Visual Rhetoric/Multimodal

I was really taken by many of the assignments outlined in Arola, Sheppard, and Ball, and by the comment in the intro where they stated: “writing thrives in and outside of our classrooms and to interact with texts and writing processes in (re)productive ways” (3). The latter notion was really profound and had me thinking upon ways in which the processes and approaches in the writing class can wriggle into other realms for them. And the assignments within the manual really seem to capture the ability to do that. The assignments for the 100-level class were really innovative and seem to enact the kind of writing they call for that strives to be beyond the classroom. The interview project seems fabulous in its ability to do a lot of things at once, particularly framing questions that can generate further ideas. I also thought that perhaps a brief kind of writing before the interview, like context that you see in magazines or articles that occur before the interview, would suture together the audience and beyond the classroom approach nicely. To be honest, however, the PSA for the first assignment seems rather bland and I don’t know if students would be compelled by it. I say this because they need a reason to invest themselves in the course, they need to be able to see themselves gaining from it, which I believe a personal essay really is the outlet to do this. Or something like the personal essay that allows for experimentation. Perhaps the PSA could be inflected with the personal, or structured as a personal essay in some form. Otherwise, I’m not sure if I, as a student, would be enticed by this kind of first project. I remember having something like this in a public speaking course in undergrad and I and the other students particularly found it drab and monotonous.
I also was really enthralled by the Edbauer Rice piece on the defense of mechanics, initially, that is, until she utilized the case study. The case study, to me, was not representative of the kinds of dynamics within our classrooms. Particularly, the dynamics of mandatory composition courses. The fact that she elects to use a study in which the participants are in fact willing participants, or indeed participants who actively want to engage and learn the material, is problematic. I can perhaps name one student in my class at the moment who would genuinely opt to take this course. Everyone else knows it’s a mandatory class, and that manditoriness is felt. Not to mention the fact there is a grade and that constant looming thing clouds the dynamics of the classroom and the willingness to experiment and fumble. Therefore, this sheer difference in space that Rice does not account for significantly undermines the defense of mechanics as one where rhetoric production is able to foster: “imagination, improvisation, and enactment.” I do not disagree with her at all that. In fact, I agree with her analysis. However, does that method of engagement to process and fiddling with mechanics necessarily translate across to a composition classroom? Where students do not have the same interest, or motivation for that matter, to learn as those students Rice takes as her study? Ultimately, I guess, my biggest apprehension is the process will be overlooked for the product since students are more focused on hammering out something quickly and efficiently as possible to get the grade/get the product for review. Altogether, I did take the “exploratory pedagogies” and “personal projects to think with” as very tantalizing for a composition course and can perhaps open students to the process and the mechanics of things.



I have not yet introduced the research paper. I am starting that on Monday. Below is what I am expecting to hand out on Monday along with some more guidelines. Also, using the annotated bib assignment we looked at a few weeks ago. I was really interested to know if anyone had any ways in which to spice this up or make the paper more interesting? I feel that it is too bland as it is, or too vague.

Research Paper (6-8 pages; front and back of page, double spaced, 12 Times New Roman, 1 in margins). Many of the texts we have read discuss some aspect of reimagining identity or ways of analyzing identity that is apart from the mainstream socioeconomic-culture dynamic. Choose one topic that you are interested in and ready to think through extensively. Then go online, if you’re really daring, the library, and do some research. See what other writers are saying about this same issue. Then, in your paper, you must examine and critique several (2-3) related texts in the course, and evaluate/discuss their relevance to your topic/research. There is a six source minimum, which does not include your primary sources/texts.


“Scarry’s essay gave us something to talk about.”- Miller

Scarry certainly did gave us something to talk about. Something relevant, something related to social responsibility. Scarry’s essay was brilliant. The entanglement of the I, her subjective self, an intervention, I would even argue, for what the scholarly essay can look like, was amazing. It really gave a liveliness and usefulness into what the English classroom, and humanities study itself, can be.

To me Scarry’s essay, continuing from my statements last week about care, was literally a how-to-guide to revitalize and care for oneself in a field where any attempt at addressing injustice and modes of enacting justice is usually met with hostility, or the wonderful question of, “how does that relate to English? Literary study?” Sometimes from administration and other faculty, and even sometimes students. The latter has been the recent audience that has queried the “why does this matter?” and having to constantly reason and justify that is exhausting. So, Scarry’s essay is an excellent reminder of what is at stake and how to energize oneself to continue.

Slogging through English and literary study, in general, and the humanities, in particular, social responsibility, the classroom as a space where “beauty presses us to justice” is a rare classroom, indeed.  Many of the classrooms I have been through the call for justice is one uniquely divorced from social justice. Perhaps that is just my experience or my experience of rubbing against predominantly white professors who refused to see the points I wanted to make concerning injustice in such texts as Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Conrad, or the classroom cultures themselves.

