Remixing Composition: A History of Multimodal Writing Pedagogy: Jason Palmeri
ISBN-10: 080933089X | ISBN-13: 978-0809330898 | Pages: 216 | Book Review and art by Talitha May, English Department, Ohio University
Jason Palmeri’s book, Remixing Composition: A History of Multimodal Writing Pedagogy challenges the idea that compositionists have historically focused just on alphabetic texts. Palmeri exposes how classic texts from composition theory from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s are imbued with multimodal tendencies that can inform and enhance current composition pedagogies. In the introduction, “Reseeing Composition History,” Palmeri explains that advocates of the so-called “multimodal turn” hold fast to misinformed narratives. Some compositionists, for example, emphasize the importance of responding to new technologies, whereas some indicate our technological moment is unlike others in its emphasis on technology. Still, others maintain composition has historically focused on alphabetic writing rather than multimodal forms. Palmeri counters these limited narratives and attempts to recover composition’s history of multisensory approaches. As such, he aims to demonstrate how compositionists have contributed uniquely and substantively to the history of multimodality, argues that multimodal composing can “enhance students’ invention and revision of alphaphetic texts” and finally counters exaggerated fears of the introduction of new technology (6).
Palmeri argues that critics reduce the field of composition into distinct categories such as “expressivist, cognitive, social-epistemic” and argue about which theoretical perspective reigns supreme (13). These categories do nothing but oversimplify theorists. To counter this limiting taxonomy when considering history, Palmeri renounces the role of a critic and instead embraces “the perspective of the remix artist” (13). The artist goes beyond these rigid categories and instead reconceives the place of theorists. Peter Elbow, for example, is typically packaged as an expressivist; however, Palmeri argues his work on peer review exposes how he touches upon the social in writing. The remix artist can view Janet Emig, commonly called a cognitivist, residing comfortably in expressivism when considering her personal writing. Moreover, despite Ann Berthoff’s critique of positivistic leanings of cognitive psychology, she nonetheless is interested in the mind (14). Palmeri wants to examine “unexpected connections” among disparate theories and argue that multimodal approaches are common to all theories of composition. As such, Palmeri does not argue for one pedagogical approach; instead, as a remix artist, he asks us to embrace pluralism and reconsider how we can “recombine them — remix them” to “develop a more nuanced and complex view of what it means to teach composition” (15).