For example, research narrators may find it difficult to speak about The Great Depression outside the dominant narratives of particular histories—we all stuck it out together. Everyone struggled, that is for certain, but research participants remembered their struggle through a lens of the present, which could include a persistent blindness to racial inequalities.
How could we include such blindness in a respectful way, not just to the participant but also to human groups marginalized within the narrative? Grounding our study of narrative structure in oral stories, which we had the luxury of witnessing in composition in real time, students gained a more humanized and contextualized understanding of how to structure narratives. Creative writers are tasked with, according to Hirsch and Dixon, constructing realist contexts in which particular human thoughts can believably exist.
Students gathered information as a part of their interviews, which meant they needed to cultivate an ethos as researcher as well as writer, and all in real time as they navigated unique interview situations. The stakes were higher for them, perhaps, than other writing workshop classes given that all the profile pieces would be published and distributed to an external, non-academic audience, not to mention the responsibility of representing the lives of research participants they had grown to know over time.
Phillip Snelson, the research participant, had mentioned in the telling of another story that his father committed suicide.
Snelson was proud of his mother and she was the story he wished to tell. The student wanted to return to Snelson for another interview so that he could probe into this untold story, but I cautioned him to respect the boundary Snelson had created around this tragic event.
Clearly Snelson had grown to trust the student by sharing this information. He had not, after all, shared the suicide with me when another student and I had interviewed him. Ultimately, what would knowing more about this story reveal about this place, and who would this knowledge serve? The student did return to Snelson and he inquired again, with subtlety he said, about his father. The ethics required of the researcher echoes the ethics of any other nonfiction writer in deciding what to tell, how to tell it, and questioning the need for why the story needs to be told in the first place.
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In his work on the dialogic nature of oral history, Ronald Grele draws careful attention to the rhetorical situation of writers speaking through a historian in an effort to package narratives for an external audience. This intellectual process rests heavily in the revision phase where conversations about creative license and ethical representation emerged in our class. But also, this was a time to analyze participant stories in terms of their absences and minimization of differently situated individuals, often due to gender, race, and social class.
And that was sort of a struggle for a while. And the blacks came down, but instead of running each other off, we got to know each other. We started playing together. Albert Fortune offered a counternarrative related to racial segregation in West Asheville. We had a cluster of black families who lived in an area. It was a warm and friendly community, but not for everyone. Fortune credits serving in the military as influential in building racial tolerance into white identity. The guys and a few gals who had gone to war, when they came back home, they were no longer parochial.
They were more ambitious, more tolerant of other people.
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The segregation problem boiled to a head pretty soon after the end of the war. There were kids at Asheville High who were impatient to make things happen faster than they could. In the subjective process of remembering and narrating stories, history can sound more progressive than it was and blind spots exist, which can be particularly true for white research participants as they talk about other racial groups.
Inflation of relationships with people of color functions as self-preservation, according to critical discourse analyst Teun van Dijk. Whether they preach or teach, they have a pastor. Then they let the fellowship hall. Perhaps unintentionally, she also created the appearance of racial homogeneity within her religious group. This student, a creative writing major from the northeast who moved to our mountain community late in high school, questioned the impact of such a discourse.
During class she asked her colleagues if we could list other rhetorical strategies that created this type of otherness, and this invited critical conversations about embedded bias and the responsibility we had as writers to represent even, challenge historical silences related to racism within the narrative structure and storytelling of our participants.
At the close of the semester, just as some students were walking across the stage accepting diplomas, I read in the newspaper that one of our research participants had died. Albert Fortune, our eldest participant, was a masterful storyteller and sharp historian. It is high dollar real estate these days, having benefited handsomely from the gentrification the area has experienced in the past twenty years. Most of our research participants expressed surprise at first and, often, gratitude later that they were invited to share their stories, to dig around in their memories and attempt to process them in the company of university students and creative writers.
It is this—the interrelationship between individual and collective narratives and their influence on self-perception and how we view others—that oral history brings to creative writing pedagogy. Not only does oral history research help students to get out of their heads and out into their community, to use their agency and writing abilities to document real lives that have been, perhaps, marginalized in the remembering of history. But also, oral history engages students in an embodied research process that makes lessons of audience awareness far more real than any other exercise could and arms students with practical life skills, such as interpersonal relationship building and ethical practices of representation.
We did all this while maintaining a rigorous commitment to practice and the creative process. After we completed our interviews, students began writing their profiles pieces, some of them opting to focus on place, others on people, and others crafting more literary journalist style stories related to environmentalism or religious communities. In , the journal was reimagined as a yearly collection of scholarly essays, again primarily by UT faculty. In , Texas Studies in Literature and Language took its current name and became a quarterly publication with a broader scholarly purview not limited to a specific time period or genre.
From until , publication was supported by funds from the offices of the Dean of Graduate Study and Dean of Arts and Sciences, as well as the University of Texas Press. In , UT Press took publishing control of the journal, which it retains. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages. Ian Hancock was the founding editor of Journal of Creole Studies , the first journal in the discipline of creolistics. It was superseded by the Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages , which Hancock also helped to found.
Currents in Electronic Literacy. Currents in Electronic Literacy was founded in as a forum for the scholarly discussion of electronic literacy.
