Letter from a New York City Jail: Reacting to the Past in First-year Composition

When my student Patrice was arrested, I was amused. We were in my English 1101 seminar, “Romantic Revolutions,” and Patrice had been assigned the role of an indebted farmer in 1770s New York. My class was using Patriots, Loyalists & Revolution in New York City, 1775-76 to revive the independence… Continue reading

Against Argument; or, 25 Notes Toward a Descriptive Pedagogy by Way of Stephen King and Jacques Rancière

  1) Twitter can be a pretty disingenuous place. The tricky thing is that to call attention to any one tweet, however atrocious, risks making a mountain out of a molehill. But as a teacher of writing, literature, and communication, I’ve found myself returning again and again to one particular… Continue reading

How Poetry Saved My Pedagogy

Most of my students did not like poetry. I don’t remember what prompted the realization—probably something banal like analyzing a poem by Dickinson, Keats, or Frost—but I remember the crushing sensation of disappointment and dismay, even despair, that settled over me. Many of them actively disliked it, a few of… Continue reading

Things To Do in Wivenhoe; Or, So Going Around “The Basketball Diaries”: A New York School Travelogue

“Wake up high up / frame bent & turned on,” begins Ted Berrigan’s iconic “Things to Do in New York (City),” a lyric list poem that shows Berrigan moving through the literary landscape of the city in timeless style. Berrigan was fond of this genre, also writing poems like “Things… Continue reading

Teaching in All Seasons: Poetics, Ideal Tendencies, and Food Literacy

SUMMER   “Once I remember looking into the freezer can the next morning and finding the leftover ice cream had all returned to milk. It was like the disappearance of Cinderella’s new clothes.” (Lewis 53) Midway through my Spring composition course, “Food Literacy of Atlanta,” my students and I had… Continue reading

Sonnets @ Tech: The Pedagogy of Writing as Making

When modernist poet William Carlos Williams antagonistically announced, “To me all sonnets say the same thing of no importance. What does it matter what the line ‘says’?”, I wonder whether or not he’d approve of poet and punk rock singer Matt Hart playfully directing students to arrange and rearrange pieces… Continue reading

Teaching with Twitter: Social Media in the Composition Classroom

When I mention that I use Twitter in my first-year writing courses, I am often met with both intrigue and skepticism by students and faculty alike. If writing courses are supposed to be focused on nuanced thinking, careful research, and rhetorically sophisticated arguments, what can students possibly learn from writing… Continue reading

Bodies and Body Language: How Poetry Can Teach Us to Communicate

Bodies, a personal yet strangely distant subject matter for most students to discuss, provide a ripe lens through which to hone the skills that composition classrooms aim to foster. As mediums of communication, bodies afford us multiple ways to express ourselves: through gestures, facial expressions, vocal tone, and body language… Continue reading

Putting Lux in the Darkness: Remembering Poet and Professor Thomas Lux

Editor’s Note: When I first had the idea to teach an English 1102 course about the The New Yorker magazine, I had hoped that Thomas Lux, who has published five poems in the magazine, would come speak to my students. Vijay Seshadri, former editor at The New Yorker and frequent contributor to the… Continue reading

The Doubleplusgoodspeak of Newspeak: Poetry and Orwell’s 1984

Two days after President Trump’s inauguration, on January 22, 2017, the newly-minted Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press with Chuck Todd. She discussed White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s first press briefing the night before, in which he claimed, despite the existence of much… Continue reading