The United Kingdom’s Open University has released 10 short videos providing a 10 minute history of the English language from Anglo-Saxon to Global English. It’s both informative and fun. Here’s the first:
The United Kingdom’s Open University has released 10 short videos providing a 10 minute history of the English language from Anglo-Saxon to Global English. It’s both informative and fun. Here’s the first:
A commonplacing post that brings together memoria and cognitive science (image-schema) as justification for multimodal composition. From Johnson, Mark. “The Imaginative Basis of Meaning and Cognition.” Images of Memory: On Remembering and Representation. Ed. Susanne Küchler and Walter Melion. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991. 74-86:
According to the view I am espousing, we must understand imaginative activity as including all sensory modalities, motor programs, and even abstract acts of cognition such as the drawing of inferences. In this very broad sense, imaginative activity is the means by which an organism constructs an ordering of its perceptions, motor skills, and reflective acts, as it seeks to accommodate itself to its environment. Imagination, so understood, thus includes the full range of organizing activities, from the forming of images (in different sensory modalities), to the execution of motor programs, to the manipulation of abstract representations, and even to the creation of novel orderings. 79
Right before rereading Johnson’s essay, I reread Daniel Anderson‘s “The Low Bridge to High Benefits: Entry-Level Multimedia, Literacies, and Motivation.” (Computers and Composition 25 (2008): 40-60):
The links between motivation, new media, multiliteracies, agency, and civic participation can be readily traced. Less clear, however, are the connections between these items and changes in education. The most compelling advocate for considering personal motivation in terms of transformation in composition is probably Geoffrey Sirc. Sirc doesn’t argue for either alphabetic or multimedia literacies but rather advocates that compositionists should aim for the expressive process of production. Again, we must put things into motion. Sirc (2002) explained, “defining composition, exclusively around the parameters of page or canvas, results in that conventional, academic surface” and instead suggested we think of composition “as a record of tracings, or gestures, a result of body moving through life” (p. 111). Sirc was looking for a composition that might be “anti-conventional, expressive, discursively hybrid, and technologically innovative” but instead finds i most scholarship a composition that “is all about conventions; which sees its retreat from expressionism in academicism as some sort of progress; which prefers a purified, taxonomized, monophony to hybridity’ and consigns discourse on technology to a sub-real of the discipline” (p. 173). Sirc is clear that this over-disciplining of composition bleeds the motivation from students, leading only to “alienation” and “exhaustion” (p. 209). New composing processes feature literacies like juxtaposition, parody, or pastiche and build upon student interests. These remix modes can overcome the boredom and “exhaustion in most writing assignments” (p. 212), making students “architects of their own aesthetics” (p. 132). 46
Not that we need such justification, but I find within Mark Johnson, Mark Turner, Gilles Fauconnier, and George Lakoff’s work on image schema, conceptual metaphor, embodied cognition, and conceptual blending an explanation of how monastic rhetoric, as defined by Mary Carruthers, works at the cognitive level. It is, to crib the title of one of Gilles Fauconnier and George Lakoff’s collaborations, “the way we think.” The expressive processes of production Sirc advocates and Anderson demonstrates is inherent in “remix modes” of composition shares with Johnson et. al. and monastic rhetoric an understanding of imagination as an active process of memory which draws upon all our sensory modalities/multiliteracies to make meaning. For an example of contemporary monastic composition as an expressive process of production, see my discussion of Jeffery Jerome Cohen‘s” fabulations.”
