Healing and Transgression: Exploding Identity Genres



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Healing and Transgression: Exploding Identity Genres

  • Mary Ellen Bertolini, “Writing and Healing the Self and Others”
  • Catharine Wright, "Developing Writers for Social Change”
  • Kathy Skubikowski, "Hybrid Language, Hybrid Genres"
  • Center for Teaching, Learning, and Research
  • Writing Program, Middlebury College
  • Middlebury, Vermont

Writing and Healing: the Self and Others

  • My tongue will tell the anger of my heart,
  • Or else my heart, concealing it, will break;
  • And rather than it shall, I will be free
  • Even to the uttermost, as I please, in words.
  • KATHERINA—THE TAMING OF THE SHREW. William Shakespeare.
  • Forthwith this frame of mine was wrench'd
  • With a woful agony, 580
  • Which forced me to begin my tale;
  • And then it left me free.
  • Since then, at an uncertain hour,
  • That agony returns:
  • And till my ghastly tale is told, 585
  • This heart within me burns.
  • “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • Janie full of the that oldest human longing--self revelation.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God. Zora Neale Hurston.

Journey: Healing Myself

Healing Journey: Students and Community

  • Published Middlebury College
  • April 2001 for
  • Anisa, Iniko, Tiffany, & Maika

Transformative Effects of Writing

  • Good narratives or stories. . .organize seemingly infinite facets of overwhelming events. . .Once organized. . .the events are easier to deal with. . . writing moves us to a resolution. . .without resolving . . . traumas, they continue to live with [us].
  • The health benefits of writing or talking about traumas, then, are twofold.
  • People reach an understanding of these events and, once this is accomplished,
  • they no longer need to inhibit their talking any further.
  • (Pennebaker 102)

Sachini’s Story -- Analyze the Personal

  • In a way, the sheet of paper, or the computer screen is like that other person to whom you are opening up (Sachini).
  • It's a way to put your thoughts in another place and allow them to sit and be analyzed rather than brewing up in an already jumbled up mind (Sachini).
  • Writing relieves.
  • Analysis resolves.

Journey: to academic class

Some Writing Needs a Zone of Privacy

  • off line
  • & on line

New Technologies

  • Changing Pedagogies
  • I still believe that the power of weblogs is their ability to immediately . . . get feedback, refinement, stories, etc., spurred by my little idea. Never before was this possible. Peter Merholz Our Blogs, Ourselves.
  • Posted on 01/25/2002
  • . . . writing into the images, narrating the story,
  • and bringing the images
  • to life using the power of digital media design tools, creates a powerful medium for presenting a story.
  • Center for Digital Storytelling

Personalize the Analytical-- Bruce Ballenger

    • While the purpose of the formal academic paper is to “fill gaps” in existing knowledge, the purpose of the research essay is to experiment with new ways of seeing existing knowledge, to find out rather than to prove.
    • (Beyond Note Cards 83)

WRPR 0202 Writing to Heal Texts

  • Literature of Loss Establishes Themes and Problems in Safe Zone
  • AUSTEN, Jane. PERSUASION
  • MILLER, Arthur. ALL MY SONS
  • MINOT, Susan. MONKEYS
  • Poetry by Auden, Bishop, Dickinson, Fanthorpe, Hughes, Roethke, Wordsworth
  • Writing to Heal Theory Grounds Discussion, Introduces Research
  • PENNEBAKER, James. OPENING UP
  • RICO, Gabrielle. PAIN and POSSIBILITY
  • Memoirs Provide Models
  • DIDION, Joan THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING
  • LEWIS, C.S. A GRIEF OBSERVED
  • MCCOURT, Frank. ANGELA'S ASHES
  • Move students through texts, balancing
  • risk and comfort, so both trust and thinking bloom.
  • Move students
  • through texts, balancing
  • risk and comfort, so both trust and
  • thinking bloom.

