Exploring the essence of content and language integration

23 August 2016

This month we published Conceptualising Integration in CLIL and Multilingual Education edited by Tarja Nikula, Emma Dafouz, Pat Moore and Ute Smit. In this post, the editors explain how the book came together.

Conceptualising Integration in CLIL and Multilingual EducationThis book is concerned with the educational practice in which a language other than the students’ first language is used as the language of instruction. The main entry point is content and language integrated learning (CLIL), a form of education which has been popular in Europe since the 1990s and is now gaining ground globally. When looking at existing research on CLIL, it is clear that the interest has mainly been directed towards the effects of CLIL on learning, especially on target language learning. In this book, we argue that more attention needs to be paid to content and language integration, which is, after all, a core concern in CLIL. It needs to be better conceptualised and problematised to provide – among the heterogeneity of forms of implementation of CLIL and other types of bi- and multilingual education – guidelines for practitioners to support the simultaneous teaching and learning of content and language.

This book consists of 11 chapters. It is the outcome of a project called Language and content integration: towards a conceptual framework (ConCLIL) based at the University of Jyväskylä, funded by the Academy of Finland, in which researchers from Finland, Austria, Spain, the UK and Canada joined forces to come to a better understanding of integration. The ConCLIL project involved us continuously discussing, debating and exploring what we mean by integration and realising in the process that such discussions often lead to challenging and questioning the often taken-for-granted notions of language, content and their learning. The opportunity for dialogue and collaboration that the project provided through team members’ research visits to Jyväskylä has been highly valuable, and we hope that some of the sense of this dialogue is also reflected in the volume. Our first face-to-face meeting as the ConCLIL team took place in Jyväskylä in February 2012, in our woollen socks due to the -29°C winter coldness outside. Since then, we have read, discussed and commented on each other’s chapters in several meetings and have learned a lot in the process.

Staying warm in the first team meeting. Photo by Pat Moore.

Staying warm in the first team meeting. Photo by Pat Moore.

The main message conveyed by the volume is the need to recognise the complexity of integration both in research and practice and to escape the duality of content and language as separable entities. In other words, integration is not a matter of neat binaries and distinctions but a multi-layered web of influences, something akin to the interlacing woollen threads depicted on the cover of the book. Because of its complexity, integration has implications at various levels of educational practice. In this volume, we focus on three interconnected perspectives, those of a) curriculum and pedagogic planning, b) participant perspectives and c) classroom practices. The first refers to decisions that need to be made on what will be integrated (which subjects), and with what aims, and also to the teachers’ need to have conceptual tools to plan integrated teaching. The second orientation highlights how the realisation of any plan is highly dependent on stakeholders’ beliefs and perceptions. For example, a crucial consideration for both research and practice is how CLIL teachers’ views of their role as content and language teachers are informed by their conceptualisations of language and content. Thirdly, integration is eventually a matter of in-situ classroom practices that entail varied opportunities to address content and language interdependence either implicitly or explicitly. We need more knowledge of such processes to understand integration better and to realise it in pedagogical practice.

It is obvious that the relevance of content and language integration goes well beyond CLIL. It is central in all forms of bi- and multilingual education, whether called immersion, content-based instruction or CLIL. Such contexts where an additional language is used in instruction may highlight the importance of content and language integration, yet is equally relevant for all education because knowledge construction and display are always both content and language matters.

CLIL in Higher EducationFor further information on this book, please see our website. You might also be interested in our other volume on this topic, CLIL in Higher Education by Inmaculada Fortanet-Gómez.


Language Policy and Mother Tongue Debate in Iran

17 August 2016

This month we are publishing Who’s Afraid of Multilingual Education? by Amir Kalan which explores multilingual education in Iran through a series of conversations with leading multilingualism scholars. In this post, Amir explains why the language situation in Iran is so unique.

Who’s Afraid of Multilingual Education?More than 70 languages are spoken in today’s Iran, yet by law all school textbooks are written in Farsi (Persian). Farsi is also the only language of instruction throughout the country, even in non-Persian areas with vibrant linguistic lives and solid cultural identities. My new book, Who is Afraid of Multilingual Education?, tries to discover how ideological discourses in Iran have allowed the dominance of monolingual schools despite empirical evidence that advocates otherwise. The book examines arguments that doubt the effectiveness of mother tongue-based multilingual education in Iran and, through conversations with four respected international scholars, it compares the Iranian situation with global experiences with challenges of establishing multilingual educational systems that regard students’ plurilingualism as a valuable resource rather than an obstacle.