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GLQ offers queer perspectives on issues touching on sex and sexuality and publishes scholarship and commentary in areas as diverse as law, science studies, religion, political science, and literary studies. Ann Cvetkovich co-edited the journal from Studies in American Indian Literatures. Multiliteracies, including digital literacy, are not yet standard pedagogical aims; we cannot expect our students to enter our classrooms possessing the necessary literacies to construct digital fiction in the same way we can for prose fiction.
Even moreso, instructors are unlikely to possess these multiliteracies as a rule.
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I once had a workshop leader preclude science fiction submissions in her class—not necessarily because she looked down on the genre, but because, in her argument, she was not familiar enough with it to be able to comment on it or mark it. For teaching digital fiction, the problem is multiplied by the fact that not only may the instructors feel inadequate to teach it Clancy, , their students are unlikely to have much familiarity with it, either.
With administrative pressures such as student evaluations, external examiners, Teaching Excellence Framework TEF and the National Student Survey NSS in the UK, university instructors are understandably reluctant to embark on a situation wherein the blind may be leading the blind, as it were.
Yet the numerous instances where digital storytelling and other multimodal methods have been employed in classrooms Ryan et al. In the area of digital fiction, particularly, given the form has not yet significantly entered the mainstream, students are generally largely unfamiliar with it. Thus the good news: our students are unlikely to enter our digital writing classrooms knowing more than we do about digital fiction. If we are to implement a multiliteracies approach in creative writing workshops, incorporating digital fiction and writing, then mitigating approaches to close the gaps in instructor and student knowledge are required.
The first of these is the multiliteracies approach itself: by embracing a teaching model that is open, flexible, and iterative, the classroom becomes a cooperative teaching and learning space. The instructor is not expected to be a pinnacle of knowledge; rather, they serve as a guide and mentor for the student to develop that knowledge through their own activities Cope and Kalantzis, ; Letter, The process of learning the technology for creative purposes teaches critical problem-solving skills, develops the task-switching required for working in digital environments, and can even serve as a form of artistic restraint, inspiring new directions for their work Letter, What is required of the digital writing instructor, then, is not extensive knowledge of digital fiction softwares, but rather to serve a more Miyagi-like role: to ask analytical questions and pose creative challenges that encourage the students think more deeply about their work and approach it from relevant and fresh perspectives Ryan et al.
A first-person example: as a graduate teaching assistant in a media department, I was chosen to lead workshops on digital media modules merely because I had audited them the previous year; I barely managed to keep a week ahead of my students in terms of the skills I was teaching. I spent many unpaid hours chasing down these issues, feeling inadequate and frustrated.
In contrast, in my most recent Playable Fiction module, many of my students integrated elements into their digital fictions that I still have no idea how to do, and spent no time in learning.
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Instead, I created an expectation that their works only had to have the bare basics of digital fiction hyperlinks ; further functionality was via their own skills and intrepitude. As a result, they googled and followed tutorials and tested things out and shared amongst themselves. These students gained far greater abilities than my earlier students did, not only with the softwares, but also in problem-solving and cooperation.
Outside of the spheres of instructor and student literacies, a further constraint on the digital writing workshop remains: university infrastructure. As discussed above, digital fiction is intangible, evanescent, and appears in a wide array of forms, under just as many nomenclatures. Digital writers use any and every software platform available to them, from expensive professional creative suites to ubiquitous programs like PowerPoint.
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It is a form that cannot yet be cataloged and accessed via a library: as most is not commercial, it cannot be purchased; likewise, without commercial publishing streams, digital fiction is dispersed throughout the web, with no central distribution hub. Without these centralizing forces, digital fiction is difficult to track and archive: there is, as yet, no cataloging system such as ISBNs, and continually updating digital technology renders many works unreadable in devastatingly short periods.
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Currently, the onus is on each individual instructor to construct and maintain an active reading list of digital fictions for students to engage with suggestions for doing so are below. As for platforms to use for creating digital fiction, these also have a quality of evanescence, depending on their cost, uptake, and, most importantly, continued development and support. Many that I employed in my digital media modules in the last few years have come and gone. On the upside, developers are continually introducing new platforms that make content creation ever cheaper usually free and ever easier; on the downside, technology is moving swifter than ever, as are user trends and habits.
Even if a tech or platform remains, often our students perceive it as outdated and uninteresting see their shift away from Facebook toward Instagram and SnapChat—which, by the time this article publishes, will likely be antiquated.
Again, the onus is unfortunately on the individual instructor to find a platform that works best for their aims and students, and to seek out new ones on a regular basis again, suggestions are below. In this section, I outline the digital fiction workshop that I teach regularly, offering it as a model though not the model; many iterations are possible, of course.
The structure of the module and its assessments are predicated upon this latter purpose. Playable Fiction is a week taught undergraduate module, taught in the spring semester of even-numbered years. Creative readings include Twine games, hypertexts, interactive fiction, and print ergodic texts e. Students complete weekly activities based on critical discussion questions and writing exercises, directed toward completion of their three assessments, and record them in research logs Evernote notebooks shared with the instructor.
I have covered the history of this program elsewhere Ensslin and Skains, ; the short version is that Chris Klimas created it expressly to compose digital fiction—unlike many other platforms that were appropriated from multimedia authoring tools—and indie game developer Anna Anthropy embraced it and promoted it Rather than letting it fade away into obscurity as he nearly did , Klimas released Twine 2.