Final Portfolio and Reflection Letter

This website is an archive of the work I have completed as part of ENG101 “Visual Writing and Thinking” taught by Professor David Morgen at Emory University during Spring semester 2018. This reflection letter, along with some of the highlights of my work this semester, is addressed to the Writing Program Committee.

Before this semester began, I was very worried about taking an English course. I survived just one single lecture in another first-year English class last semester before I threw in the towel, and I was so nervous to try again, no matter how good the OPUS description sounded. My intended major is business, I avidly avoid writing heavy subjects, and I am not confident in my abilities to write a convincing and cohesive essay. I just know that when pushed, I can always turn in an acceptable response. I wasn’t sure what this course would teach me, I was just relieved that we weren’t studying Shakespeare. Turns out, it taught me a lot.

The first intended outcome of this course was that students compose texts in multiple genres, using multiple modes with attention to rhetorical situations, and I believe that I have been successful in achieving this outcome. Each of the major tasks we were assigned were a different genre of text, and this made it easy to explore a wide variety of styles. For example, we had to write an expository comparison essay, execute a more descriptive piece with Mapping Spinning, and complete a multi-stage narrative about our lifelong relationship with literacy. Even within the different assignments, we encountered a variety of rhetoric situations.  By way of illustration, take a look at one of the main projects, Tracing Maus. This assignment began by tracing two pages from the book Maus: a survivor’s tale and annotating the traced pages with “gutter text”.  The tone for this part of Tracing Maus was very academic casual and the intended audience was mostly just myself. This meant that my notes were slightly scruffy, and written in shorthand, but they are still posted on my website for everyone to see. The next part of the assignment was to compose three short analyses which explored common links between the two pages, and the book as a whole. Here, my writing was much more formal and included supporting quotes and pictures. The intended audience was also different; it was meant for someone who had a basic prior understanding of the book, but who had not studied it in detail. I had to adjust my language and level of explanation accordingly. This final aspect of this project was to complete a reflection post. Although this had to be more formal than the original annotations, it was much more casual than the in-depth analysis. Clearly, there has been a huge range of composition in this course, and by completing all of these tasks, and recognizing their different rhetoric situations, I hope that I had demonstrated the successful completion of Outcome one.

The second intended outcome was critical thinking and reading resulting in writing and I would say that my assigned tasks have allowed me to successfully achieve this outcome. There were three main tasks in this course that required me to undertake scholarly inquiry, produce my own arguments and assess the ideas of others and they were: Tracing Maus, Comparing Palestine and Pyongyang, and Mapping Spinning. An example of my critical analysis of a piece of work can be found on my Clarity of Mice page in my Tracing Maus project. One argument that I am particularly proud of reads as follows “As well as excluding dark circles and wrinkles, Spiegelman very rarely chooses to include eyebrows. Although simple in its execution, the addition of two lines on Vladek’s face on the Auschwitz Map page completely transforms how we read his emotions. The fact that that two lines can have this impact is made possible because the faces were so simple to begin with. To elaborate, in the top-centre panel on the Auschwitz Map page, Vladek simply appears to be lost in thought about how he knew that Anja was at Birkenau, however, in the bottom-right panel (which is absolutely identical to the top-centre one, other than the eyebrows) Vladek’s character appears to be noticeably more distressed and upset. The addition of eyebrows compliments the addition of information that Birkenau was known as ‘a death place’ and together they make an effective emotional transformation. In this case, less is more.” This written analysis was a result of my close reading and analysis of the text. I was also able to properly cite the sources used in this assignment (shown below).

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Not only did I evaluate the ideas of others, as in our peer reviews of our first Literacy Narrative drafts, I also evaluated my own ideas throughout this course in a series of reflection posts.

The third outcome that I have achieved is understanding and practicing writing as a process by implementing strategies of research, drafting, revision, edition, and reflection. The success of this outcome is best illustrated by my Literacy Narrative – a task that we revisited several times throughout the semester. We started off by writing an alphanumeric essay about our literacy abilities over time. Despite trying hard on this task, I could see in my evaluation that this essay was disorganized and slightly all over the place. I found it really hard to cohesively fit a lifetime of memories into 750 words without missing any major details. However, when I was tasked with adding a visual component, the task suddenly became a lot easier for me. As I wrote in my comic reflection “Thinking about representing the details in individual boxes really made me pick out only the most important aspects of my story … (and) because I knew that I would have to spend a long time drawing out each panel, it forced me to cut down on the amount that I had in my narrative. This process helped me to make a more organized, entertaining, and concise version of my story.” Below is a slideshow which demonstrates the progress I made with this task.

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In this task at least, bringing in a visual component really helped me improve the quality of my narrative, and so this approach is something that I would like to replicate with future writing tasks. In fact, I have actually tried to implement this visual approach with this final reflection letter. Before I even thought about writing, I completed the assigned Sunday sketch which broke down what we had learned this semester as an architectural diagram. Mine can be seen as the featured image on this page. By creating such a logical and concise sketch before I started writing, it meant that my thoughts were much more organised when it came to compsing this letter, and hopefully, this helped me to write a clearer piece of text.

This course has really allowed me to experiment with my approach to writing and has led to a monumental growth in my writing abilities. I have learned that writing is much more than just textual and by achieving the course outcomes, I hope that I have gained the skills and confidence necessary to maintain a more creative and successful approach to my writing in the future. I can proudly present the work I created in this course, and I hope that you have enjoyed this final reflection letter and some of the highlights from my work this semester.

 

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