Call for Proposals

Reading and Writing with Agency in the Liberal Arts

January 12-13, 2018 | Stetson University | DeLand, FL

Many of our colleges’ mission statements recognize qualities in our students such as leadership, engaged participation in democratic life, and the cultivation of critical and creative sensibilities. Each of these values requires agency, a reader’s or writer’s ability to fashion discourse that adds to, modifies, or otherwise responds to issues, ideas, and texts. We speak of readers and writers “making their marks,” actively and knowingly intervening in ongoing discussions and debates. Similarly, we value students making informed and relevant choices about when, how, and why to compose an argument appropriate to audience and occasion, discourse that involves a clear purpose, an identifiable voice, and a sense of urgency. An agentive writer knows how to use language and rhetoric to get things done, whether proposing a new way of thinking, recommending a policy, or reframing social issues.

Agency is related to the construction of ethos, where agency is understood as an attribute of character. But agency applies equally well to reading. Reading with agency involves active interpretation; an engagement with texts and ideas that goes well beyond the information given as well as a cultivated habit of calling into question, speculating about, and making new uses of texts. Because the student/faculty ratio in small liberal arts settings is favorable to students, we have the ability to nurture individuals and to pay holistic attention to our students’ development as intellectual persons. We have the ability to foster agency in ways perhaps not as fully possible in large university settings.

We invite our members to spend a weekend together pondering readerly and writerly agency as we consider their value as goals for liberal arts education. We envision addressing such questions as:

  • How can we help students strategically construct agency that will be perceived as, for instance, courageous, empathetic, deliberate, generous, or proactive?
  • How might we leverage assignments to facilitate the construction of a knowing ethos?
  • What are needs and occasions for agentive discourse beyond college?
  • In a charged political climate, how do we avoid overprescribing our beliefs about what constitutes valuable agency? How can we better listen for the varieties of agency our students bring to scenes of writing?

We welcome submissions of two kinds:

Roundtables

Ten-minute presentations that sketch out an approach, summarize one’s research or synthesize others’ research on agency as it applies to readers and/or writers. Approaches to agency may be at the level of individual conversation with students, classroom practices, or programmatic affordances. Typically, a roundtable is composed of four participants addressing a common theme or shared institutional practice. One can propose an entire roundtable or propose a single presentation that the conference organizers will cluster with kindred presenters.

Speed Sharing

Ten-minute presentations that preview a new strategy, technique, or arrangement in tutoring, teaching, or administering writing that will likely be of interest to many of the conference attendees. The subject of the presentations need not focus on the conference theme of agency. Speed shares keep us informed of new developments in the field, novel administrative arrangements, ideas for assessment, strategies for staffing, skills for stretching tight budgets, thoughts about faculty development, etc. The materials introduced in speed sharing sessions become artifacts of our practice and are archived on the SLAC-WPA website.

By September 15th, please submit proposals for

  • Roundtables
  • Speed Sharing

to Brenda Boyle, President SLAC-WPA Consortium, bboyle@denison.edu