Trajectories of Persons and Practices: Sociohistoric Perspectives of Disciplinary Development. The Case Study of Lindsey Rachels

Chapter 5 | Doing Two-Dimensional Design, Arranging American Literature, Crafting Creative Writing:
Resituating the Development of Discursive Practice

Discursive Practice in Creative Writing

In his examination of the range of discursive practices used by archeologists and lawyers, Goodwin (1994) noted that seeing and understanding is often accomplished through acting with texts and inscriptions. The participants that Goodwin observed, for example, employed practices for tailoring documents so that the parts of them that contain information relevant to the action at hand were made salient, practices for making and using graphic representations, and practices for transforming observed phenomena into the objects of knowledge that animate a particular profession. Discursive practices also include acting with graph paper, rulers, tape measures and the “perceptual structures” (p. 615) that support the use of such tools. A wealth of situated studies have elaborated the discursive practices associated with a wide array of engagements, including trade workers jotting quick diagrams to cut and fit a piece of lumber or plumb a sink (Rose, 2005); lawyers preparing and arguing a case (Goodwin & Goodwin, 1997); shoppers using grocery lists (Witte, 1992); architecture students using sketchbooks (Medway, 1996, 1999); health care professionals interacting with patients (Nikolaidou & Karlsson, 2012; Schryer, Lingard, & Spafford, 2005; Schryer, McDougall, Tait, & Lingard, 2012); scientists and engineers acting with graphs, tables, charts, and other inscriptions and tools (Goodwin, 1995, 1996; Latour, 1987, 1999; Latour & Woolgar, 1986; Pontille, 2010; Roth, 2003; Roth & Hsu, 2010; Suchman, 2000); childcare workers jotting observations of childrens' interactions (Tusting, 2010); dairy farmers making notes about their animals (Joly, 2010); ship workers reading instruments and maps to maneuver and dock a vessel (Hutchins, 1995); and persons using scrapbooking and diaries to document, organize, and reflect on events in their lives (Barton & Hamilton, 1998). For those engaging with these activities, these practices for acting with texts and inscriptions function as “ways of seeing in the world.”

Scollon (2001a) wrote that the cultural practices persons act with are linked to two histories, “a history in the world [and] a history for each person who has appropriated it” (p. 120). The discursive practice that Lindsey uses to transform the array of prose descriptions and visual images into a unified lyric essay certainly has an extensive history in the world of creative writers. The "Writers at Work" series of the Paris Review interviews contains numerous references to this sort of physical manipulation from novelists, poets, and playwrights. Eudora Welty, for example, stated that after writing large chunks of prose, she would “revise with scissors and pins. Pasting is too slow, and you can’t undo it, but with pins you can move things from anywhere to anywhere, and that’s really what I love doing—putting things in their best and proper place … often I shift things from the very beginning to the very end” (Plimpton, 1976, p. 290). Describing her writing process for Run River, Joan Didion indicated that she worked on the novel’s scenes in no particular order and then, once they were finished, “I would tape the pages together and pin the long strips of pages on the wall of my apartment” (Plimpton, 1998, p. 413). Describing Vladimir Nabokov’s writing practices, the interviewer notes that the author composes “his stories and novels on index cards, shuffling them as the work progresses since he does not write in consecutive order. …. These cards are gradually copied, expanded, and rearranged until they become his novels” (Plimpton, 1976, pp. 92-93). The Original of Laura (2009) displays Nabakov's method, and his son, who inherited the manuscript, invites readers to cut out the photo reproduction of his father's index cards and rearrange his unfinished last novel. In physically arranging and re-arranging the images and prose vignettes to create her lyric essay, Lindsey participates in the ongoing historical continuation of this practice.

The documented narrative (Becker, 2000; Prior, 1998) that follows partially traces the other history of practice that Scollon (2001a) mentioned, the “history for each person who has appropriated it” (p. 120), along Lindsey’s traversal across multiple engagements as her practices of physical manipulation intersect with the history of these practices in the activities of creative writers. This narrative traces the developmental pathway of Lindsey’s “physical manipulation” practice as it is elaborated across three seemingly disconnected literate engagements. Scollon (2001a) argued that any analysis of the development of practice must begin with understanding the origins of a particular practice in the life of the individual (p. 12). For the purposes of this chapter, we locate the origins of Lindsey’s physical manipulation not in creative writing, but in an undergraduate graphic design class. We begin by describing Lindsey’s use of this practice for inventing and arranging visual designs. We then elaborate on Lindsey’s repurposing and semiotic remediation (see discussion of semiotic remediation in Chapter 2) of that practice to invent and arrange analyses of literary works for a graduate course in American literature and, later, to invent and arrange “Cotton” for her graduate education class.

5.01 « PREVIOUS | NEXT » 5.03