Composing Voices: Writing Pedagogy as Auditory Art
Palmeri opens chapter 2, “Composing Voices: Writing Pedagogy as Auditory Art (1965-87)” with a Whitmanesque celebration of spoken words: “I feel the rush of joy I experienced the first time I performed on stage for an audience”; “I hear the many conversations that have inspired this book”; “I hear the rush of spoken words that have permeated my life as a writing teacher” (51). This exuberance is necessary because after the split between English and Speech teachers in 1914, compositionists seemed to embrace a division of labor and “deemphasize” the role auditory approaches in the classroom. Accordingly, Palmeri wants us to listen to how composition’s history is saturated with “connections between the alphabetic and the auditory” (53).
In track 1, “Voice,” Palmeri revisits Peter Elbow and counters the dominant preconceptions that Elbow merely uses voice as a metaphor or is limited with a preoccupation of the self—rather, Elbow’s notion of voice is rooted in the body. Palmeri also touches upon Elbow’s reading-aloud exercise, which bridges the gap between the auditory and the alphabetic. Here, Palmeri invites compositionists to extend Elbow’s exercise to the contemporary digital scene to use the free software program called Audacity. The program can render previously invisible auditory elements into the visual realm. Palmeri does not stop with the pedagogy of Elbow, he casts further back to explore Otis Winchester’s 1972 textbook The Sound of Your Voice. Winchester argues the importance of aurality for inventing and enhancing the “expressiveness” alphabetic texts (59). To go beyond the limitations of the self, Palmeri remixes the conversation to include Krista Ratcliffe’s “feminist theory of rhetorical listening” whose addition to Winchesters’ pedagogy offers a political perspective to be more attentive to others (60).
Figure 2: Patterns
In track 2, “Rhetoric,” Palmeri turns to the rhetorical pedagogies of Edward P.J. Corbett and James Moffett. Palmeri uncovers how Corbett recognized the limitations of the disciplinary split between composition and speech. In the words of Corbett, many rhetorical concepts such as kairos are “intimately tied to the practice of spoken oratorical performance” (62). Moreover, spoken performance can “enhance students’ understanding’ of ethos — particularly in the case of progymnasmata in which students perform a new identity (62-3). Palmeri also draws our attention to Moffit who argues that drama “could help students develop rhetorical consciousness” (64). Even though these rhetorical pedagogies focus on how knowledge is socially constructed, they nonetheless ignore the political and ideological.
In track 3, “Dialogue” Palmeri argues that in the works of Ira Schor and Paulo Frere, the role of dialogue serves as a way students can “both critically analyze and attempt to transform material hierarchies of class, gender, race, disability and sexuality” (66). As such, teachers of composition should question and destabilize conventional practices of privileging alphabetic writing over spoken dialogue. In track 4, “Dialect,” Palmeri argues that Geneva Smitherman’s 1970s scholarship can add to the multimodal conversation. Smitherman’s work “repeatedly highlights the importance of oral forms of knowledge” (73). Moreover, she “celebrate[s] the ways oral and alphabetic traditions interanimate one another in African American life” (74). Palmeri finally concludes the chapter with key composition activities in which all students can “recognize that spoken conversation is a key invention strategy to be employed during all moments of the composing process” (80).