Revolution Lullabye

June 9, 2009

Emig, Writing as a Mode of Learning

Emig, Janet. “Writing as a Mode of Learning.” CCC 28:2 (May 1977) 122-128.

Emig, in this early article that articulates the importance of a writing-centered English classroom, argues that writing is a preferrable way for students to learn because it allows students to be active producers originating ideas. Writing uses both hemispheres of the brain and involves all three of Jerome Bruner’s learning categories: the hand, the eye, and the brain. Writing is integrated, propelled through cycles of self-reflection, connective, engaged, personal, and self-rhythmed, all attributes of higher-level thinking and learning. Writing, as opposed to talking, forces students to negotiate and shuttle between the past, the present, and the future.

Notable Notes

move to make students producers, not consumers

curious distinction Emig alludes to – that writing is different than other forms of composing (art, music, dance, architecture, film, and math and science.) She doesn’t expand on that, but it would be interesting to know what exactly she sees as the difference. She seems to prioritize writing over these other creative design arts.

individualized education in writing – make it self-rhythmed

shuttling between past, present, and future requires skills in both analysis and synthesis

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

June 3, 2009

Kirschenbaum, Machine Visions

Kirschenbaum, Matthew. “Machine Visions: Toward a Poetics of Artificial Intelligence.” electronic book review 6 (November 1997)

In this hypertext, Kirschenbaum reviews three non-canonical webtexts: Throwing Apples at the Sun, which is an interactive CD-ROM by Elliott Peter Earls, Johanna Drucker’s artists’ book Simulant Portrait, and Darick Chamberlin’s artists’ book Cigarette Boy. Kirschenbaum argues through his analysis of these three digital texts that they are poststructural examples of new digital media, media that is self-reflexive and aware of its materiality, dependent on a dialogue between the human and the computer (“artificial intelligence”), and cannot be read outside of the digital form. He advocates for 1. a broader understanding and appreciation of the possibilities of digital texts – to move beyond things hailed in Wired and to push for experimental work in post-alphabetic graphic and digital design – and 2. a realization that the computer is more than a word processor; it has multiple design tools and options that can be used by writers and designers to create texts that push the limits of their audiences. This integration of the visual and the verbal is in the tradition of William Morris, William Blake, and the Book of Kells.

Quotable Quotes

on the computer: “It is an instrument for crafting writing environments.”

“The poetics of artificial intelligence are aestheticized instances of the digital wor(l)d and its virtual subjectivities, realized in the form of an incarnate and embodied text – whether than text be codex or electronic in form.” – its more than just computer-generated text

These complex, embedded, multi-vocal texts cannot be “read abstracted from [their] presentation”

May 31, 2009

McClure and Baures, Looking In by Looking Out

McClure, Randall and Lisa Baures. “Looking In by Looking Out.” Computers and Compositon. (Fall 2007).

McClure, a WPA, and Baures, a librarian, argue for greater collaboration between librarians and compositionists to revise first-year composition curriculum to better serve the information literacy needs students have in today’s digital world. They illustrate their collaborative method for curriculum revision in this article, the triangulation of WPA standards, ACRL standards, and institutional individual course objectives. They argue that librarians and compositionists have similiar literacy concerns and challenges when working with students, and a rich collaboration with library and information science can enrich the content of the first-year composition course.

Quotable Quotes

“Therefore, to better understand the complexities of information literacy and provide instructional strategies to help students develop information literacy skills, composition might once again be served by exploring other fields, in this case the field of Library and Information Science. This field not only acknowledges the complexity of researching in the digital age and crafts a whole series of standards for information literacy, but it also give teachers something they often search for—content for composition.  ” (emphasis mine)

“the disconnection between “college-eligible and college ready” must be addressed, but it cannot be done by correlating high school and college level standards, irrespective of whether they are information literacy or subject content standards. Nor can systemic needs for remediation be ignored. Yet in the absence of a viable solution to this problem, librarians and writing composition instructors must design and develop curricula to provide students with the basic research and writing skills to succeed academically.”

Notable Notes

Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL)

new need: how to evaluate, analyze, synthesize sources. Learning how to use and analyze sources will make students better researchers and writers.

May 28, 2009

Johnson-Eilola and Sebler, Plagiarism, Originality, Assemblage

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan and Stuart A. Selber. “Plagiarism, Originality, Assemblage.” Computers and Composition 24 (2007): 375-403.

Johnson-Eilola and Selber argue for a problem-solving view of writing as assemblage rather than a performance and product-oriented understanding of composing. They place the concept of assemblage in conversation with discussions of plagiarism and originality, both which would undervalue and even criminalize assemblage (remix, collage) writing. They show how practices of assemblage are common in other fields and contexts, like website design, architecture, blogging, and institutional and workplace writing. Writing as assemblage, a postmodern understanding of creativity, limits the ethical and legal panic over plagiarism and the sloppy, unnecessary paraphrasing and allows students to use all available resources (and acknowledge those sources) to make their argument and solve problems.

