Our first series of readings are intended to introduce students to what we see as the three principal activities of composition: copying, transforming, and (re)combining—a concept we ourselves have reappropriated from Kirby Ferguson’s (2010) video series Everything is a Remix. In the first week of class, we screen two episodes of the series, “The Elements of Creativity” and “The Song Remains the Same,” to show students how two well-known innovators—Steve Jobs and the musical group Led Zeppelin—copied ideas from other companies (Apple’s innovation of the Graphical User Interface from Xerox) or lifted whole texts from other artists (Led Zeppelin’s covering blues songs from various artists). In addition, we screen a short interview clip with Alfred Hitchcock (, 2009) in which he describes the process of filmmaking as one of “assembly” to show how film is also a product of assemblage (“Alfred Hitchcock explains about CUTTING”). [Footnote: we came across this video by way of a JJE tweet.] Moving from popular texts to academic discourse, we assign Joseph Harris’ (2006) introduction to Rewriting: How To Do Things With Texts, which illustrates scholars’ reliance on the pre-existing literature to build our arguments. By explicating the ways in which both public and academic cultures are intertextual, these assignments build toward students reading Johnson-Eilola and Selber’s (2006) “Plagiarism, Originality, Assemblage,” which articulates the central focus of the course. To assist students in their first academic writing assignment that accompanies this unit and is described below, we also included selections from our textbook that supported academic style, outlining, and drafting.
Our day-to-day activities also involved preparing students to write their first college-level academic essay. To get students “seeing” more analytically, we had them watch a short clip of a sporting event and list various details that they might use in an analysis. Further, we gave students examples of assemblage from popular culture and conducted intertextual analyses as a class. For example, we used a recent Google Play (2014) commercial that variously morphs and modifies the app store’s triangle “play button” logo to signify an assortment of famous films (Rango, Happy Feet), characters (Beetlejuice, Batman), musicians (Katy Perry, Johnny Cash), novels (The Great Gatsby, The Hobbit), applications (Clash of Clans, Cut The Rope), and many other texts. Upon screening the video, we discussed the ways in which the advertisement represented an assemblage of dozens of texts to support the advertisement’s implicit overarching argument that promotes its product.