Alarming;y enough, Scarry’s essay was composed in 2000. It is now fifteen years later. Her call reverberates, somewhere in the deep trenches, to those few scholars who heed it. To those scholars, though, that this call is their life, their reason for graduate study, their intervention, then the essay reverberates very differently. Issues of social responsibility and injustice in the classroom as a brown gay man is not the same relationship as that of white academics and professors. The ability to confront the impediments Scarry theorizes and implementing modes of imagining solutions to them is one that is a daunting, vexing predicament for a faculty of color. Every other day, within academia and in my classrooms I even teach, I must justify my own scholarly interests and questions, particularly ones tethered to discussing injury, redress, and injustice, always to an audience who seem “fed up” with discussing these topics. The duty of justice and implementing discussions of justice, as Scarry articulates by her call for a “commitment to justice” is one that is an especially heavy to carry and to implement for scholars of color.

Scarry’s call is still not heeded, not yet here. And I don’t necessarily know if it ever will. But, perhaps, as Scarry so hopefully notes, we can make footnotes and research that proposes, “an argument in which something actual is at stake.”



I found the Brooke’s piece particularly tugging at me from many directions. The examples of underlife, at least for me, can really harbor on the point of rude. This productive side-chatter, I can, as Brooke’s notes, can apply the concepts of class. However, I think there are a plethora of ways in which this chit-chatter cannot be productive. Take for instance, the relationship of the two students and the engagement of students in general in class. Not to mention the position of the actual professor, that is, their physical body and identities that they occupy, can make for this chit-chat or non-traditional modes of learning be sites of contention. As someone who has experienced this kind of chit-chat, side conversations, open jokes, I would never assume they were engaging with the ideas or materials productively for many reasons. I am uncertain how I should feel or how far I can take Brooke’s examples.

Close to the ending of the essay the relationship and management of identities within the classroom really emerged: ” It is in this desire to shift roles, from student to writer, from teacher-pleaser to original thinker, that writing instruction comes into greatest conflict with the existing educational system, and also has the most to offer it” (152).  This urges the question: what kinds of students are we perhaps discussing? The teacher-pleasers of the class tend to also be the ones most interested, most engaged with the material and their writing, the ones who are actually doing that original thinking. On the other hand, oddly, the students who do not try to please at all, and should for the sake of their grade, could care less about pleasing, less about original thinking, and ever less so on their writing. This is perhaps a bleak outlook on the kind of possibilities he is calling for, but I am skeptical of them. I am completely on board for the idea to unsettle the scripted identities we place on students, in order to get them to be writers and original thinkers, but there has to be a level of care and interest on their part.


Ultimately,  I think a lot of these articles we read regarding composition instruction tend to overlook, or don’t know how to exactly attend to (neither do I for that matter), student interest and care for the class. The blessing at teaching at somewhere like Baruch is you can attend to the instruction of writing through the mediums and texts you find most effective. Therefore, the care and interest from the professor is usually there. However, what happens when the care from students isn’t there at all? What happens when you try to elicit, or grow that care by several means, and nothing seems to germinate? I just don’t know what current institutional road blocks are in the way, if any, that help sever student care and interest in the course. Perhaps it is merely the form of writing, as some of my students have noted. Or maybe it’s just the fact that it is a mandatory class and that makes it seem annoying. I wonder if addressing the mandatoriness of the class, and the politics of importance that ultimately jam English and writing into something that is only important to teach students to write memos without error, that we could actually get to somewhere new in terms of writing and having students interested in being in these zones of conflict Brooke’s addresses.



I also found the Micciche essay very compelling. I, for one, am opposed to the instruction of and reinforcement of “proper grammar” like it’s the neo-plague but the piece was extremely convincing. I thoroughly found the Micciche’s idea that the ability to know how to manipulate grammar is a way in which to continue the classroom project of critical thinking and performing cultural critique. She considering it, vis-a-vis Didion, a kind of “shaping of meaning” which was so riveting. This idea of the “shaping of meaning”came up a few weeks back. I was making a rather charged attack against grammar and my ghostly predecessors/contemporaries who enforce/d it. To my delight, a student whose native language was not English, raised his hand in defense grammar. He came up to the board and presented a sentence and showed the many ways in which the comma could be placed and the meany ways in which that meaning of that sentence could be altered. It was a learning moment for me and coming in contact with the Micciche piece really only strengthens this new found turn for me towards grammar.

Is grammar, then, also a part of style? Can it be recruited under the rubric of style? Be taught as style? The Milic piece also comes into conversation on the role of grammar when it comes to the second theory of style: the individualist style. I have been highlighting to students through reading and their own writing how sentence structure, word choice, and even deployment of punctuation can alter the meaning or make meaning. For instance, we were evaluating Anzaldúa‘s Borderlands/La Frontera (my personal bedside bible) and we had so many powerful conversations related to grammar, style, and even genre. I think through the readings this week and my own readings in my class I have been better able to identify ways in which to have meaningful and productive conversations about grammar that won’t seem didactic or overkill.



I think I would like to start with a question that continued to poke at me: Does the media in which one is working in define the mode? For instance, if one is writing a script for a podcast or radio show, would then the modes be predetermined? I guess, like Palmeri, I am interested in the possibilities in invention. Far too frequently, I being included, overlook the critical questions and steps needed in which to propel one into the process of writing, or the process of composing. Furthermore, I am highly interested in the possibilities in composing, as Palmeri articulates vis-a-vis Flower and Hayes, when “writers and artists engage in the composing process… they may often find themselves redefining their problems, generating new ideas and imagining new goals” (30).  How this can apply to the classroom? What methods, ways, or examples are available in which to stem these reflections and questioning from students? I am trying to imagine the process of starting this and then scaffolding it.

