Mapping Burroughs’s Junky


While Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957) is usually remembered as the quintessential American road novel, the slightly earlier debut novel of Kerouac’s friend and fellow Beat William S. Burroughs, Junky (1953), is equally expansive in its exploration of the North American continent. Kerouac’s roman à clef—first mapped by the author himself–ends in what Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari call a “return to the native land” (133): the protagonist Sal Paradise goes to live with … Continue reading

H. Rider Haggard’s Adventure Novel and Multimodal Composition


One of the challenges of teaching literature in a multimodal communication course is to keep students focused on the task at hand—becoming effective communicators—while also teaching the literary work as an artifact with all its history, cultural significance, and metaphorical complexities.  While I think nearly any cultural artifact from an ancient drum to a Romantic painting to a Dan O’Brien poem could be useful in a multimodal communication course, some artifacts are perhaps more naturally … Continue reading

“There is No Delight and No Mathematics”: Teaching the Multimodal Avant-garde

A portion of Jenny Holzer's "Inflammatory Essays." Photograph by Damian Entwhistle, via a Creative Commons license. Original image available at

Before coming to Georgia Tech, my approach to teaching writing and communication through fictional work could be summed up like this: students will learn how to analyze novels and short stories and then write arguments explaining their analysis. They will support those arguments by close reading passages and quoting academic articles they find on JSTOR or Project MUSE. Sound familiar? This semester, I tried a different approach in my English 1102 class, “What is an … Continue reading

Teaching Composition with Interactive Fiction, Part Three

In two earlier posts in this series, I gave an overview of why I use interactive fiction games in my composition classes, and described an “easy way” to do this: that is, using these games as “the reading” for a course unit.  If you’re just joining us and you want to get a quick idea of what interactive fiction (or “IF”) is, the fastest way might be to go here and play a tutorial game … Continue reading

Teaching Composition with Interactive Fiction, Part Two

Plotkin's tutorial game

In an earlier post, I explained why I think interactive fiction (IF) computer games can drive valuable experiments in the multimodal composition classroom.  You can check out Part One for an overview of what IF is and what I think it can do for students.  In the present post, I’ll lay out a few more specific suggestions and resources for teachers thinking of exploring this rich genre. Using Interactive Fiction in Your Classroom, the Easy … Continue reading

Teaching Composition with Interactive Fiction

Note, in this excerpt from Plotkin's tutorial game, how the player-character and the narrative voice take turns typing to each other.

Regular readers of TECHStyle may remember my mentioning, back in September, my plans to use interactive fiction (“IF”) computer games in my multimodal composition classes.  After two semesters of teaching students to read, play, and write IF games, I can say that the experiment was mostly a success.  While we faced a few frustrations (largely coding-related) along the way, we ended up gaining some invaluable rhetorical perspectives and practices, and producing a number of fun, … Continue reading

Infinite 1102: A Collective Romp Through Infinite Jest, Part I


  1079 pages. 388 footnotes.  2 lbs 10 oz (and that’s the paperback). David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest is nothing if not formidable. It languishes on many a “to-read” shelf alongside Joyce’s Ulysses and Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. Despite its intimidation factor, Infinite Jest can be a pretty accessible read, and it is absolutely a rewarding one. Infinite Jest deftly critiques politics, entertainment, cavalier abuse of the environment, and the advertising industry; hauntingly captures the nature (and process) of … Continue reading

“Tech Gets Medieval” and Other Ways We Teach the Past

Tech Gets Medieval graphic

For many instructors, teaching about the past can be problematic, especially to Georgia Tech students who may have little interest in any time period that predates their existence, or who may have the interest, but don’t see how such topics can aid them in their pursuit of a STEM degree. While this article focuses on my specialty, the medieval era (roughly 500AD-1500AD), this issue is pertinent to anyone who teaches an historical period. To that … Continue reading

Disciplinary Boundaries and the Multimodal Classroom

Disciplinary Boundaries and the Multimodal Classroom: Professional Resistance in English Departments Three key themes: 1. The Multimodal Classroom: Digital Pedagogy (Michelle DiMeo) 2. Interdisciplinary Research and the Job Market (Chris Weedman) 3. Navigating the Disciplinary Minefield: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Composition (Kate Tanski) 1. The Multimodal Classroom How do we articulate the benefits of a multimodal curriculum to those who are resistant to such change? “Extending the Conversation” offers a … Continue reading

Multimedia and the Middle Ages

Before introducing any new strategy in the classroom, whether it involves technology or not, I think we must always ask ourselves: what is the pedagogical imperative?  After all, just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should.  So, I’ll start by trying to answer the question: what can multimedia resources, particularly digital or new media, provide that texts alone cannot? Why use multimedia in the medieval literature classroom? One answer stems from my belief … Continue reading