Finding a Balance: Privacy versus Sharing

  • Online Sites—course information—open to all
  • Shared Writing
  • building trust: class
  • Private Writing:
  • pencil & paper
  • shared as desired
  • Class blog
  • discussion moved
  •   from here
  • to here.
  • Students all vote to share workshop
  • on one paper with visiting high school class.
  • http://mt.middlebury.edu/middblogs/mbertoli/Writing%20to%20Heal%20(06)/
  • https://segue.middlebury.edu/sites/wrpr0202a-s06

. . . we were all in a state of being ready--

  • everything was more personal, but
  • it wasn't personal in a scary level.
  • You only opened by the end of the semester (Sachini).

Exploding Genre Boundaries Fusing Critical and Creative Assignments: from critical to creative

  • Paper #2
  • Spoken words, books and letters have pivotal importance in Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Examine the role of words, books and letters in Persuasion, and compare these occurrences to a time in your own life when spoken words, books or letters played a pivotal role in your own life.
  • I remember the first essay that we wrote that had a personal aspect to it, and I wrote about the letter that my 3rd grade teacher wrote when my mom got sick (Sarah).

Now I understand-- Sarah’s Story

  • I remember that I didn't want to read it to the class-- looking back on that
  • I must have been a whole different person back then.
  • It also helped me to figure out why that letter was so important
  • -- for years I had thought about it and finally found it in a box of old letters but I never really understood why it was so important.
  • I understand it much better now--
  • writing about it was the first step.
  • Now it wouldn't bother me at all to read that out loud -- probably to any group of people.

Exploding Genre Boundaries Fusing Critical and Creative Assignments: from creative to critical

  • look at
  • yourself
  • as a
  • memoir writer
  • consider
  • your own life
  • choice of words,
  • humor, repetition,
  • structure, detail,
  • other texts,
  • recurring themes
  • What techniques
  • from Didion,
  • McCourt, Lewis
  • have you used in
  • your own writing?
  • discuss a
  • memorable
  • moment

Naming and Framing: Gabriele Rico

  • The paradox is this: the more you try to avoid painful feelings, the more signals you send the brain that they are important; because they have the power to scare you, the pain becomes worse. (Pain and Possibility 110)
  • The naming of your pain is a private key. . . it will unlock a door to new options (167).

Facing Demons: Paul frames his narrative

  • Divorce is a severe social change that takes time to come to grips with.
  • Find a way to maintain good mental health. For example talking, writing, or exercising.
  • In today’s day and age, you are not the only
  • child with divorced parents.
    • It’s O.K.! (You are almost the norm.)

Changing Lian’s Perspective “I think through writing about my stories and making the digital story I understood myself better.”

For more information

  • Slices of Cake:
  • http://mt.middlebury.edu/middblogs/mbertoli/Slices2/
  • Visit my blog and
  • class sites:
  • (Mary Ellen Bertolini)
  • Anderson, Charles M. and Marian M. MacCurdy (ed). Writing and Healing. Illinois: NCTE, 2000.
  • Ballenger, Bruce. Beyond Note Cards. New Hampshire: Boynton/Cook, 1999.
  • Center for Digital Storytelling:
  • DeSalvo, Louise. Writing as a Way of Healing. Beacon Press, 2000.
  • Pennebaker, James. Opening Up. New York: Guilford Press, 1990.
  • Rico, Gabriele. Pain and Possibility. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991.
  • http://www.storycenter.org/
  • Thank you to my students Sachini, Sarah, Paul, and Lian (you know who you really are) for giving permission to share their work.
  • http://mt.middlebury.edu/middblogs/mbertoli/Writing%20to%20Heal%20(06)/
  • https://segue.middlebury.edu/sites/wrpr0202a-s06

Healing and Transgression: Exploding Identity Genres

  • Mary Ellen Bertolini, “Writing and Healing the Self and Others”
  • Catharine Wright, "Developing Writers for Social Change”
  • Kathy Skubikowski, "Hybrid Language, Hybrid Genres"
  • Center for Teaching, Learning, and Research
  • Writing Program
  • Middlebury College
  • Middlebury, Vermont


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