Composing Carnivalesque: Writing About Writing and Bakhtin’s Carnival

Composing Carnivalesque: Writing About Writing and Bakhtin’s Carnival

BIO: Judith Chriqui-Benchimol is a Ph.D. Student in English Education at Teachers College, Columbia University and teaches first-year composition at Marymount Manhattan College. Her research interests include Writing Apprehension and Composition Pedagogy, particularly as they relate to first-year learning communities.

“What I have to write is never good enough.” These words, written in an essay by one of my first-year writing students last year, echo a sentiment I know many first-year writing professors have encountered before. But what I love about Writing About Writing (WAW) is that it doesn’t shy away from these sentiments. WAW asks students to take it a step further by examining their often negative associations with literacy, looking at them through other lenses, and even challenging them.

The first time I taught WAW in my first-year writing classroom also happened to be my first semester as a Ph.D. student in English Education at Teachers College. During the day my first-year writing students and I would crack open Wardle and Down’s WAW textbook, and at night I’d pore over essays of twentieth-century literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin for a pedagogical theory class I was taking. At first I didn’t think WAW and Bakthin had too much to do with each other. Then one week, my professor introduced us to Bakhtin’s concept of Carnival, and a light switched on.

Bakhtin was fascinated by French Renaissance writer Rabelais and the influence Medieval European carnivals had on that writer’s work. These carnivals were sanctioned, over-the-top, celebratory occasions that, for a short while, suspended the traditional power imbalances by inviting people from all social classes into the same space. These spaces also welcomed different variations of the common language: the socially-accepted and the rejected discourses, the formal and informal, all had the same volume; everyone was heard. Carnival, then, was not only a way of unifying the otherwise divided, but it was also a form of liberation from authoritative discourses of the time.

WAW, much like Bakhtin’s Carnival, is a form of liberation from the rigid hierarchies of academic English. WAW embodies the carnivalesque by asking students to examine and eventually challenge the standardized writing practices that have affected them (often negatively) academically, socially, and even economically.

As part of a research collaboration about two WAW classes, my colleague and I wanted to see what would happen if we invoked Bakhtin’s Carnival by inviting two opposing ideas into the same space. What would happen if we permitted non-academic writing in the classroom, a space it (supposedly) doesn’t belong?

So, I asked each student to create an Instagram account specifically for our class. Using their class accounts, they uploaded their classwork alongside posts from their everyday lives. This cross-posting method was designed for students to draw interdisciplinary connections between the course and writing contexts outside of the classroom. Many students were confused by this idea at first. One student called it “extremely weird. Almost contradicting.” But that unease led to very interesting dialogues and essays.

One of the most interesting essays came from the very student whom I quote above saying that what she wrote was “never good enough.” At one point, she makes a brilliant connection between Twitter and essay writing: “My mind associates academic writing with immense stress, but somehow typing out a thread of seven tweets about Bill Hader’s performance in It: Chapter Two is second nature to me.”

By acknowledging that it’s easier to write on Twitter and Instagram and harder to write an essay, she is acknowledging the academic writing hierarchies that often stifle student writing. How can professors help students feel that same level of comfort in the classroom? Maybe by bringing Carnival into the WAW classroom, we can challenge some of the perceptions that hinder students’ self expression, and, in turn, we can expand the possibilities of what it means to write an essay.

Congratulations to Selected Sponsored Panelists for 2021 CCCC

Congratulations to Selected Sponsored Panelists for 2021 CCCC

Hello all,


We wanted to say congratulations to our selected sponsored panelists:

Panel: “New Directions in Writing about Writing Pedagogies” for the 2021 CCCC Annual Convention at the Spokane Convention Center in Spokane, WA, April 7-10, 2021.  

Presenters: Kathy Rose, William Ordeman, and Charlotte Asmuth.

Here are the individual titles on this panel:

  • Rose, K. “Coding writing growth: Undergraduate students as co-researchers in WAW research.”
  • Asmuth, C. “Reading is (Also) an Activity and a Subject of Study: Writing about Reading Online.”
  • Ordeman, W. “Teaching business writing ethics in digital spaces.”

Thanks again to everyone who submitted this year!

Samuel Stinson and John H. Whicker

Co-Coordinators
Writing about Writing Development Group
A Standing group of CCCC

WAW STANDING GROUP CALL FOR PROPOSALS FOR THE 2021 SPONSORED CCCC PANEL

WAW STANDING GROUP CALL FOR PROPOSALS FOR THE 2021 SPONSORED CCCCs PANEL
We Are All Writing Teachers*: Returning to a Common Place | 2021CCCCs CFP
April 7-10 Spokane, WA

The Writing About Writing (WAW) Standing Group and the WAW Steering Committee invite proposals for the 2021 WAW Sponsored Panel at CCCC. The sponsored panel is guaranteed to be accepted to the CCCC program when the Standing Group submits it, and we are reaching out to the WAW community to identify potential presenters.

