together: Collaboration in Theory and Practice, a collection of previously published and new work. The collection gives a good sense of the range of topics we have explored over thirtyplus years of collaboration. In the first section, we address the question “Why Write Together?” The second section includes several chapters from our 1990 Singular Texts/Plural Authors: Perspectives on Collaborative Writing, as well as more recent thoughts on this topic. The third section focuses on our research on audience and includes our essay “Audience Addressed/Audience Invoked: The Role of Audience in Composition Theory and Practice,” our most anthologized work; the fourth, on rhetorics and feminisms, and the final section on writing centers. Each section concluded with a new essay written especially for this collection.

Putting this collection together was a joyful act; however, I do not want to romanticize our collaboration. In the introduction and in various new essays, Andrea and I attempt to dispel some potential myths about our collaboration. No, we have not always been “together” and not always been in accord. Yes, we have experienced some painful personal and professional moments as a result of our collaboration. But yes, despite the complexities that are part of any human experience, we are grateful for the journey that we have taken together.

One powerful insight that we slowly came to recognize in recent years is the extent to which developments in new literacies and technologies have caused what we always viewed as two more or less separate strands of research—our work on audience and on collaborative writing—to merge. As we note in “‘Among the Audience’: On Audience in an Age of New Literacies,” another of the new essays in Writing Together, we have come to understand that

as writers and audiences merge and shift places in online environments, participating in both brief and extended collaborations, it is increasingly obvious that writers seldom, if ever, write alone. In short, when receivers or consumers of information become creators of content as well, it is increasingly difficult to tell when writers are collaborative writers or authors and when they are members of audiences. (238)

This insight has played an important role in our recent research—and also in a relatively new textbook that we have undertaken with coauthors Michal Brody, Beverly Moss, Carole Clark Papper, and Keith Walters. (Our editor Marilyn Moller has also played an essential role in this project.) Everyone’s an Author attempts to respond to the exigencies described in this statement and to present rhetorical strategies appropriate to twenty-first-century readers and writers.

I mentioned earlier that one of the sections in Writing Together focuses on Andrea’s and my research on feminisms and rhetorics. I would like to say a bit more about my (and Andrea’s and my) engagement with feminist research in our field. I have already noted how rewarding it felt when I transitioned from Victorian literature to rhet/comp to reaffirm my strong commitment to teaching and to find a way formally to express that commitment. I felt a similar sense of satisfaction in the 1990s as my research increasingly engaged feminist theories and practices. A strong feminist since my undergraduate days, I did not originally see how to make connections between my personal and scholarly commitments.2 My friend Beth Flynn emphasized the importance of making these connections in her pathbreaking 1988 CCC article “Composing as a Woman.” In my case, that meant making a transition from research that focused primarily on classical and contemporary rhetorical theory to explicitly feminist research. In that regard, I view the article that Cheryl Glenn, Andrea, and I coauthored, “Border Crossings: Intersections of Rhetoric and Feminism,” which was published in Rhetorica: A Journal of the History of Rhetoric in 1995, as a particularly important turning point.

When we published this piece, Cheryl, Andrea, and I knew that it was important work: we believe that our article was the first feminist article published in Rhetorica, a journal that until that point had focused on traditional rhetorical historiography and analysis. That article also planted a seed in Cheryl’s and my minds. In the fall of 1995, our chair invited us to cocoordinate a one-time conference on any topic that we thought might draw interest. (At that time, Cheryl was still teaching at Oregon State and had not yet moved to Penn State.) Cheryl and I pinned our hopes and dreams on the then-still-nascent topic of rhetorics and feminisms. In August 1997 the conference “From Boundaries to Borderlands: Rhetoric(s) and Feminism(s)” was held at OSU. Just as I assumed that my 1976 CCCC presentation on how to get
a nonacademic position would be my first and last appearance at the CCCC, so too did Cheryl and I assume that “From Boundaries to Borderlands” would be a one-time phenomenon. However, near the end of the conference Lillian Bridwell-Bowles and Lisa Albrecht announced that the conference was so powerful as a site of feminist research, inquiry, and networking that it had to continue, and that the University of Minnesota would sponsor it in two years. Thus was the first of what has come to be an ongoing succession of conferences exploring the intersections of feminisms and rhetorics. (For more on the history of the feminisms and rhetorics conference series, which is now sponsored by the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, see the chapter on that topic in Writing Together.)

Sometimes we recognize a serendipitous occurrence the moment it happens: that was definitely the case when I was offered my first tenure line position at SUNY Brockport (which I am happy to report has weathered its earlier financial storm nicely). Sometimes we can only recognize serendipity in action in hindsight, as was the case with the chance conversation that caused Andrea and me to undertake our first collaborative project.

I certainly didn’t recognize it as a serendipitous moment when during my interview in 1980 at Oregon State the chair nonchalantly mentioned, “We wondered if in addition to directing the writing program you’d also agree to head up the writing center . . .”—but it was. Even though this meant that I would direct two writing programs as an untenured assistant professor, my thirty-plus years of directing OSU’s Writing Center, and thus of being able to interact with colleagues like Lex Runciman, Jon Olson, Wayne Robertson, and Dennis Bennett and literally hundreds of writing assistants, has been a highlight of my career. My work with the writing assistants and with student writers at the Center also played an important role in my decision to write a first-year writing textbook. That book has gone through ten editions since it was first published in 1989. The first six editions came out under the title Work in Progress: A Guide to Academic Writing and Revising. After a radical revisioning of the text, it reappeared in 2008 as The Academic Writer: A Brief Guide for Students. This text is now in its fourth edition.

