Reading in Reverse: May Again

I read in reverse. Here are two examples:

Ocean Vuong’s poetic On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous got me through the endless month of pandemic March. But inexplicably I turned its mystery into my mania. “Magical realism in the outskirts of Hartford, CT…hmm…that’s maybe too…different.”  I went back to the prosaic after that. From The Atlantic I devoured then became deflated by an essay by Benjamin Taylor, excerpted from his book about being friends with Philip Roth. It demanded answers. “Why is this my new required reading? Still I pay  homage to the canon of a childhood deconstructed long ago…”

A few days later, my reflection.  The snark, that suspicion: it was you reading, not me.  Never trust men making pretend they’re authentic, right? Right? Please react so you can come back.

This month I tackle revision of chapter five of my book, The Composition Commons.  The chapter presents research on the reflective letter–letters students write about a finished piece of writing.  Familiar to many composition instructors trained in “process pedagogy,” today reflection has become an important tool for promoting self-assessment. In 2016, reflection was described as “critical” to a writer’s development, one of the “threshold concepts” for writing studies.

Reflection does make judgments and encourage progress. But my research reveals that reflection does more for reading than writing. Reflective letters uncover what was not written, what was not said, and what we might say now if time were different. It archives mourning.

What does it mean to mourn collectively as a class, in real time? That’s chapter five.

Inspired by scholar of reflection, Pat Belanoff

For David.

About Jessica Yood

I am an Associate Professor of English at Lehman College, The City University of New York (CUNY). Composition and Rhetoric is my primary field and research into the history and emerging role of writing in our contemporary culture continues to broaden my definition of this discipline. Work for my book project takes me into the history of literary criticism in America, complexity theories, the culture wars and the intellectual crises of the 1990s, and the enduring complexity of first-year writing and writers.
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