Quotable Quotes

“If we take away that hierarchy, we remove the impulse for students to lie about it. If a piece of the assemblage is valued primarily for its function rather than its place in a hierarcy, students are no longer pushed so hard to hide the citations for their sources” (400). – students are afraid to have too much of their text in quotes or cited because then it doesn’t look like their original thought is in there (even though they selected, assembled.)

“By untangling the academic function from the legal function [of citation and paraphrase], we open up assemblages and remixes to examination in terms of our academic and pedagogical goals” (399).

“What if we put the emphasis on problem-solving, originality be damned?” (380).

“creating assemblages requires the same rhetorical sophistication as any text” (391).

Notable Notes

Christopher Alexander pattern language – these design patterns are “an ongoing conversation between local and global” and “The possible rhetorical moves of a pattern language are a reservoir, drawn on by an architect to address problems in specific contexts, remixed into an assemblage. The assemblage works at the intersection of principle and concrete.” (395).

selection, choice, local context

change in assessment practices to question whether the assemblage solves problems (instead of the Romantic understanding of single original author)

students are taught this hierarchy – others’ work and words can only be used as support and are secondary to their own original thoughts

21st century remix culture is all around us

May 18, 2009

Eisner and Vicinus, Originality, Imitation, and Plagiarism

Eisner, Caroline and Martha Vicinus, eds. Originality, Imitation, and Plagiarism: Teaching Writing in the Digital Age. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2008.

This edited collection, divided into three sections (originality, imitation, plagiarism) draws together scholars from various discipilnary and technological perspectives to talk about issues of plagiarism, teaching writing, copyright, digital technology, and fair use doctrines. The authors argue in their introduction to bring back imitation as a legitimate and powerful pedagogical practice. I will take notes on the essays included in individual posts, marking each as “EisnerVicinus.”

May 1, 2009

Veal and Hudson, Direct and Indirect Measures for Large-Scale Evaluation of Writing

Veal, L. Ramon and Sally Ann Hudson. “Direct and Indirect Measures for Large-Scale Evaluation of Writing.” Research in the Teaching of English. 17 (1983): 290-296. In Assessing Writing. Eds. Huot and O’Neill. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 13-18.

Using data collected from over 2400 students attending 24 geographically, ethnically, and culturally diverse Georgia high schools, Veal and Hudson argue that holistically-scored essays allow for the best balance of validity, reliability, and cost-effectiveness in writing assessments. The students took different kinds of national achievement tests which scored their essays using holistic, analytic, primary-trait, or mechanics-based assessments, and the researchers detailed the validity, reliability, and costs associated with the different measures.

Quotable Quotes

“The consideration of the user at this point becomes whether the cost or the face validity of a direct assessment of writing is more critical” (18)

Notable Notes

1983 publication, before portfolios came on the scene, doesn’t address larger questions of ethics or the nature of validity

April 10, 2009

Murray, Learning by Teaching

Murray, Donald M. Learning by Teaching: Selected Articles on Writing and Teaching. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1982.

This collection of Donald Murray’s articles and essays (published and unpublished between 1968 and 1982) describe both how he understands the process of writing and the process of teaching. An advocate and founder of the expressivist movement, he believes that writing is a process in which a writer moves between the stages of prewriting (rehearsing), writing (drafting), and rewriting (revision) recursively, in no one set fashion. His pedagogy is marked by frequent, informal individual conferences with students, where students are treated as writers and come to his office to discuss their essays, which are not assignments but rather pieces imagined and created by them. Murray, a professional writer, sees his role as a listener and a coach, helping students see where their draft might take them next, never looking at writing as a finished product (expect perhaps on the deadline, the end of the term, when it will be graded.) He is interested in the scientific studies of the writing process (Perl, Sommers, Emig), but his argument and theory lays in the theory he developed by reflecting on his own work as a writer, reading about the writing processes of published writers, and observing how his students function as writers. In his theory, he names four forces of the writing process: collecting, connecting, reading, and writing, four forces that are always trying to be in a balance between discovery and clarification.

Quotable Quotes

“Listening is, after all, an aggressive act” – it places a large onus on the student because by listening you are validating them as a thinker, a writer, an intellectual (170)

“Papers are examined to see what other choices the writer might make” (17)

“We have to respect the student, not for his product, not for the paper we call literature by giving it a grade, but for the search for truth in whcih he is engaged. We must listen carefully for those words that may reveal a truth, that may reveal a voice. We must respect our student for his potential truth and for his potential voice. We are coaches, encouragers, developers, creators of environments in which our students can experience the writing process for themselves” (16)

“The writer is an individual who uses language to discover meaning in experience and communicate it” (9)

“Instead of teaching finished writing, we should teach unfinished writing and glory in its unfinishedness. We work with language in action” (15)

