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Subject: Re: C 29 “Making Media Matter: Layering Knowledge, Ethos, and Literacies in the Composition Classroom”
Written by: Lynn Lewis, llscribe@cox.net
Created on: September 7, 2005

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This interesting review hints at an important question.  Can we define films as texts?  Most of us working in the field of visual rhetoric would argue yes.  If our students' abilties to develop, refine, and employ critical approaches to texts is at the heart of our work in pedagogy, then assignments such as Jobe's are essential first steps towards this goal.  If, however, our goal is to teach our students to write academically-acceptable papers, then Alexander's criticism is right on.




On April 27, 2004, Jonathan Alexander wrote:

This “Practices in Teaching Writing” session shared ways the presenters had used film as content for the writing classroom. Karen Jobe from the University of Oklahoma suggested that film be used as a stimulus for critical thinking and as a means to connect with students and their everyday lives. However, her first film choice, Give Me Shelter, a film about an open field concert in the late sixties, was unsuccessful. Her students hated the film, and she realized that she did not consider the former words of others, namely Berlin and Giroux, when considering film choice. She failed to consider the students’ culture when choosing the film. Therefore, in retrospect, Jobe suggested that she would use a film such as Moulin Rouge in order for students to connect and analyze their selves as audience and spectator. The aim would be to see the self as a direct object of the marketing ploys utilized by film makers and advertisers; Jobe’s assignment asked students to define themselves as the audience of the film and how they become a subject of manipulation by factors at work within their own culture. In total, the project became an intertextual experience with the aim to buy (Jobe included web sites, posters, video and audio covers as well as the film itself). Having seen neither film, I failed to connect with visualizing the experience outside of criticizing the industry for wanting the public to watch their film.

Marsha Keller from Oklahoma City University read from her essay titled, “Making Ethos Matter in the Cinemargins.” Her emphasis was on how “character [is] projected through the discourse” in not just film but in digital technology as well. She asserted that multimedia projects character using formal discourse, sound, and image. This realization can enrich students’ lives when they learn to interrogate film and see it as a collaborative act that becomes a single ethos. As students they are subject to the effects of the construction, and if they understand this, they may become better citizens, thinkers, and consumers. Keller’s project asked students to view the foreign film, “Raise the Red Lantern.” Keller proposed that the distance of the foreign film better enabled them to critique the persuasive strategies at work within the genre. (I now find Keller’s idea to use foreign film to distance students contradictory to Jobe’s culture centered idea.)

Unfortunately, this presentation was interrupted by an annoying noise (like a roto-rooter in the ceiling) and ruined the end of the presentation.

Rhonda Kinsel read for the absent Benjamin Harris from the University of Oklahoma. His presentation commented on how three years ago there was only one presentation at the C’s about visual literacy. Now, many are speaking and publishing on the topic revealing an acceptance of visual literacy as part of the BIG picture of literacy— or a “hyper” literacy where the audience must decode multiple forms in order to engage with the text of the media. Harris’ work is in political ads. (I could not help but think that with the upcoming election, conversation about political advertising is more than worthwhile especially when considering ethos as Keller described.) The political ads tell us about US culture and are situated in and transmit history. By examining the ads, Harris looks for students to better examine their own work.

The questions and answer session turned into a defense for using the movie, Moulin Rouge. However, after leaving this session, I began thinking about the idea of where does reading enter this picture? (I am continually convinced that many of our students are poor readers hence poor writers.) Then I thought of fragmentation. As we read, our thought process becomes bombarded with similar fragments, although not as graphic, as those mentioned within the presentation. Fragments such as those from experience, knowledge, ideas, our self, and other pictures in the mind are present as we read written text on the page. Then, I wondered, is this how we reconcile using film in the classroom as opposed to written text? Has reading become left to our imagination as we try to define what we see in moving graphic images and hear in thirty-second sound bites?

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