Revolution Lullabye

June 16, 2009

Special Issue: The Writing Major, Composition Studies

Special Issue: The Writing Major. Composition Studies 35:1 (Spring 2007).

I’m going to briefly note what’s in this issue and the highlights from each essay or article. Two articles I already have notes on.

Estrem, Heidi. “Growing Pains: The Writing Major in Composition and Rhetoric.” 11-14.

the writing major is that in-between space between 1st year comp and grad programs. This issue features essays and articles about these forming majors, articles that bridge local constraints, stories, and contexts with larger themes of the importance of place, timing, capitalizing on unexpected events, advocacy, and long effort. This group of growing writing majors asks the field to define itself – will it be under the umbrella of “writing studies?”

Carpini, Dominic Delli. “Re-writing the Humanities.” – already have notes

Clary-Lemon, Jennifer. “The Hot Arctic: Writing Majors as New Sites for New Hires.” 37-38

McClure, Randall. “Projecting the Shape of the Writing Major.” 39-40.

think about how instruction is delivered (online?); to and with whom (K-16?, interdisciplinary?) – the importance of the archictecture of a writing major when designing it.

Howard, Rebecca Moore. “Curricular Activism: The Writing Major as Counterdiscourse.” 41-52.

Writing majors give the field an opportunity to argue for a positive, informed view of postsecondary writing instruction. Howard reviews the websites of new writing majors and contends that websites, written for student, faculty, and public audiences, can be composition’s PR tool for changing the traditional, normative assumptions of writing instruction and allowing the institution to see composition and rhetoric as legitimate intellectual, disciplinary work.

Shamoon, Linda and Celest Martin. “What Part of the Elephant is This? Questioning Creative Non-Fiction in the Writing Major” 53-54

study of nonfiction can be placed in a historical trajectory in comp/rhet with expressivism. need to investigate and open up the theoretical and conceptual connections between creative nonfiction and comp/rhet

Schaffner, Spencer. “Grounding the Writing Major in the Socio-Graphemic Approach.” 55-56

the activity of writing is the central organizing theme to study: “students will become specialists in the study of written language, rhetoric, writing technologies, and image/text semiotics” (55).

Peeples et al. “Chronos and Kairos, Strategies and Tactics” notes already

Taylor, Beth. “On Brown University’s New Nonfiction Writing Program” 77-78

students aren’t required to take writing at Brown, but 26% do take a nonfiction writing course – academic essay, journalism, creative nonfiction

Newman, Glenn. “Concoting a Writing Major: A Recipe for Success.” 79-80.

undergrad who developed his own rhet/comp major at U of Utah and is preparing himself to go to grad school for rhet/comp

Scott, Tony. “The Cart, the Horse, and the Road They Are Driving Down: Thinking Ecologically about a New Writing Major.” 81-93.

faculty designing writing majors must think beyond their scholarly,  intellectual visions and consider the institutional constraints they are working with – hiring, budgets, staffing, space. Argues for a move to a “post-writing program era” (90) – without mandated syllabi, teacher management; encourage scholarly and pedagogical experimentation. The contradiction between the administrative functions of a writing program and the faculty functions of a major. Draws on Marx, circulation to look at the narratives and ideologies of power and control are wired into postsecondary writing instruction (85)

Peele, Thomas. “What Do We Mean When We Say ‘Writing?'” 95-96

where does creative nonfiction belong? disciplinary arguments that writing majors bring out

Lowe, Kelly. “Against the Writing Major.” 97-98.

writing majors, in order to thrive, must have proper staffing and consider faculty strenghts and weaknesses when constructing a program. Find the faculty to fit the major, not the other way around. Don’t attempt a major if you can’t run it well.

Taylor, Hill. “Black Spaces: Examining the Writing Major at an Urban HBCU.”

argues for consideration of context when developing a writing major – a Tier 1, mostly white research institution is going to have a much different writing major than an open-admissions, Washington DC, urban HBCU, which could focus on writing for government, policy, education, and African-American rhetorics and pedagogies. Calls for a haptic curriculum (one that is contingent, participatory), not an optic one (simplified, homogenous one) for writing majors (draws on Giles Deleuze’s A Thousand Plateaus.)

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June 6, 2009

Drucker, Figuring the Word

Drucker, Johanna. Figuring the Word: Essays on Books, Writing, and Visual Poetics. New York: Granary Books, 1998.

This is a collection of Drucker’s essays from the 1980s and 1990s that focus on her central scholarly, artistic, and literary investigation: the importance of understanding and being aware of the materiality of writing, of mark-making. She explains in some of these essays how electronic, digital writing is changing her understanding of the physical materiality of writing and printing: it loses some of the historical and identification certainty of a handwritten, signed, physical text since it is vulnerable to change and feels alienated because computerized text loses some human individuality. For Drucker, physical materiality encodes history and identity in a text.

Quotable Quotes

“It is clear that significance inheres in the written form of language as much on account of the properties of physical materials as throguh a text’s linguistic content.” (57).

“In the world and of it, written language materializes thought into form and form into history, culture, and record” (74) both these from “The Art of the Written Image”

“The forms in which language occurs adherese more or less to norms which enable messages to be recognized” (87) “Hypergraphy” – connections with genre theory?

