Remixing composition: a History of Multimodal Writing Pedagogy


“…it appears almost unthinkable that an English teacher could look past the errors in an alphabetic text to focus mostly on responding to the ideas…” (Palmeri, 2012; 96).

Initial summary and response is for me, overwhelmingly positive. Palmeri acknowledges biases, angles from the start. As might be implied from the title, he ‘creates’ the history of multimodal pedagogy stating how all histories are rhetorical, built. In my American Studies class we discuss under the realm of modernism “prosthetic memories” or a folding of the present into the past to live both places. Palmeri makes a point to make clear his own angle while breaking down the perspective of multimodal as ‘new’ or tied to certain technologies.

Sometimes I respond with a giant eye-roll when we get to base with definitions (all things were pop culture once, or writing itself is writing technology) however with Palermi’s book I enjoy it immensely because I want to incorporate multimodal but don’t always know how. When we view modes as talking about what we wrote or incorporated relevant visuals with our research paper, well, it makes it much more accessible to me. I’ve take out some of the actively multimodal projects this semester because prior semesters, I wasn’t sure what I was doing or if it was really productive work for the students.

Finally, I really could just do an admiring agreement session with Palmeri over a bottle of wine. Of course there isn’t one pedagogy fits all: “our goal should not be to choose one pedagogy over another, but rather to consider how we can recombine them – remix them – in ways that can enable us to develop a more nuanced and complex view of what it means to teach composition in the contemporary digital moment” (Palmeri, 2012; 15). It’s amazing to me how much this idea is resisted. Upon completed English 501 at WSU fall 2013, I assumed the point of reading all the different theorists in composition was to realize that there wasn’t one right answer and no one had figured it out perfectly. It’s not possible; there are too many variables and we are not static, though sometimes education structure/administration sure seems like it might be. And on that last note, in discussion the book with a new graduate student/colleague, I realize he’s written in a way that requires a lot of outside knowledge. That is, before getting my master’s, a lot of the people he references, the way they converse with each other or contradict, would have absolutely no meaning. Because I know the names and the types of issues the author’s he references tends to tackle, I follow. Another topic for this all-topic final paragraph, revisiting ‘remixing.’ Once again  American Studies crosses over with the discussion piece “Everything is a Remix.” Another conversation outside of class on the issues of reading all the composition journal articles from 1970’s Berlin, Shaughnessy to present, is the idea of somehow getting it right finally or that we aren’t merely doing the same teaching but in a teaching ‘outfit’ if you will. Palmeri also addresses this in his section(s) on multimodal projects and teaching used to reinforce the current-traditional.


Questions for Palmeri:

In your experience do you encounter active resistance, indifference, intimidation, or laziness for teachers not incorporating multimodality in their courses?

Is the idea that no one theory nails it really so radical?

You don’t quite outright condemn multimodality to reinforce or return to current-traditional standards, but basically you do. I wonder, while I agree with the need for change and not reinforcing the traditional, is it such a bad thing if teachers teach multimodally for the current-traditional (or the expectations of academia)?

Or, how much assimilation is too much?

And, is multimodal associated with the dominant discourse hurting its revolutionary cause/objectives?

One thought on “Remixing composition: a History of Multimodal Writing Pedagogy”

  1. Really smart and nuanced response here. I’m curious if you think you might ever bring back in some multimodal work into 101 or if it’s a goner for you? And, also, thank you for the reminder of how new MA students might read this. It’s always hard to enter the parlour for the first time. It sucks, really.

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