I am grateful for the opportunity that writing this essay has given me to take a long view of my scholarly work, and of the personal, intellectual, and professional commitments and predilections that, in hindsight, have proven to be constant (if not always visible, and certainly not always conscious) threads. In that regard, I would like to turn again to the dissertation I wrote on the Victorian nonsense of Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll. Imagine my surprise when Patrick Bizzaro contacted me in the late 1990s wanting to interview me about possible connections between my dissertation topic and my subsequent work in composition, especially my interest in audience. Up to this point, I had viewed these two research interests as completely disconnected. As Bizzaro persuasively argues in his 1999 CCC essay, “What I Learned in Grad School, or Literary Training and the Theorizing of Composition,” the connections that I originally couldn’t see were nevertheless there. Bizzaro cites frequent statements of concern about miscommunication, a predilection for ranging broadly in terms of sources and disciplines, and a preference for what Bizzaro terms “a tactic of complication” as connections between my dissertation and my work on audience. (In case you’re interested, Bizzaro also looks at connections between the dissertations of other scholars of my generation who “converted” to composition after completing PhDs in literature, including William Irmscher, Linda Flower, Art Young, David Bartholomae, Erika Lindemann, Toby Fulwiler, and Peter Elbow.)

Bizzaro’s essay was published in part two of a special issue of CCC, “A Usable Past: CCC at 50.” In the introduction to this issue, editor Joseph Harris writes of the importance of uncovering “a people’s history of our field” (559). This and other essays in this collection contribute, I hope, to this project. It goes without saying that a true people’s history of any field requires diverse contributions from diversely situated participants. A colleague fresh out of grad school or in the first ten years of his or her postgraduate career would
necessarily (and refreshingly) have a different story to tell than I have.

In my own narrative, I have tried to emphasize the central role that serendipity has played in my career, while also emphasizing that key preferences and predilections can also be relevant. But I should also acknowledge that what the editors of this volume refer to as accidental sagacity played a role as well. After all, my long-time commitment to teaching encouraged me to take advantage of the kairotic opportunities that I had as a graduate student at Ohio State when Susan Miller took over the writing program. Mentors also played an important role. Some mentors were inspirational intellectually; Susan surely was that. But other equally important mentors intervened in practical ways in my career. When I came to Oregon State, for instance, my contract stated that I would teach eight courses out of a usual nine-course load (over three quarters). When my chair Robert Frank realized how much I was up against directing two writing programs as an untenured assistant professor (no one in the English department knew anything about the writing center, which had been connected with another unit and was radically underfunded), he rearranged my schedule so that I taught one course  that entire year. He was also an advocate for rhet/comp at a time when most members of my department saw it as a new and questionable area—an assumption that I am happy to say has changed considerably over the years.

In turning toward my conclusion, I should acknowledge that as I worked on this essay I found myself troubled by a persistent question:

how do I avoid the potential narcissism inherent in a focus on my research, my career?

What do I have to say, I found myself asking over and over as I sat fretting at my computer, that might be of some use to those who are earlier in their scholarly and professional paths? At a minimum, I hope that I have documented, however sketchily, a particular moment in the development of the field of rhetoric and composition—a moment when a PhD student could begin writing a dissertation thinking that (if lucky) she was embarking on a career teaching literature only to discover that a (to her) new field would issue her an invitation in the form of mentors and colleagues like Susan Miller, Ed Corbett, Andrea Lunsford, Beth Flynn, Suellynn Duffey, Robert Connors, Jim Berlin, Victor Vitanza, and others.

I hope that this essay reminds readers that ethical questions are always present for any member of any field, including our own. In Situating Composition: Composition Studies and the Politics of Location, I attempted to raise some questions about the costs as well as the benefits of composition’s professionalization. My goal in this study is not to challenge the value of theory but rather to remind scholars in our field of our responsibilities given academic hierarchies of knowledge, which value the practice of theory over the practice of teaching. In so doing, I call attention to the importance of considering what philosopher Linda Alcoff refers to in her much cited essay “The Problem of Speaking for Others.” I appreciate the ongoing efforts of younger scholars to continue this conversation and to find powerful and persuasive ways to act upon it.

Throughout this essay, I have attempted to call attention to the role that serendipity plays in (I would argue) any career in any field—but especially in the academy, where individual success is both highly valorized and (in research universities, at least) narrowly defined in terms of scholarly productivity. Over the years, I have looked for any and every opportunity to share the story of my first CCCC talk with graduate students and colleagues. So often it can be tempting to think that someone who has managed to secure a tenureline position and to publish was somehow destined for success. I like to think that in our current climate—where many are advocating for contingent faculty members and exploring alt-academic careers—this assumption has been vigorously challenged. If my narrative can help further dislodge this assumption, I would be pleased.

Works Cited

Alcoff, Linda. “The Problem of Speaking for Others.” Cultural Critique 37 (1991): 5–32. Print.

Bizzaro, Patrick. “What I Learned in Grad School, or Literary Training and the Theorizing of Composition.” CCC 50 (1999): 722–42. Print.

Connors, Robert J., Lisa Ede, and Andrea Lunsford, eds. Essays on Classical Rhetoric and ModernDiscourse. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1984. Print.

Ede, Lisa. The Academic Writer: A Brief Guide for Students. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s P, 1989. (2nd ed., 1992; 3rd ed., 2014; 4th ed., 2017). Print.

———. “On Audience and Composition.” CCC 30 (1979): 291–95. Print.

———. “Oral History.” CCC 28 (1977): 380–83. Print.

———. Situating Composition: Composition Studies and the Politics of Location. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2004. Print.

———. Work in Progress: A Guide to Academic Writing and Revising. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s P, 1989. (2nd ed., 1992; 3rd ed., 1995; 4th ed., 1998; 5th ed., 2001; 6th ed., 2004). Print.

Ede, Lisa, and Andrea Lunsford. “Audience Addressed/Audience Invoked: The Role of Audience in Composition Theory and Pedagogy.” CCC 35.2 (May 1984): 155–71. Print.

