• Raul Palma

Re: To Reconsider, Review, Reexamine, Reassess, Reevaluate, Reappraise, Rethink: Riffing on Nick Whi


The term multimodal is problematic. We need some context.

How's Aristotle—mimesis (representation) / diegesis (telling)—as a starting point?

Draft #1: I was given an insulin pump, which is basically a mechanical pancreas in the form of a mid-1990s pager. It attaches to a port on my abdomen and, aside from being useful in managing the levels of sugar in my blood, seriously compromises my ability to tuck in a shirttail (White).

Choose your own adventure:

If it's not already multimodal, then which mode is it?

Mimesis? Diegesis?


The mulitmodal workshop's potential for disorientation would be good in the creative writing classroom. Disorientation can be good, right (Sound and the Fury, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Ceremony, City of Night)? Various modes of discourse, when combined, create this.

Draft #1: I was diagnosed with autism in Kindergarten—diagnosed by a teacher who wasn't qualified to diagnose. She made me use this torture-box pencil contraption: an aluminum glove with an automatic pencil attached to the fingertips. It was supposed to force me to write the proper way, but I hated that thing, hated the way my peers looked at me when I'd use it. And I'd shift my fingers—pencil resting on the tips of my fingers, my thumb the counter-force—which gradually warped the aluminum. I'd warp that fucking aluminum, even if it irritated my skin, cut me. Warped it again and again, until my parents said enough was enough. Now I write shit like this.

In Hannah Arendt's book The Human Condition, she writes, "Whatever touches or enters into a sustained relationship with human life immediately assumes the character of a condition of human existence" (9). Is she talking about your insulin pump or my memory with that torture-box pencil?

A text is a body; a body is a text.

In Draft #1: Your body; my hand. These wounds.

The semi-colon makes that look sexual, no?

"And here we encounter the specific danger inherent in the novelistic zone of contact: we ourselves may enter the novel" (32). This quote is from Bakhtin's The Dialogic Imagination in which he discusses the novel's ability to rupture tradition and bring something new into the world. Maybe sexuality is precisely what multimodal pedagogy is all about--a discourse of sexuality?


If we're going to have a serious discussion about modes,

we'll need to begin with a form ( a body)? Is that right?

Can we conceptualize a mode without first conceiving of a form?

We're doing the novel. I hope that's clear.

I'm doing the novel. I hope that is clear.

I should probably say it one more time. The novel. The novel.

Example #1: if we consider the novel (form) and realism (mode) aren't we also affiliating the periodization of realism with its counterpoint--the dialectic of its mimesis/diegesis: ideal/real, defined/undefined? And what does this all have to do with form?

In David A. Hollinger's Postethnic America, he posits that the ethno-racial pentagon has "symbolically erased much of the cultural diversity within the Euro-American bloc"

the Irish and English are indistinguishable under it (25). I wonder in what way the term "multimodal" erases modes? Perhaps "erases" is too violent of a word. Buries? Erases.

While the term multimodal certainly draws attention to the creative process's cannibalistic nature—to consume and recast a multitude of methods, mediums, texts, languages—it also creates a rupture between a pre-digital era and our contemporary moment. Is that warranted?

Example #1: If we consider the novel, its tendency to appropriate and recast modes, both visual and textual (blogs, illustrations, transcripts, diaries, lists, outlines, drama, and so on), then it's possible all this multimodal talk is exocitizing what is perhaps an organic process, something akin to the adaptive rhythms of the human condition. Anybody read Americanah lately?


A mode, if it claims any tradition whatsoever, contains a multiplicity of modes within it. Any serious discussion on modes will look beyond the binary of a mode's essence and generality. A mode is not a lens from which to read a text, though that certainly happens. A mode is not a guide through which to write a text, though that happens too. And these efficient methods of incorporating modes seem oddly technological, artificial.


Revisiting the pitch and some final thoughts:

While certainly useful, purely craft-based pedagogy can privilege the theories of producing creative work, rather than the multiple modes in which creativity can flourish

(Exactly. Craft-based pedagogy, Systemization, Classification, Knowing, Naming: This is the opposite of creativity. And yet we cannot deny that a tradition of modes is enmeshed in the way we read and produce texts. Is it possible to begin writing outside the scope of craft? Maybe. I do wonder to what degree beginning creative writers have been exposed to this instruction: as readers perhaps. But its allure—its formulaic answers—are seductive.)

The multimodal workshop de-centers craft-based pedagogy by asking students to extend their work beyond the traditional page

(Writing on paper is already a kind of novelty: many student writers work on screens. Looking beyond the page becomes a question of intertextuality. So I also wonder how assignments geared toward intertextuality might offer creative writers an opportunity to reconsider and revise).

In this panel, instructors discuss how they include visual, audio, and tactile texts in their teaching as well as share practical methodologies for cultivating interdisciplinary projects.

(The digital page already exists in a sea of digital media. Interdisciplinary projects are key because this is where students must navigate only mildly charted waters: how to bridge the traditions in creative writing with an un-nameable point outside of its set—and not a point in a two-dimensional plane, but rather a point that is buried in all kinds of personal, cultural, and oppressive worlds. Debris that is so hard and congealed that craft has no way of exhuming it).

Works Cited

Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998. Print.

Bakhtin, M. M. The Dialogic Imagination. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist.

Ed. Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981. Print.

Hollinger, David A. Postethnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism. New York: Perseus Books,

2006. Print.

White, Nick. "To Reconsider, Review, Reexamine, Reassess, Reevaluate, Reappraise, Rethink:

Some Short Drafts on Workshop, Digital Media, and Revision." Watershed: An

Independent Blog of Critical Theory by Graduate Students of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 6 Oct. 2015. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.

#raulpalma #revision #pedagogy #creativewriting #multimodality #nickwhite #aristotle #hannaharendt