Recap: Professor Kristin L. Arola’s Talk on Composition and American Indian Rhetorics

On Friday April 21, Dr. Kristin L. Arola from Washington State University visited DePaul to present a talk titled “Slow Composition: American Indian Rhetorics and Mindful Making Practices.” This talk was part of the WRD Department’s Writing and Rhetoric Across Borders Speaker Series.

Arola’s described the implementation of a composition theory based on story, what she referred to as “story as methodology.” By using an American Indian lens, Arola discussed our current conceptions of the composing process and opened up new critiques on how to improve. Pointing out the current fast-paced nature of rhetoric in our society, Arola advocated for slow composition as a model for teaching and for teaching “the affordances of all speeds” in response to this kind of change.

Kristen Arola in front of a slide in her talk

Referencing her mother’s relation to the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community of the Lake Superior Band of Chippewa Indians, Arola discussed composing as culturing. She showed videos of American Indian experiences with the creation of cultural artifacts, and this helped to illustrate her idea of how cultural rhetoric can inform composition pedagogy: by making visible non-linguistic composing processes we can see the value in “making in a particular way” to “honor a particular way of being.” In using story as methodology, we can highlight process over product, slowing down to consider how we do our identities through a variety of modalities that require reflection.

Arola also pointed out that, in considering composing as culturing, we can also make connections to both monomodal and multimodal texts. Because our heritages are multimodal, using story as methodology can provide “a framework for all acts of making,” helping us to be conscious in how we, make compositional choices for different ends. Considering the composing process in this way allows us to become what Arola deems “reflective practitioners.” Why do we make the compositional choices we do? How do these choices work within the process of composing? Thinking about our individual choices, Arola says, can help us to honor our histories while making important room for change

In reflecting on our choices and processes and connecting these to our identities as writers and thinkers, Arola hopes that people will realize that “there is an ethical imperative to compose in certain ways for certain reasons.” Because writing is a personal and cultural process, understanding how these factors play into composition choices has value for both students and teachers of rhetoric alike.

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