When I started at Georgia State University in the Fall of 2011, I was enrolled as an art major with a concentration in graphic design. After a semester of painfully uninteresting introductory art courses and research into the competitive graphic design job market, I decided that I needed to choose a major with more marketability, but that still afforded me a creative outlet. I changed my major to film and then to journalism, but was satisfied with neither. I spent the better part of two years unsure of how best to spend my time in college, but I had always made a point to enroll in at least one English class each semester. It was not until I took History, Theory, and Practice of Expository Writing with Dr. Burmester that I began to consider majoring in English. In the class, we spent a week studying travel writing. Not only did this spark my interest in traveling, but it also introduced me to such a wide range of possibilities that I had not seen in my other areas of study. I changed my major to English with a concentration in Rhetoric and Composition that week and have not once questioned my decision. Since changing my major to English, I have grown tremendously as a writer, and have become a more well-rounded person.
In English 1102 and some of the preliminary literature courses that I took, the audience I envisioned was limited to a specific professor, and my writing process for each assignment was strictly based on the requirements laid out in his or her syllabus. Such an approach to creating texts was restricting, and I often found myself writing essays on topics in which I had little or no interest simply to fill said requirements. This led me to stretch ideas into loosely connected, poorly constructed, sometimes even illogical essays. The first Rhetoric and Composition course that I took, English 3090 History, Theory, and Practice of Expository Writing, was pivotal for me. In English 3090, taken with Dr. Burmester during Spring semester of 2013, I was encouraged to develop my own unique voice while improving my writing skills. I learned to write for myself and to hold the texts I create to high standards. This approach forces me to write with more purpose than I previously had, and typically leads to more well-researched essays; more thought-out, and interesting ideas; stronger, and more passionate arguments; and texts that I can be truly proud of. Learning to personalize assignments in order to create successful and meaningful texts has helped me produce some of my favorite projects, many of which have been included in my portfolio.
Not only has my approach to writing changed drastically since taking my first Rhetoric and Composition course, but my understanding of “composition” and “literacy” has also become more mature. In English 3100 History, Theory, and Practice of Composition Studies, taken with Professor Smith-Sitton during Fall semester of 2014, we were asked to define composition and literacy, which I thought to mean writing effectively and one’s ability to read and write, respectively. Over the course of the semester, I read four essays (Ann Gere’s “Kitchen Tables and Rented Rooms: The Extracurriculum of Composition,” Tom Fox’s “From Freedom to Manners: African American Literacy Instruction in the 19th Century,” Beverly Moss’ “Literacy in African-American Churches: A Conversation Between the Academy and the Church Begins,” and Cynthia Selfe’s “Technology and Literacy: A Story about the Perils of Not Paying Attention”) that focused on defining composition and literacy, looking at how and where they are learned, and even examining the social and political implications of literacy. I was particularly fascinated—shocked, even—by the literacy debates presented in Selfe’s essay. Selfe addresses the increasing gap between those who we consider “literate” and those who we consider “illiterate,” made worse by the Clinton-Gore administration’s project to promote “technological literacy,” and she inspires readers to think carefully about how we define literacy. She also encourages readers to “resist the tendential forces that continue to link technological literacy with patterns of racism and poverty” and “to insist on and support more equitable distributions on technology.” Through my readings in English 3100 have learned that “literacy” is a quite complicated issue and encompasses far more than the just ability to read and write.
English 3100 is also the course in which I produced my most significant text, “Using Comics to Teach English Composition to Japanese Students.” For this assignment, I created a series of lesson plans, which focused on using the comics medium to teach English as a foreign language, by applying several theories of composition and pedagogical practices that I learned over the course of the semester. I also found a number of outside sources to reinforce my reasoning for using comics as opposed to a different medium when teaching English as a foreign language. Not only was the research portion of this project informative, but I also gained experience creating worksheets and writing lesson plans. This text is of particular importance to me because it is extremely practical and relevant to my career goals.
Another text that was significant to me was “Dickens’ Influence on Twin Peaks,” which was written for English 4100 Study of a Single Author (Dickens) during Spring semester of 2014. Although English 4100 is not a Rhetoric and Composition course, Dr. Galchinsky provided me with some very useful editing and revision strategies. For each major essay we wrote in the class, we would receive peer reviews or comments from Dr. Galchinsky after the initial deadline, and then have the option to revise our essays for an updated grade. While the comments were often helpful, what was most valuable to me was being able to spend several days away from a project, and then returning to it with new perspective. This allowed me to read my own essays more objectively and, in the case of “Dickens’ Influence on Twin Peaks,” lead to the removal of entire paragraphs and the expansion of others to create a significantly stronger text. When I compose texts now, I try to allow myself time away before revisiting them.