What kind of proposal fits the WAW Sponsored Panel’s goals?
We are interested in panels as well as individual proposals. We are interested in proposals that help us extend the practice and impact of WAW pedagogy or research, particularly proposals authored and co-authored by new and emerging scholars in WAW. We are also interested in proposals reporting on ongoing research into WAW programs and courses. And we especially invite proposals that connect WAW to the 2021 conference theme–We Are All Writing Teachers*: Returning to a Common Place.


How will the WAW Sponsored Panel selected proposals be submitted to CCCC?
Sponsored Panels will be submitted by the WAW Sponsored Panel Committee through the regular CCCC proposal system, which is why we are asking for the same information as the online program proposal system. Our timeline for proposal submissions is purposefully ahead of the May 28 CCCCs proposal deadline so that WAW proposals that are declined may still be submitted for the general conference. Here are some important dates:


● The WAW Standing Group will accept proposals through May 18, 2020.
● The WAW Proposal Review Team will email results to proposers by May 22, 2020.


Please send your proposal and relevant presenter/panel information through this form.


To be considered for the Sponsored Panel, please follow 4Cs guidelines when writing your proposal. Please describe the focus of the proposed session: 1000 words or less for a concurrent panel, 250 words or less for an individual proposal. Please also clearly select three area clusters for your proposal.


Be sure that your proposal considers the conference theme and the five main criteria as listed on the guidelines page: 1) how the proposal is situated in the field, 2) its main focus, 3) what is innovative and new, 4) how it is audience-oriented and performative, 5) how it is inclusive, aware of social justice concerns, and/or engaged with political aims, discourses, and ideas, and 6) how it adds new or underrepresented voices or texture to the discussion.

If you have questions and/or concerns, feel free to email Colin Charlton at colin.charlton@utrgv.edu.

WAW Standing Group Breakout #1 – Notes

Thanks to Stacy Wilson of Mesa Community College for taking notes on our breakout discussion!

Bess Fox, Marymount U, VA: Described a WAW assignment where students read research on source use (e.g., Howard) and analyze their own source use. This assignment happens before a more traditional research paper assignment.

John Whicker, Fontbonne U, stresses context analysis. Assignments for first-semester FYC include an open letter to an English professor based on what they’ve learned about transfer; rhetorical analysis of a controversial issue; an argumentative essay where they take a nuanced position on that issue; and a theory of writing. Assignments for second-semester FYC include a guide to analyzing discourse communities, a genre analysis, a research project in two genres, and a theory of writing. See John’s materials on the CCCC 2019 site for more detail.

Testing a Theory of Writing in FYW

N. Claire Jackson
University of Louisville
claire.jackson.1@louisville.edu

In 2016, four other instructors at UMaine (where I was teaching at the time) and I began incorporating elements of the Teacher for Transfer curriculum into our WAW first-year-writing course. The theory of writing has been the TfT element I find the most useful, and I have students return to it repeatedly throughout the course, asking them to reflect on how they would make changes in light of their most recent reading and writing and then to revise that theory accordingly.

In planning our assignment sequences, we discussed the benefits of explicitly asking students to reflect on writing in other classes as well. This prompt is what I developed to foster that reflection. It is part of a scaffolded assignment sequence in which students engage in new writing tasks between (almost) every class to work toward final portfolios. This prompt is typically when I see students begin to make more thorough connections between the writing they do in first-year-writing and the other types of writing they engage in or expect to engage in in the future. While many of the readings I include focus on writing in new contexts, some of which are non-academic, asking students to apply their own theories to those other types of writing helps them see these connections more clearly than when they just read what others have said.

Prompt: Your last assignment asked you to “test” your theory of writing against your experiences writing your last essay in order to think about how complete and useful this theory is. While this is a good start to evaluating the usefulness of your theory, you should once again recall Downs’ and Robertson’s claim that “The better–the more completely, consistently, and elegantly–a theory accounts for past experience and the more accurate its predictions about future experience, the stronger or more robust it is, and thus the more useful it is” (111). As such, it would seem useful to test how consistently your theory of writing can account for your past experiences with writing and make predictions about future writing experiences for writing experiences outside of this class. Therefore, for this assignment you will turn your attention to writing you have produced (or are producing) outside of this class in order to begin to develop a clearer picture of the usefulness of your theory of writing.

For next class, please select a piece of your writing from outside of this class. It can be something you have completed or something you are still composing. You may choose an academic example (a history paper or lab report you wrote last week; an essay from high school) or a non-academic example (a tweet, a post on an online forum, a letter to your grandmother, fanfiction, a prayer journal, etc.). The more unlike the writing you do in ENG 101 this sample is, the more fruitful and interesting your examination will likely be.

