“When you are guided to any construction site you are experiencing the troubling and exhilarating feeling that things could be different, or at least that they could still fail — a feeling never so deep when faced with a final product, no matter how beautiful or impressive it may be.” -Bruno Latour
Jody Shipka opens the third chapter of her dissertation novel, Toward a Composition Made Whole, with the eloquent metaphor from French sociologist Bruno Latour. She then spends the next 25 pages attempting to illustrate Latour’s ideas, citing examples of students doing everything from interpretive dance to using the keyboard with their feet. And while her anecdotes are interesting, I still can’t help but find them less than necessary and still not quite as clear as Latour’s intial quotation.
While I appreciate Shipka’s analysis of the “prototypical scene of writing” (page 58) and the idea that educators should “consider how the spaces through which students move impact their sense of self as well as their learning and composing practices” (page 77), I found Shipka’s student, Muffie, and her remediation of another student’s work “Body Language” more interesting than informative.
(I also find it an interesting note about the importance of digital literacy that part of this chapter couldn’t be fully explored without access to the internet, a lesson I learned with great frustration as Access Media 3 once again malfunctioned for my entire apartment complex.)
As a student of not only english, but also psychology, I’ve often researched things like body language and non-verbal cues. I’ve enjoyed shows like Lie to Me, which is based on work involving intricate body language (micro-expressions and facial coding) by psychologist Paul Ekman, as well Crime Signals and Love Signals, books written by David Givens, which both catalogue the body language involved in different aspects of life.
For this reason, I enjoyed the attempts Shipka’s students made to incorporate this information, as well as their love for dance into an informative composition. However, I still find myself thinking Shipka’s basic idea doesn’t need a whole novel’s worth of explanation. I feel guilty saying this, as I’ve spent time on her blog, Remediate This, and no doubt see the large amount of time and effort that’s gone into her research. I also don’t disagree with her line of reasoning, I believe students would benefit from educators allowing more creative compositions, as well as taking into account the entire composing process.
But, unless I’m missing something, that seems to be all Shipka is saying. Over and over and over again.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it would be awesome to sit in on some of Shipka’s FYC classes. And, as repetitive and arduous as Toward a Composition Made Whole may be, I don’t mind reading it. The text is informative and thought-provoking, but only to an extent. I can only hope that in the future chapters Shipka begins to introduce some new ideas instead of reiterate the same ones.