A focus on multilingualism in the Iranian context is worthwhile due to a number of reasons. Despite the current official systematic resistance against the demands of Iranian ethnic minorities for classroom instruction in students’ mother tongues (which has left Iran well behind India and even China, Iran’s civilizational cousins) Iran has a long history of multiculturalism and multilingualism. Diversity has always been an integral part of social life in the Iranian Plateau since the very beginnings of the formation of greater Iran (through Iranian empires) up to the contemporary Iranian society. On the other hand, minoritized Iranian populations – to the best of our knowledge – have not experienced the violence similar to what has been imposed on minority cultures in the West through colonialism and imperialism, such as attempts to eradicate aboriginal cultures and racial segregation in education systems. Up until the early 20th century, when the Iranian government of the time imported Western educational models along with European nation state ideologies, Iranian languages organically mingled and interacted in learning centers as well as everyday social interactions. Who is Afraid of Multilingual  Education? asks what discourses advocating mother tongue-based multilingual educational have rendered a heresy over the past 100 years in Iran despite the multilingual fabric of the country. Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Jim Cummins, Ajit Mohanty and Stephen Bahry critique these discourses in the book drawing upon examples of the experiences of minoritized students in different parts of the world.

The arguments against mother tongue-based multilingual education discussed in this book include nationalistic one-language-one-nation discourses that deem the dominance of a single language a necessary factor in creating a national identity; political visions that advocate that imposing one single language on minorities would empower them by providing them the ability to communicate and to trade their skills and products in larger markets and thus “succeed” in life; linguistic theories that attempt to prove some languages are naturally wired to be superior to other languages and thus are to be shared by all the members of society regardless of their linguistic backgrounds; economic speculations proposing that mother tongue-based multilingual education is an appealing and perhaps moral idea but too expensive to put into practice; and finally, post-colonial and anti-imperial anxieties that help the state treat legitimate demands for receiving education in the medium of students’ mother tongues as separatist desires.

Unfortunately, empirical evidence supporting the benefits of multilingual education for students and society at large is often comfortably ignored by politicians and mainstream media. Traditional academic publications also often fail to find their way out of closed professional circles and remain unread by the public, typically fed by more popular but less accurate forms of dissemination such as TV shows and mainstream news websites. As a result, Who is Afraid of Multilingual Education? reviews the issues that the international language research community has struggled with in a more accessible interview format. Hopefully, the inter­views offered in this book and the analyses that follow them can open new horizons in the mother tongue debate in Iran, establish better communication between Iranian and international educators, and contribute to the ongoing conversation about multilingualism in the inter­national research community.

LDLR covers 2016For further information about this book please see our website. For other books in our Linguistic Diversity and Language Rights series take a look at the series page on our website.


New series: The Future of Tourism

3 August 2016

We are pleased to announce our new book series The Future of Tourism edited by Ian Yeoman and Una McMahon-Beattie. In this post, Ian introduces the background to the new series and discusses the future of travel.

Series flyer - click to enlarge

Series flyer – click to enlarge

I was really excited when Channel View suggested a new book series about the Future of Tourism, as I have lived and breathed the future for the last 20 years, championing the cause, creating a new field and unravelling complexity. All other fields of tourism research are fundamentally about the past or the present whereas the future hasn’t occurred yet. The future is the only place you can travel to and the only place you can prepare for. To me, it’s the only field of tourism that has relevance.

It all began…

I started my career in tourism futures as the Scenario Planner at VisitScotland back in 2002 when 9/11 and Foot and Mouth Disease were having an impact on Scottish tourism. They were complex issues which needed unravelling. We did this, along with developing a robust economic forecasting system, scenarios about the future of Scottish tourism and an environmental scanning process. Taking these elements, we were able to build a system that made sense of the future, thus enabling leaders of Scottish tourism to understand the future, test their ideas and make informed decisions. I am now based in New Zealand and even more passionate about the future of tourism through building, partnering and giving opportunity to others to publish their thoughts on the future through this new series.

What is the future?

For economists and meteorologists it is relatively easy to understand and predict the weather with accuracy for the coming weeks or the economic outlook for the next 12 months as these events have a degree of certainty. However, predicting a longer term perspective is fraught with difficulties, whether it is the challenge of an automated world, changing food patterns, the breakup of the European Union, augmented reality or emerging markets. The further you look into the future, the more uncertainty prevails. Around the world people are living longer and expecting to do more in their lifetime. If you are born today in a Western country, you have a one in four chance of living until you are one hundred years old.