I am also extremely enraptured by the idea of multimodal thinking and how writers do not think or imagine in words alone. However, I am not sure ways in which to effectively teach students this approach, nor, for that matter, how to even teach myself how to do this. I pride myself on, as well as enjoy, being a creative writer rather than an academic writer and I have never considered my approach, or the ways in which I imagine something into writing. And the final form, typically, is something manifesting itself as prose, so the idea of translation, or describing the deer on ice as an act of translation as the Flower and Hayes example attests to, is, yes, an act of translation, but still is of language, and sequence, and narration. How, then, can we capture these other modalities of imagining and composing? Sound and visuality is suggested but is that all? I don’t know where this idea is heading I just guess I am itching to know more about the possibilities of multi-modal thinking and being able to unlock its potentials. At this moment, to be honest, I am not too clear how to do it for myself, so I can never even dare to try to teach it.

I also found the terminological shift from writing to composing brilliant in rethinking how we view our classes and the work our students will produce. Composing seems to have a more artistic bent, and perhaps can move students away from viewing writing as a tedious, dull process.



Low/High Stakes Writing

In the Elbow one quote jumped out at me, and seemed very relevant for my students’ overall attitude towards writing: ” Writing feels like an inherently high stakes activity–especially because most people learn and use writing primarily in school, where it is virtually always evaluated, usually with a grade.” This is how virtually all of my students feel towards wriitng–it is always a high stakes mission. This is why mostly all of them hate writing or don’t see themselves as writers, they’ve admitted this past week to me. I’ve tried to offset this feeling with lots of low stakes assignments but, being the clever intellectuals they are, know that my eyes are still evaluating and assessing them based off that. I cannot deny that.

How, then, do we make writing feel low stakes? This does not necessarily mean that students are not being evaluated for their writing because, as much as we like it (and my students were the ones who made me aware of this), we are always being evaluated no matter how low or high the stakes a professor makes the situation to be. And, to be very honest, I am already gauging and assessing their writing just based on low stakes writing. However,  if writing is always a high stakes activity, or imagined as such, you either are perfect or not, successful or not, then isn’t this a disservice to our students? Am I too much of a hippy-carefree-freedomwriters professor where I want all my students to untangle and decompress themselves at every juncture in order to find a passion in writing?

This past week my students and I had an enriching discussion around what makes a writer and who gets to be called a writer. They have stated that none of them ever once considered being a writer (or a humanities major that matter) because there was no system in place which made them 100 percent guaranteed to know if they are good or not, like in math or business. For them, writing is always an act of high stakes risk, always an uncontrollable space where you will be scrutinized and picked apart, which is why none of them ever once considered themselves writers. I don’t know if that’s the kind of classroom environment and attitude I want my students to have but I don’t know how to break this.

I also found the section on feedback and comments extremely generative. I didn’t frequently wonder (even though it has and continues to happen to me) how my words can be misinterpreted or not understood at all. Definitely considering this for the first assignment, ensuring that I make as clear and straightforward as possible my words since frequently they can be rather abstract or unclear. I also want to aim to be supportive and encouraging of their writing through my feedback. Hopefully this will help make it feel less like criticism and an attack, like Elbow makes it to be, and more of I’m trying to help you along this path of development. So many things to continue pondering…


Creative Non-Fiction/Discussion Topic


I wanted to begin the first major writing assignment with something more creative, something that could “loose them up” to writing. We have already done a few low-stakes writing assignments and it has significantly helped them think upon their own writing, as well as having given them potential forms to take up for the assignment. We have and are continuing to look at creative non-fiction pieces which is proving excellent in improving their analytic skills and overall ability to assess writing. So, I am excited to see the ways in which they take to the personal essay form since through class we have identified how the personal essay is both analytic and creative.

Interesting to note, a lot of my students have expressed interest in writing more creatively, too. So I hope this will help hone their own writing goals for the course.

One of my major goals for this assignment, as well as the rest, are to see if as a class we can weld together the idea that writing, no matter analytical or creative, is always an act of creative output, is always a mode of creation. Many of the students have expressed, verbally, as well as through writing, that creative and analytic writing are different forms. In other words, they have noted how the two are mutually exclusive forms. I want to challenge them on that. This challenge seems to interest them and has honestly pushed them to re-imagine their own approach to writing. I’m excited to see where this will lead.

Also, my discussion topic for class has altered, slightly. The questions emerging in class around what is creative and what is analytic have really inspired me to think on creative writing, pedagogy, and the racial imaginary. I found that many of the ways in which we got to that slippery territory of not being able to determine whether “good” writing is analytic, creative, or both, was particularly when we discussed writers of color. This uncertainty about whether there needs to be a distinction between the two has been extremely generative not only for their own writing and thinking, but my own. I’m indebted to their incite and want to see if I can continue fostering these ideas through doing my topic on this.