A Mosaic of Meditations on Reading and Writing

*The following guide for the "Meditation on Reading and Writing" assignment for Dr. Bob Marrs was written by Rachael Riggs, a former Writing Center Consultant, in fulfillment of an assignment for Topics in Composition, the Writing Center staff development course. 

A central issue of this course will be an exploration of the nature of reading and writing. The intent of this project is to produce an essay exploring the technologies of reading and writing.

  • What do we mean when we speak of reading or writing? What do these terms signify?
  • What are various ways in which they can be defined?
  • What conceptions of reading and writing are most useful for understanding how these processes work for an individual and for the community?


Approach this project as a mosaic or collage. Each section should be independent and self-contained, capable of standing alone, and there need not be explicit bridges from one segment to the next. Build an essay out of a collection of smaller essays.

  • The finished draft should have 8 or more sections.
  • The length of each piece in the mosaic can be from one sentence to several pages. Most finished mosaics will be about five to ten pages in length, BUT length is less important than depth.
  • A minimum of two sections should be specific responses to the readings for the course.
  • A minimum of two sections should be based on personal stories, anecdotes from your own life, and reading/writing experiences as a means for exploring the topics more fully.

Basically, this assignment is to take pieces or parts of pieces you have previously written in class, or write something new, and put them together into a mosaic or collage. Each piece will be a section of the collage, and should make sense all by itself - if you found a segment laying on the ground, picked it up and read it, you would understand what is going on, it would feel complete. While you do NOT need a specific thesis that connects each piece together, try to look for a common theme - something about reading/writing - that you can focus on.

Dr. Bob's pet peeves on this assignment:

Not making revision or doing little revision. This is an exploration, so rethinking a lot of what is written is a good idea. Revision is re-thinking. Try to go beyond suggestions made by him or other readers - show you have made your own thoughts about this. He will expect clean editing.

Evaluation: There will be two levels of evaluation for this project. One for the reader to be able to enjoy what is going on in the collage, possibly be entertained and enlightened. The other level results in a grade.

  • Ideas: They should be fresh, original, insightful. Even if you take material from other sources, put it into your own language, with your own voice.
  • Organization: While the pieces should be able to stand alone, there should also be a sense of direction to the collage as a whole, a sense of development occurring.
  • Development: Details, Images, Examples, Illustrations, Stories - these are all good things. In a sense this project is capturing abstract ideas, by focusing on small, concrete detail.
  • Style: You should have a flexible hold on the language, which meets the needs of each section - this could mean using similar sentence structure in some areas, and varied in others. Use your judgement on each segment.
  • Mechanics: Including punctuation, grammar, conventions of sentence structure, spelling, etc. Keep it clean and get out those errors! Mostly use Standard English, unless a particular segment calls for something different - say you are trying not to use any complete verbs or have an abstract poem or list. Don't worry about perfection, but it should be clean enough to not interfere with the reading.
  • Other: Great papers have text that comes as close to feeling complete as possible. The reader should feel as though you accomplished what you intended to say, and that this is an ideal version of the paper.

Audience: This will be a lay reader who is interested in the subject, but is educated and intelligent. One suggestion - write for an ideal version of yourself, who you are when you are fully engaged and thinking, how you work as a reader. Imagine a demanding reader who forces you to be careful with language and development. This reader should be inside you - as the reader grows and matures, so will you as a writer.

Other useful information on this subject

Collage/mosaic writing: A writing collage is very much like an artistic collage. The pieces alone have meaning, but come together to form the whole. The pieces are put together, usually with asterisks between them to show the separation. Unlike other writing genres, collage writing has little and loose organizational principle. A thesis statement pulling everything together is unnecessary, BUT the collage should have a theme or topic. Think appositional!

What do you need to know about appositional writing?

    (Taken from W. Ross Winterowd's 'Rediscovering the Essay") "
  1. The topic is implied not stated directly. (I would now say that the reader may derive or create a topic or macro proposition.)
  2. As opposed to the rigid organization of what is called the "propositional" (that is "discursive") essay, appositional organization is flexible.
  3. Examples are specific...
  4. As opposed to the background style of the propositional essay, the appositional style is foregrounded. To use the foregrounded style is "to present phenomena in a fully externalized form, visible and palpable in all their parts, and completely fixed in their spatial and temporal relations" (Auerbach 6).
  5. Finally, the appositional essay has great presence."

Additional materials which could prove helpful:

CWC Information Sheets #45 and #46

W. Ross Winterowd "Rediscovering the Essay" Journal of Advanced Composition, 1998.

Student paper written by Robert Boedeker

 


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