Clay Walker’s “Composing Agency”

My article, “Composing Agency” was published this summer in the online journal Literacy in Composition Studies here: Clay Walker’s “Composing Agency”.

Here is the abstract: This essay argues that literacy actors compose agency through the embodied practice of literacies in combination with self-aware feedback loops. The argument brings together recent conversations on agency, embodiment, and cognition in composition studies, neuroscience, and the humanities to develop the concept of discursive readiness potential. Discursive readiness potential refers to one’s embodied agency and accounts for the range of possible actions available to an actor on the basis of her or his past experiences. Furthermore, discursive readiness potential points to one’s capacity to navigate a field of potential literate practices into one actualized action. As such, the essay supports a renewed call for research on agency and embodied cognition in composition studies by outlining discursive readiness potential as a flexible process model for understanding how agents act in emergent discursive situations.



(Re)Drafting and the Potentials of Argument

One way to think about writing potentials is to consider the chunks of paragraphs (and sometimes pages) that almost were. I often slap a whole bunch of ideas down into my word document, then work to narrow, trim, and hedge the argument into something more streamlined. I revise more than I plan. But maybe my drafting is my planning. Typically, I do lots of writing in my research journal as i read – much of this is copied whole cloth (or with light editing) into the word document that becomes the “draft.” Even that moment is a potentiality – inscribing the file with the potentiality to become something more than another file on my computer (a conference paper proposal, a manuscript submission, etc). In the process of trimming down my prose, I cut out pieces that have meaning and offer up alternative potentials for meaning making – potentials in the sense that if I were to dwell in the prose, it would entail new trains of thought, perhaps new neural tracks, leading me (or returning me to) an alternative felt sense. The missed consequences of cutting without (re)pasting.

Continue reading “(Re)Drafting and the Potentials of Argument”

A Survey of Approaches to Sentence Pedagogies

A Survey of Approaches to Sentence Pedagogies

Clay Walker

23 November 2014

Along with the turn to theory and disciplinary rigor in the field of Composition and Rhetoric during the 1980s came a profound turn away from the generative sentence-level pedagogies that were widely popular and shown to be successful (Connors). While many compositionists flippantly remark something along the lines of “research shows that skill and drill doesn’t work,” little actual research has been done on practice-based sentence exercises. Moreover, sentence-level pedagogies doesn’t have to be mindless drone work! Following in the tradition of Christensen and Corbett who argue for a sentence-level pedagogy that serves as a mode of idea generation for student writers, more recent scholars like Micciche and Howard have argued for a return to the sentence in our teaching. The following blog offers a primer on research addressing sentence-level pedagogies that reads somewhat like an extended annotated bibliography. The first section reviews arguments that the field has mistakenly turned away from sentence-level pedagogies, the second section reviews scholarship arguing for one kind of sentence-level pedagogy or another (though there is some overlap between research reviewed in the first section and the second section), and the final section briefly outlines a couple of assignment models that instructors can fold into their courses.

Continue reading “A Survey of Approaches to Sentence Pedagogies”

Finding Felt Sense

My students read parts of Perl’s “Understanding Composing” this week, which situates the composition process as a recursive undertaking. Perl sets out to identify at least some of the things that writers actually return to while composing, including chunks of text (phrases, sentences, paragraphs) that writers continually go back to (re)read and (re)write, topic statements or key words that ground the composition, and the writer’s felt sense of what s/he wants to say. Perl quotes philosopher Eugene Gendlin who describes felt sense as “the soft underbelly of thought … a kind of bodily awareness that … can be used as a tool … a bodily awareness that … encompasses everything you feel and know about a given subject at a given time …. It is felt in the body, yet it has meanings. It is body and mind before they are split apart” (qtd in Perl 365). While I will overlook Gendlin’s Cartesean assumption that mind and body split, felt sense resounds with readiness potential. The concept of felt sense, unlike my emphasis on practice in my “Composing Agency” manuscript, points to a nonrepresentational meaning bound by thought material not yet cut into semantic structures. [I have been thinking about this tension at least since I first read Kristeva’s “Ethics of Linguistics” while working on my undergraduate thesis project]. Continue reading “Finding Felt Sense”

Media, Metaphors, and Potentiality

I am teaching a digital online resource project for the second semester in my Intermediate/Professional Writing course. The course asks students to first read a number of academic articles theorizing discourse communities and genre in order to develop a primary research project that explores the use of writing and written texts in a professional discourse community. For example, if a student is planning to use his/her college education to become a pharmacist (lots of these at WSU), then the student must interview at least two insiders who have already mastered the pharmacy Discourse and collect 3 distinct sample texts from the field in order to analyze the writing practices and genres used by pharmacists. The online resource guide is the culmination of a semester-long research project in which students present their findings (honed in an earlier data analysis project) for others interested in joining this discourse community and developing writing expertise as a pharmacist (or whatever). Currently, I allow students to use all sorts of media, including blogs, webpages, wikis, and prezis. In Computers and Composition Online, Angela Laflen provides a detailed and very helpful overview of how to integrate prezis into the composition classroom (“Composing the Self: Prezi Literacy Narratives“). Continue reading “Media, Metaphors, and Potentiality”

Teaching Reading in the Composition Classroom

Teaching Reading in the Composition Classroom

Coauthored by Clay Walker and LaToya Faulk

Crossposted at Wayne State’s Composition Blog: WSUTeaching

Teaching reading in the composition classroom can be challenging for a variety of reasons. First, we cannot easily access the internal processes of meaning making that take place when students read. Because reading is such a deeply internalized process, we often can only access indirect measures of reading ability, such as written responses to questions, summaries, notes, etc. Second, readers’ prior experiences and existing ideologies shape how readers respond to various academic texts. Handling the wide variety of cultural backgrounds that shape reading activities in a diverse composition classroom can be difficult for writing instructors. Third, while reading may be a deeply internalized process, it is also a rhetorical process in which meaning making is constructed by the reader in rich socialized contexts.  Thus, the reading process requires a connection between the reader and the literate act, a connection that allows the reader to actively engage in a kind of comprehension that situates meaning and the self. Continue reading “Teaching Reading in the Composition Classroom”

Problematizing the Notion of Posthuman Subjectivity

In “Invention in the Wild,” Thomas Rickert brings together various concepts of kairos to address posthuman subjects. As he explains, “Viewing kairos sans the autonomous, willing subject – or … posthuman subjectivity … will entail moving away from certain kinds of metaphors like poles, middles, and harmony that have a tendency to reinscribe the traditional subject” (82). So moving away from early notions of subjectivity requires new metaphors distinct from linear, analogical models, such as suggested by terms like poles, middles, and harmony. According to Rickert, such a reconceptualization of subjectivity as posthuman (c.f. Hayles) entails “terms of immersion rather than connection, flow rather than node” (82). To synthesize these two descriptions of posthuman subjects, a revamped theory would recruit metaphors of flow and immersion as it works to describe the position of subjects in nonlinear ways. Continue reading “Problematizing the Notion of Posthuman Subjectivity”