Review of Toward a Composition Made Whole by Jody Shipka

Reviewed by Brandy Dieterle, University of Central Florida

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Conclusion: Realizing a composition made whole

In her conclusion, Jody Shipka (2011) reemphasized the need for a more comprehensive approach that understands writing as a complex, mediated activity. However, she acknowledged that moving toward such a version of a composition will not be without complications or resistance. Shipka identified two different approaches that will move us toward understanding multimodal composition as the complex communicative practice that it is: academics must practice multimodal composition in their own scholarship and must also help students identify how their work is doing the work of academic writing.

The types of texts argued for throughout the book are often perceived by faculty in general as creative and artistic instead of academic, and this is something instructors who adopt this pedagogy will need to address, both to colleagues and their own students. To address this issue, Shipka explained that adopting such a pedagogy does not necessitate adding anything new to the course curriculum and does in fact retain a focus on academic writing. Writing classes can still focus on writing and research strategies as they acknowledge the other semiotic systems that are a part of written texts.

One of the most intriguing points of the chapter comes at the end in a note where the author justified writing a book. Shipka spent the entire text advocating for the complexity of writing and arguing for a framework that would bring this complexity to light in the classroom. However, she herself wrote a traditional, linear-based text to make her argument. The irony of this did not go unnoticed by Shipka, and she explained that her goal was to "empower individuals to choose wisely, critically, and purposefully the relationships, structures, and representational systems that are most fitting or appropriate given the purposes, potentials, and contexts of one's work" (p. 149). In this closing note, Shipka argued that choosing the form of a book demonstrates her attempt at choosing wisely, critically, and purposefully, and this is not the first time a scholar advocating multimodal and new media compositions has decided to compose in a more traditional, linear form (see Ball, 2004; Selfe, 2007). Here Shipka has provided a grounded argument for multimodal composition and a solid framework for her pedagogical approach in order to persuade writing studies scholars who still remain skeptical of multimodal composition.

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