Revolution Lullabye

January 10, 2013

Kerschbaum, Avoiding the Difference Fixation

Kerschbaum, Stephaine L. “Avoiding the Difference Fixation: Identity Categories, Markers of Difference, and the Teaching of Writing.” College Composition and Communication 63.4 (June 2012): 616-644.

Kerschebaum, challenging the idea of difference as categorical and static, offers up a definition of difference as dynamic, emergent, and relational.  Difference, she argues, is rhetorical and therefore cannot be fixed.  In order to find and identify difference, teachers need to be attune to “markers of difference,” which emerge in communicative acts.  Kerschebaum uses a short transcript of two students discussing an essay draft in a peer review to demonstrate how these markers of difference affect relationships and identities.  She calls on teachers of writing to be more attentive to the markers of difference that emerge in the classroom and to use these markers to talk about and address difference in a way that resists categories and stable identities.

Notable Notes

fixing difference v. marking difference (619)

uses Bakhtin to describe how difference is emergent, dynamic, and relational (624-627)

human beings rely on categorical identification to make meaning, but those categories are not always or ever accurate (622)

uses her own experiences as a deaf woman to explain how difference emerges through relationships

reviews scholarship in writing studies on recognizing and understanding the nature of difference

suggests that attention to markers of difference in classroom interactions can help cultivate three habits of mind from the Framework openness, flexibility, metacognition

Quotable Quotes

“A marker-based orientation to difference is crucial for contemporary writing research because when we write and read, we wrestle with not just texts, but with selves” (623).

“The remainder of this article, then, suggests a new approach to difference in which teachers and researchers can practice a kind of attention to difference that cultivates awarenesss of new details, provides opportunity to interpret and re-interpret thsoe details, and contextualizes them within specific moments of writing, teaching, and learning” (622).

“Difference is not ‘out there’ waiting to be found and identified but is always coming-to-be through the here-and-now of interaction” (626).

Newcomb, Sustainability as a Design Principle for Composition

Newcomb, Matthew. “Sustainability as a Design Principle for Composition.” College Composition and Communication 63.4 (June 2012): 593-615. Print.

Newcomb argues that design and sustainability principles can be incorporated into composition by encouraging students to develop situational creativity, a particular habit of mind that encourages invention, innovation, and the evaluation of multiple solutions to a given problem.

Newcomb follows other scholars such as Anne Frances Wysocki, Geoffrey Sirc, and Richard Marback to argue for the intergration of design into composition studies.  Newcomb, however, takes this argument further by explaining the importance of sustainability to creating designs (and compositions) that affect future relationships as much as those in the present. He combines theories of design and sustainability into the working term “sustainable design” and explains how this principle can shape our understanding and our students’ understanding of composition and rhetoric.

Newcomb surveys scholarship in composition and rhetoric that interrogates design and sustainability principles, demonstrating the ethical considerations of sustainable design – the idea that a design solution might need to fit and address future relationships and realities, not just present ones.  He uses the US Constitution as an example of sustainable composition: a composition that can be perpetually revised through the process of amendments and one that acknowledges that future circumstances cannot be known.  His discussion of the Constitution and the 10,000 year clock problem demonstrates the importance for long-term thinking, of considering the future when composing.

Newcomb suggests ways teachers of writing can encourage sustainable design and situational creativity in their classrooms.  He encourages the adoption of experiment-based or problem-based learning in the writing classroom. One idea he proposes is having students sketch multiple prototypes instead of one rough draft, much like a designer would do, before deciding on the best possible direction for a composition.

Newcomb’s explanation of situational creativity as a habit of mind fits into the Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing, and his positioning of rhetoric as design emphasizes the productive nature of rhetoric. He asks how we can adjust our curriculum to emphasize the development of situational creativity.

Notable Notes

Amazon.com 10,000 year clock challenge – how can you design a clock that lasts 10,000 years – how can you anticipate the environmental, political, economic, social challenges of the next 10,000 years? (593-594)

US Constitution as sustainable composition (600)

Sustainability in composition – not as a subject matter to investigate but rather as a way to think.

literature in design/composition: Richard Marback, Anne Frances Wysocki, Geoffrey Sirc, Todd Taylor, Nathan Shedroff

literature in sustainability/composition: Derek Owens, Donehower/Hogg/Schell (rural literacies), Fleckenstein (ecology), Cooper (ecology/systems thinking), Dobrin/Weisser

Quotable Quotes

“Whether through environmental and language impacts, global identity, or the constraints on a situation, sustainable design in composition is frequently about thinking about the long term” (605).

“Thoughtful composition, then, can be more about imagining a future set of relationships, rather than looking for a specific, immediate impact in a situation. Imagining a variety of relationships allows students to think about big issues and puts them in place to develop new passions. Most writing classes are conceived in terms of composing texts, but that can miss the importance of all the relationaships around texts. The field of design aids in shifting that emphasis. Design encourages writers to focus on composing relationships and ecosystems, rather than texts. Instead of asking about visual elements, or constraints, or even human impact, design should be about how something fits with the world around it” (607).

“Sustainable design can reanimate a composition curriculum, while retaining its common rhetorical grounding, by approaching writing as something always based on relationship-oriented scenarios” (610).

design thinking = “It begins by constructing design thinking in rhetoric and composition as working with difficult rhetorical problems where no right answer is available” (598).

“Design and rhetoric are inextricably intertwined, and both are about action and ‘creation’ in the world” (599).

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