Citation has power. It is part of the inner workings of this profession. Thus, I first became interested in how ethos and citation function together in my first year of graduate school in a course called "Professions of English." At that time, I was asked to analyze an article of my choice for several rhetorical strategies, including how authority is established. Presumably, I would learn from this exercise how to construct a healthy professional ethos of my own--I would be able to model my techniques on those of established "authors." The article I chose at the time was one by Peter Elbow called "Breathing Life into the Text," included in a collection of essays called When Writing Teachers Teach Literature.
Of course, even then I knew who Peter Elbow was. I imagine there are few people in the field of composition and rhetoric who do not associate Elbow with the process and expressivist movements of the 1970s. In fact, it might be possible to call him a transdiscursive author-function in Michel Foucault's terms. Foucault theorizes that authors "occupy a transdiscursive position" when they are authors of "much more than a book--of a theory, for instance, of a tradition or a discipline within which new books and authors can proliferate" (131). Thus, the name "Elbow" calls up a whole history of ideas that are considered to have begun with Peter Elbow and his colleagues.
What, then, does someone with this kind of "star" status and high level of recognition do differently to assert his or her authority? Since one of the simplest ways to gain authority in writing a text is to depend on the authority of others, I looked to Elbow's citation practices. Then, and now, I feel the need to cite anything and everything I say that doesn't seem to be common knowledge, simply because I occupy a neophyte's position. Elbow, on the other hand, exhibited a very casual citation style, often dropping the names of other composition transdiscursive authors within his sentences or even in parentheses after he made statements. These parenthetical expressions seem more like asides than formal citations, and it often appears that Elbow knows the people he cites personally.
Building on what has been stated previous to me on the panel, I would like to assert what might seem perfectly obvious. When scholars begin their careers, they must cite to gain authority and to show that they've, as rhetoric scholar and professor Richard Enos always says, "done their homework." After proving themselves, however, their citation styles can be more relaxed, coming less in the form of direct quotation and more in the form of brief footnotes or parenthetical expressions. In fact, I would assert that once someone reaches transdiscursive status, once they seem to have initiated a "new" movement in thought, they need not cite others at all or if so, only rarely. Many do not abandon the more regimented standards of citation, yet some move away from citing so frequently and formally. Stars of the field finally have the right to rely on their own authority, at least in terms of the citation practices they follow.
This seems to be the case with Elbow in another article called "Embracing the Contraries in the Teaching Process." Here, Elbow chooses only to cite about 3 sources in the entire article. I doubt I could get away with that and have it published in a book like the Writing Teacher's Sourcebook, which is already in its 3rd edition. The reason star scholars of Elbow's caliber are not as dependent as neophytes on citation is because they begin to rely on the ethos built when others cite them. Also, if members of the discipline perceive them to be originators of a certain strain of thought, such as Elbow's process and expressivism, it seems the transdiscursive author-function gives a person creator status. That is, their ideas were "original" or "originary" and they did not need to depend on anyone else's ideas or authority to write about those concepts. This is a very Romantic notion of authorship, but I'm convinced it still exists in practice.
I would like to complicate my statements a bit, however. In reviewing several essays included in collections, I found women staying closer to the more formal citation practices of direct quotation, frequent citation, and heavy reliance on sources outside the self even when they become "experts" in their fields. I certainly don't think this de-legitimizes women's articles, but if this is true across the discipline, I think there might be some interesting implications in terms of gender issues and the use of citation. Do women ever reach that level of star status, and when they do reach it, do they feel comfortable relaxing their citation style?
Also, I want to temper my theory of star citation with the point that it certainly matters what the intent of the article is. It seems that anecdotal, pedagogical essays allow more room, in general, for casual citation, while bibliographical or "overview" essays clearly require much citation. Still, in my brief survey, the people I saw name-dropping, parenthetically referring to others' work, and sometimes even avoiding citation seemed to be the male "stars" of the field of composition.
Elbow, Peter. "Breathing Life into the Text." When Writing Teachers Teach Literature. Eds. Art Young & Toby Fulwiler. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1995. 193-205.
-----. "Embracing the Contraries in the Teaching Process." The Writing Teacher's Sourcebook. 3rd Ed. Eds. Gary Tate, Edward P. J. Corbett, and Nancy Myers. New York: Oxford UP, 1994. 65-76.
Foucault, Michel. "What Is an Author?"
Bulletin de la Societe francaise de Philosophie 63.3 (1969): 73-104.
Rpt. Language, Countermemory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews.
Ed. Donald F. Bouchard. Trans. Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon. Ithaca:
Cornell UP, 1977. 113-38.