Academic journal article College Composition and Communication

Mobile Bodies: Triggering Bodily Uptake through Movement

Academic journal article College Composition and Communication

Mobile Bodies: Triggering Bodily Uptake through Movement

Article excerpt

In the oft-quoted Rhetorical Bodies, Jack Selzer states, "Words have been mattering more than matter" (4). Since its publication, many scholars have taken up considering how the ways we inhabit and use our bodies are integral to methods of teaching, practicing, and theorizing writing. Yet in spite of this recognition of the powerful role that bodies play in knowledge acquisition and textual production, compositionists are still in need of unifying frameworks that enable discussion of how this embodied power is already, if tacitly, involved with composition and writing practices. Catherine Olive-Marie Fox supports this call for a refinement of how we speak about and discuss bodies, stating, "Bodies speak, but we need a language to hear and understand them" (352). The plethora of body-related scholarship has multiplied ways of working with bodies as objects, providing rich fodder for research and theories, yet it has also muddied the conceptual waters with competing definitions and foci. As A. Abby Knoblauch points out, the lack of consistent body-related perspectives means that shifting among bodyrelated terms is at the very least annoying and at the worst nullifying of these explorations' validity (51). I take seriously Knoblauch's point that we need to make the rationales behind our terminologies transparent. Specifically, we need to reconsider how the ways we speak about bodily practices in the composition classroom do or do not support the metacognitive frameworks we also model. In other words, if bodies permeate the practices of our mission as writing instructors, how can we be attentive in articulating these bodily nuances in our key definitions and concepts?

To answer this question, I turn to a pedagogical system that is directly concerned with training bodies to move and think in particular ways-the dance classroom-and consider how the norms of dance training can inform how composition teachers conceive of sound writing practices. A key feature of the learning and performance process in the dance classroom is the expectation for immediate integration of new information into one's performance. This sense of performative immediacy is a key nuance of the rhetorical demands that bodies face. Unlike the process of revising and performing one's rhetorical knowledge in the form of a term paper, dance class (and other body-focused activities) demands a more immediate reappearance of learned knowledge amid other bodily performances that are simultaneously occurring in the same space. Dance teaching, as marked by this immediate uptake, is instructive in how the transfer of knowledge, between individuals and contexts, is a reflexive process that cannot be separated from bodily experience. Donna J. Qualley's contrast of reflection and reflexivity is useful here in thinking through how a bodily reflexivity complicates the idea of metacognitive reflection. She states, "Unlike reflection, which is a unidirectional thought process, reflexivity is a bi-directional, contrastive process" (11). Reflexivity pushes beyond closely considering a singular object in order to account for how rhetorical impact is created through the configuration of an object and its surrounds. With this in mind, studying movement is a means of studying relationships of rhetorical impact and accessing or amplifying the nodes of potential formed in those relationships.

Julie Chevilles study of female athletes illuminates further; she explains that "reflexive thought, which emphasizes engagement with an 'other,'" provides "opportunities to maintain dialogue and negotiate perception, a sense of agency and an emphasis on understanding, not just knowledge" (101). Chevilles application of reflexivity clarifies how bodily knowledge involves a continual engagement and comparison between one's environment and one's understanding of one's place in it. This situated, kairotic reaction means that reflexivity is not only a negotiation between the "self" and "other" but also a negotiation between one's current bodily state and one's existing bodily knowledge, visible in how students learn and perform uptakes of movements. …

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