To many academics, composition still represents typewritten texts on 8.5″ x 11″ pages that follow rote argumentative guidelines. In Toward a Composition Made Whole, Jody Shipka views composition as an act of communication that can be expressed through any number of media and as a path to meaning-making. Her study offers an in-depth examination of multimodality via the processes, values, structures, and semiotic practices people employ everyday to compose and communicate their thoughts. Shipka counters current associations that equate multimodality only with computer, digitized, or screen-mediated texts, which are often self-limiting. She stretches the boundaries of composition to include a hybridization of aural, visual, and written forms. Shipka analyzes the work of current scholars in multimodality and combines this with recent writing theory to create her own teaching framework. Among her methods, Shipka employs process-oriented reflection and a statement of goals and choices to prepare students to compose using various media in ways that spur their rhetorical and material awareness. They are encouraged to produce unusual text forms while also learning to understand the composition process as a whole. Shipka presents several case studies of students working in multimodal composition and explains the strategies, tools, and spaces they employ. She then offers methods to critically assess multimodal writing projects. Toward a Composition Made Whole challenges theorists and compositionists to further investigate communication practices and broaden the scope of writing to include all composing methods. While Shipka views writing as crucial to discourse, she challenges us to always consider the various purposes that writing serves.
Shipka addresses a profound need in composition studies, especially as we talk about (and talk around) multimodality, composition, new media, and more: to better contextualize how, when, where, and why composing happens in a way that can capture some of the vast complexities and nuances that emerge across composing tasks.
Jody Shipka moves us to think of composition more holistically. She urges us to consider more multimodal compositions—the full range of representational expressions, from plays to ephemera to (memorably) ballet slippers. She considers the environments, moments, and physical demands of composition, a process carried out against the backdrop of complex lives. And she provides us the tools to apply these lessons in our own classrooms. A timely and thought-provoking book.
Jody Shipka is assistant professor of English at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.learn more