List 1: Pleasure and inclusion
These texts represent a bridge, a connection between both myself and RCTE as well as forming links between varied ways of understanding our discipline and entering into our work—of reading, writing, teaching, learning, or otherwise engaging with the work and the world. I have included various examples of Greco-Roman Rhetoric for both the obvious canonical reasons and because making connections to them is key to my concept of bridging; in particular, I want to look at the interrelatedness of pleasure and inclusion as they apply to identity, both in the sense of the individual and the community. I come by this notion largely through my own experience in the academy, but it is only thanks to the experiences and thoughtful words of Nigerian novelist (though it seems reductive to name her solely this), Chimamanda Adichie.
Adichie gave a TED Talk in 2009 entitled “The Danger of a Single Story.” In this talk, she addresses many ideas, but one in particular illuminated my thinking: the notion of perceiving oneself as “allowed” access to a community. In the case of Adichie, as a child she only had access to Western books featuring white protagonists whose life experiences were alien to her. As a result, until she discovered African books, Adichie did not believe that people “like” herself could exist in literature. She has since, of course, become one of many examples of how literature certainly has room for African presence; indeed, literature would doubtless be much reduced as a field, as an experience, if not for that presence. Adichie’s revelation that room existed for her in literature is thus a lens that informs my entire approach to this list.
In this list, in part with an eye toward my second list, I explore the idea of multiple ways of knowing, of how the sometimes painful experience of entering into a new or unfamiliar community—such as that of writing and the academy—can be altered by embracing pleasure over toil, by full inclusion of students as they are (as they speak, as they write) instead of treating them as heathens who must be converted. I will also seek to more specifically define pleasure, beginning with the idea as presented by T. R. Johnson’s A Rhetoric of Pleasure. (I will speak a bit more to that project as I introduce my second list.) By addressing writing as an expressive medium, by addressing play as a meaningful mode of learning, by treating student experiences as valuable, by encouraging “voice” as something that happens when student writers are included “for real” in the academic community instead of treated as “unfinished” or “remedial” or “incorrect”—by doing all of these things, we create a space, a potential experience, where writing and learning can be pleasure, where pleasure can be a mode in which we become better writers and learners, and in which students (and all they bring with them) are welcome in our community, not as guests, interlopers, or potential converts.
- T. R. Johnson describes “renegade rhetoric” as a “pleasure-oriented, magical tradition,”an approach to composition as something powerful that can be enjoyed (4). Making the case that educational institutions are often intellectually inhospitable to students who do not conform to a particular model of expectations, Johnson cites the contrasting interest in pleasure—indeed, in magic—such as discussed by Peter Elbow and William Covino as “explicitly remote from the centers of mainstream, ‘official’ institutions” (4). Considering Adichie’s description of being unable to perceive herself as included in a particular community until she had seen herself welcome there, how can we use Johnson’s pleasure-oriented “renegade rhetoric” to create a more inclusive academic community that encourages students to be active, engaged participants rather than feel academics are a toil inflicted upon them?
- In the text, identify a specific community that is discussed. What role does inclusion in and engagement with that community play in forming an identity (both as an individual and as part of said community) that serves to facilitate the goals of liberation and critical consciousness as put forth by Paulo Freire and bell hooks?
- How can seeking to orient toward pleasure and satisfaction as pedagogical modes be designed to specifically address the concepts of varied learning styles, multiple intelligences, and the highly varied backgrounds (personal, cultural, academic) of students?
- What can we learn about learning, both as students and teachers, by studying the ostensibly enjoyment-oriented concept and practice of “play”? What connects pleasure and play—enjoyment and engagement—to learning, cognition, and individual development?
- In considering the concept of “inclusion,” how can a focus on student pleasure and engagement in academic pursuits serve to address fundamental questions of complex exclusion and divided identities? Consider this discussion in terms of a borderland, such as discussed by Gloria Anzaldúa in Borderlands/La Frontera. Students’ language is a kind of homeland for them, a place they have long occupied; what divisions and exclusions are we asking them to navigate (within and without) by asking them to learn to write and use language “correctly” without including their own pre-existing language—their own territory, as it were—into the process?
