Feminist-Oriented Multimodal Composition. Short Script from #4C19 Presentation.

For the purposes of this short presentation (click here for slides), I will change some of my students’ names, but I will tell you of two distinct moments and disciplinary contexts in which I engaged with pedagogical approaches of multimodal composition. I make the distinction of pedagogical to emphasize how we as scholars also engage “feminist-oriented multimodal composition” in other kinds of work: such as this presentation.

Scene 1: Summer of 2015

In A FYW assignment, for a course I titled Exploring Cultural Literacies and Academic Writings: Khemi created a slide show of a cross-historical exploration of anti-Black Violence, while Shawn wrote, directed, recorded, and performed as a news-anchor focusing on Black Lives Matter.

Scene 2: Spring of 2018

In a Latina Feminist Studies course: Several students focused on Amara La Negra self-branding and promoting Afro-Latinidad / explored whiteness in Chicana queer identities & a bilingual TPS infographic to be circulated via tumblr.


In both instances, students critically analyzed and rhetorically expressed attention to performance and the intersections of gender, race, class, ethnicity, and sexuality.


Today I will be talking about “Feminist Oriented Multimodal Composition Assignments” in distinct disciplinary contexts, embedded in a predominantly white institution, as potentially productive spaces of intersectional activism. Ultimately, I want to emphasize how multimodal composition assignments create spaces for embodied performance of knowledge in/and/through identity.

How are (inter)disciplinary comparative approaches forwarding claims about Composition’s significance beyond a first-year writing entrapment? Why is it important to focus on the writing that is done in Women’s and Gender Studies courses? How are we forwarding a claim of first-year writing as acultural?

The significance of questions about orientation in assigning multimodal assignments should be expanded from an attention of what it is that we are including as composition to why it is that we rely on multimodality: I’m thinking here of going from Shipka and Palmeri, to Banks, Hass, and Cedillo.

The Literature:

In my reflection here today, I specifically build on the work of:

Sarah Warren-Riley and Elise Verzosa Hurley’s “Multimodal Pedagogical Approaches to Public Writing” from Composition Forum (2017).

They explore critical multimodal pedagogical approaches to public writing, particularly focusing on “interrogating mundane, everyday texts” and their “potential to engage students with advocacy and its role in shaping public discourse.” In short, they explain “multimodal composition as advocacy.”

Warren-Riley and Verzosa Hurley prioritize advocacy over activism, as the latter “connotes directed and specific action whereas advocacy simply implies support.”

On the other hand, Carmen Kynard’s “Staying Woke: Race-Radical Literacies in the Makings of a Higher Education” in a CCC-Symposium titled What Will We Have Made of Literacy (2018), she focuses more on the impetus for race-radical literacy practices, among them multimodal ones.

She distinguishes between race-radical and racial-liberalist notions of education, by using as an example Payton Head, “the former student body president and central activist in the University of Missouri’s (Mizzou’s) 2015 protests against campus racism and white violence.”

Borrowing from Lani Guinier’s notion of racial literacy, I take my inspiration from Payton Head’s discourse and activism to delineate what I am calling race-radical literacies and a queering/que(e)r-ying of academic spaces, particularly our field’s relationship to a racially hostile academy. I gravitate to Guinier’s critiques of the racial liberalism surrounding Brown v. Board of Education that have sustained structural racism. (520)

She explains that in a presentation about Mizzou’s publicized racial tensions, “Payton Head’s black student activism was tokenized by co-panelists who did not seem to imagine that he would and could clap back.” (521)

Lingering Questions:

  1. How are (inter)disciplinary comparative approaches forwarding claims about Composition’s significance beyond the first-year writing entrapment?
  2. What are the implications of identity formation and performance for marginalized populations in predominantly white institutions?
  3. How is multimodal composition performing feminist activist work?

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