While I regularly reference monastic composition as defined by Mary Carruthers, searching through the blog, I don’t think I’ve ever properly summarized it. Here’s my summary, taken from Ch. 2 of my dissertation:
In The Craft of Thought and elsewhere (“Late Antique Rhetoric,” “The Mystery of the Bed Chamber,” and “The Poet as Master Builder”), Carruthers argues that medieval memoria has its origins in monastic rhetoric, which, she explains, “emphasized ‘invention,’ the cognitive procedures of traditional rhetoric” (Craft of Thought 3).1 Monastic rhetoric, she argues, was “an art of composing” rather than an art of persuasion, and its practice of mediation involved the creation and use of “mental images or cognitive ‘pictures’” as the building blocks of invention. She summarizes her concept of monastic composition thusly:
The orthopraxis, or normative “way,” of monastic meditation was directed towards the vision of God by means of what amounts to a form of literary invention, using as its primary materials or res the texts of the Bible, considered not as “objects of study” in any way we would now recognize as scholarship, but as recollective “sites” for new compositions, constructed by drawing in (tractanda is a word of choice for composition) and augmenting a textual “seed” with other matters, “collected” (another favorite word) in long chains (catenae) of freely ranging associations (concatenations) on the part of the mediator. (“Late Antique Rhetoric” 241).2
While monastic in origin and originally intended for the creation of monastic art, monastic composition’s reliance upon the techniques of memoria came to be practiced outside monastic culture. For example, as Yates, Carruthers, and others have argued, poets such as Dante and Chaucer made use of these compositional practices. In “Art of Memory and the Art of Poetry in the House of Fame,” Beryl Rowland argues that medieval poets such as Chaucer took words from books, made them images in their mind, and then turned those images into new words, into new poems. Likewise, in “Bishop Bradwardine, the Artificial Memory, and the House of Fame,” Rowland argues that Chaucer’s House of Fame “may be seen as an externalization of [the] memory process” described in Bradwardine’s De Memoria Artificiali. Building upon Rowland’s arguments, Elizabeth Buckmaster argues that The House of Fame is an exploration of the practice of Prudence, the cardinal virtue intimately tied to ars memoria because it requires knowledge of the past, present, and future. Buckmaster also argues that in The House of Fame Chaucer represents this connection by presenting his knowledge of the sciences, arts, and philosophy by creating memory palaces in the poem, one for each book. The first palace represents the past, the second the present, and the third the future. She concludes that The House of Fame is an inner journey, an act of meditation such as we find in Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises.
Buckmaster, Elizabeth. “Chaucer and John of Garland: Memory and Style in the First Fragment.” Medieval Perspectives 1.1 (1986): 31-40.
—. “Meditation and Memory in Chaucer’s House of Fame.” Modern Language Studies 16.3 (1986): 279-287.
Carruthers, Mary. The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture. Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature 10. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990.
—. The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images, 400 – 1200. Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature 34. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998.
—. “Late Antique Rhetoric, Early Monasticism, and the Revival of School Rhetoric.” Latin Grammar and Rhetoric: From Classical Theory to Medieval Practice. Ed. Carol Dana Lanham. London: Continuum, 2002. 239-257.
—. “‘The Mystery of the Bed Chamber’: Mnemotechnique and Vision in Chaucer’s The Book of the Duchess.” The Rhetorical Poetics of the Middle Ages: Reconstructive Polyphony: Essays in Honor of Robert O. Payne. Ed. John M. Hill and Deborah M. Sinnreich-Levi. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 2000.67-87.
—. “The Poet as Master Builder: Composition and Locational Memory in the Middle Ages.” New Literary History 24 (1993): 881-904.
Rowland, Beryl. “The Art of Memory and the Art of Poetry in the House of Fame.” Revue de l’Universite d’Ottawa 51.2 (1981): 162-171.
—. “Bishop Bradwardine, the Artificial Memory, and the House of Fame.” Chaucer at Albany. Ed. Rossel Hope Robbins. New York: Burt Franklin & Co., 1975. 41-62.
Yates, F.A. The Art of Memory. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1966.
As my technological literacy collage is intended to serve as an example of an assignment prompt, I also wrote a short explanation of how I composed the piece. If interested, you can find the assignment guidelines and accompanying documents at the course web site. Any comments on the assignment or the collage are more than welcome.