- Aristotle: Rhetoric
- Cicero: De Oratore
- Dewey, John: Experience and Education
- Covino, William: The Art of Wondering
- Egan, Kieran: The Educated Mind: How Cognitive Tools Shape Our Understanding
- Freire, Paulo: Pedagogy of the Oppressed
- Freud, Sigmund: The Wolfman and Other Cases
- Gardner, Howard: Creating Minds: An Anatomy of Creativity Seen Through the Lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Gandhi
- Gardner, Howard: Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences
- hooks, bell: Teaching to Transgress
- Huizinga, Johan: Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture
- Hurley, Matthew M., Daniel C. Dennett, and Reginald B. Adams, Jr.: Inside Jokes: Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind
- Johnson, T.R.: A Rhetoric of Pleasure
- Koster, Raph: A Theory of Fun for Game Design
- Plato: “Phaedrus” & “Timaeus”
- Quintilian: Institutio Oratoria (Bizzell and Herzberg)
- Rose, Mike: Lives on the Boundary
- Vygotsky, Lev: Thought and Language
- Baca, Damián: “Rethinking Composition, Five Hundred Years Later” (PDF)
- Bartholomae, David: “Inventing the University” (Cross-Talk in Comp. Theory 623)
- Berlin, James A: “Contemporary Composition: The Major Pedagogical Theories” (Cross-Talk in Comp. Theory 255)
- CCCC: “Students’ Right to Their Own Language” (PDF)
- Ellsworth, Elizabeth: “Why Doesn’t This Feel Empowering? Working Through the Repressive Myths of Critical Pedagogy” (PDF)
- Flower, Linda: “Cognition, Context, and Theory Building” (Cross-Talk in Comp. Theory 739)
- Gibson, Michelle, Martha Marinara, and Deborah Meem: “Bi, Butch, and Bar Dyke: Pedagogical Performances of Class, Gender, and Sexuality” (Feminism and Composition 466)
- LeFevre, Karen Burke: “Invention as a Social Act” (PDF)
- Lunsford, Andrea A. and Lisa Ede: “On Distinctions Between Classical and Modern Rhetoric” (Writing Together 261)
- Matsuda, Paul Kei: “The Myth of Linguistic Homogeneity in U.S. College Composition” (PDF)
- Pratt, Mary Louise: “Arts of the Contact Zone” (PDF)
- Ritchie, Joy and Kathleen Boardman: “Feminism in Composition: Inclusion, Metonymy, and Disruption” (Cross-Talk in Comp. Theory 587)
- Rose, Mike: “The Language of Exclusion: Writing Instruction at the University” (Cross-Talk in Comp. Theory 547)
- Royster, Jaqueline Jones: “When the First Voice You Hear Is Not Your Own” (Cross-Talk in Comp. Theory 611)
- Young, Vershawn Ashanti: “‘Nah, We Straight’: An Argument Against Code Switching” (PDF)
- Villanueva, Victor: “Considerations for American Freireistas” (PDF)
- Adichie, Chimamanda “The Danger of a Single Story” (TED) [Speech]
List 2: Pedagogy of the Fantastic, or “enchanted writing”
In discussing this list, I will begin with an excerpt from an essay I wrote during my RCTE coursework, titled “Employing Renegade Rhetoric against the Single Story: Facilitating the Agency of Students in the Composition Classroom”:
Tolkien discusses the value of mythopoeia in his essay, “On Fairy Stories,” wherein he refers to the act of storytelling as “sub-creation” and explores the power and function of the Fantastic. More broadly, he establishes the function and application of the practice that he terms “sub-creation”: the building of cohesive imagined concepts such as are often found in Fantastical fiction. Here I must address the absolutely key point that in discussing the Fantastic, I do not specifically mean “fantasy fiction” as defined by publishing markets. That is, the Fantastic need not necessarily be limited to “fictional works containing magic,” nor must it entail the presence of particular fictional races (such as Tolkien’s elves, dwarves, trolls, and orcs), nor of sword-wielding warriors and dragons. These are common images and tropes in the popular genre of fiction that is broadly termed “fantasy,” but in my discussion of the Fantastic I do not refer to a market-driven genre of literature. Rather, I refer to creative project of mythopoeia, to the creativity embodied by developing one’s own imagined reality—what Tolkien termed constructing a cohesive “Secondary World.” For me, discovering Tolkien’s ideas was what I needed to see beyond the “single story” of academic work. Other students each bring their own potential Secondary Worlds to the classroom, and inviting them each to critically engage in developing those concepts allows them to see and experience a version of academia where they are a part of it, where their ideas matter—not a version where they do not belong, and not a version where they are nothing but passive vessels where knowledge is to be banked. With this caveat in mind, Tolkien’s sub-creation may be explored in a broader context. (Rick 15)
