Keeping Intentions Invisible


Response to Jody Shipka’s Towards A Composition Made Whole

 Mediation brings awareness in a manner by breaking down composition, a process often thought of as a singular sterile linear event, into its true form as a mess of constraints, environmental factors, and failed attempts. As I completed Jody Shipka’s Towards A Composition Made Whole, her framework’s focus on mediation started to clarify some of my thinking on capital-C Composition. Shipka’s framework works to bring greater awareness to the composing process for those enrolled in the course, “[making] the invisible visible so that it can be acted on differently” (Shipka 128), and this goal of greater awareness within an individual composing process has great potential for (re)inspiring student’s thoughts regarding the more complex composition of social systems.

Shipka argues that rather than a traditional focus on discreet skill-building, a composition course can instead offer people an opportunity to investigate their decision-making throughout the composing process, focusing on how composing is mediated by historical, social and technological factors. The responsibility placed on peopled enrolled in the course to generate their own products, operations, resources and appropriate conditions keeps the class rigorous, and dispels, at least my own, cynical presumptions about its inanity, a diversion on equal footing with adult coloring books. Remarkable about Shipka’s framework, and something she understates, is that the focus on historical, social and technological factors not only benefits students’ awareness about how they compose or what occurs while they compose, but also initiates questions about the way their bodies and the systems those bodies operate it in can also be mediated and considered with the same degree of rigor. And what I like about that is that it’s not something that needs to be stated in the course least it ends up configuring the course into one on social and political discourse. Continue reading “Keeping Intentions Invisible”

Horner & Shipka Against Stasis

Response to Bruce Horner’s Rewriting Composition Chapter 4, Value, and Jody Shipka’s Towards a New Composition Intro and Chapters 1 and 2

In response to Bruce Horner’s and Jody Shipka’s ideas about a composition coursed based in translingualism and mediated action, respectively, Alexandria Janney, a colleague, asks “if the general population of faculty and staff in Composition is on board, where is the best place to start with enacting these [curricular] changes?” Initially, this was also the question I was left with at the conclusion of these readings, understanding that such a sea change in Composition would necessitate its embrace by all human agents involved. Should it be the responsibility of WPAs to enact such a curricular change, or would that merely engender a paternalistic tone that’s been to the potential detriment of programmatic coherence? If not them then, what about Composition instructors themselves working towards process-centric approaches in an effort to empower themselves and their students? Or would their efforts solely be seen as avoidance of the real work of Composition classes, and soon enough squashed?

Once I started thinking that maybe the answer is all of the above simultaneously, I started to ask a different question. How would the tension of external relevance (Horner 52) impact attempts at removing product-based ideas of the Composition course? And in thinking of external relevance, I’m not thinking of some tyrannical opponent of these changes in the form of either the university institution or Western neoliberalism incarnated as multinational corporation (although I imagine both may take issue with what Horner and Shipka think). Instead, I wonder how people enrolled in composition would respond to a course that exists outside the realm of static, product-oriented views of composition. Continue reading “Horner & Shipka Against Stasis”

Composition As Language Excavation

Horner’s suggestion of a translingual approach to composition functions as a means of decolonizing the composition classroom, and reifies people’s opportunity to collaborate on a composition course that’s coadaptive to the needs of students, educational institutions and language itself.

“In this class, you’ll talk and write English.” That was a common refrain from composition instructors throughout my Belizean tertiary education at a junior college, locally referred to as 6th form. In Belize City, the country’s commercial capital, the common vernacular is Kriol, a Creolized English (whether it qualifies as a language or dialect is continuously debated) traditionally based on British English, but now mostly influenced by American English. By taking these courses, I was able to experience the problem of monolingualism within composition courses as described by Bruce Horner in chapter 2 Language’ in his book Rewriting Composition: Terms of Exchange. Continue reading “Composition As Language Excavation”