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Andrea A. Lunsford

Giving Thanks

Posted by Andrea A. Lunsford Expert Nov 30, 2016

Thanksgiving greetings and wishes to teachers of writing everywhere. I am certainly counting my blessings today, as I expect you are. I’m grateful that I’m still here on the planet and that I have sisters, nephews, nieces, and grandnieces to hold close and cherish. And I’m forever grateful to students I have known over some fifty-plus years now, who have taught me so much and shared so much of their lives with me. Just this week I had a chance to visit with a former student, from China, who is now working on a PhD in neuroscience, to break bread with her and to hear about her accomplishments and setbacks, her worries and also her dreams. I hope I remembered to thank her. So here’s to those who teach and to those who learn. And here’s a gift that I come back to regularly when I am giving thanks: Wendell Berry’s haunting, and comforting, “The Peace of Wild Things.”

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

--Openings: Poems, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1968


[Photo: Happy Thanksgiving everyone! by Satya Murthy on Flickr]

In this series of posts I am looking at what we can learn from peer feedback practices in other disciplines. Andy Brown and Sharon Hart talked to me about the studio art critique.


In my last post, I considered the history of critique in the art classroom.  In this one, I’d like to think about its future.


Sharon touched on this topic when she shared with me the challenges of photography in the digital age: “Images are ubiquitous,” she noted. “Why does anyone want to look at yours?” Indeed the rise of the digital is a big question for the Visual Arts and Art History department here at FAU.  In my time as Interim Chair, we wanted to engage with it directly so as to articulate a future trajectory for the department.  Andy suggested that critique needs a new trajectory as well. “Given the complexity and subject of art now the original model doesn’t work too well,” he observed, “We need to find new ways to approach art besides sit in front of it and chat about it.”  For me that also recalled Sharon’s investment in keeping approaches to technique new, fresh, and interesting to keep her and students both engaged in the process.


We might carry these same questions into the writing classroom. Huge swaths of the field are already considering the impact of digital technologies in how we write and in how we teach writing and any number of online peer revision products are available.  But the ones I have seen are simply electronic tools to do what we do in class: sit in front of writing and chat about it.  What it would mean to reconceive peer revision? How do new digital writing practices call forth new digital peer review practices?  I don’t have anything like an answer to that question but I do believe it’s a question worth asking.



Consider Facebook.  It constantly invites peer feedback with a single click and only recently moved past the singular “like” that so troubles art, creative writing, and composition students in the process.  What might it look like to do peer revision in such a context?  What if a paper were just a series of posts on Facebook?  What if it were an Instagram photo, which allows only a heart?


I may not have the answers but the questions aren’t going away.  As students come to our classrooms across the university with a muscle memory of the mind that suggests one click is all peer feedback is, how shall we challenge this reaction or harness it?