Kopp and Stevens

Title Page Abstract Text References Credits

Inviting Students as Subjects/Writers with Agency

In the orientation videos, immediately after the previous clip where Shawn Steinhart opens a space for students to claim the authority of their own knowledge, the University of Arizona Writing Program (UAWP), through instructor and student voices, delivers information concerning the key literacy practices of its courses: close-reading, research, and revision. While the "core" of each video uses visual rhetoric to share these practices, the aim is to also produce an emotional response that may serve as a compelling invitation for the audience to enter a conversation with the writing program itself, and as a responsible agent ready to engage in deliberation.

Crucially, this core, unlike the sequences involving Steinhart, is consciously staged as a dialogue between program representatives (primarily graduate student instructors) and students who have completed first-year composition, modeling the dialogue the videos invite students to have with advisors. This staged dialogue is given an "authentic," quasi-documentary feel by having speakers respond impromptu to hidden interviewers and, as recommended by Rebecca Moore Howard (2003), by avoiding background music. By alternating the position of speakers, the video produces the feel of a conversation within which the audience becomes, according to film studies scholar Kaja Silverman (1983, p. 47), a subject of the discourse. Reciprocally, as Silverman (1983) emphasizes, the role the audience adopts vis-a-vis the video simultaneously forms (or "projects") the cultural agent (i.e., the writing program) that "speaks" through the video (p. 49). Both agent and subject emerge together "sutured" in relationship. In other words, the video's invitation for students to enter a deliberative relationship focused on their placement acts as the discursive induction of a new subjectivity: that of a first-year composition student engaged in the construction of a writing program that grants students agency.

This dynamic is visible in the above clip from the English 101 core. A student, Laura Rodriguez, speaks in alternation with several graduate student instructors. Rodriguez celebrates how English 101 gives priority to her own ideas; instructors challenge students to write in less constrained forms than the familiar five-paragraph essay of current-traditional instruction. Both students and instructors build on recognized connections between subjectivity, identity and identification processes, and agency (S. Hall 1996): Rodriguez, for example, claims that English 101 will help students "develop yourself [themselves] as a better writer" by becoming conscious of, and changing, their habitual approaches to writing.

Students viewing this conversation may either accept or resist identifying with the subjectivity the video offers to students with an English 101 pre-placement. Regardless, through reflection and possibly through engaging advisors in further conversation, students begin to re-articulate themselves as writers with agency within the university setting. The videos set the terms for this re-articulation process by disarticulating commonplaces about writing instruction that might impede students' learning (the expectation that writing courses will focus on sentence-level issues or particular forms rather than ideas and writing processes, for example) and replacing them with representations that suit the writing program's self-generated mission. The videos thereby present students with course details that inform their deliberative processes; simultaneously, the videos invite students to inhabit a subjectivity ready to engage in the type of writing and learning required in first-year composition.

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