The editing and revision strategies I have gained are not used only for school related projects. I am currently an editorial intern at the Center for Pan Asian Community Services (CPACS), where I am able to apply to skills I learned in English 3105 Practical Grammar, and English 3140 Editing. The first project I undertook at CPACS was to reformat several hundred pages of medical policies and procedures. For this project I was able to use the skills I have gained working as a layout and design editor on an editorial team in English 3140. This project required that I create a style sheet to ensure that each document was uniform. I was also responsible for fixing small grammatical and spelling errors. I have since taken on a project with the head of CPACS’s research department editing chapters for a collection of essays about gender equality in Asian American churches that she will compile into an anthology. This project utilizes copyediting and line editing strategies I learned in English 3140 and well as knowledge of standard English grammar gained from English 3105. I have also been able to apply other editing strategies such as providing queries for the authors, and using digital editing techniques like Microsoft Word’s track changes function.
In the coming years, I plan to use my English degree to teach in Japan. The theories I learned in History, Theory, and Practice of Composition Studies will certainly contribute to my success in Japan, specifically the ones that suggest an instructor place more emphasis on the content of a student’s work than the grammatical correctness. While conducting research for “Using Comics to Teach English Composition to Japanese Students,” I interviewed a former JET participant. He, too, promoted reading for content rather than grammar, claiming how important it was to correct a student’s work in a way that was not overwhelming. Although I believe it should be secondary to content, a strong understanding of the grammatical structures of the English language, which I studied most extensively in Practical Grammar, will be also indispensable during my time abroad. After returning from Japan I will pursue a career in technical writing or copyediting. I feel that my course work from Practical Grammar and Editing have most prepared me for a career in this field, but Business Writing has also provided me with valuable information about communicating effectively in a professional setting. With my graduation date only a few months away, I am excited to see where exactly my English degree will take me.
Tekkonkinkreet: Taiyo Matsumoto on the Sublime
ENGL 3050 Introduction to Rhetoric and Composition
Tekkonkinkreet: Taiyo Matsumoto on the Sublime (Revised)
ENGL 3105 Practical Grammar
In this essay I discuss the relationship between Longinus’ treatise On the Sublime and Taiyo Matsumoto’s Tekkonkinkreet. The goal of this assignment was to argue how a text is sublime “using the grounds that it both represents the definition as provided by Longinus, and meets the criteria spelled out by Longinus.” From this assignment, I gained valuable critical thinking skills as well as knowledge of classical rhetorical theories.
I also used this essay for an assignment in ENGL 3105 Practical Grammar. The goal of this assignment was to revise an essay from a previous class for errors in grammar as well as in content and structure. This assignment allowed me to apply the knowledge gained from ENGL 3105 to a previously unrefined essay.
Adventure in Asheville
ENGL 3090 History, Theory, and Practice of Expository Writing
In this expository essay, I recount the details of a trip to Asheville, North Carolina. The goal of this assignment was to write a travel essay. In my essay, I tried to include as much detail as possible, which was a great exercise in travel writing and helpful in practicing mindfulness.
Using Comics to Teach English Composition to Japanese Students
ENGL 3100 History, Theory, and Practice of Composition Studies
In this research project I developed a lesson plan that utilizes comics to teach English composition to Japanese students. For this project, I drew on pedagogical theories anthologized in The Norton Book of Composition Studies in addition to outside resources. The goal of this assignment was to demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the theories discussed over the course of the semester. The lesson plan I created was one of my favorite projects because of it’s practicality and relevance to my aspirations.
Reading Response: Technology and Literacy
ENGL 3100 History, Theory, and Practice of Composition Studies
In this reading response, I responded to an essay by Cynthia Selfe about the social and political implications of “technological literacy.” This assignment required that I demonstrate an understanding of the theories Selfe presented through an analysis of her essay. Through this reading response, I gained a deeper understanding of what is meant by the word “literacy.”
Correspondence Suite Assignment
ENGL 3130 Business Writing
This assignment consists of four parts: a memo, a “blast” policy email message, an inquiry letter, and a complaint letter. The goal of this assignment was to write to demonstrate knowledge of proper memo, email, and letter formatting in a business setting using knowledge gained from Writing That Works and class discussions and presentations.
The goal of this assignment was to locate an “ugly flyer,” analyze it using Robin Williams’ The Non-Designer’s Design and Type Books, and finally re-design it. In “Biting The Hand That Feeds,” I analyze a poorly designed flyer and offer suggestions for fixing it. In “I Already Told U That I’m A Minimalist,” I present my revision of the flyer and explain my editing process.
ENGL 3140 Editing
For this assignment, I reviewed Jan White’s Editing By Design. The goal of this assignment was at once to learn how to write an effective book review and to read a book related to the field of editing. I also learned how to create a précis to accompany this assignment.
ENGL 4320 Senior Seminar
For this assignment, I recorded and responded to a soundscape. The goal of this assignment was to practice mindfulness through the analysis of sonic elements in the recording. Of the responses I created for ENGL 4320, I think this one was my most thorough and the one which I enjoyed writing the most.
Dickens’ Influence on Twin Peaks
ENGL 4100 Study of a Single Author (Dickens)
In this essay, I propose that Charles Dickens influenced David Lynch’s television show Twin Peaks and discuss some of the potential connections. The goal of this assignment was to analyze Dickens’ influence, if any, on contemporary media. This assignment required that I demonstrate knowledge of various stages of Dickens’ writing career and apply that knowledge to a research project.