———. Singular Texts/Plural Authors: Perspectives on Collaborative Writing. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1990. (Paperback ed., 1992). Print.

Ede, Lisa, Cheryl Glenn, and Andrea Lunsford. “Border Crossings: Intersections of Rhetoric and Feminism.” Rhetorica 13 (1995): 285–325. Print.

Flynn, Elizabeth A. “Composing as a Woman.” CCC 39 (1988): 423–35. Print.

Lunsford, Andrea, Michal Brody, Lisa Ede, Beverly Moss, Carole Clark Papper, and Keith Walters. Everyone’s an Author. New York: W. W. Norton, 2013. (2nd ed., 2017). Print.

Lunsford, Andrea, and Lisa Ede. Writing Together: Collaboration in Theory and Practice. Bedford/
St. Martin’s P, 2012. Print.

The Last Time We Saw Lisa

In the spirit of collaboration, which was one of Lisa’s gifts to us and to our discipline, this piece was written collaboratively by those who were there:  

Vicki Tolar Burton, Tim Jensen, Kristy Kelly, Sarah Tinker Perrault, Ehren Pflugfelder 

August 18, 2021, a perfect Oregon summer afternoon, six of us gathered under a huge oak tree in Cloverland Park, near the Oregon State University (OSU) campus in Corvallis. Fully vaccinated, in a socially distanced circle, we sat in our camp chairs (Tim lounged on the grass)—unmasked and happy to see each other’s faces again. Lisa’s husband, the artist Greg Pharr, brought Lisa, helping her navigate her walker over tree roots to join the circle. Kristy recalls that Greg treated Lisa like an absolute queen, ushering her out to the group, setting up her chair, clearly enjoying the adulation she was receiving from us. Greg took off for a coffee shop to look at sketches, as Lisa told us about a bad fall early in the summer that made walking still a challenge. But physical therapy was helping, she said with good spirit.  

This was the rhetoric group from the OSU School of Writing, Literature and Film, a group so congenial that every meeting, every gathering feels like a gift, and has for many years. We were Lisa’s home team, her teaching colleagues and friends. Lisa made it a point to get to know even those rhetoric faculty hired after she retired. Our rhetoric group coordinator, Ehren Pflugfelder, kindly included retirees like Lisa (2014) and me (2020) in the gathering. Rounding out the circle were Kristy Kelly, Sarah Tinker Perrault, and Tim Jensen. Lisa expressed regret at not seeing Chris Anderson and Ana Ribero, who were unable to come.  As usual, Lisa was interested in how everyone was doing—she was quick to ask about spouses and colleagues who weren’t in attendance, send her regards, and wish them all well. It was in her character to think about community and connections, first and foremost, recalls Tim.  

Sarah remembers us talking, with great humor, about Lisa’s cat Leo, the squirrel hunter. Lisa told us he’s not a lap cat but is loving in his own way, albeit a somewhat distressing way when he brings them fully grown dead squirrels.  

We briefly discussed Covid, OSU’s imminent return to face-to-face (masks required), fully vaccinated classrooms, and expressed concern for the challenges that incoming freshmen and sophomores face. Lisa shared memories of the OSU writing center’s founder, a woman who lived a stone’s throw from where we sat. Ehren remembers that as Kristy and Sarah described a workshop both were attending that week on anti-racist teaching, Lisa provided institutional context, including an empathetic reminder of the struggles the workshop leader had as a faculty member of color at a largely white institution in the ‘90s and forward. Lisa, ever our mentor, saw the complexity in people and situations. She congratulated and was encouraging to those in the circle starting new roles, naming their gifts: Kristy as Interim Director of First Year Writing, and Tim as Interim Director of the School.  

My (Vicki’s) primary memory of the day was joy at seeing Lisa and witnessing how happy the gathering made her. Lisa and I had talked on the phone and emailed through Covid and the summer, but had not seen each other in person for a long time, even when Greg called me to come out and share their garden’s bounty. Being there in the rhetoric circle seemed to energize Lisa and delight her.  

That golden afternoon, Lisa was very much her kind, supportive, and engaging self. She told stories of family and growing up in Ohio in a family of eleven children. Expressing gratitude to Greg for making her come, she said she wanted to be invited again. Everyone wanted to be invited again. We are all so grateful for that August afternoon. It all felt rather charmed—like the universe conspired so that we could see her this last time. We miss you, Lisa. It was a gift and an honor to be your colleagues and your friends. 

A Letter to Lisa Ede: Thank You for a Life of Listening

Dear Lisa,  

 I know it may seem odd or a belated gesture to write a letter to you after you’ve died, but it’s the only way I know how to express my feelings. You are my real audience, or the one I wish not simply to “invoke” or even “address” but to conjure back into real existence, to bring back for all our sakes. I know, that’s impossible. So I suppose this is also a way for me to say goodbye.  

As you know, you were my first Rhetoric and Composition teacher in grad school. That’s back in the early 1990s. During my first quarter as a new M.A. student at Oregon State University, I took your advanced composition course that had a pretty heavy dose of composition theory in it, as I recall. I don’t remember a lot about the course, except for a group project about language and discourse communities. But that’s not what I want to talk about exactly. 

I want to thank you for the kind of teacher you were in that course and the kind of woman you still are for me in memory. I look back today and realize that there was a teacher-lesson for me to learn in your class, but I wouldn’t really learn that lesson until maybe a decade or so later. I don’t remember any lectures, nor do I recall you saying a lot in class, although I’m sure you did. What I recall is that we had lots of activities that filled that room in Moreland Hall. I remember my colleagues, our writing things together in class. I remember reading each other’s drafts, and the project on discourse communities. I remember the feeling of doing work together as you watched on. I also remember coming to your office to complain about my group members, and you sitting listening to me at your wooden desk that seemed too small for such an important professor—who has a wooden desk anymore anyway? Today, about thirty years later, I’m still learning the lesson. The teacher-lesson is pretty simple: step back and let your students labor through their learning. Listen more than you talk. 