The future will have wars, terrorism, famine and disaster just like the past, but tourism will prevail. The future of tourism will be fed by equally unprecedented natural resource competition and environmental impacts, however it is Thomas Malthus who wrote in an essay on the Principles of Populations published in 1798 that sooner or later population growth will be checked by famine and disease. Was he wrong? While exponential growth can be expected to lead to increased scarcity of resources, human creativity can ameliorate increased scarcity. Basically, humankind is good at adaptation and overcoming many of the challenges it is presented with.

It is rare to find a national or regional tourism plan, book or academic article about the future of tourism that doesn’t reference the UN World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO) forecasts – thus they have become the main arbiter of the future. This is an industry which in 1950 represented 23 million international arrivals and was forecasted to reach 1.8 billion in 2030. But the future of tourism has to be more than an economic forecast as extrapolated forecasts can often be misleading, ambiguous and debateable.

What will change?

In 2050, we still foresee romantic holidays in Paris or hiking the Yellow Mountains of China. What might be different is that Brain Computer Interfaces will have the ability to read customers’ minds, thus anticipating all their dreams and desires, or exoskeleton suits will give us all the power of Iron Man as adventure tourism is redrawn. Pokémon has taken the world by storm, but it is the convergence of the technology trends of GPS systems, augmented reality and ubiquitous computing that have made the game real and accessible to the masses, combined with the consumer trends of smart boredom and gaming cultures, that have changed how we play.

The future is both an understanding of the past and a quantum leap of imagination. Whether you believe in Star Trek, or Sunderland being the epicentre of tourism, the future is the only place you can travel to. Think of the future as your next holiday: we will help you pack your suitcase, plan the journey, guide you to attractions of interest to ensure you have a great time. Our new series, The Future of Tourism, will involve everything from science fiction to the rational – all because we adopt a multidisciplinary perspective that provides the answers to the questions you want to know.

For more information about the new series please see our website. Proposals should be sent to Sarah Williams, Commissioning Editor.


The Status of English in Bosnia and Herzegovina

31 July 2016

This month we published The Status of English in Bosnia and Herzegovina edited by Louisa Buckingham which explores how English learning and teaching changed in Bosnia and Herzegovina following the break up of former Yugoslavia. In this post, Louisa explains how the book came together.

The Status of English in Bosnia and HerzegovinaThis collection of 13 chapters traces the status of foreign languages, in particular English, and the conditions in which foreign languages were learned in the changing socio-political contexts of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) from the Yugoslav era, through the war period (1992-1995), and continuing to the present day. The book was timed to appear shortly after the 20th anniversary of the signing of Dayton Accords, which marked the end of the independence war in BiH.

With 16 authors contributing, the book is the result of collaboration with academics in BiH over approximately four years. This collaborative relationship reaches back to the early 2000s, when I worked as a lecturer in the newly established Department of English and German at the University of Tuzla in northern Bosnia. Some contributors to this volume were at that time the first generation of students to graduate from this Department. Many students had delayed their studies due to the difficult conditions during the early post-war period, and many worked full-time parallel to their studies as English teachers in state schools or as translators and interpreters for non-governmental organizations. During those years, I was privileged to experience a generation of students who were highly motivated to complete their degree and who brought to their university studies invaluable practical experience related to language teaching and translation/interpreting, together with enviable levels of bilingualism.

The students at that time, and even some lecturers (whether Bosnians or visiting lecturers from Croatia or Serbia) were, in a sense, the bridging generation, in that they had begun (or even completed) their schooling during the Yugoslav era, but had commenced their university studies or their careers during the war or immediate post-war era. Through their studies, the authors articulate the experiences of people who became quiet heroes of the provisional wartime arrangements which ensured the continued functioning of state institutions. Today, these same people have become participants in a comprehensive state-driven reform process which endeavours to align the education and legal system of BiH with European Union requirements. Capturing and recording these lived experiences in an enduring form, and ensuring they became accessible to a broad audience were important objectives for me as editor of this volume. In many cases, this meant working individually with authors as they designed their studies and supplementing the often scant bibliographic resources available in BiH.

