Vielstimmig, “Petals on a Wet Black Bough”

Myka. "Petals on a Wet Black Bough: Textuality, Collaboration,
and the New Essay.&quot Passions, Pedagogies, and 21st
Century Technologies
. Eds. Gail E. Hawisher and Cynthia L. Selfe. Urbana, Ill.: NCTE, 1999. 89-114.

Spooner and Yancey perform a collagist convergence in "Petals on a Wet Black
Bough." They are chiefly concerned with the new essayism proliferated in the
associational cut/paste practices of writing the screen. They experiment with
collaborative personae (hence the fused author-figure). The conventions of
academic exposition, normative conceptions of coherence, and the rise of
associative intelligence in the midst of hypertext are chief among their
concerns. Ultimately, they ask when and how teachers will be prepared to admit
new/net essayism into the schoolroom and, as well, how assessment will keep

Vielstimmig (German for many voiced) mentions the Emersonian
self-reliant spirit that infuses much American education.

Three maxims: Assessment has to fit pedagogy (110). Pedagogy has to fit
textuality (110). Can changes in pedagogy not be far behind? (111): "If
what we’re going to value is the essay proper–whether it’s Bartholomae’s or
Elbow’s–then by all means, let’s turn the Internet off" (110).

"The new essay seems to have its own logic: intuitive, associative, emergent,
dialogic, multiple–one grounded in working together and in re/presenting that
working together" (90).

"This is not an argument against The Essay or against ‘print classic’ or
conventional logic. It is an argument toward another kind of essay: a text that
accommodates narrative and exposition and pattern, all three" (91).

"Speak for yourself, pal" (92).

"Ironically, both Spellmeyer’s and Prince’s purpose in reminding us of the
essay’s history is to restore it to its prior position: as a place for
exploration not governed by the scholastic" (93).

"In some critiques of ‘experimental’ academic works (like this one?), there’s
a fundamental question about what counts as coherence, cohesion, and other
interpretive conventions" (99).

"It is disappointing, though, how much influence is moving the other
direction: that is, too many online essays merely reproduce offline
textual conventions" (102). ^Solid ties to scholastic-reductive blogging

"Associational thinking may be another, more concrete and synthesizing,
intelligence altogether" (108).

Terms: essay as a confinement (92), "rhetoricity of coherence" (101),
Turkle’s "aesthetics of simulation" (105), Venn diagram (to establish difference
and relationship) (108)

Related Sources
Kirsch, Gesa. "Multi-Vocal Texts and Interpretive Responsibility."
College English
59 (1997): 191-201.
Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. "Dialectics of Coherence." College English
47 (1985): 12-30.
Wittig, Rob. Invisible Rendezvous: Connection and Collaboration in the
New Landscape of Electronic Writing
. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan UP, 1994.