Notes: Jason Palmeri, “Creative Translations: Reimagining the Process Movement (1971-84)” in Remixing Composition: A History of Multimodal Writing Pedagogy”

Palmeri, Jason. (2012). Creative translations: Reimagining the process movement (1971-84). Remixing composition: A history of multimodal composition. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 23-50.



In this chapter, Palmeri takes his remix history through the process movement in composition studies, focusing on the works of Flower and Hayse, Berthoff, and Emig and how these theorists articulated process as a multimodal, cognitive activity. In this, he identifies three key concepts for multimodal writing: that alphabetic writing is multimodal, we should recognize the limitations and affordances of modalities, and composition has much to gain from interdisciplinary work with other arts.

Keywords: composition, disciplinary history, interdisciplinarity, multimodality, pedagogy, process, technology


Henze, Brett, Jack Selzer, and Wendy Sharer. (2008). 1977: A cultural moment in composition. West Lafayette, IN: Parlor.

Shipka, Jody. (2005). A multimodal task-based framework for composing. College Composition and Communication, 57(2), 277-306.


“In an environment where distinctions between alphabetic writing, art, design, and music are breaking down (Manovich, New London Group), it is important that we help students gain a global understanding of creative processes that is not tied to any specific modality–an understanding that they can use to help guide their composing with diverse alphabetic, audio, and visual materials” (p. 28).

“Rather than seeing translation as a reductive process of moving from multimodal mind to alphabetic page, we can instead reimagine translation as a dynamic process of moving between internal multimodal representations of knowing (in the mind) and external multimodal representations (on the computer or the page)” (p. 33-34).

“Rather than requiring that students pursue the act of translation with the ultimate goal of producing an alphabetic text, we could teach students to engage in multimodal translation with the ultimate goal of being able to make an informed rhetorical choice about which modalities best enable them to persuasively present their thoughts to a specific audience” (p. 37-38).

“[W]e might begin to reimagine writing-across-the-curriculum programs as composing-across-the-curriculum programs–exploring, for example, ways that students might better learn scientific concepts if they both wrote about them and made videos about them” (p. 43).

“If we limit students to only alphabetic means of invention and revision, we may unnecessarily constrain their ability to think intensively and complexly about their work. As a result, I suggest that composition teachers consider including one informal, multimodal composing activity as a part of every major unit or sequence in their course” (p. 44).

Questions, Reflections, and Response:

(Re)Framing the process movement in terms of multimodal composition is interesting and provides compelling insights into ways that composition is taught and how it might build from drawing on this multimodal history. Palmeri draws on this large body of scholarship from some of the most well-known scholars in the field’s past, remixing it with digital pedagogy and multimodal composition. When Palmeri discusses the interdisciplinary work that can be made through studying other arts, especially in an age where those disciplinary boundaries are blurred, I find particularly interesting; I do wonder about the creation of a shared vocabulary and the idea of this allowing for transfer across modalities if there is a way to understand the modalities as separate and different and to draw on their vocabularies as a rhetorical decision–a part of the encounter with the affordances and limitations of that modality in the discursive communities that surround that mode.


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