The volume also includes three contributors (including myself), who do not originate from the former Yugoslavia. As I explain in the Introduction, we each spent extended periods of our professional lives working in BiH (or the former Yugoslavia). Our contributions bear witness to the diverse range of experiences and the privileged insights we were afforded by virtue of our professional roles.

The book has much to say about social change in countries which have undergone profound political transition. I believe one of the unique strengths of the volume is that the contributors were participants in the realities described and most have chosen to remain in BiH to the present day. Their studies thus provide a critical insider view from the perspective of individuals committed to the social and educational development of BiH in the early 21st century.

Louisa Buckingham l.buckingham@auckland.ac.nz

Language, Identity and Education on the Arabian PeninsulaFor more information about this book, please see our website or contact Louisa at the address above. You might also be interested in Louisa’s other forthcoming volume Language, Identity and Education on the Arabian Peninsula which is due to be published in November.


Are languages dying out or just becoming more diverse?

28 July 2016

This week we published Linguistic Genocide or Superdiversity? edited by Reetta Toivanen and Janne Saarikivi. In this post, Janne discusses the question of whether languages are dying out or whether, in fact, the world is just becoming more linguistically diverse.

Linguistic Genocide or Superdiversity?Since the 1990s linguists and anthropologists have become increasingly aware of the fact that most of the world’s languages are under threat of extinction. The main threat for languages comes from the erosion of their traditional communities due to urbanisation and changing ways of life, as well as improved standards of education and new working environments.

Languages today are used for entirely different purposes than in primordial societies. In communities characterised by agriculture, fishing, hunting or gathering, all the members of a community typically worked the same way and inherited their social roles from their parents and family. Language was primarily used as a means of oral communication.

A postmodern society, by contrast, is dependent on an elaborate division of labour, and also on the different social identities of their members. The most important tools for this identity creation are reading, writing and studying, i.e. activities carried out within language. For an increasing number of people around the world, language is both the main working tool as well as the main outcome of their work.

Languages are often measured and compared by the number of their native speakers. But for some purposes a more adequate way to ascertain the size of languages would probably be to measure the number of different texts composed in a particular language. For instance, languages such as Icelandic or Estonian have far fewer native speakers than languages such as Kanuri (in Nigeria) or Uighur (in China) but since they are national languages of independent states, countless texts are produced in them every day by language specialists in schools, ministries and media. This language use is currently evolving into an endless stream of text in social media, where practically every speaker of the language community is also an author of new text. Meanwhile other languages with more speakers but fewer elaborate societal functions have little use outside oral intercourse.

The modern language situation has been characterised as a genocide of languages, because so many languages have disappeared, but it has also been called unprecedented plurilingualism, where languages are used in more diverse ways than ever. In a modernising society some minority languages disappear within a few generations, sometimes almost without a trace. But in many contexts they also change, become creolised to a mixed code that carries and creates new types of modern identities in urban and virtual environments. For some minority languages this means more variation than before instead of disappearing.

The new social situation with more interaction in global networks and new media accelerates the pace of language change and creates new pidgins, creoles, mixed and intertwined codes. The languages of east and west are used in the growing multicultural urban centres of Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas in countless new mixed genres, some of which are bound to a particular city, others to a particular music style and clothing, still others to particular professions and education.

Is the world of languages thus becoming more or less diverse? Is the new linguistic variation somehow different from the variation that has been described in dialectological and sociolinguistic investigations for decades? There are some grounds to suggest that this is indeed the case. The difference is not so much that languages interact on a global scale, but that much of this interaction takes place in a written medium and is affected by standards and ideologies learned through ever more common formal education. Much of what happens in language contact has been described many times in studies concerning dialects, but other things are new: the fact that language use is now work for many, or the fact that language choice is one of the primary ways to create modern identities.

But can the new linguistic variation compensate for the languages of the hunters, gatherers, fishermen and nomads, many of which are already gone forever? And will it be long-lasting?

It is still fair to say that much of the world’s linguistic diversity is under threat. But its disappearance might not just be voices vanishing to silence. More likely, it is going to be like a star shining brighter than ever just before it explodes into a vacuum.

Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic LandscapesFor more information about the book please see our website. If you found this interesting you might also enjoy Jan Blommaert’s book Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes.

 

 

 


English as an Additional Language Conference

22 July 2016

Last week I popped up the road to the University of the West of England where the English as an Additional Language Conference was taking place. This day event was run in partnership between the University, local councils and organisations to explore how schools can ensure learners of English as an additional language make the maximum progress possible and how their presence can have a positive impact on schools and settings.

