What makes a body

“[I]f we want to truly understand embodied writing, perhaps what we need to most closely study are not ideal, complete texts, but the messy and recursive process of composing as we break our ideas apart through language. We need to see a polysemous writing process as that which allows for meaning to be made” –  Jay Dolmage from “Writing against normal” in Composing Media Composing Embodiment

…and we’ll diffract Dolmage’s quote on embodied writing through second language pedagogy and new materialism. If embodied writing gives greater attention to messy and recursive processes of writing, there is some space opened up for second language learners in the writing classroom, who are sometimes bodily marked as ESL whose final writing product is seen as deficient or incorrect. If the myth of a normative end product is taken away, and the process where differing happens is valued as writing, then second language learners become just as validated in the second language classroom, as do the material conditions for writing, as Dolmage points out. The kind of scholarship that Dolmage is undertaking easily lends itself to new materialist ways of thought, where meaning is made through the intra-action of objects, humans, thoughts, processes, etc. To be able to do this kind of work, as Brian Massumi says, “you have to start in the middle.”

What do you think? Does embodied writing, as Dolmage describes, open doors for further legitimization of second language writing? What other meanings can be made through Dolmage’s research method?


4 thoughts on “What makes a body

  1. Absolutely Jack! I think that embodiment research forces us to think about the writing process and the physical actions we engage in when writing. It makes writing more than a linguistic or cognitive activity. When it comes to teaching second language writing, students already struggle with the linguistic element of writing due to their language learning, so to provide opportunities for them to engage with all the other semiotic resources available to them when writing could help them not only feel more comfortable writing in that new language, but also help their cognitive insight that is needed for their writing. It definitely makes us as English teachers move beyond product to understanding and placing more value on process! 🙂

  2. Nice connection here. Yes, I think there’s some obvious ways to relate what Dolmage is saying about embodiment to second language writing and teaching. If we think about the ways in which nativism/monolingualism is embodied and becomes normative in western cultures, we can ask L2 students to challenge some of those embodiments through their own experiences, AND we can begin to value differed embodied experiences and make room for those in the classroom.

  3. I really enjoyed reading your post here, Jack — thanks for it! I think we might even need to go further than this. If we could reframe the work of second language learners in the composition classroom (or any composition, really) as evidence not of deficiency, but an even more stocked toolbox from which to draw strategies/vocabulary/experiences it would flip (or disintegrate) the normative nativism/monolingualism so prevalent in academia.

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