On Composing “On the Dangers of Reading Conan Stories and Playing Computer Games; or, the Making of a Technorhetorician: A Technological Literacy Collage”
I began writing my technological literacy collage by writing stories that illustrate my practices and values involved with reading, writing, and exchanging information. In all, I wrote about 13 pages, 11 distinct passages, all written by hand, in the period of a few hours one afternoon. The passages ranged from a paragraph to a few pages. Of the 11 passages I wrote, 6 made it into my final draft in one form or another. While a few of the passages made it into the final version almost unchanged, others made it in after a lot of pairing down. Seven additional passages were composed at the computer over the period of a week as I thought about other ideas and how I might make a collage out of the passages I had initially written.
With those 12 passages typed up, I printed them out, one passage to a page, figured out which one wanted to start with, and then started piecing together the rest of the order. One passage that I’m really fond of just didn’t seem to fit anywhere, so I took it out. As I decided on the order of my passages, I came up with an idea that would work well between passage one and two, so I wrote it out by hand on my print out of my old passage two that had now become passage three. I then read the collage straight through and realized I wanted another passage at the end. I was going to end with the line that Tolkien liked Howard’s Conan stories, which tied into the title I’d come up with. I decided, however, that it didn’t seem right as the final passage, so I wrote the bit about logos and mythos, which allowed me to return to teaching, reading, and writing; preseningt those activities as acts of storytelling; get in another dig at Plato; and return to my definition of technological literacy.
This semester, I’ve assigned a technological literacy collage as the first assignment in both the first-year composition course (Rhetoric and Composition: Media and Their Effects) and the advanced composition course (Advanced Composition: Image, Sound, Text). The assignment is a technological literacy autobiography done in the form of a collage. Call it a mash-up of assignments from Cynthia Selfe, Dickie Selfe, Gail Hawisher, and Karla Kitalong with that of Peter Elbow and Pat Belanoff because, really, that’s what it is. (The advanced composition course is an accelerated half-semester course that starts this week.)
I so much enjoyed reading the first-year students collages that I decided to write one myself. I meant to write one before the semester started but didn’t, so I’m sharing what I wrote with the advanced composition class. Since it’s going to be up on the course web site, I thought I’d post it here too. So, here you go, my technological literacy collage, the full title of which is:
On the Dangers of Reading Conan Stories and Playing Computer Games; or, The Making of a Technorhetorician: A Technological Literacy Collage
I’m the new media specialist in Creighton University’s English Department. Terms to define my academic specialty include computers and writing, technorhetoric, digital rhetoric, and new media studies. Continue reading »
I’m working on the art of letting go. While taking one last pass through before sending off to the committee, I thought I’d post the introduction to my chapter “Memory and the Art of Imagery.” I’ll post more of the chapter over the next week or so. In the meantime, here’s the intro:
Memory and the Art of Imagery
The emphasis upon the need for human beings to ‘see’ their thoughts in their mind as organized schemata of images, or ‘pictures,’ and then to use them for further thinking, is a striking and continuous feature of medieval monastic rhetoric, with significant interest even for our own contemporary understanding of the role of images and thinking. (Carruthers, The Craft of Thought 3)
Memory, in short, is an imagetext. (Mitchell 192)
In his chapter on images in The Rhetoric of Cool, Jeff Rice argues that composition study’s visual turn has too much focused on the interpretation of images at the expense of focusing on their production. Referring both to Dean Rader’s review essay “Composition, Visual Cultures, and the Problem of Class” and Carolyn Handa’s reader Visual Rhetoric in a Digital World, Rice sums up what he believes is their implicit message: “True writing can only come from reading images, these positions state, not from making images (135). In shifting the focus from interpretation to production, Rice moves us towards a theory and practice of imagery. That contemporary composition studies and rhetorical theory need “discover” such an art is yet one more consequence of our forgetting the role memoria plays as a dynamic process of meaning making for ourselves and for others. Central to this chapter is the assumption that not only does our visual turn need a theory of practice of image production, but that we have the makings of one in classical and medieval practices of memoria.
