Rutter_Definition of Technical Comm

Rutter_Definition of Technical Comm - 2 A HtsroRY, R...

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HtsroRY, RHr,roRIC, AND Huvt,tNISM Toward a Iulore Comprehensive Definition "f Technical Communication RUSSELL hUTTER When I began to teach technical communication about thirty-five yeius ago, my chief resources were a big book (Mills and Walter) and an ever-turning ditto machine. In those days, we sought to preserve the separateness of technical communication and to prevent its ingestion by larger programs like "Freshman Rhetoric." Evidence of this effort appears in early definitions of tech- nical communication (my essay cites several of them). Still, I thought, separation did not seem a sufficient basis for definition. In 1975,I offered a regional paper on literature and technical communication. This modest effort happily disappeared without a trace. However, I reconceived the paper for the 1981 Con- ference on College Composition and Communication Convention as "Literature and the Teach- ing of Technical Writing," which was later reprinted. What, I had asked, connects literature and technical writing? The answer, I thought, was imagination, and I published another essay, this time with a focus on imagination as a unifying element in the technical writing course ("Looking-Glass"). I commenced an effort to demonstrate in a more scholarly way the priority of imagination in science and technology as well as in literature, assembling information from figures like Wordsworth, Einstein, Neils Bohr, Sir Philip Sidney, and John Smeaton to buttress my point in "Poetry, Imagination, and Technical Writing." It is significant, I think, that the essay was ac- cepted by one editor of College English only after his predecessor had rejected it as unpublish- able. After publication, the essay drew hostile comments, some of which I tried to answer in sub- sequent issues of the journal. Publications notwithstanding, I began to believe that connecting literature and technical writ- ing sounded like the pleading of a litterateur and that imagination was too nebulous a concept to link technical writing to anything. Then I read and reviewed W. Ross Winterowd's Composi- tion/Rhetoric: A Synthesis for The Technical Writing Teacher Winterowd taught me that the missing piece was not merely literature, much less the nebulous imagination, but rather rheto- ric and the rhetorical tradition. Armed with Winterowd's argument that all disciplines of Eng- lish reside within rhetoric, I began research that led me to write and publish "History, Rhetoric, and Humanism." Again, some of my colleagues and well-wishers wondered whether a rhetori- cal and historical approach was relevant to technical communication, with its known emphasis From the Journal of TechnicalWriting and Communication2l.2
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Rutter_Definition of Technical Comm - 2 A HtsroRY, R...

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