Tobey’s Writing Theory Thoughts 2015-12-06 20:29:00

Yancey and Selfe

I can't believe this is our last blog! Time sure does fly. Thanks for a great semester everyone.

As I read both of the pieces this week, one main theme stood out to me: the need to incorporate multi-modalities within the traditional composition classroom. 

Although Selfe focuses on aurality and Yancey discusses technologies in general, both women share the concern that the look and feel of a composition classroom, its students, and methods of teaching how to write and what constitutes as writing, needs to be addressed. There are many questions surrounding the definition of writing as we move forward.

Another similarity both articles address is that the use of traditional writing combined with the inclusion of multimedia, can enhance the message and creativity of compositions. Selfe demonstrated this with the examples she included (I read this article a while back for another class and was able to check out her links-some very impressive work), and Yancey with her sidebar explanations of how she enhanced her own speech with visuals and lighting. Both again, share the belief that teaching writing in this manner has the ability to reach out to populations of students who normally struggle or do not do well in composition classes. 

As with any new shifts in education, there are complications. Teacher training, or lack there of, is a main concern. How do teachers learn about all of these wonderful tools at their fingertips? Training needs to be provided for them, and it often is not. Therefore, many students do not gain or benefit from the use of working with multi modalities. In addition, there may be time constraints due to curriculum guidelines. Yancey calls for curriculum reform. This would allow for jam-packed curricula to be updated to allow for new writing opportunities.

As I read these articles, I couldn't help thinking about our own class and the pieces that we are constructing for our final project. This project is coming to life with the use of technology, aurality, many types of visuals, and written text. I think we provide a great model for the points Yancey and Selfe are addressing.

Cynthia L. Selfe’s “The Movement of Air, the Breath of Meaning: Aurality and Multimodal Composing”

In Cynthia L. Selfe’s own words, her article, “The Movement of Air, the Breath of Meaning: Aurality and Multimodal Composing” is meant to “offer some perspective about the way in which U.S. composition studies has subsumed, remediated, and rediscovered aurality during the past 150 years”. Yet the story is admittedly far from complete, and our profession continues to show a clear preference to words communicated through written form. Yet Selfe makes it clear that she is not against the value that we place on writing. However, she does “want to argue that teachers of composition need to pay attention to, and come to value, the multiple ways in which students compose and communicate meaning, the exciting hybrid, multimodal texts they create- in both nondigital and digital environments - to meet their own needs in a changing world”.  


These different compositional modalities offer additional forms of expression that Selfe feels are necessary and extremely beneficial in the turbulent world that we live in. Using other forms of composing, such as aurality, has not been something that I have spent much time thinking about in the past, so this article was interesting to read. I liked hearing Selfe’s argument and opinion concerning this issue.

"The Movement of Air, The Breath of Meaning" by Cynthia L. Selfe and "Made Not Only in Words" by Kathleen Blake Yancey

     I want to apologize upfront if this makes no sense. My daughter's birthday party was today and since I married a Pinterest mom, my nights have been spent drawing, painting, and designing decorations and activities for a bunch of five year olds. But enough rationalizing, we all have lives.

     Selfe points out a few things that I find to be humorous. The first is when she mentions how "metaphors from the screen have become common in our daily conversation." A lot of terms we use today have a basis in the digital world. Students from today would undoubtedly sound like aliens talking to students from even fifty years ago. For instance, swipe right. Thanks to Tinder, we all know this means that we accept something (we all know that right?). Without the digital foundation behind it, that term becomes confusing.

     The kids also know where they have to go to save a document in Word, but they probably have no idea why there is a picture of a floppy disk there. I should show them pictures of the cases of floppy disks, with color coded labels, my wife used to get her through college. I can almost picture the amazement (or the indifference) in the kids' faces when they see what could now easily fit on a tiny thumb drive. The language of Word documents and texting permeates how they speak as well. At least once a year, students will tell me to delete something from the board. Something I've written in dry erase marker.

     This leads to the next point I found interesting. Selfe says that English departments were "preparing professionals whose work... would increasingly rely on writing." This reliance led to innovations in technology and how the written word reaches people. In hearing many students speak, those innovations have made it so that students can't focus on the writing that necessitated those innovations in the first place. The Internet allows us to share ideas with people from around the world and access a vast amount of knowledge previously hidden from us, but most of us use it to watch videos of kittens and "like" photos.

     Yancey discussed Quartet One and how authors like Dickens would serialize novels. This would allow them the ability to change the story based on feedback, all while hooking readers. Imagine the excitement people have for the next episode of The Walking Dead applied to books. The one instance of serialized reading I remember was almost twenty years ago when Stephen King experimented with the format with The Green Mile. I vividly remember my disappointment when I would reach the end of one of the parts and have to wait another month. When I watch a particularly good television show, I find myself glancing at the clock during the last ten minutes, hoping that time would magically slow down so my enjoyment could continue.

     I would like to close by thanking everyone who gave my words and ideas any bit of attention throughout the course. I'm happy to have been part of such a great group of people and I'm grateful for each of you.