Today if I were in front of a group of TAs, I might say something like this: The more you talk in front of your students in class, the less they are learning. But as a teacher, not talking ain’t always listening. And of course, there has to be a balance. We teachers have things to say, as you did to us, to me, Lisa. But the balance is easy to get wrong. It’s easy to be pedagogically “cattywampus,” to use a word my mom would say, another woman who taught me a lot about words spoken and swallowed.   

A scene a few years after finishing my M.A. I’m still in Oregon. I’ve not yet begun my doctoral work at Washington State. Kelly (my wife) and I are in the feed store on the south end of Corvallis. The store isn’t there anymore. We are trying to buy dog food for our Labrador, Boomer. I hadn’t seen you in a few years, but you walked right up to us, gave both of us a hug. You’d probably only met Kelly two or three times, maybe it was a department party or get-together. You said, “How are you doing?” Then you turned to Kelly and asked, “and how are you doing?”  

Then you listened to us. I know this part because mostly what I remember about that 10-minute visit in the feed store is that you stood in the aisle with us as we talked about our new dog Boomer, our life in Monmouth, my job as a technical writer. And you seemed genuinely interested, interested in us, in our excitement about the new dog, in my job that I’d leave a year later to teach at a community college in Salem.  

This is what I remember about you. You were always interested and listening. And this obvious teacher-lesson seems so clear now, yet difficult to follow when there’s stuff to cover in a course or things to get done before the end of the hour. What I know you understood, Lisa, is that listening takes time, time we are usually short of in writing classes, humble patience, a habit we often forget about because we think we know what’s best for our students, and compassion, a practice that always gives both ways but doesn’t always feel like it on the front end. It seems when we aren’t thinking about it, which is often for me as a teacher, there doesn’t seem time to just listen in the deeply humble, patient, and compassionate way I remember you inhabiting. 

Another scene. We are at CCCC, again Kelly and I. It’s years later. I don’t remember which year but I’m not a grad student. I’m a professor somewhere, maybe it is during my time at Fresno State. I’m trying to make my way down the hall to an engagement. Kelly is gently nudging me, her sign that I’ll be late if I don’t move along. She is our clock-watcher, and I’m grateful for it. But there are several folks around me, asking me questions, talking to me. Clearly they are interested in my research and my ideas. I’m enjoying the attention, and as usual I get lost in the conversation, perhaps a little drunk off of the attention from others, their questions and admiration.  

Out of the corner of my eye, I see you standing there patiently, waiting, smiling. I’m pretty sure you want to talk to me, just say hi. You are maybe five or six feet behind the semi-circle of people around me. You are smiling and listening. And in that moment, I feel really joyful, or maybe I just feel seen-ly appreciated, noticed in a deep historical way, a way only someone who knew me as a first-year grad student complaining at the edge of her small wooden desk could see me and appreciate. Or maybe it’s my sense of full-circle-ness that I still can’t quite describe. I know I’m rehearsing in my head a narrative that likely isn’t fully true. The student goes out into the profession while the teacher watches with a smile just five or six feet away. A narrative of validation, yes, but also a narrative of a listener who validates. 

Another moment with you. Several years after that CCCC, I invite you to my writing program to give a workshop. After the workshop, we have dinner together at a really nice restaurant. You bring Greg, your husband, whom I know. I bring Kelly. We all know each other, have for years, of course. It’s a really nice evening. It’s a few years before COVID and it is the last time I see you in person, have dinner with you, talk about mundane things like what you’re planting in your yard or our pets or what painting Greg has just completed. We don’t talk about composition or business at dinner. We just talk about nothing that now feels like everything.  

I’m glad that was the last dinner I had with you, Lisa, and I’m disappointed that I don’t get to have another one with you.  

My experiences of you, Lisa, is that you were so human, so kind, so thoughtful, and always you listened. In my memories, which are not copious but not so few that I have a difficult time conjuring any, you are always listening. Maybe even now, you listen. Maybe if we’re lucky enough, we all can listen a small bit of you into our teaching lives.  

I imagine that in your life, both professional and personal, you had to cultivate a disposition toward listening, even as you should have been listened to more often. I imagine that it must have been frustrating to have to listen in rooms that should have listened to you, at OSU, at CCCC, at home, in feed stores, and in restaurants. Sure, you have been lauded and celebrated, as you should be, but I wonder how many have really listened to you in the ways you taught me?  

When I look at the wonderful pictures of you taken at different periods in your life that Greg and others have posted on social media in your honor, remembering you, I cannot help but see a woman patiently waiting and listening, smiling as she compassionately holds her tongue and opens her ears. I don’t know how you did it for all those years, but I am grateful for it, for you, for your willingness to listen to me, to listen near me.  

In one sense— and I really do mean this, Lisa— you listened me into the professor and scholar I am now. You were not the only one, but you were the first one, and you continued to do that over the almost thirty years I knew you. Thank you, Lisa, for listening to me, to all of us.  