After you have selected the piece of writing, use your theory of writing as a frame to explain what you did as you composed this piece of writing, how you did so, and why, much as you did in your last assignment. Like with the last assignment, the length will, in part, be determined by the usefulness of your theory of writing. If you find yourself unable to write much, you may want to instead begin thinking about how you will revise your theory of writing to account for this other type of writing.

You do not need to send me this piece of writing (though you can), but you will need to make sure I have enough context to understand what you’re saying, so you’ll want to cite specific examples from your text. Make sure you also explain what your theory of writing fails to account for–that is, are there ways your theory of writing as it is currently written fails to explain what happens when you write, say, a tweet instead of an academic essay? How will you revise your theory of writing in light of this information?

When you have finished, please revise your theory of writing based on the work you did here. Please send me your revised theory and the writing you did above.

Hendrickson & Garcia de Mueller 2016 – “Inviting students to determine for themselves what it means to write across disciplines”

Hendrickson, Brian, and Genevieve Garcia de Mueller. “Inviting Students to Determine for Themselves What it Means to Write Across Disciplines.” The WAC Journal 27 (2016). Retrieved from https://wac.colostate.edu/docs/journal/vol27/hendrickson.pdf

In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph: “Situated in the literature on threshold concepts and transfer of prior knowledge in WAC/WID and composition studies, with particular emphasis on the scholarship of writing across difference, our article explores the possibility of re-envisioning the role of the composition classroom within the broader literacy ecology of colleges and universities largely comprised of students from socioeconomically and ethnolinguistically underrepresented communities. We recount the pilot of a composition course prompting students to examine their own prior and other literacy values and practices, then transfer that growing meta-awareness to the critical acquisition of academic discourse. Our analysis of students’ self-assessment memos reveals that students apply certain threshold concepts to acquire critical agency as academic writers, and in a manner consistent with Guerra’s concept of transcultural repositioning. We further consider the role collective rubric development plays as a critical incident facilitating transcultural repositioning.”

CFP for WAW sponsored panel – CCCC 2019

The Writing About Writing (WAW) Standing Group and the WAW Steering Committee invite proposals for the 2019 WAW Sponsored Panel. The sponsored panel is guaranteed to be accepted to the CCCC program when the Standing Group submits it, and we are reaching out to the WAW community to identify potential presenters.

What kind of proposal fits the WAW Sponsored Panel’s goals?

We are interested in interactive panels as well as individual proposals. We are interested in proposals that help us extend the practice and impact of WAW pedagogy or research, particularly proposals authored and co-authored by new and emerging scholars in WAW. We are also hoping to include panels reporting on ongoing research into WAW programs and courses. We especially invite proposals that connect WAW to the 2019 conference theme of performance-rhetoric and performance-composition.

How will the WAW Sponsored Panel selected proposals be submitted to CCCC?

Sponsored Panels will be submitted by the WAW Sponsored Panel Committee through the regular CCCC proposal system, which is why we are asking for the same information as the online program proposal system.

To be considered for the WAW Sponsored Panel, proposals must be received before April 23 at 11:59pm. Please send your proposal and relevant presenter/panel information through this form.

To be considered for the Sponsored Panel, please follow 4Cs guidelines when writing your proposal. Please describe the focus of the proposed session: 1000 words or less for a concurrent panel, 250 words or less for an individual proposal. Please also clearly select three area clusters for your proposal.

Be sure that your proposal considers the conference themes and the five main criteria as listed on the guidelines page: 1) how the proposal is situated in the field, 2) its main focus, 3) what is innovative and new, 4) how it is audience-oriented and performative, 5) how it is inclusive, aware of social justice concerns, and/or engaged with political aims, discourses, and ideas, and 6) how it adds new or underrepresented voices or texture to the discussion.

If you have questions and/or concerns, feel free to email Lisa Tremain at: lisa.tremain@humboldt.edu.

 

CCCC 2018 Pittsburgh Panel Proposal

Samuel Stinson and I are putting together a panel to propose for Cs next year in Pittsburgh. Potentially, we could submit this for consideration as the standing group panel, but if it is not chosen for that, we will still submit normally. We are looking for two or three others to join us in a roundtable discussion of different approaches to WAW, the differences in theory and axiology behind them, and how WAW proponents should understand, discuss, and debate these differences. The following is our current draft of the proposal introduction:

How do you WAW? Enacting Writing about Writing pedagogies: Which one? What is your goal, and by what should your performance be Measured?

