Here’s where we’ll kick off our readings for our first online portion of the term, the essay “The Case for Filmmaking as English Composition” by Richard Williamson from way back in 1971 and the comparatively modern (but still “ancient” relative to the other things we’re reading and doing this term) essay by Richard Lanham first published in the early 1990s, “Digital Rhetoric and Digital Arts.” These are both available via eReserves.
I have a tendency to say too much to start these discussions, so I’m going to try to work on that a bit this term and not be quite as chatty. But a couple of thoughts to at least prime the pump after the break:
- What strikes me now about reading these again (Williamson is less familiar to me than Lanham) is the “revolution” in the air as they introduce their arguments. Williamson goes so far as to discuss the literal violence and revolution happening in higher education in the late 1960s. Both Williamson and Lanham argue that a lot of this revolution was against “the conventional,” which is what is creating an opportunity for these new and non-words-in-a-row sorts of texts in “English” classes.
- Williamson clearly has things like television and movies in mind– the “American culture” of his students– and teaching in mind, while I think that Lanham is making a somewhat more abstract argument and one that is really is more about digital publishing and technologies more or less “after” film, not to mention a lot of abstract art. I think that’s actually evidence to a claim Lanham makes at the beginning of his article, that “way back when” (like when Williamson was writing), computers were seen as purely computational devices and not for creating texts of any kind– not even word processing!
- I have to say as someone who has been teaching a long time now (I started as a grad student in 1988!) a lot of the concerns that Williamson has about “the 5 paragraph essay” and the patterns/problems of student writing seem to be kind if eternal, way back then, way back in the late 80s, and nowadays too.
- One thing that’s a shame with the copy of the Lanham essay you have is its missing some of the images/illustrations of what he’s talking about. I’ll bring in the book I have next week to share, though if you google some of these things you can see what he’s talking about.
- One of Lanham’s key points here (and this is repeated in some of his other essays) is “AT/THROUGH,” by which he means the way we can study a text as an object that is drawing attention to itself as such, rather than as a text that is not doing this. Most technical writing/technical documentation is very much about “looking through” because it’s presented in a style/fashion that doesn’t try to draw attention to itself. I suppose the same can be said of a lot of realistic fiction (think of the kind of book/movie where you get “lost” in the story versus books/movies where the way its being presented constantly reminds you you’re reading a book) and the like. Anyway, this “oscillation” between the two is a big deal for Lanham relative to discussing the impact of “electronic” texts.