Link to: bgblogging: Thinking about images in a Writing Course

Barbara Ganley, Lecturer in the Writing Program and English, and the Director of The Project for Integrated Expressionat Middlebury College, is one of the most experienced faculty members of the blogosphere, having used blogs as a writing tool since 2001. In this post, she explores some thoughts about requiring students to use images as tools within her writing course.

Reflecting on her own experience, she notes how having her digital camera with her changes the way she relates to her environment.

With the camera I am more alert to the individual details of the scene–and it is more a scene–than when I’m just walking. I am more attentive to everything going on in the visual plane rather than to the full experience.

In an earlier post, she reflects on how different her own perceptions of photographs are from that of her own children. For most of recent history, pictures were expensive and cumbersome to acquire. After the initial viewing were relegated to shoeboxes to be pulled out only at funerals or other special family occasions.

To my children, images are a part of the natural flow of communication. As are sound files. And text. It’s all part of the conversation. But a separate part of the conversation–a quick, visceral part often.

This shift was powerfully chronicled in Susan Sontag’s New York Times Magazine article on the power of the photographs of Abu Ghraib in which she noted that “a shift in the use made of pictures–less objects to be saved than messages to be disseminated, circulated.”

The integration of images and text hasn’t found its way to most academic writing–even that on the web. Professor Ganley’s current writing course looks like it will move another step toward that integration by using photographs to explore how understanding the place you find students find themselves enhances the ability to understand themselves.

What do we mean when we talk about where we’re from, about the important places in our lives and their impact on who we are? What are the stories embedded in those places? During the opening two weeks of the semester, we will be looking carefully at how a range of writers have understood the significance of place in the development of a person’s sense of self: Harriet Doerr, John Elder, Seamus Heaney, Annie Dillard. As we consider these works, we’ll explore our own places and how they figure in memory, in our awareness of the world, in our definition of self.

I’m heading over to the library to pick up Ron Burnett’s book How Images Think that’s mentioned in the post.