This is the latest post in my series reflecting on my assigned readings for my Foundations of Composition and Rhetoric Class. For this week, we finished up reading Participatory Composition (which, overall, I found extremely difficult to understand (not in the good way of difficult but rewarding ideas; in the annoying way of obfuscating language based on the kind of so-called Theory (usually imported Continental philosophy) I have come to dislike) and, what I did understand, pretty unpersuasive) and read the first three chapters of Lingua Fracta (which I have, so far, found absolutely fascinating).
Rather than engaging straightforwardly with Brooke’s argument in Lingua Fracta, I want to riff off of some of his ideas in order to muse about the writing process.
One of Brooke’s main ideas is that the rhetorical cannons (invention/discovery, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery) can be rehabilitated for understanding the way “new” media mediates writing. He specifically casts these cannons as ecologies, or living systems in constant states of fluidity. For Brooke, the metaphor of ecology is better than other metaphors (like tools or texts) because the ecology metaphor captures the fluidity of new media technology and resists the systemization inherent in object oriented metaphors.
I think this is really interesting, but I don’t think it just applies to new media. I really struggle with teaching invention to my students. I’m really great at helping my students actually invent in conferences, but I am less good at helping my students discover invention practices that fit them. I will talk about some common ones (brainstorming, outlining, chunking, mapping), but I usually talk about these strategies as a) monolithic practices and b) in the abstract. Brooke’s ecology metaphor offers a way of thinking about invention as truly recursive with the other “steps” in the writing process.