Wednesday, May 9, 2007


so i've been doing research for some time now. now, it's time to start drafting some text (beyond the summary, analysis, & critique-work i've been doing). for my working title, i've borrowed the term "Cranky & Wrongheaded" from Geoff Sirc (i hope he doesn't mind) and am using it to characterize a disposition from which many/most/some of us have emerged. i don't know if the term "filmwriting" is cool or silly, but it feels kind of cool and conceptually appropriate. also, i don't know if i want to be talking about FYC only or Comp Studies more broadly. but so for now . . .

Cranky & Wrongheaded
(a beat)
Recasting Film and/as Writing in First Year Composition (or, Filmwriting in First Year Composition) ??


We have been talking about film in Rhetoric & Composition Studies for several decades. Most specifically, we have been discussing the uses of film in various iterations of a First Year Writing/English course. These discourses are characterized by certain inflections of hope, doubt, suspicion, fear, excitement, and other affective registers of meaning that may help us to think about our historical as well as our contemporary work with film.

At present, Rhetoric and Composition Studies is busy worrying conceptualizations of “writing,” “composing,” and other concepts and practices that comprise our field. Much of this concern emerges from our understanding of the ways in which a variety of new media practics and possibilities are shifting literacies, frequently and vigorously, and in ways that make it difficult to imagine, as Douglas Hesse has recently wondered, “Who Owns Writing?” (the question that makes this a disciplinary discourse, the question that makes it matter . . . although alternative lines of inquiry are promising and in many ways shaping our discourses). We find ourselves confused about the nature and status of “academic writing,” a structural concept that has historically provided 1.) A stable notion of our identity and work, and 2.) Sites of conflict that bifurcate a (phantom) notion of coherence for our disciplinary identity. But throughout the various conversations that comprise these conflicts, we find teachers of writing working with film to frame new and engaging questions, imagine new discursive projects, adopt fresh pedagogical structures, and generate new forms of writing with which to help students acquire rhetorical knowledge, skill, and, importantly, a particular disposition to textuality that registers as "critical engagement".

This book wants to examine discourses about film (from within our field) as a way of providing a sense of history for our contemporary work. For, in the present, we find teachers of writing working with their students not simply to understand and enjoy certain films and their complicated content, not simply to raise difficult subjects or reflect upon methods of representation, not simply to tease out narrative and other rhetorical conventions, but instead, today, we are also producing filmic texts, we are writing film, we are filmwriting. We are engaged in Serious Rhetorical Work even as we enjoy learning new technologies and providing pleasurable and communal scenes of writing for our students and ourselves; what is remarkable about this more recent addition to our filmwork is that and we are filmwriting within an academic culture that has traditionally validated only written discourse as its primary form of currency. So, how have we gotten here? What sorts of discourses have enabled us to move confidently into these scenes of rhetorical production via filmwriting? This book wants to speak to these questions by characterizing various discourses that, seen together, give us a sense of motion (in terms of recursion and iteration) toward the present and our increasing acceptance of/passion for filmwriting as valid rhetorical and academic work.

I have chosen to review high profile publications that reach a wide readership as a way of suggesting disciplinary movement. Primarily, I review articles found in two journals published by the National Council of Teachers of English, College Composition and Communication, and College English. I will certainly move away from this imagined center to include other works, but my primary work is to examine discourses emerging from these high profile journals and how they shape our sense of the nature and validity of film work in First Year Composition classrooms. I engage (loosely) in a form of discourse analysis. I examine key features found in the scholarly record in order to tease out central(izing) concepts. These concepts form the chapter headings. Within each chapter, I (re)create a kind of dialogue that spans several decades, a conversation that seems to cohere around a particular affect. I begin with Suspicion, move to Hopes & Fears, gesture toward Momentum, think about Narrative, worry Morals, problematize Culture, and finally work with/in Production.


i promise not to post everything i write. i think i'm mainly posting this to keep myself motivated. we'll see how that goes.

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