English, Department of


Date of this Version

January 2002


Published in The Dissertation & the Discipline: Reinventing Composition Studies, edited by Nancy Welch, Catherine G. Latterell, Cindy Moore, and Sheila Carter-Tod (Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, 2002). In the series CrossCurrents, series editor Charles I. Schuster. Copyright © 2002 Heinemann-Boynton/Cook Publishers, Inc. Used by permission.


This story is about collaboration and its role in preparing graduate students in rhetoric and composition to be professionals. It is our story of how we came to collaborate in the dissertation stage and, simultaneously, in our searches for tenure-track jobs and (only a little later) in our scholarly activities. In particular, this story is about the complications of collaborating within academic institutions—as graduate students and then as untenured faculty—given the intractable values associated with those institutions, most obviously, the privileging of individual accomplishment and the valorization of competition re¬sulting in a zero-sum game of academic success. Although the dominance of social constructionist theories of knowledge-production that suffused our graduate training in the early 1990s led us to view collaboration as an obvious and necessary good, our subsequent experiences suggest that the revolution has not moved very far out of our old neighborhood. We want to go beyond an idyllic portrayal of collaboration in graduate programs to consider how collaborative practices shape professional identities and the consequences of these identities when graduate students move into other departmental cultures. Ultimately, we argue that the choice to collaborate within an institution that inhibits or devalues such collaboration must be made in full awareness of the risks as well as the potential benefits.