Notable Notes

5 writer experiences every student should have: the experiences of seeing (practicing perception), form (creating order), publishing (deadlines and made public), communication (reaching an audience), and failure

teachers need to write too, with their students- teach through modeling

“The Politics of Respect” – it is crucial that we 1. respect students’ intelligence and ability as writers 2. respect composition teachers by providing them with control of curriculum and professional development 3. respect the director of Freshman Comp by recognition of his administration as counting for tenure and giving him the authority he needs to run a successful program as a professional and 4. have respect from other disciplines for knowing how to teach writing – this respect comes from the first three.

revision as opportunity, not punishment

texts of course – student’s own writing, never-ending revision, student’s own forms and languages, stress that discovery of meaning is the goal of writing – you learn through writing

teacher shouldn’t talk much at all

write titles, not labels; write leads, not introductions

the self is a legitimate audience

April 8, 2009

Shaughnessy, Errors and Expectations

Shaughnessy, Mina P. Errors and Expectations: A Guide for the Teacher of Basic Writing. New York: Oxford UP, 1977.

Basic writers are not unintelligent; rather, their writing is riddled with errors because they are confused about the basic structure and patterns of sentences and academic prose. Shaughnessy defends her focus on the errors of basic writers by arguing that in order to teach basic writers, teachers must understand what the range of basic writing errors are, why students might be making them (shuttling between two different codes, second language issues, unfamiliarity with written English tenses, structures, and punctuation), and how teachers might help their students write better through addressing these errors (assignments and in-class exercises.) Shaughnessy’s drive is to demystify the common errors basic writers make (punctuation, vocabulary, spelling, syntax) so they can move towards expressing their complex ideas and thoughts in equally as complex and intelligent prose. Shaughnessy does not prescribe a curriculum or program, arguing that each basic writing program must be created for the context of the students’, teachers’, and institutional expectations and circumstances.

Quotable Quotes

Errors “are unintentional and unprofitable intrusions upon the consciousness of the reader” (12) Teachers shouldn’t ignore error or argue for theoretical conceptions of the relativity of error (diversity of linguistic structure) in a basic writing classroom because that type of approach dismisses two important points. First, students are hyperconcerned about error and want to know about it and fix their errors. Second, errors force a reader to extend more effort to understand the writer, an effort that not all readers make and thus results in a loss of communication.

Her book wants to cultivate “a readiness to look at these problems in a way that does not ignore the linguistic sophistication of the students nor yet underestimate the complexity of the task they face as tehy set about learning to write for college” (13).

“Far from being eleventh-hour learners, these students appear in many ways to be beginning their lives anew.” (291)

“College both beckons and threatens them, offering to teach them useful ways of thinking and talking about the world, promising even to improve the quality of their lives, but threatening at the same time to take from them their distinctive ways of interpreting the world, to assimilate them into the culture of academia without acknowledging their experience as outsiders” (292)

Notable Notes

Basic writing pedagogy must be taken up seriously as an area of scholarship, study

Context – early 1970s open admissions, City College (CUNY system), no guide for how to teach these students who had never before been in college, instructors just see a “chaos of error”

Data – hundreds of placement essays from entering students at City College 1970-1974

confusion and unawareness lays at the heart of the issue. Students need explicit instruction, need to be shown the patterns and structures, templates of writing sentences and academic prose passages.

need to fix errors without disrespecting the culture and language backgrounds of the students

Chapters: handwriting and punctuation; syntax; common errors; spelling; vocabulary; beyond the sentence; expectations

problem – does not adequately address linguistic differences, boils things down to looking at the errors in the student text without looking outside the actual paper, the larger history and social context

lots of pattern-practice, sentence-combining, learn how to express abstract thoughts and longer arguments

March 9, 2009

Johnson-Eilola, The Database and the Essay

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan. “The Database and the Essay.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, Utah: Utah State UP, 2004. 199-235.

Drawing on scholarship and federal cases about intellectual property law and theories of writing as symbolic-analytic work and writing as articulation, Johnson-Eilola argues that composition teachers should begin valuing the processes of selection and connection (as done in blogging, database construction, MOOs, and search engine design) as writing, writing to discuss, analyze, and do in their classrooms. Writing, he argues, cannot be divorced from the economic sphere and must understand all information as value- and choice-laden. Two forces have combined to spark this change that composition teachers must understand and act upon: first, the postmodern move to recognize that there is no such thing as the solitary author, since all writing is social work; and second, that intellectual property law is increasingly seeing texts not as coherent wholes but rather chunks of marketable, commodified information and material. His assignments ask students to blog and look critically at how search engines organize and display information.

Quotable Quotes

Looking at “the breakdown of ‘text’ as a coherent and privileged object” (205)

Shift “away from thinking of intellectual property as a ‘work’ – as a relatively extended, coherent whole – and toward thinking of it as marketable chunks” (209).

“This new notion of writing as at least partly – perhaps primarily – about valuing connection will let us argue to our students that information is not neutral. Collection is a social and political act; there are not mere disembodied facts, but choices” (212).

Notable Notes

see selection and connection as writing – draw on articulation theory for this.

we need to begin connecting writing and architecture theories

postmodern, commodity, capitalist,

the business of information

controlling linking on webpages, database structure

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