Assemblage is a concept of growing theoretical importance in composition studies. Little work has been done, however, to operationalize the concept on a curricular and pedagogical level. In light of this, the authors of this chapter crafted and employed a syllabus whose guiding principle was assemblage–i.e. the reuse of existing texts to create new texts for new contexts (Johnson-Eilola and Selber, 2006)–as an entry into and framework for the practice, broadly construed, of making meaning. For two concurrent, six-week summer sections of first-year composition, the authors taught this pilot course that poses and attempts to answer four primary questions: What are the processes by which we compose? What material and semiotic resources do we employ in textual production? How are the texts we produce categorized and recognized by audiences? How do the texts we produce function in the world outside the classroom?
Opening with a viewing and discussion of a web-video series, “Everything is a Remix” –which established a baseline understanding of creativity and textual production as an activity rooted in copying, combining, and transforming existing texts into new works–the course directed students through a set of scaffolded readings, activities, and assignments that were designed to foster a critical engagement with a variety of modes, media, and genres toward the ultimate goal of rhetorical awareness across situations. The major assignments in the course consisted of three projects and a course reflection. The first project took the concept of assemblage to its logical next step, presuming that since all texts are created from other texts, we can trace them over time in a kind of genealogical way. Students were asked to select three texts that shared a ‘semiotic unit’–e.g. a quotation, a character, a chord progression–and investigate how those those texts were related with one another in a “traditional” FYC essay. The second project prompted students to remediate the first paper into another medium and to write a reflective essay on the genre, conventions, modes, and medium of the text as well as the process of creating it. In the third project, students selected an exigence and an audience to address and created an assemblage of at least five existing texts to respond to that exigence and audience. They then wrote a reflective essay in which they described their chosen rhetorical situation and explain the ways in which their assemblage was a fitting response in terms of genre and medium.
In this CCCC Digital Pedagogy Poster, we describe the course in greater detail. The site is divided into three sections, one for each unit. In each section, we have information about the rationale for the unit, the activities and readings, and the major assignments–with examples. We welcome critical feedback and invite others to employ our syllabus either in part or in whole.