“The word is made flesh not as a voice, not as a score, an image, an icon, or an event but as a text whose visual properties and idiosyncracies enact themselves for the eye, upon the page.” (109) from “The Interior Eye”

“My interest is in extending the communicative potential of writing, not in eliminating or negating it” (146) from “Letterpress Language” – use the constraints of typography, letterpress, structure of the page

The materiality of signification: how “material substrates and visual/typographic/written (and, by extension, verbal) styles encode history, identity, and cultural value at the primary level of the mark/letter/physical support )and in non-written form, the qualities of voice, tone, tenor, rhythm, inflection, etc.)” from “Language as Information: Intimations of Immateriality”

Notable Notes

writing as both noun and verb, process and performance, visual and verbal, text and the work of the hand, individual and social

programming language as rules, not codes – describe, not embody language

writing as a form, image of the self

linked to Morris, Blake – stretches the bounds of the book

March 8, 2009

Sirc, Box-Logic

Sirc, Geoffrey. “Box-Logic.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, UT: Utah State UP, 2004. 111-146.

Instead of teaching linear texts in our classrooms, composition teachers should encourage an aesthetic sense in their students, asking them to see writing as collection, arrangement, and juxtaposition of elements, much like a curator or artist composes. Sirc relies on the box theories and practices of Marcel Duchamp Joseph Cornell, Walter Benjamin, and George Maciunas to construct an argument about the validity of such an experimental method in composition classrooms, highlighting how it reflects the non-linear, non-conclusive writing students do outside the colldge classroom. His assignments draw on technologies from pen and paper to HTML web pages and have students create juxtapositions, research boxes, and arcades projects.

Quotable Quotes

We need to ask “What is essential to composition? What are the inescapable, minimal institutional constraints that must be considered?” (126)

“Mainstream writing instruction too often prefers to put students inot contact zones of heightened cultural import. BUt strong art, we seem can be created out of a collection of well-chosen interesting bits of the everyday.” (122)

“If we (finally) journey away from the linear norm of essayist prose, which the texts of the everyday world implore us to do, where do we go, especially in a composition classroom? What sorts of formal and material concerns guide a newly-mediated pedagogical practice?” (114)

“text as box=author as collecter” (117)

“My projects above are all attempts to use technology to infuse contemporary composition instruction with a spirit of the neo-avant-garde. The box-theorists provide a way to think about composition as an interactive amalgram, mixing video, graphic, and audio with the verbal.” (146).

Notable Notes

arrangement, no clear conclusions, just suggestions

stylistic device of the caesura (123)

highlights two activities in the classroom: annotation and note-taking, search strategies

it seems to hearken back to the individual spirit of expressionism, early process movement

students as designers, artists who experiment with blank boxes, pages, and screens to create meanings, free to capture moods, an element of play

March 7, 2009

Wysocki, Opening New Media to Writing

Wysocki, Anne Frances. “Opening New Media to Writing: Openings and Justifications.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, Utah: Utah State UP, 2004. 1-41.

Pointing out the divide in new media studies between the study of how to design and compose individual texts (through graphic design maxims) and the study of the broad effects of media structures, Wysocki argues that composition studies can fill the gap between the two by focusing on the material and social conditions of the production and consumption of all texts, both textual, visual, and digital. She forwards five major claims: 1. compositionists have the unique pedagogical expertise to teach students how to think critically about their design and composition choices when writing a text because we already highlight the situated nature of writing. 2. we need to think about the specific material circumstances and choices of the texts we produce, consume, and circulate because no technology is a neutral carrier; our texts contain, in their design and construction, our attitudes, beliefs, and values, both individually and as a society 3. new media texts are any texts, digital or not, whose composer thought deliberately about the range of material design choices they had and who, in their design, highlight the materiality of the text 4. we need, as teachers, to move beyond analysis of new media texts and ask our students to craft and produce them in our classrooms, thinking of new media texts not as objects but rather as material practices, and 5. we need to adopt a generous spirit in our reading, knowing that composing these new media texts requires experimentation, patience, and exploration, and in order to appreciate these efforts, we need to realize that texts need not look identical to what we’re accostomed to in order to be useful, that what we might deem mistakes should be thought of in terms of choices. Her chapter ends with numerous activities writing teachers might use in their classrooms, from undergrad to grad students, to have students think more critically of the materiality of producing and reading texts.

Quotable Quotes

Compositionists can help “composers of texts think usefully about effects of their particular decisions as they compose a new media text, to help composers see how agency and materiality are entwined as they compose” (6)

“this materiality – which takes part in the construction of readers – occurs in all texts we comsume, whether print or digital, research essay or technical instruction set. ANd this material functioning occurs when we produce any text as well” (7)

“any material we use for communication is not a blank carrier for our meaning” (10)

“We should call ‘new media texts’ those that have been made by composers who are aware of the range of materialities of texts and who then highlight the materiality: such composers design texts that help readers/consumers/viewers stay alert to how any text – like its composers and readers – doesn’t function independently of how it is made and in what contexts. Such composers design texts that mark as overtly visible as possible the values they embody” (15).

Technologies do matter because “They are in our worlds and they have weight – but we probably ought not give up our own agency by acting as though technologies come out of nowhere and are autonomous in causing effects” (19)

Notable Notes

classroom activities include writing with crayons, discussing what you need to know to read and produce a “normal” piece of academic text (an 8.5 x 11″ piece of paper, double spaced, academic essay – type.) They get at appreciating and being aware of the materiality of writing

use of the word “crafting” about producing academic texts (drawing on Andrew Feenberg)

it’s important in new media texts – defined “in terms of materiality instead of digitality” (19) – that we look to how and why we use digital media, not that we do it. A new media text isn’t new media because it’s online. It’s a greater understanding and attention to materiality.

Materiality draws on Horner’s Terms of Work for Composition (she quotes that long passage from his introduction)

Creating your identity as a writer – when you’re aware of hte materiality, the technology, you can see your own self and identity as situated in a larger world of choices, making your own choices in those structrues in your text (22)

the subtle, silent, quiet, but real effects of the choices that define our existence

the interplay between agency and materiality

interface design (folders, desktop) as a Western-business centric design, intuitive only to some

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