This passage speaks to the central importance of this “specialized” list: this is the method that I found to resolve my own uncertainties and challenges with balancing my passions and enjoyment with inclusion in the academic community, the primary concern of my first list. For me, the fantastic is not a static set of genre expectations, but rather it is a method that can be utilized to recreate one’s orientation to the world and, indeed, to envision vast and varied possibilities that might not otherwise present themselves. Thus, in considering these texts, the central concepts of importance are the transformative power of fantasy and the importance of redefining perceptions of and orientations toward the world in order to reflect the possibility of a better world—that is, to undertake the reasonably Freirean project of recreating the world rather than being passive occupants of the realities we have inherited.
I will also be bridging these two lists with T. R. Johnson’s concept of “renegade rhetoric,” described in his book A Rhetoric of Pleasure. This method orients specifically to teaching that breaks free of what Johnson terms “masochistic” institutional systems to emphasize the magic and pleasure of writing. The “magic” Johnson refers to is largely borrowed from William Covino, specifically what Covino terms “generative magic.” In examining Covino’s generative magic, I hope to better understand his use of this term to describe the process of transformative action—contrasted by “arresting magic.” The key difference is that generative magic interrogates, pluralizes, transforms, complicates, whereas arresting magic takes refuge in pre-established ways of knowing, “a kind of lockstep incantation that is the opposite of critical and creative thinking” (Johnson 39). This approach to critical pedagogy also links very directly with my notions of the Fantastic. The methodologies of fantasy have been used to produce genre expectations that can be at times quite rigid and unchallenging—one can so often expect some formulaic mix of elves, dwarves, swords, and sorcery that seeks to emulate the trappings if not the creative work of Tolkien—and this fits with the arresting magic discussed by Covino and Johnson. However, I intend to approach the Fantastic in search of generative magic—as a methodology of creation, invention, questioning what is and what could be and how we think about these concepts—rather than as a pre-written set of market-oriented content expectations.
- The central concern of this list is that of transformation. In considering these texts, what can be discovered about Freire’s idea of being “re-creators” of the world and/or Tolkien’s concept of creating a “Secondary World,” and how can the ideas be placed into conversation with one another as related concepts, perhaps one even leading to the other?
- In Magic, Rhetoric, and Literacy: An Eccentric History of the Composing Imagination, William Covino describes the concept of “generative magic”: “We perform literate alchemy by presuming that a plurality of relationships and articulations may affect the transmutation of any ‘pure’ substance, fact, idea, condition” (28). He champions alternative modes of thinking and understanding as both transgressive and “the traditional practices of the magus” (28-29). How can the texts with fantastical themes be seen as transformative, and where is the fantasy—the “generative magic”—in the texts that address change and transformation?
- For Johnson, the “magic” of inspiration happens when writing proceeds as fluently and naturally as speech, when the writer is able to inhabit the “mysterious, highly pleasurable territory” of that fluency; writing ceases to be only a struggle, instead approaching the comfortable familiarity of speech (30). What connections can be drawn from the texts to the concept of fluency, of mastering a power that was previously mysterious or even frightening? How can this particular transformation be related to the concerns of pleasure and inclusion from the previous list?