Peace to you my friend,  


Asao B. Inoue 

Deep Doldrums: On Loving (and Learning from) Lisa Ede

Can scholars find ways to resist the tendency for taxonomies to totalize and to sever the connection between scholarly texts and materially embodied experiences? What if it were a common scholarly practice to read against the grain of—as well as with—taxonomies? (104)

– Ede, Situating Composition (2004)

If I walked out my front door right now, I would be 2,851 miles away from Lisa’s front door. Google Maps says it would take me 934 hours of walking to get there. I feel my big loss. I first reached out to Lisa as a young, untenured scholar seeking feedback on an essay that drew on her work. That turned into years of mentorship, which turned into a deep intergenerational friendship, which turned Lisa into one of the most present, steady voices in my adult life. Once we opened our initial conversation in writing, it just kept going. Indeed, I had just heard from her—I was just going to write her back—when she left this world suddenly on September 29. I thus want to write an enormously selfish piece that is all about how much I miss her. I owe her an email and this is just not fair. I also want to count, to label, to weigh. I searched my email and found over a thousand threads between us. Each thread contains multiple messages. Who knows how many, total? So many. There are probably even threads I’m missing that got lost along the way. That must count for something. That must get me closer, subtract from the miles I must walk to get to her door. Grief and loss teach us that there is no mercy in this game, no kid gloves with which to handle the absence of someone we love. I can walk but will never arrive. That’s the truth. What I hope to do in this space instead is to address something I think Lisa actually got wrong, to right it as best as I can, and, in so doing, to cast her deep intellect and her endless heart forward in ways I believe we collectively need right now.  

Here is a time Lisa was wrong: It was the 2015 Feminisms and Rhetorics conference, which was held at Arizona State that year. My beloved friend Jenn Fishman had been dragging around, from session to session, a bottle of gin she picked up from a local distillery on her drive to Tempe. Who would toast the conference with her? For a while she had almost no takers—the work of lugging this bottle was getting lonely—until Lisa leaned forward after dinner and said, mischievously, “Let’s try that gin.” We had done a panel together—Lisa and I; Jenn and Andrea Lunsford—about intergenerational conversations and longitudinal research. Lisa had recently retired from Oregon State and, as we sat around Jenn’s hotel room sipping the gin, gathered her most reflexive, humble self and said, “Grad students really shouldn’t still be reading my work.” We protested. We insisted yes, they should. Lisa shrugged. This was the natural course of things, she suggested. Deal with it, kids. The ways in which Lisa was wrong in this case are multiple, because Lisa too was multiple: she was steadfast in how settled she could be in herself, rooted to feeling and to place and to her many commitments; and yet she was just as steadfast in rethinking as a practice, a way of being, swimming against the current that first pushed her. She would tell a story to explain how she got to where she was. She had not ruled out changing her mind. Lisa seldom ended an email without a “P.S.” because an afterthought was always available to her. It is here at this juncture that Lisa–-the scholar, the teacher, and the person—is as necessary to our field as she ever was. I am calling her out.  

Lisa’s impulse to cross her own work off the canon of grad student reading lists, rash as Jenn and I found it, was rooted in her deep resistance to any sense that she or anyone had conceived of anything that might be somehow totalizing or immutable. She takes this up seriously in Situating Composition: Composition Studies and the Politics of Location (2004), a critical retrospective of the process movement’s theoretical permutations from “process,” to “social process,” to “post-process” and the ensuing scholarly battlegrounds that she finds largely useless “for those who teach the majority of our composition classes” (153). Of these terms she writes, “I want to emphasize that I see them as both overdetermined and incapable of a fixed definition” (85). This was, in Lisa, a practice of refusal that stretched from her intellect to her spirituality, and that delivered to those lucky to know her a complex person who would meet us squarely, consider us seriously with the full force of her attention. Andrea says it, I think, best in Writing Together: Collaboration in Theory and Practice (2012)a collection that catalogues their extensive intellectual partnership and deep friendship:  

What first impression did I have of you? What I remember is thinking how interesting you looked, how much—how should I say this—how much yourself. I wonder if you remember our first meeting—and if so, how you remember it. How I wish this moment were documented in some way, for looking back now I see that it marked a turning point in my intellectual and emotional life: here, I see so clearly now, was a friend (not to mention a coauthor) for life. (52) 

Andrea’s observation that Lisa was a good friend because she was first and foremost herself also illustrates how seriously Lisa took her role as audience. She was all at once paying attention to what you had to say, to how she responded to what you had to say, and also questioning her very response on the grounds that, well, you were you and she couldn’t possibly know all the permutations therein. From Lisa I learned to write in the margins of my students’ papers, “As a reader, I…” because Lisa responded this way to drafts of my writing and, with this one stroke, embodied the very claim in “Audience Addressed/Audience Invoked,” coauthored with Andrea: “[because of] the complex reality to which the term audience refers and…its fluid, shifting role in the composing process, any discussion of audience which isolates it from the rest of the rhetorical situation or which radically overemphasizes or underemphasizes its function in relation to other rhetorical constraints is likely to oversimplify” (222). Enough with the sweeping gestures: it is poor scholarship, useless to good teaching, and far away from the diverse lives of real people. And as extraordinary as she was, Lisa was a real person.  

We need take only a short walk, then, to understand just how broken-hearted Lisa was over the violent failures of audience in our current sociopolitical moment. The yes-it-is/no-it-isn’t of our contemporary conversations have kept us ill (literally) and disconnected. Lisa described this once to me as the “deep doldrums” which, in her typical fashion, she quickly rethought: “I don’t even know where that word came from or if it is a word” (correspondence, 12/20/19). So, I looked it up. Lisa looked everything up (in fact when I moved to a new town I received an article from her about the history of my new town, complete with a block quotation featuring what she found most interesting in the piece). The first definition of “doldrums” was what I thought it was upon initially seeing the word. But the second definition, I wrote her, I liked best. From the National Ocean Service, the doldrums are made up by “a belt around the Earth extending approximately five degrees north and south of the equator. Here, the prevailing trade winds of the northern hemisphere blow to the southwest and collide with the southern hemisphere’s driving northeast trade winds” (NOS). What ensues is a kind of hot air pressure cooker that only “persistent bands of showers and storms” can eventually break. An unusual sort of air circulation emerges because of the intensity of the competing gusts, one that pushes air “in an upward direction” and thus generates “little surface wind.” For this reason, sailors “well know that the area can becalm sailing ships for weeks” (NOS). In other words, the forcefulness of the winds going in opposing directions results in little movement at all, stuck-ness, the doldrums.  

