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The first assignment was something of a slow lob, a personal narrative piece, which proved to be well within the comfort zone for the entire class. A couple of heads are now down, belonging to students who are, presumably, rereading the assignment sheet. I ask the class if anybody has any ideas about how we might deal with three different readings, other than comparing and contrasting them. "You all read Auster's, Wideman's, and Rich's essays. One text `talking' to the other." "So you're saying we can't compare them," the compare/contrast student tries again. They are to write the panelist's name, followed by a colon, followed by his or her words. I give them approximately thirty minutes in class to work on their dialogues.The second assignment was more challenging: a textual analysis of an essay by Richard Rodriguez drawing on the ideas of David Bartholomae and Anthony Petrosky in their introduction to the anthology Ways of Reading. Here is what it says: For your third assignment, frame a discussion of Paul Auster's essay "Portrait of an Invisible Man" and John Edgar Wideman's "Our Time" using the terms and ideas of Adrienne Rich as they appear in her essay "When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision." We have spent the better part of the last two weeks reading and discussing these three selections from Ways of Reading. I remind them that they worked with two readings in their last assignment. And we've had some great discussions about each of them. "You can, but I think what I'm asking you to do is more interesting. To my surprise, the entire class gets busy writing, and it is not until I tell them that time is up that they stop.Nancy asserts in her introductory paragraph that "Paul Auster and John Edgar Wideman are using their writings to act out Rich's definition of re-vision to persuade readers to believe that their writings are based on actual facts instead of a make-believe fairy tale." This concept of using revision to separate fact from fiction presented itself to Nancy in her dialogue exercise.
The next week I'm impressed by the dialogues that I receive.
Here is an excerpt from one student, Parker: Auster: For me, when writing of my father, I found it very difficult to look back on past events with new eyes. But, ironically, it was that resistance to look back that finally led me to re-vision my relationship with my father.
I revisited my father's past with an open mind; I just did not happen to have my point of view changed by this revision.
Although his speeches go on a little too long, Peter's dialogue demonstrates his ability to use Rich's text to comment on Wideman's and Auster's texts.
Another student, Peter, discovers dissonance between two texts in the following excerpt: Rich: I was very impressed when I read John's essay "Our Time." In my essay "When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision," I state that "until we can understand the assumptions in which we are drenched we cannot know ourselves" (604).
John recognizes his prejudice towards his brother, he casts it aside, and ends up discovering a new side to his brother. I believe that Paul is unable to recognize and therefore dispose of his previous conceptions of his father.In other words, teaching composition would be my day job.If someone had told me then that my work as a dramatist would be invaluable to my composition teaching repertoire, I would not have believed her.When I began teaching my first freshman composition class at Rutgers University, I had already compartmentalized my graduate studies into two categories: my playwriting toolbox and my composition toolbox.I told myself that my composition skills would pay the bills so that I could pursue my playwriting ambitions in my spare time.Her draft begins: What exactly does the word revision mean to a writer? When studying the works of Paul Auster and John Edgar Wideman, one can see how they use many of the same principles of revision to help them in their writing process.This is the question Adrienne Rich tries to answer in her essay "When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision." If the word revision were broken down into two parts, it would look like re-vision. Auster is making an attempt to describe the man his father was, but uses many of these steps of re-vision while making his discoveries.The two genres are complementary in their use of multiple perspectives. In the process of analyzing play scripts, I talk with my students about the function of dialogue in a play.And I also explain that when I write plays, I often begin with dialogue as a means of getting started. Even if I did not use plays as texts in the classroom, I would draw upon my knowledge as a playwright in helping my students to interact with reading selections as a means of complicating their arguments. Here is how another student, Alicia, develops an essay from her dialogue.We're five weeks into the semester, and things are heating up. The distinguished members of your panel include Adrienne Rich, Paul Auster, and John Edgar Wideman.I just handed out the assignment sheet for the third essay. Construct an imagined dialogue among the four `voices' (the three essayists plus you) on the topic of writing as `re-vision.'" I explain that I want them to format the dialogue as though it were a script.