The MM stand at the conference

The MM stand at the conference

The day was mainly targeted at teachers and educators working in schools in the area and it was great for us to have the opportunity to meet people working in these contexts. While a lot of our publications are targeted at researchers working in educational contexts or students training to become teachers, and we meet these readers regularly at research conferences, we do also have some books aimed at a more general readership and so the conference was a rare but valued occasion for us to meet the other groups of people who are actually using our books.

The day was an opportunity for teachers to refresh their thinking on the subject and take the time to think about topics that their busy daily schedule may not allow, to keep EALs at the forefront of their minds and to share expertise. I was really impressed with the positivity that flowed through the day and how teachers were encouraged to help their pupils feel that they have something extra and not to feel that they have to keep quiet or be embarrassed about the skills that they have. It was also stressed that it is important to make EAL pupils feel safe following on from the EU referendum result, which is a new challenge for schools.

Professor Simon Burgess from the University of Bristol

Professor Simon Burgess from the University of Bristol

Speakers at the conference included Professor Simon Burgess from the University of Bristol who discussed “The London Effect” which is a term coined to describe how EALs in schools in London, where the proportion of EALs in schools is much higher than in the rest of the country, perform much better in terms of progress made from age 11 to 16, compared with their white British peers and with pupils in the rest of the country. When asked why EALs make such good progress he spoke of high aspirations, positive attitudes, effort and engagement. One quote that stuck with me from his talk was that migrants often have a “get up and go for it” attitude, after all, they did “get up and go for it” to take the plunge in moving to a new country.

MM author Anne Margaret Smith's workshop

MM author Anne Margaret Smith’s workshop

I also attended a workshop run by Anne Margaret Smith (author of Teaching Languages to Students with Specific Learning Differences) on how to tell if an EAL student is struggling due to the language learning process or because of underlying cognitive differences and another led by Bharti Joshi and Stephen Bray from the consultancy company Kick Start on how to ensure more advanced learners of English achieve their potential in both primary and secondary schools.

The final keynote was by Mark Sims from Ofsted and he spoke of how Ofsted inspectors are looking for pupils understanding, accepting, respecting and celebrating diversity, as shown by their tolerance and attitudes. This was followed by a session during which delegates could ask any of the speakers for their answers to questions they had. One of the most inspirational questions was when one of the delegates asked for examples of best practice and members of the audience chipped in with things that they are doing in their schools. Examples I heard throughout the day included a Somalian dads and children reading group, older EALs acting as buddies for new arrivals of the same language background, a school in Middlesbrough where new EALs are automatically put in the top set, breakfast reading groups, coffee mornings and many other ideas. It was, as one delegate put it, great to hear of all the initiatives already in action and the conference was a fantastic opportunity to share them with those who were looking for fresh ideas.

Laura


Cooking Reality Shows: Changing the Face of Gastronomy?

20 July 2016

This month we are publishing Gastronomy, Tourism and the Media by Warwick Frost, Jennifer Laing, Gary Best, Kim Williams, Paul Strickland and Clare Lade. In this post, Jennifer discusses the rise of reality TV cooking shows and how they have influenced people’s interest in food and cooking.

Gastronomy, Tourism and the MediaOne of the important trends that informs our new book, Gastronomy, Tourism and the Media, is the rise of the TV cooking competition. Once upon a time, amateur cooks competed to make the best jam/jelly or sponge cake at the local agricultural show or fair, and success consisted of a blue ribbon and the warm glow that comes when one’s culinary skill is appreciated beyond the family circle. These days, it’s a little more complicated, and potentially much more lucrative. The Australian version of Masterchef, a franchise which has spread around the world, is a good case study to illustrate this changing landscape of gastronomy in an age of instant celebrity and social media. I admit to having had a fascination with this show since it first graced Australian television in 2009, and I am not the only one with this obsession, nor is it confined to Australia. I recently attended a conference in France and over dinner met an academic and his wife from Quebec in Canada who were also fans of the series. So what is the secret of its longevity?