- A central notion of the fantastic is magic of one kind or another, and magic might be framed as an exceptional capacity for transformation that exceeds the mundane, and “the mundane” might in turn be treated as “the status quo.” Thus, “magic” is a deviation from the tried and true of ordinary society, applying ideas that are either unknown or forgotten to challenge that status quo. Given this, how do the texts challenge the status quo of our expectations?
- Very directly, how does the text create a space—perhaps, a “Secondary World”—that encourages transformative thinking? If we treat this transformative thinking as a sort of subversive epistemology, then what does the text invite as possible that would otherwise not be treated as such? Can we use this as a lens to question our assumptions about concepts central to our own work, such as teaching, learning, and literacy, which have often been the subject of many limiting and perhaps harmful assumptions?
- Booth, Wayne C: The Rhetoric of Fiction
- Bowman, Sarah Lynne: The Functions of Role-Playing Games: How Participants Create Community, Solve Problems and Explore Identity
- Burke, Kenneth: Counter-Statement
- Campbell, Joseph: The Hero with a Thousand Faces
- Covino, William: Forms of Wondering
- Covino, William: Magic, Rhetoric, and Literacy
- Dennett, Daniel C.: Intuition Pumps And Other Tools for Thinking [Kindle Edition]
- Elbow, Peter: Writing with Power
- Flieger, Verlyn: Splintered Light: Tolkien’s World, Revised Edition
- Goldberg, Natalie: Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within
- Le Guin, Ursula K: Cheek by Jowl
- Le Guin, Ursula K: The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction
- Mendlesohn, Farah: Rhetorics of Fantasy
- Palmer, Parker: The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life
- Shippey, Tom: J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century
- Vogler, Christopher: The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers
- Crossley, Robert: “Education and Fantasy” (MyJSTOR)
- Dickey, Michele D. “Game Design Narrative for Learning: Appropriating Adventure Game Design Narrative Devices and Techniques for the Design of Interactive Learning Environments” (PDF)
- Durand, Kevin K.: “What Has Adorno to Do with Gotham?” (Riddle Me This, Batman! 3)
- Fotis, Matthew: “Call it (Friendo): Flipism and Folklore in No Country for Old Men and The Dark Knight” (Riddle Me This, Batman! 201)
- Feldon, David F. and Yasmin B. Kafai: “Mixed methods for mixed reality: understanding users’ avatar activities in virtual worlds”
- Joy, Eileen A.: “Weird Reading” (PDF)
- Leigh, Mary K.: “Virtue in Gotham: Aristotle’s Batman” (Riddle Me This, Batman! 17)
- Longinus: “On the Sublime” (The Rhetorical Tradition 344)
- Shimkus, James H.: “Teaching Speculative Fiction in College: A Pedagogy for Making English Studies Relevant” (PDF)
- Tolkien, J.R.R.:“Tree and Leaf” from The Tolkien Reader
- Villanueva, Victor: “Memoria is a Friend of Ours”
- Zipes, Jack: “Why Fantasy Matters Too Much” (PDF)
- Delany, Samuel R.: (Articles from) About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, & Five Interviews
Fiction and Other Media
- Block, Francesca Lia: Baby Be-Bop [Novel]
- Bryant, Brantley: “What does a medieval literature scholar read into Game of Thrones?” [Interview]
- Ende, Michael: The Neverending Story [Novel]
- Gaiman, Neil: The Books of Magic [Graphic novel]
- Hester Williams, Kim D.: “Steal Away (I Ain’t Got Long)” [Spoken word]
- Miyamoto, Shigeru and Takashi Tezuka: The Legend of Zelda [Video game]
- Miyazaki, Hayao: Princess Mononoke [Film]
- Tolkien, J.R.R.: The Silmarillion [Fictional history]