Writing about writing (Downs & Wardle 2007) has become an increasingly popular approach to teaching first-year writing courses, but as with writing instruction in general, individual instructors enact and perform WAW differently (see Downs & Wardle 2012). While Wardle and Downs (2014), as the most well-known WAW proponents have largely downplayed the significance of these variations in WAW, with Downs going so far as to say that “there really isn’t a wrong way to do things; there are practically infinite number of good ways” to teach a WAW course (296), choices about how to implement, to perform, WAW in a classroom imply differences in theory, axiology, and, therefore, desired outcomes. Other approaches to WAW (see Bishop 2004; DeJoy 2004; Dew 2003; Sargent & Paraskevas 2005), while they all forward writing studies scholarship as content, select different scholars, require different assignments, and seek to see different developments in students’ writing, requiring that both students and WAW approaches be assessed differently in order to avoid the category mistake of teaching for one result but assessing for another (see Fulkerson 1979).

In this roundtable, the speakers will each briefly describe their WAW course and the values (axiology) that underlie their choices about which writing concepts, purposes, and pedagogical commitments they emphasize in their courses. Second, the presenters will discuss what WAW proponents should do with the diversity of values evident in different approaches to WAW.

 

We are particularly looking for presenters who employ WAW approaches that focus on language, literacy, writing studies as a discipline, identity and culture, etc. My own contribution will be on the hybrid TFT-WAW approach we’ve implemented as our standard FYC curriculum at my institution. We’d like as wide a variety in the 4 or 5 presenters as possible. If you are interested, contact me at jwhicker@fontbonne.edu with a brief summary of your WAW course.

 

WAW Standing Group – Dr. Sam Looker-Koenigs on her new book, Language Diversity and Academic Writing

At our CCCC Standing Group meeting this year, we were thrilled to have Dr. Sam Looker-Koenigs talk about her new Bedford Spotlight Reader, Language Diversity and Academic Writing. Her handout from the presentation is attached; it shares her rationale for the course, chapter summaries, and a selected bibliography.

WAW Standing Group, CCCC 2018 Notes. Language Diversity and Academic Writing group.

During the WAW Standing Group meeting, our breakout group discussed:

The textbook: Language Diversity and Academic Writing by Samantha Looker-Koenigs

  • We recognized the diversity of scholars in the textbook as important. Some of us shared that our first attempts creating a WAW reading list for our students included mostly white men. More diversity of authors read in the classroom is needed.
  • The book includes excerpts rather than full articles because 1) Bedford had constraints about lengths, both for the textbook as a whole and for individual readings, and 2) because this allowed more readings to be included.

Literacy Narratives

  • This discussion began with a list of possible readings to use to frame the literacy narrative, especially one that addresses issues of language diversity. I, unfortunately, did not catch all of those readings. The two I did catch were Anzaldúa’s “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” and Alcoff’s “The Problem of Speaking for Others.
  • The latter reading is useful for moving away from issues of “linguistic tourism” in the class.
  • This idea of “linguistic tourism” framed some anxiety around asking students to engage in a literacy narrative that asks students to focus on their diverse language practices. Geoff mentioned hearing of an assignment where students were required to code-mesh, which included asking white students to use AAE. We all recognized this as a problem.
  • We discussed framing code-meshing for students using Canagarajah or Ashanti Young. In thinking about WAW approaches to language diversity, we discussed the necessity of helping students think about how academic writing already involves a meshing of codes, but that’s it important to recognize the difference in stakes for different language users.
  • It was shared by multiple people that literacy narratives often feel performative, with students engaging in transformation narratives articulating what they think the teacher wants to hear. Nick shared borrowing the “Theory of Writing” from Yancey et al.’s “Teaching for Transfer” curriculum as something students begin on the first day of class and repeatedly return to throughout the semester. This theory of writing asks students to explain what previous experiences informed their ideas about writing, so students engage in some of the same moves as a literacy narrative but in a more critical manner.

Approaches to Assignment Sequencing

  • Several approaches to structuring the course were discussed:
    • The way the textbook moves through thinking about issues of language and identity to academic writing.
    • Working backwards from that: starting with readings and discussion on the ways in which ideas of “good writing” are not stable but context-dependent. Once students recognize this, then moving to destabilize their notions of standard language.
    • Linking discussions of language diversity with discussions of the rhetorical situations. Students can begin by thinking about what type of language is appropriate for a text message and what type of language is appropriate for an assignment, and why.
    • Working towards discussions of language by beginning with discussions of nonverbal language (i.e. graffiti, body language, etc.) to think about how communication within culture and how those communicative norms change. This can then move to official signs (i.e. stop signs), as codes that are written for us, before moving to language as traditionally conceived. John Swales’ article on discourse is useful framing for this.
    • Beginning with a “language autobiography” rather than a “literacy narrative.” The first week of class is ungraded reflection where students talk about themselves as writers. Students then read the Thaiss and Zawacki article in the text book and think about how some of the things they’ve been taught to do in writing are indicative of the larger moves discussed here.