Masterchef Australia is unusual for a reality show in that the competitors are mostly nice to each other, and those who aren’t are derided on social media. It also appears to change some people’s lives in a momentous way, with former contestants going on to open their own restaurant, work for the best chefs around the globe or publish their own cookbook. These are mostly people with serious ambitions connected to gastronomy and in a type of Cinderella fantasy, we applaud when their dreams really do come true. Apart from the prize money, some individuals, like Poh Ling Yeow or Adam Liaw, now have their own cooking television shows, often a type of travelogue, while others such as Julie Goodwin, write about cooking in the popular press. The three judges, chefs Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris and food critic Matt Preston, are there to inspire, encourage and mentor the contestants and draw out the personal narratives that lead us to care about these people. There is a great pleasure to be had in seeing these amateur cooks develop their skills and create spectacular and inventive dishes, which draw high praise from celebrity guest judges such as Nigella Lawson, Rick Stein, Marco Pierre White and Heston Blumenthal.

The latter is an integral part of the recipe that makes Masterchef Australia so popular. The viewer gets to know these celebrity judges and see how they work in the kitchen, but also hear about how they started in gastronomy and witness their excitement at seeing something new or clever devised by a talented amateur. There is a regular masterclass segment which involves the celebrity chef sharing techniques and tips for improving various dishes. Marco Pierre White is exacting in his standards, but also warm with praise when it is deserved, and tells us his stories of overcoming adversity during his career and the importance of endurance and passion if a chef is to succeed. These celebrity chefs present a very human face, somehow different from that shown during their own television series when they are the star of the show. This makes them even more fascinating as public figures and inspires some of us to visit their restaurants, to taste the outcome of this knowledge, skill and zeal, presided over by a chef who we know is at the top of their game. It was part of the appeal for me of eating at the Rick Stein at Bannisters restaurant in coastal New South Wales last year.

The show also has a powerful influence over gastronomic trends. One year a few contestants made chocolate fondant pudding and I was amused at the number of times this dish formed part of menus of numerous restaurants that I visited in Australia and the UK. Which came first is debatable, but there appears to be a flow-on effect from the television series. Children at school now talk about ‘plating up’ and are familiar with the latest kitchen gadgetry, such as a smoking gun, sous-vide machine or blast chiller. There is a greater choice of fruit and vegetables at our supermarkets, driven in part by the array of produce that Masterchef Australia showcases through its various challenges. I draw the line however at the latest craze that the show presents – incorporating meat as an element of a dessert. Panchetta crumb with my panna cotta? No celebrity chef can make me swallow that…

Associate Professor Jennifer Laing, La Trobe University, Australia
Email: jennifer.laing@latrobe.edu.au

For more information about this book please see our website or contact Jennifer at the address above.


Teaching Students to Break the Rules

13 July 2016

This month we are publishing Nigel Krauth’s book Creative Writing and the Radical which explores the ideas of innovation and experimentation within creative writing. In this post, Nigel discusses how he taught students to break the rules and how the way creative writing is taught must change to incorporate the ever-evolving modern world.

I’ve taught creative writing for 25 years at Griffith University, but only in one course – my Radical Fictions course – have students thanked me for teaching them how to break the rules. In addition, they’ve said: ‘I wish I had taken this course at the start of my degree, not at the end of it’.

In reply I used to say: ‘You need to know the rules before you can break them well.’ But nowadays I don’t say that. The students know already that rule-breaking is part of the mainstream in literary publishing.

Creative Writing and the RadicalMy book Creative Writing and the Radical traces the history of experimental writing in the 20th century and earlier, and shows how those gallant, devoted writers who sought to escape the strictures of the page – who made typography dance, presented narrative in manoeuvrable fragments, introduced pictures amongst the prose, and did away with the conventions of the printed and bound book – were actually onto something. They were rehearsing for the future.

Multimodal writing – based on ways of reading spatially which developed since TV and computer screens took over our reading/viewing habits – breaks the rules of traditional linear text writing in favour of writing which is not constrained by the densely-printed page but is oriented to the hypermedia possibilities of the app book, web publication, formats like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, PowerPoint, and other applications that combine text, visuals, audio – and even haptics, potentially.

In my Radical Fictions/Experimental Writing course last semester, I had a student who presented a suite of poems using QR codes on stickers located in appropriate settings, such as a poem about departure accessible from a QR label in an airport. I also had a narrative about a young woman’s enviable married life presented in images and short texts on Instagram, alongside a web journal which showed what was really going on in the relationship. And I had a romance genre novelette presented in PowerPoint with images and audio subtly supplementing – and subverting – the reading experience.

