In view of the constant bombardment of esoteric theory in all aspects of academic life, and especially in composition studies, what can writing instructors do to help their students in a practical way? This article argues that even before teaching craft, writing instructors must foreground the student’s somatic body, not the culturally constructed, body-based identity or the body of text students produce. To place this emphasis on the body is wholly in line with historical pedagogy, and a return to such an emphasis in contemporary writing classrooms may be instrumental in students overcoming their dread of the writing process. In order to reorient composition instruction and focus on the somatic body, the author looks to contemporary philosopher Richard Shusterman’s oeuvre of somaesthetics, a pragmatic and melioristic body-centered approach to philosophy broadly applicable to the humanities. His project can be liberally applied in the writing classroom, and doing so will help students overcome the consternation associated with writing. Through somaesthetic instruction, students can develop personalized writing rituals and identify aesthetically conducive environments in which to write. Only after establishing the primacy of the students’ mental and physical state, essentially freeing students from the anxiety broadly associated with writing, may writing instructors begin the debate over compositional praxis.
Joel Wilson; Somaesthetics, Composition, and the Ritual of Writing. Pedagogy 1 January 2015; 15 (1): 173–182. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15314200-2799324
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