I am back to Lisa’s scholarship, this time 1995’s “Border Crossings: Intersections of Rhetoric and Feminism,” coauthored with Andrea and Cheryl Glenn. The violence and the impotence of subjective, argumentative force is what I feel—circulating in the air—as the core claim of this piece. They write:  

In the same way, we have much to gain by reexamining the traditional rhetorical drive toward closure, with its reliance on those structures that lead readers inevitably to an ending, that follow Aristotle’s advice that discourse must have a beginning, a middle, and an end. In this regard, we also have much to gain by crisscrossing the borders of rhetoric and feminism, particularly in terms of long-standing feminist attempts to disrupt the linear orderliness of prose, to contain contradictions and anomalies, to resist closure. (289) 

Any notion that we have been clean in our linearity, that we might “lead readers inevitably” to much of anything (except the doldrums) is the stuff of fanciful, unilateral power trips, not actual movement. Nevertheless we often act recklessly while suspended in the doldrums, impatient and ineffective as we have become. I am not waxing theoretical here. My own public university, emboldened by a narrow economic claim (inspired by capitalism) that our administrators tied inexorably to the pandemic (which has proven wrong or at least far more complex as we have just welcomed our largest first-year undergraduate class to date) took the opportunity to gut five contracts for full-time, non-tenure-track faculty in first-year writing and to refuse to replace the lines of retirees. In our department of Writing Studies, which offers the largest general education program and thus touches more undergraduates than mostly any other at our public university, one where the majority of our undergraduates hail from historically marginalized groups, we now have just three tenured folks (of which I am one) and a shrinking crop of talented full-time faculty who wait and wonder if this is the year their contracts will not be renewed. We are teaching writing while perched on a sand bar of sorts, with over sixty percent of our classes taught by folks who are part-time and with most all—but for three of us—teaching with the sort of contractual insecurity and instability that could make articulating what I just have a danger to their very jobs. Such force—closure, the inevitability of the obvious ending, the singular solution—delivers us only a system that devours itself.  

I am trying to keep the faith about my university, a place I love deeply that is located where I am actually from (I grew up just a town over, how unusual for an academic). We started this academic year with a new university president and I hear he likes to ask questions, that he listens a lot, that he has refused to make fast presidential decisions. Lisa had a habit of titling the subject line of an email thread as a kind of “hook” or half-sentence that she’d finish only when her reader opened the message: “Just a quick email to say that…” or “Can’t believe that I forgot to mention…” She was counting on you to show up, to be an audience, and always in the reflexive spirit she embodied. She once advised me on one of my own personal heartaches: “[T]ime will tell, and quite possibly in surprising or complicated or difficult ways. Something may happen that causes you to reconsider your current decision…but it also may not” (correspondence, 5/1/19). Lisa would not tell me what to do or how to know, however much I might have welcomed such a directive in my darkest moments, because I had to be the one to lug my own sets of experiences, needs, histories to the doorway of any (even temporary) position. Who will toast this antidote to the doldrums with me?  

Again, I keep the faith: such work is happening in our field right now, work that opens doors we might each differently walk through. Aja Martinez frames her recent “On Cucuys in Bird’s Feathers: A Counterstory as a Parable,” as such: “[T]his counterstory reviews the central topics of this story-as-parable while maintaining pressure on the audience to (based on their own lived actions and experiences) read/see themselves in the fictional characters within” (44). We can be generous in noticing when others are walking towards us; we can respond to Martinez’s invitation to “read/see” ourselves; we can acknowledge the mileage traveled and yet still to go; we can refuse the “drive toward closure,” shaped as it has always been by forces of domination. With such an array of potentialities we might just move together, wind in our collective sails not suddenly but after some time, the way real relationships happen and as Lisa would do it: “[M]y inclination, my desire, with any important scholarly project is always to write slowly, stopping often to monitor and reassess what I have written” (“Collaboration and Compromise: The Fine Art of Writing with a Friend” 36). We need not be stuck anywhere forever, fated to self-destruction, if we resist fundamentally going it alone, forcing a unidirectional argument, and failing to think against our own grains. And so, with that I’ll end with an image of Lisa and me on that night when she was wrong, back in 2015, knowing she would toast to the idea of reassessing herself and in hopes she might—slowly, cautiously—acknowledge her deep and necessary place in our field’s ever-evolving relationship with words.

Figure 1: Lisa Ede and Jessica Restaino. Image description: Two women, Lisa Ede (left) and Jessica Restaino (right) are sitting together on a bed. On the bed is a colorful throw pillow and an American flag blanket. The women are smiling and holding in between them a bottle of gin.

Works Cited

Ede, Lisa. Situating Composition: Composition Studies and the Politics of Location. Southern Illinois University Press, 2004.

Ede. Lisa and Andrea Lunsford. “Dear Lisa/Dear Andrea: On Friendship and Collaboration.” Writing Together: Collaboration in Theory and Practice, A Critical Sourcebook, edited by Lisa Ede and Andrea Lunsford, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012,  pp. 51-66.

Ede, Lisa and Andrea Lunsford. “Audience Addressed/Audience Invoked.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 35, no. 2, 1984, pp. 155-71.

Ede, Lisa and Andrea Lunsford. “Collaboration and Compromise: The Fine Art of Writing with a Friend.” Writers on Writing, vol. 2, edited by Tom Waldrep, Random House, 1988, pp. 121-27.

Ede, Lisa, Cheryl Glenn, and Andrea Lunsford. “Border Crossings: Intersections of Rhetoric and Feminism.” Rhetorica, vol. 8, no. 4, 1995, pp. 401-41.

Ede, Lisa. “Re: I’m sorry I have been out of touch.” Received by Jessica Restaino, 19 Dec. 2021.

—. “Re: 4/29 was the deadline for the Provost’s promotion decision…” Received by  Jessica Restaino, 5 May 2021.

