The Writing Process and Multimodal Composition: Conversations with Four Artists

The Writing Process and Multimodal Composition: Conversations with Four Artists

William Kist (Kent State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4345-1.ch005
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Abstract

This chapter expands upon an interior monologue the author created during the experience of composing a comic strip for publication. Building on this reflection regarding the processes of composing in multimodal form and on the work of John Steiner (1997), four professional artists were interviewed using semi-structured interviews to get at the steps they take when writing multimodally. Categories of the data are uncovered and refined using the constant-comparative method. Some of these trends include: gaining knowledge through practice of a medium’s structure and affordances including the necessity of writing in nonlinear fashion and being able to write collaboratively. Implications for instruction are suggested.
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Theoretical Perspectives That Frame Multimodal Composition

Of course, we could also ask what we really know about word-based writing processes to begin with. After all, the field of “English” is only a little over 100 years old, having been brought into the universities by the middle class after WWI (Eagleton, 1983; Scholes, 1998). And, as Monaghan and Saul (1987) convincingly demonstrated, from the beginning of the English classroom, writing instruction has always held a subservient place to the reading of the canonical works of literature. Writing in schools, if it existed at all, has tended to be in service to literary criticism and, in particular, the American New Criticism (Monaghan and Saul, 1987).

The golden age of composition studies sought to remedy this lack of focus on writing. Educators were urged to focus on writing as a process for students (Moffett, 1968; Emig, 1971; Flower & Hayes, 1977). Teachers were supposed to work with the writer, not with the text that was produced. Several visionary writers attempted to describe what this would look like in a classroom (Elbow, 1973/1998; Graves, 1983/2003; Murray, 2004; Atwell, 1987, 1998). Whether these scholars have had much influence in the writing instruction over the last 40 years could be the subject of another chapter, article, or book.

The focus of this chapter, however, is a relatively new development in composition studies—looking at multimodal composition. Paralleling the work of composition scholars who have focused on the medium of words on a page, has been more recent work by those who have paid attention to the affordances new technologies have brought. Some have come at this from an arts background and have urged classroom teachers to go beyond words on a page--students should be allowed to use multiple forms of representation to know and to make meaning (Greene, 1997; Leland & Harste, 1994; Short & Harste, with Burke, 1996). Tom Romano (1995, 2000) famously suggested that allowing students to describe what they had learned from research using multiple genres would broaden and deepen their knowledge of disciplinary content.

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