“Aurality”…Say that Three Times Fast

“Participation means being able to speak in one’s own voice, and thereby simultaneously to construct and express one’s cultural identity through idiom and style” -Nancy Fraser, “Rethinking the Public Sphere.”


The author of this article, Cynthia L. Selfe, successfully composed a well-stated problem and solutions to something that I have thought about for years. With her strong voice and opinions supported by research, Selfe demands that teachers and scholars broaden their minds to a world outside the traditional writing pen to paper in a classroom. The Movement of Air, the Breath of Meaning: Aurality and Multimodal Composing(https://via.hypothes.is/http://www.dmacinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/selfe-aurality-composing.pdf), is a pot full of ideas, opinions, statements, research, and examples of how the classroom has shifted into a multimodal environment. There were also a few surprises in this article as well that I will elaborate more on later. I was thoroughly impressed that an educator and scholar could have such a “colorful” mind. I am using “colorful” as a way to describe her not overlooking people of color who have suffered in the American education system. Selfe made it clear what her intentions were for this article. She is not telling the reader what to do but suggesting and guiding. She also explains the history of aurality and how that has changed in the classroom setting. Here are her three main points:

  1. I argue that the relationship between aurality (and visual modalities) and writing have limited our understanding of composing as a multimodal rhetorical activity and has thus, deprived students of valuable semiotic resources for making meaning. (Also the history of writing in the U.S. composition instruction).
  2. A single-minded focus on print in composition classrooms ignores the importance of aurality and other composing modalities for making meaning and understanding the world.
  3. I suggest that the almost exclusive dominance of print legacy works against the interests of individuals whose cultures and communities have managed to maintain value on multiple modalities of expression, multiple and hybrid ways of knowing, communicating, and establishing identity.

Her suggestion for this problem: “I suggest we need to pay attention to both writing and aurality, and other composing modalities, as well. I hope to encourage teachers to develop an increasingly thoughtful understanding of a whole range of modalities and semiotic resources in their assignments and then to provide students the opportunities of developing expertise with all available means of persuasion and expression, so that they can function as literate citizens in a world where communications cross geopolitical, cultural, and linguistic borders and are enriched rather than diminished by semiotic dimensionality”

(Selfe, 617-618).

She states that race, gender, and class all play crucial roles when it comes to this issue. Such as male (white) children receiving the best education resulting in them becoming statesmen, ministers, and high in the legal field. On the other end of the spectrum, women and people of color received poor education and majority of the time, no education at all. “Many black citizens were denied access to schools with adequate resources and other had to abandon their own formal education to help their families survive the economic hardships that continued to characterize the lives of blacks in both the North and the South (Hibbitts). (Selfe, 624). The sad part of this statement is that this is still an ongoing issue. What I thought was interesting was how Selfe demands that more respect comes in the classrooms when it comes to people from a different class, gender, or race besides the “acceptable” and “normal” white, the male student in the U.S.

One of the last parts of this article that caught my attention was this: “In 1973, Wilson Snipes investigated the hypothesis that ‘orientation to an oral culture has helped cause a gradual decrease in student ability to handle written English in traditionally acceptable ways’, citing ‘haphazard punctuation,’ ‘loose rambling style,’ and ‘diminutive vocabulary’, writing that is ‘superficial, devoid of subtle distinctions,’ and thought that remains ‘fixed in a larval state’ (629-630). Hopefully, my question will be answered in class on Monday, and my question is what does that mean exactly?

Selfe encourages the value of a multimodal classroom environment. Teachers should pay more attention to how writing and teaching writing comes in various forms. Today’s world is constantly changing. There needs to be respect represented in the classroom for other cultures, backgrounds, and class. Lastly, she emphasizes how teachers feel they do not have enough time in with their students to create a balanced learning environment that involves a multimodal platform. How should that problem be solved? 

Final Project Sketch

Jeanne: I had an idea of using coloring or art to spark enthusiasm in the students in the writing classroom. I love music as well, so I was also thinking about using music. Create a mashup of two songs. One that you love and one that you can’t stand and see what happens. Do you feel differently about the song? How did the feeling of comparing and contrast feel and how would you use that for your writing?

Serken: There is a “trend” going around of girls using the “black girl” as a cosplay costume instead of realizing that being a black female is a not a costume. They are human beings. However, when they post themselves of them in their “cosutme”, they can easily pass as a person of color. These girls post these photos on Instagram and Twitter causing others to fantasize and others low self-esteem.

Christina: I was thinking about using my own writing maybe for this section. My “voice” was never accepted when it came to writing and identity in the classroom. I am still trying to work this one out. I could use some feedback and class on how to go about this section.

Darlene: *Subject to change* I was thinking about using some of the articles from class for this section, depending on what the subject is. However, I am sure that the topic that is chosen will link well with the articles I had in mind. Articles about revision and rewriting in the classroom.

Vee: For my section, I would like to include videos and images to express my concern for the politics of language in a basic classroom. Along with those images and videos, I would insert a small blurp underneath giving a description on why I believe this is relatable to my topic. I will base this all on my own experience of dealing with the unawareness I had with the politics of language in my learning environment. For that, I will use the example I used this semester with Lena from “A Different World”.