My use of the phrase memory and the art of imagery is an intentional nod to “the art of memory,” the places and images mnemonic and the broader category of locational memory I discuss in chapter 2. The striking feature of this particular memory art—what for many is the art of memory itself—is its use of images, mental, verbal, and graphic.1 Just as Kristie Fleckenstein argues that we need to conceive of word and image as a “double dialectic, a double vision of literacy as image and word, as imageword” (Embodied Literacies 4), we need to recognize the art of memory as a double dialectic of image and memory.
Before entering into a theoretical and practical discussion of an art of imagery, I want to provide one more contemporary example of imagery as a process of making meaning beyond the examples of the Emerson Garden and imagery in Beowulf, both of which I discussed in chapter 2. For this third example, I turn to Jeffery Jerome Cohen’s discussion of writing Hybridity, Identity, and Monstrosity in Medieval Britain: On Difficult Middles, offered as three blog posts titled “The book I didn’t write,” “The Book I Did Not Write, Part II,” and “Fabulations, Third and Final Installment.” In these three posts, Cohen shares a series of “fabulations,” fictional stories that he calls “product of the imagination,” which he intended to serve as explorations of the book’s themes (“The book I didn’t write”). As these fabulations were eventually cut from the book, so to was the explanation he wrote to account for their presence in the book, then provisionally titled Stories of Blood: Monsters, Jews, and Race in Medieval England. This explanation is including in the first of the three blog posts discussing these fabulations:
My previous books have attempted to work simultaneously in medieval literature and in what often gets called critical theory (a field, I would argue, more accurately and more simply described as philosophy). Stories of Blood marks a departure from this work in that much of the theorizing is conducted quietly, often below the level of direct quotation or even of footnote. This departure should not be read as a rejection. I am as committed to philosophically rigorous work as I ever have been, and would not have been able to formulate my argument without the help of theory, especially postcolonial theory. Yet I also feel that the time is right for medievalists to experiment with how they formulate their arguments, articulate their themes, convince their readers. It is time to essay rhetorical devices and generic shifts that can perhaps achieve something a predictable scholarly prose style will not. Each of my chapters therefore makes use of what I call fabulations. These brief, fictionalized, and experimental asides are meant to function like the strange moments that occur throughout twelfth-century historiography, moments when the sedate and scholarly course of the narrative is startled by an irruption of the marvelous, the monstrous, the new. As Monika Otter has made clear in her book Inventiones, such moments are not digressions from the texts that feature them but explorations in another register of the concerns animating those works. Thus Gerald of Wales “interrupts” his Journey Through Wales to narrate a story about a utopia of tiny men. This subterranean domain bears an uncanny resemblance to the lost world of Gerald’s own childhood, and permits its narrator to mourn the Welshness he has rejected in himself in order to become a cleric who writes in Latin and a courtier who speaks in French. Although I worry that my own fabulations may strike readers as self-indulgent, overwritten, or simply extraneous, it nonetheless seems to me that, even should I fail badly in the attempt, it is worthwhile to allow the sources I have worked with here to imbue my text with their own imprint. (“The book I didn’t write”)2
Significant in Cohen’s call for medievalists to “essay rhetorical devices and generic shifts that can perhaps achieve something a predictable scholarly prose style will not” is that he is not calling upon medievalists to invent new rhetorical devices and methods but to “experiment with” and “essay” modes, techniques, and strategies other than traditional scholarly prose. In fact in his abandoned explanation, he compares fabulations to the “strange moments that occur throughout twelfth-century historiography,” and in his blog post introducing this explanation that was to appear in the book he states, “I believe I had become infected by all the twelfth-century Latin I was reading, and began to compose in a contemporary mode.” In this discussion of the fabulations, I find fascinating both Cohen’s call for expanding standard academic prose and his location of the fabulations in twelfth-century Latin texts. In this discussion we find a professor medieval literature making the same kind of call for expanding academic composition that we find many compositions do, especially those engaged in computers and writing and new media. Just as striking, I believe is the fact that his fabulations are, simply put, acts of monastic rhetoric.
