- Getting Personal: Teaching Personal Writing in the Digital Age ed. by Laura Gray-Rosendale
Laura Gray-Rosendale, editor
State U of New York P, 2018, 306 pp. ISBN 978-1438468969, $34.95 paperback.
Our understanding of the processes and products of writing has changed substantially over the past three decades due to the impact of networked computing, multimedia software, social media, and other digital tools and technologies. These developments have also affected how we define the realm of the personal; in blogs and tweets, in Snapchats and Facebook posts, the boundary between private and public seems quite permeable, and the notion of privacy quite porous. In this context, what it means to teach or practice personal writing has become open to discussion and to new approaches.
Getting Personal responds with a rich collection of theoretical and pedagogical approaches to personal writing in the digital age. The book can serve as an excellent resource for instructors of both creative writing courses and rhetoric/composition courses who are interested in teaching personal writing in digital contexts. Editor Laura Gray-Rosendale brings together "theories about personal writing and digital media with suggestions for classroom and community applications" (xxvii) in a collection that presents a range of approaches and opportunities for teachers. The book as a whole asserts the ongoing value of personal writing for our students as a way of learning about themselves and others. It explores the openings that digital tools and technologies provide for new practices in personal writing that incorporate multimedia, social media, and other forms of digital technologies and networked platforms. It also explores the ways that our practices of telling personal stories and constructing identities are impacted in a culture infused with digital communication technologies.
Getting Personal acknowledges that digital technologies and networked platforms have brought about significant changes in how we teach writing and in how students perceive and construct their identities. The book addresses key questions: How does digital media shape the production of personal writing? And, conversely, how do classroom and community practices of personal writing contribute to our understanding of communication via digital media and platforms? For instance, what kinds of personal writing projects can be undertaken in Twitter? And what can we learn about Twitter and how can we use it in new ways if we see it as a venue for personal writing? In her introduction, Gray-Rosendale provides a helpful selective survey of recent scholarship that addresses these questions and that touches on the key areas that constitute this study: genres of personal writing; multiple and contextual constructions of autobiographical identity; individual and social impacts of contemporary digital culture; new pedagogies and literacies developing out of multimodal composing; and personal writing in digital contexts. Some of the books and collections she discusses in her introduction are taken up again in individual chapters, providing a diverse but consistent theoretical framing of the issues. [End Page 404]
Several features of Getting Personal make it a particularly useful resource for teachers and scholars of contemporary personal writing. First, the collection offers broad coverage of the topic. Part 1 provides an overview of personal writing and digital composing, with some authors more directly focused on digital culture (Stuckey-French, Neal), while others deal more with the ongoing value of the personal essay (Schell, Robilliard, McCorkle, Arrington, and Harker). In Part 2, authors consider a range of platforms and types of digital personal writing, including blogging, texting, and tweeting. In Part 3 and elsewhere, authors discuss video, aural, and multimodal composing of personal narratives. Although the primary focus is on classroom practice, several chapters (most notably, Eileen Schell's chapter on a veterans' writing group) consider the implications of digital approaches for personal writing in communities. Authors discuss teaching personal writing in both online and face-to-face classes, and Gray-Rosendale's chapter provides a particularly useful discussion of the challenges of online teaching for creating a context and establishing the connections in which personal writing can flourish. A range of courses is also represented in Getting Personal, as contributors discuss projects they've assigned in composition courses with a literary...