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Welcome to ENGL 1030

Welcome to English 1030, First-Year Composition at Clemson University. This textbook has been custom designed to assist you in successfully completing your first-year composition course. But this course is also designed to serve as a valuable reference and resource hub for your writing, research, and multimodal designs throughout your college years and beyond. You see, writing is much more than putting words down on the page. Good writing involves understanding your audience, crafting an argument with supporting evidence, finding the right appeals for persuasion, plus designing and analyzing visual and multimodal texts. In short, it means packaging it all in multiple modes of expression and broadening the scope of what a text can be.

For these reasons, we have put together an exciting curriculum for you this semester—one that will teach you a variety of strategies for multiple forms of writing arguments. You will be challenged in a number of ways, including working collaboratively, creating visual rhetoric projects, and engaging in public discourse communities. You will interact with your teacher in class and also via digital learning environments. And, most importantly, your writing and learning will be documented through assignments that demonstrate the very principles of good writing and argument that you are learning throughout the semester.

A significant aspect of English 1030 concerns visual rhetoric, or multimodal composition. We recognize the need for students to understand the visual and multimedia texts they encounter, and to be able to create their own multimodal compositions. As an example of such visual rhetoric, we will consider the artwork at Clemson University by David Tillinghast.1 The project, called P211.T45, is a two-part art piece: a brick silo in front of Barre Hall, and a book called P211.T45. We invite you to visit the sculpture, and then view the book in the Cooper Library on campus (see circulation desk to request book). Tillinghast’s project, as he describes it below, perfectly exemplifies what we mean by visual rhetoric in a multimodal composition:

P211 .T45 is a site-specific project that is comprised of two parts in two separate areas of the University: an architectural structure resembling a silo on the grounds of Barre Hall, the agricultural extension services building, and an artist’s book in Cooper Library. Inside the “silo,” in the center of the floor, there is a bronze disc containing the call numbers Ref P211 .T45. When a person is reading these call numbers, he or she will be facing Cooper through the trees and across the lawn, being referred to the book in the reference section. The P211’s contain the history of writing. Thus, the tall, narrow doors in the “silo” form a visual and conceptual axis between these two areas of the University.

I wanted to make a connection between these two distinct areas. I remember studying in anthropology courses about the role of writing and agriculture in the development of ancient civilizations. The need to record the massive amounts of grain being sold or transported could be linked to the development of writing. Though the origin of writing is obscure and may never be understood, except in myth, I found enough of a connection between the two to formulate a premise for the project.

Agriculture sets out to understand nature and embellish it. It is a way of organizing and harvesting the fecundity of the nature. Writing is also a way of organizing nature, a record of events, weights, measures, ideas, etc. I chose the two forms—the silo and the book—as symbols of those two fields, both a sort of container or vessel, intended to collect and organize.

On the other hand, for the contents of the book, I chose to represent a random collection of wild weeds because of what they symbolize in the popular imagination—chaos and abandonment. Weeds, especially thistles, the center section of the book, are antagonistic to the crop. They represent something wild and uncontrollable, the opposite of what agriculture sets out to do. So, there is a tension between the domesticated and the wild. Nature always wants to go its own way, in contrast to what we want from it. The tension is always there and it is out of that mix that we spring. Agriculture and Writing are two fields that anthropologists see at the bottom of “civilization.”

The piece explores the relationship between inside and outside. Inside, one’s attention is directed back out, and vice versa. The silo is a vessel both enclosing and opening, like the action of a book opening and closing. The book, (and the library too), is a kind of vessel or field in which one enters and exits. The weed images, sparse text and dirt-rubbed pages symbolically represent an overgrown field within the confines and order of an institution.

The closing words in the book, “field” and “join,” are intended to be a parallel between nature/culture and agriculture/writing—that is, the action of folding the book, page upon page, is a symbolic joining of the paper and the field. Ultimately, there is no separation between nature and culture; they are the same.

Just as David Tillinghast invites us to blur the boundaries between nature and culture, he invites us to see the relationship between writing and tilling the soil. As an argument, the project appeals to the reader on a number of levels, persuading us of the connections, but also of the wild nature of writing itself. It is messy, chaotic, and takes us over, much as the weeds and thistles in his book. We hope you enjoy your English 1030 experience and learn to see the possibilities of visual rhetoric in equally creative ways here at Clemson University.

Notes

1. Photos and image collage by Cynthia Haynes, Director of First-Year Composition, Clemson University.

2. Reprinted with permission from David Tillinghast and from Clemson University Lee Gallery website archive: http://www.clemson.edu/caah/leegallery/art_partnership/existing_projects/tillinghast.php