Rich: I want to follow up on what Paul said by showing that re-vision is inherent in writing and life. Is it synonymous with the idea of "the key to the future is the past," or something like that? I'm pleased with this dialogue for two reasons: the student is allowing the three texts to interact with one another, and he is weaving his own commentary into the exchange of ideas.
He also uses Rich's text to build on one of Auster's ideas.
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.
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.
However they feel about their final essays, most students enjoy the dialogue prewriting exercise.
When asked to reflect on the entire process of putting together the third assignment, Sohrab responds: "[The] dialogue initially helped get some ideas out, but those ideas proved to be just the tip of the iceberg." Peter writes, "The prewriting assignment was like an improvised brainstorming for me.
But when I graduated from San Francisco State University five years ago with a master of fine arts degree in creative writing, no one came banging on my door looking for college playwriting instructors.
Fortunately, while at San Francisco State, in addition to my creative writing degree, I had completed a twelve-unit certificate program in teaching college composition.