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Teaching Writing: The Dissertation

by | Posted October 29th, 2012

I recently received a copy of Joe Harris’ updated edition of A Teaching Subject: Composition Since 1966 from Utah State University Press. It was a nice surprise accompanying a contributor’s copy of another title, Exploring Composition Studies: Sites, Issues, & Perspectives that you should absolutely check out. In the foreward, he makes the very interesting claim that composition since 1966 can be understood as a movement to rethink all of post-secondary pedagogy through the lens of writing instruction.

It’s a bold claim. And it got me thinking about what we try to do in the Rhetoric & Writing graduate program that may fit this pattern. Do we, through the ways we teach writing at the graduate level, aim to improve graduate education more generally? I believe we do, and quite consciously, here at MSU. We pay attention to process. We work to demystify genres and conventions associated with writing in post-graduate workplaces. We build in opportunities for peer-learning. And we have designed a graduate curriculum that aims to ground acts of composing in practices of inquiry, invention, and research appropriate to the scholarly conversations our students seek to join. Rhetoric and Writing is quite literally a writing program. (more…)

From Writing Forward: Unusual Writing Ideas

by | Posted October 27th, 2012

When discussing writing, the focus is usually on the substance. The characters, the plot, etc. But do people ever really take the time to give importance to the way that the writing is written? Document design is important in the final stages, but Writing Forward argues that it has importance in the creative stages as well. For example, they suggest pulling out a large piece of paper (think poster board) and writing on that instead of the computer. Check out the article “18 Unusual Writing Ideas” for more ways to change up your writing style and possibly gain different creative influences.

From Inside Higher Ed: “Humanities in the Digital Age”

by | Posted October 26th, 2012

In their insightful post, “Humanities in the Digital Age” for Inside Higher Ed, Alan Liu and William G. Thomas III write that while humanities departments across the country are continually economically threatened, “we are in the first phase of a digital revolution in higher education.” As such, the humanities must “infuse departments with digital technologies and practices so as to create models of organically interrelated humanities digital research, teaching, administration and staff work” that can influence policy.

Liu and Thomas offer four principles for this infusion:

  • Think departmentally.
  • Think collaboratively (across departments and divisions).
  • Think computationally.
  • Think society-wide.

The authors argue that “digital humanities is not just a field but a conduit” – for working together, for understanding cultural meaning, for shifting policy, for expanding the “research and publication” model, and for service in the university (which they suggest ought to be redefined through a DH lens). Further, this is not just an opportunity for reframing humanities in the digital age, but our responsibility.

Check out the full post for more specific ideas on integrating digital strategies in the humanities.

From McSweeneys: “The Ultimate Guide to Writing Better Than You Normally Do”

by | Posted October 26th, 2012

This bit from McSweeney’s is sure for a smile and guffaw. In “The Ultimate Guide to Writing Better Than You Normall Do,” Colin Nissan offers sardonic, if not practical, writing advice. For example, “Don’t Procrastinate,” because “Procrastination is an alluring siren taunting you to Google the country* where Balki from Perfect Strangers was from…”

(*Mypos, a fictional island in the Mediterranean Sea)

One Sentence

by | Posted October 23rd, 2012

I stumbled across what is described as “an experiment in brevity” and found a creative test that would challenge many a writer. One Sentence is a website where people can send in a story from their life (funny, sad, inspirational, etc.) but it must only be ONE sentence. It can’t be a run-on, it can’t be strung together by semicolons, it must be a legitimate sentence. The results are surprising. There are a fair amount of stories that make you think for much longer than the single sentence. They can be about any topic, serious or hilarious. The ones that make you pause seem to contain so much within so few words; the mind is inspired to create a story, real or otherwise, surrounding these “true” stories so that one sentence expands into many more.

Writers can construct impeccable paragraphs and tell a story within a four-hundred page novel, but can they tell a story within one sentence?

This sort of exercise could be taken and used in all manner of writing styles. It is a way of saying that a writer (college student, academic, professional writer, etc.) does not have to use 500 words to get their point across. It would be interesting to apply this concept to writing students, for example, by instructing them to consolidate their paper or story down to one sentence. It is a way of looking at writing in an unusual way. Take a look at the site to see what people have submitted, or challenge yourself to submit a story and see if it makes the cut.

From edudemic: Students Want Technology!

by | Posted October 23rd, 2012

It’s no secret that technology is popular. Its uses in the classroom can be extremely valuable and a new study by Educause says that students enjoy and learn in a technologically enhanced environment. Have a look at the article and see what this could mean for writing teachers. Incorporating more online resources in addition to books may be the way to go if this study holds true.