Martinez, Aja Y. “On Cucuys in Bird’s Feathers: A Counterstory as Parable.” Writers: Craft and Context, vol. 1, 2020, pp. 44-46.

NOAA’S National Ocean Service. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, 2021, Accessed 24 October, 2021.

For Lisa: A Patchwork Quilt

I was only ten years old when Lisa Ede and Andrea Lunsford published Singular Texts/Plural Authors. I am embarrassed to say, I didn’t read this book until after Lisa’s death. Less than a week after Lisa’s passing, I sat in my colleague Becky Rickly’s office as she pointed at her bookshelf and talked about how she’d have to give away all these books when she retires. I noticed Lisa and Andrea’s book on her shelf and grabbed it, selfishly. Longingly. Becky explained how she borrowed the book from Mick Doherty and wasn’t able to return it before he passed away in 2013. So there it sat. I asked if I could have it, and Becky said yes. How much of our reading and writing is haunted by death and the loss of loved ones? How much of our scholarly work is a collaboration over time, with the voices of our mentors shaping us, and the texts and memories they have given us carried with us? 

* * * 

I first met Lisa in September 2005 when I started my master’s degree at Oregon State and took her class on language, technology, and culture. I had no idea Lisa was such a big deal when I applied to OSU, nor really when I met her. If you met Lisa, you would have no idea she was a big deal. She was so humble, so unassuming. 

Lisa’s class, along with teaching first-year writing at OSU and taking Vicki Tolar Burton’s class on teaching writing, convinced me to switch my MA emphasis from literature to rhetoric and writing. Like Lisa, I had wanted to be a teacher for a long time. And, like Lisa, academia had drawn me momentarily away from teaching towards wanting to study literature, but teaching drew me back to pedagogical commitments. As Lisa writes, “my teaching drew me back to my aspirations as a teacher. With my ‘conversion’ to rhet/comp, I felt a renewed sense of pedagogical commitment and purpose” (“How to Get” 21-22). 

* * * 

One of my favorite stories Lisa would tell (and re-tell) was of her time at Wisconsin–Madison during the Vietnam War. I don’t remember all the specifics, but she explained that after a protest was broken up, she hid from the police on some family’s porch or behind their bushes. When the family saw her, she was certain she’d be kicked off the property and arrested or assaulted by the police, but instead, the family allowed her to stay. I know this was the 1970s, and Lisa was young. But when she told this story, I didn’t imagine a young woman. I imagined Lisa from the late 2000s hiding on this porch behind bushes, a 60-year-old woman with gray hair, immensely curious, kind, and stubborn all at once. 

* * * 

One of the most rewarding activities we did in Lisa’s graduate courses was to read each other’s I-Search Essays (a brief essay exploring our personal investments in a research project) and then to write short 3-5-sentence “Valentines” to each other about what we enjoyed about the essays (criticism was forbidden). We’d spend part of a class period handing out our Valentines, then reading them privately, and then talking about the experience of reading each other’s projects, writing the Valentines, and receiving and reading our Valentines. This was such a wonderful community-building activity—and an affirmation of each of us as individual writers—that I’ve used it in my first-year writing classes multiple times. Lisa helped me to not only see the value of community-building in my teaching but also how to be intentional in building communities of writers in my classes. (See Lisa’s Situating Composition 209-215 for a discussion of the I-Search Essay, this activity, and how she approached teaching graduate-level composition courses.) 

* * * 

Lisa was immensely curious and promoted that curiosity in her students. I wrote a final project for her composition theory class that was hypertextual with multiple nodes and links. It was hard to read and navigate, with very little coherence as a seminar project. I no longer have Lisa’s comments on the project (it was a WordPress install on my OSU page that has since been lost), but I do remember her commenting that she felt like she didn’t know how to read it. I think Lisa wasn’t sure how to read many of my projects in that class. But she also encouraged me to continue the lines of inquiry around composition, composure, and new media theory. 

My I-Search Essay for Lisa’s composition theory class was inspired by Geoffrey Sirc’s “Never Mind the Tagmemics,” a queer and anti-racist desire for social justice and change, and punk aesthetics and music. Rather than a traditional essay, I created a collage, cut-and-pasted together with scissors and tape like a zine. I included quotations from Sirc and punk lyrics, and I photocopied and taped on handwritten comments from my classmate Marieke, who had provided me feedback on a previous draft. 

I had no idea at the time that Lisa had already written these words: “Experiment with ways of expanding scholarly genres and of resisting the conventional ways that knowledge circulates in composition—but recognize the potential difficulty and complexity of such efforts” (Situating 200). 

* * * 

Figure 1. The frontside of my 2006 I-Search Essay for Lisa’s class. Image description: a page of typed words, formatted creatively: some lines are upside down, some are in the margin, some are centered, and some are left-aligned. The words mix memoir and analysis, and some of the writing is in the form of test questions, parodizing testing. On the page are Lisa Ede’s short handwritten comments.

Figure 2. The backside of my 2006 I-Search Essay for Lisa’s class. Image description: another page in the same assignment, with quotations from Geoffrey Sirc and short responses. Like the previous page, blocks of text are formatted freely, with some text centered and some running vertically up the right side of the page. Lisa’s short comments are encouraging Michael to use the margin space, literally and figuratively.

* * * 

Lisa encouraged me and provided space for me to see the connections between my developing queer and antiracist politics, new media, and rhetoric and composition. Late in life, Lisa wrote about how she didn’t at first see connections between her scholarly work and her personal feminist commitments (“How to Get” 25). She clearly learned from that experience and encouraged that connection-making in her students, particularly how intertwined the personal and the academic are. Now, 15 years later, as a teacher and an administrator, I see how Lisa’s stress on the intertwinement of the personal and scholarly has shaped my commitments and practices. Before I ask why others should care about a project, I ask why my students care. What are our “passionate attachments” (Situating 195, quoting Jacqueline Jones Royster) to this project? What drives you in this project? 

