More on reading…and writing

For more on ideologies associated with teaching and composition’s historical break with “reading” (ch. 1) see James Berlin, “Rhetoric and Ideology in the Writing Class” (493-93).

For another take on reading in digital contexts (chs. 3-4), see Katherine Hayles,  “How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine.”

For those interested in methods of reading research, Charney’s “Spandrels” piece (Keller 120, 126n4) is a classic study of how scholars read, employing “think-aloud” protocols (sometimes called read-aloud protocols or simply protocol analysis); it has a useful taxonomy of strategies readers use to comprehend and evaluate texts as well (Charney 209-10). [Takeaway for those of us assigned 1000+ pages a week: “real” scholars often skim!] Zhang and Duke (Keller 120, 126n4) use videotaped tasks and “stimulated recall” to discover the strategies readers use in various task environments.

In Keller’s argument for connecting R&W (and providing models) I couldn’t help thinking of the classical progymnasmata exercises, which taught students how to write in various rhetorical genres using what we today might call a scaffolded sequence of exercises, using real-world genre models. In a recent AHR article, David Fleming suggests ways they might be effectively integrated into contemporary classroom contexts. While he does not explicitly invoke the “mutt genre”  problem, he suggests the “hunger” students have more a more fulfilling literacy education: “With the progymnasmata, students learn to perform, on a kind of stage, stylized versions of themselves and others; they glimpse there a public life that is more participatory, more consequential, and, frankly, more fun, than the one they see in the news. Working through the progymnasmata, they discover a verbal facility they did not know they had” (131).

For those interested in transfer, particularly the questions of how it does/does not happen or the extent to which students recognize it (151), see Rebecca Nowacek’s Agents of Integration.

And finally, for how instructors read (and mis-read) students as writers, see Dylan Dryer’s “At a Mirror, Darkly” and Jenny Nelson’s classic “This Was an Easy Assignment.”

Letting subjects speak for themselves…

Speaking of, there’s a magnificent exhibition (through 4/15) at the Flint Institute of the Arts, “Women of a New Tribe,” by photographer Jerry Taliaferro, that features portraits of local African American women, nominated by community members for their community and family service. (See reviews from East Village Magazine and My City Magazine.) The portraits are impressive on their own, but it’s the resonance between the photographs and the attached bios of their subjects that give the project its depth. Of course it’s art, and not scholarship, so the viewer is left to draw their own conclusions, but a thoughtful ethnographer might find much here to inspire…

Bad Literature

The “Two Paths” illustrations come from Mr. and Mrs John Williams Gibson’s 1903 Social Purity and Golden Thoughts on Chastity and Procreation; the former intended for a white audience, the latter for a black audience; aside from the illustrations and the introduction, the two texts are otherwise identical. See, e.g., Michele Mitchell, Righteous Propagation: African Americans and the Politics of Racial Destiny (Chapel Hill, UNC Press, 2004).

Contextualizing nineteenth-century literacy instruction

We might be better able to contextualize Peirce’s pedagogy at Lexginton Academy (Ianetta) with a better understanding of what was common (or emerging) practice at the time. Peirce may have gotten his gloss on Cicero and Demosthenes from Caleb Bingham’s Columbian Orator (first published in 1797 but still popular), the intro to which suggests contemporary ideas about the proper use of voice and gesture.

For scholarly sources on the development of writing curricula in the schools at this time, see Lucille M. Schultz’s The Young Composers: Composition’s Beginnings in Nineteenth-Century Schools; Jean Ferguson Carr, Stephen L. Carr, and Lucille M. Schultz’s Archives of Instruction Nineteenth-Century Rhetorics, Readers, and Composition Books in the United States; and Jessica Enoch’s Refiguring Rhetorical Education: Women Teaching African American, Native American, and Chicano/a Students, 1865-1911.