As I explained in chapter 2, monastic rhetoric was not so much an art of persuasion as an art of composing, and this compositional technique found its way into a wide variety of arts, including that of religious and secular poetry and prose. Keeping in mind that mental imagery—“cognitive pictures”—was the building blocks of invention and that verbal imagery—the rhetorical figures of ekphrasis and enargia—was used in medieval verbal art in much the same way mental imagery is used in the places and images mnemonic,3 that Cohen locates the origins of these fabulations in the twelfth century texts with which he was working can not be stressed enough. While they did not make their way into the final draft of his book, they helped him work through the complex theoretical and philosophical issues with which he was working.
I’ve begun this chapter with a discussion of Cohen’s fabulations because they exist as contemporary examples of monastic rhetoric, of writing through images. While Rice’s own call for the production of images focuses on graphic imagery, I believe that we will only establish a fully-realized theory and practice of imagery if we expand our notion of images to include the mental and verbal as well as the graphic as Fleckenstein argues we should. Moreover, I believe we must do so not only through a double dialectic of “literacy as image and word” but as a double dialectic of memoria as image and memory. As I illustrate how these two double dialects work to make meaning for both ourselves and for others, I will begin with a discussion of two medieval products of monastic rhetoric, the eighth-century box made of whale bone known as the Franks Casket and the Old English poem “The Dream of the Rood.” In discussing these two artifacts of Anglo-Saxon England, I will discuss monastic rhetoric as a mnemonic art of making images. From there, I will turn to the concept of conceptual blending, also known as conceptual integration, from cognitive science to discuss how image-based mnemonics and mnemonic arts such as locational memory and monastic rhetoric are rooted in “the origins of thought and language” and “the way we think.”4 Finally, I’ll return to the contemporary classroom to discuss how we can monastic rhetoric, conceptual blending, and the two double dialectics of literacy as image and word and memoria as image and memory can inform a vision of writing as composition with images.
Carruthers, Mary. The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images, 400 – 1200. Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature 34. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998.
Cohen, Jeffery Jerome. “The book I didn’t write.” In the Middle: A Medieval Studies Group Blog. 30 Aug 2006. Web. 7 Feb. 2008.
—. “The Book I Did Not Write, Part II.” In the Middle: A Medieval Studies Group Blog. 4 Dec. 2006. Web. 7 Feb. 2008.
—. “Fabulations, Third and Final Installment.” In the Middle: A Medieval Studies Group Blog. 13 Dec. 2006. Web. 7 Feb. 2008.
—. Hybridity, Identity, and Monstrosity in Medieval Britain: On Difficult Middles. New York: Palgrave, 2006.
Fauconnier, Gilles, and Mark Turner. The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending and the Mind’s Hidden Complexities. New York: Basic Books, 2002.
Fleckenstein, Kristie S. Embodied Literacies: Imageword and a Poetics of Teaching. Studies in Writing & Rhetoric. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2003.
—. “Inviting Imagery in Our Classrooms.” Language and Image in the Reading-Writing Classroom: Teaching Vision. Eds. Kristie S. Fleckenstein, Linda T. Calendrillo, and Demetrice A Worley. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 2002. 3-26.
Handa, Carolyn. Visual Rhetoric in a Digital World: A Critical Sourcebook. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004.
Mitchell, W. J. T. Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation. U of Chicago P, 1994.
Rader, Dean. “Composition, Visual Cultures, and the Problems of Class.” College English 67.6 (July 2005): 636-50.
Rice, Jeff. The Rhetoric of Cool: Composition Studies and New Media. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2007.
Turner, Mark. The Literary Mind: The Origins of Thought and Language. New York: Oxford UP, 1996.