* * * 

 This memorial is a collage—a “patch-work quilt,” to quote Carl Leggo’s “Ninety-five Questions” (405), one of the first essays Lisa encouraged me to read—because I don’t have faith in linearity. Lisa didn’t know how to read my intertext hypermedia project in her composition theory class. I don’t know how to read my grief. 

* * * 

When I teach TTU’s graduate course on Histories and Theories of Composition, I assign the opening pages of Lisa’s Situating Composition. “What are we talking about when we talk about composition?” Lisa asks (3). The opening questions of Situating Composition (3-4) are the opening questions of our field. I don’t know if there are two pages in the field that so succinctly state (or, more accurately, ask) what is at stake in what we do and study. 

 Lisa gave me a copy of Situating Composition when I defended my MA thesis. As I write this, I return to Situating Composition, especially the strategies Lisa provides “to encourage readers to consider the advantages and disadvantage of particular practices for their own scholarly inquiry” (192). As I reread, I am astonished again by the integrity and ethics informing these practices, asking scholars to theorize practices but also to see theory as a situated set of practices that requires reflexivity, historicity, and generosity, as well as critique, experimentation, and situating of both oneself and of one’s practices. 

* * * 

Figure 3. Lisa’s 2007 inscription in my copy of Situating Composition. I share this because I find Lisa’s handwriting so beautiful. In 1990, my third-grade teacher told my class that someone in the Talented and Gifted program had such messy handwriting that they didn’t belong in the program. I don’t know for sure, but I think she was talking about me. When I look at Lisa’s handwriting, I’m reminded of Lisa’s immense love but also how her scholarship and teaching challenged the norms of literacy, like the one my third-grade teacher reinforced. Lisa’s handwriting is difficult for me to decipher but also incredibly beautiful. I feel all sorts of pleasure in how my third-grade teacher would read Lisa’s writing as “messy.” Image description: the title page of Situating Composition with Lisa’s note: “Dear Michael, I find myself strangely without words, so I’ll just say that it’s been an honor and a privilege to learn with & from you. You have so much to give our field & the world. I look forward to seeing (& valuing) your many contributions. All best, Lisa.”

* * * 

Lisa wrote to me that it was “an honor and privilege to learn with and from you.” I think I learned from Lisa that teaching is a matter of learning with and from our students. Lisa taught me that while we do have a lot to offer our students, they have more to offer us as we learn together.  

* * * 

My first conference presentation was a collaboration with Lisa for The New Research Summit at the University of Oregon in 2006, where Lisa discussed Amazon citizen reviews and I discussed student blogging. Most of my publications since have been collaborative—with my mentors at Penn State or with colleagues or graduate students at Texas Tech. Lisa explained to me personally—and to all of us in writing (“How to Get” 23-24)—that collaboration was met with resistance or suspicion from tenure and promotion committees. I believe it was because of Lisa’s (and so many others’) precedents in the field that led to little resistance to the frequent collaboration in my dossier for my tenure case. Lisa changed our field, not simply in ideas in print, but in practices and in values. 

* * * 

Lisa helped me attend to the situations of composing. I write in coffee shops and bars, with a body—elated, frustrated, crying. I pay attention to the materiality of my writing because of Lisa. I write this at my favorite bar, with Lisa and Andrea’s book near me, a whiskey and coke, a pack of cigarettes, my eyes flooded with tears. 

Figure 4. Workspace at the bar: Reading Lisa and Andrea’s book and writing this essay with a whiskey and coke. Image description: a close-up of the spine of the book Singular Texts/Plural Authors, its solid blue cover without a dust jacket. The book is placed on a polished wood bar. Just behind the book, out of focus, is a black ashtray and two drinks: one whiskey and coke and the other empty, finished, except ice.

* * * 

I worry my words in this memorial aren’t right. They aren’t enough. When Clancy Ratliff emailed me about contributing to this memorial, she wrote, “whatever you give us will be the right thing.” I don’t know if this is the right thing. 

In her essay republished in this issue, Lisa asks, “how do I avoid the potential narcissism inherent in a focus on my research, my career? What do I have to say, I found myself asking over and over as I sat fretting at my computer, that might be of some use to those who are earlier in their scholarly and professional paths?” (“How to Get” 27-28). I ask myself similar questions as I fret at my computer. How do I avoid the potential narcissism inherent in a focus on my relationship with Lisa? What do I have to say that can matter to others? One of my many takeaways from my relationship with Lisa and her scholarship (including her essay reprinted in this issue) is that relationships (mentoring, friendships, etc.) are part of what we learn to do when we learn to be part of a discipline or profession. They need to be intentionally fostered and cultivated with care and curiosity. Lisa epitomized that intentional care and curiosity, and she taught so many of us how to practice our commitments to our students and to each other. 

Works Cited 

Ede, Lisa. “How to Get a Nonacademic Position.” Women’s Professional Lives in Rhetoric and Composition: Choice, Chance, and Serendipity, edited by Elizabeth A. Flynn and Tiffany Bourelle, The Ohio State UP, 2018, pp. 18-29. 

—. Situating Composition: Composition Studies and the Politics of Location. Southern Illinois UP, 2004. 

Ede, Lisa, and Andrea Lunsford. Singular Texts/Plural Authors: Perspectives on Collaborative Writing. Southern Illinois UP, 1990. 

Leggo, Carl. “Ninety-five Questions for Generating Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of the Pedagogical Practices of Writing Teachers.” Language Arts, vol. 67, no. 4, 1999, pp. 399-405. 

Sirc, Geoffrey. “Never Mind the Tagmemics, Where’s the Sex Pistols?” College Composition and Communication, vol. 48, no. 1, 1997, pp. 9-29.