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A review of Remixing Composition by Jason Palmeri

A review of Remixing Composition by Jason Palmeri

Palmeri, J. (2012). Remixing Composition: A History of Multimodal Writing Pedagogy. SIU Press.

Jason Palmeri argues that multimodal composition has a long tradition in the writing classroom that predates the “digital turn” and that multimodal activities belong in Rhet/Comp because of the rhetorical expertise that compositionists have brought to non-print media. He covers a surprising amount of ground in just 161 pages, and he accomplishes that by focusing in on particular, well-known, scholars to recover the multiple modes that they implicitly and explicitly address in their concerns about teaching rhetoric and writing effectively and inclusively. He conceptualizes these selections and re-readings of composition scholarship as “tracks” in his remix. The remix metaphor and the idea of tracks are useful because they position multimodal pedagogy as modular and programmable (to use Manovich’s new media terms) – there is no totalizing narrative here, only a sea of source material that might be put together in new ways.

Over and over again, he comes back to the problem of distinct, disciplinary vocabularies that prevent easy movement across disciplines that specialize in specific modes (composition, music, film, and design). While this problem clearly causes frustration, it is also the situation that provides opportunities for re-reading written and multimodal composition in new ways. The strength of Remixing Composition is its acknowledgement of this tension and its strong resistance to deterministic attitudes (either overly optimistic or pessimistic). This book was an interesting read, and the “usable past” he constructs is persuasive. It’s always surprising to me, though, when people write about multimodal composition and multimodal pedagogies in alphabetic text only. 

He ends with three goals for multimodal composition instructors:

Goal 1: Develop flexible, multimodal strategies for inventing and revising alphabetic writing.

Goal 2: Apply and adapt rhetorical and process-based theories to compose persuasive alphabetic, auditory, and visual texts

Goal 3: Develop critical literacies by employing a range of multimodal strategies for reseeding, rehearing, and ultimately transforming the world.

This book would be most useful for composition instructors trying to argue for the place of mutlimodal work in composition classes, and it is an interesting gesture toward the connection between remixing and research practices.


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