When students are shown Kate Pullinger and Chris Joseph’s collaborative web novel Flight Paths (2012), or Chapter 12 (the PowerPoint chapter) of Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010), or the reissue of Marc Saporta’s novel-in-a-box Composition No 1 (1963) by Visual Editions (2011) which can also be read on shuffle on their iPads, they quickly understand the possibilities of creative writing in the digital world and the changes most likely to happen for fiction, poetry and memoir in the future.

My students tend to have no particular visual arts or digital writing training, and not all feel confident about working on digital outcomes. As has happened over many years now, I still receive submissions based wonderfully in collaging, cut-and-paste, concrete typographical, discontinuous narrative and constraint/combinatory techniques as pioneered by the Dadaists, Oulipians and generally by experimental literary writers on paper.

This year one student handed in a story about a child who develops a psychotic disorder in his teenage years, as told through the parental words added to birthday and Christmas cards throughout his shortened life. The greeting cards (almost forty in number, purchased, hand-written upon, and submitted for assessment) show how the apple of the effusive parents’ eye becomes a stranger they have nothing left to say to. Another student, who in fact lived through 9/11 in New York, submitted a narrative in a hundred 6-word mini-stories – each printed on a torn strip of paper, a jam jar full of them – which looked like a retrieved collection of the confetti that rained down on that fateful day. This novelette in a jar, narrated from children’s viewpoints, seeks to understand what adult culture is doing to the world.

Traditional paper publishing too is changing: the experimental has been accepted into the mainstream. The best example is Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2005), a highly acclaimed novel – and also a bestseller – which sets up complex interactions between text, layout, typography, design, graphics, colour, photography, literary forms and the structure of the codex itself. This novel is a master class in the possibilities of radical novel writing – a work that puts onto paper everything that the digital world can teach us about writing. It too is about 9/11’s explosion of American culture.

It stands alongside J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst’s S. (2013), a novel on a Hollywood scale made from a myriad of visual pieces, and W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz (2001), a novel which shows how memoir is significantly composed of photographic snippets.

There are many new avenues for the teaching of creative writing to follow. But they are not optional. Publishing is changing, how we read is changing … the way we teach creative writing must also change.

For more information about Nigel’s book, please see our website. If you found this interesting you might also be interested in the other titles in our New Writing Viewpoints Series.


How to choose a good book title

8 July 2016

Picking a good title for an academic book is vital for getting your work seen by other researchers in your field. Good academic titles reveal not only the topic but also an idea of the specific approach, argument or area of discussion. This post provides a helpful guide to choosing a title for your academic monograph.

First of all, remember that keywords are crucial. Think about the key terms you use throughout your work and make sure they’re included in the title. Make sure these keywords are also used throughout the book, in chapter headings and in the book blurbs.

Think about what search terms people would use if they were searching for your book and make sure you include these. Start by googling your potential title. If there are not many results this might mean that the terms you are using are not in common usage and therefore are best avoided. However, if there are many results be sure to check that there are no other books, papers or journals with the same title as yours as this will only cause confusion. In short, you want to get an idea of whether people are already searching for the keywords you’re using. Make sure the results that come up in your search are in the right discipline.

There is a difference between the main title and the subtitle. Sometimes books are only cited by the main title not the subtitle so make sure you’re not hiding any key information in the subtitle. The subtitle can contain more specific information such as the region or the kind of approach used which is not essential to the overall topic of the book. The specifics of the context, the precise languages covered or the specific participants of the study can be detailed in the blurb and the book. This doesn’t necessarily need to be in the title of the book.

Use clear and concise language to describe the topic of the book. Don’t use obscure academic terminology or jargon which isn’t widely known in the field. Remember, booksellers are not always experts in your field so the title needs to be clear to those who only have a broad understanding of the topic. Equally, if you’re coining a new term or phase in your book, it might be best to avoid using this in the main title as it won’t be known to many people and they won’t use it as a search term to find the book. Avoid using a clever or funny phrase as a title. Although it might mean something to you, out of context it won’t mean anything to anyone else and it won’t accurately convey the content of the book. Many people think an alliterative or quirky title is more appealing but really this is not appropriate for an academic audience and it is best to just focus on making the content clear.

Remember that the book title is sometimes the only thing a potential reader will see before making a decision as to whether to find out more. Make sure it is attractive to researchers in your field without being misleading or ambiguous. There’s so much research out there you want to make yours memorable so that readers realise it’s exactly what they’re looking for.

Good book titles

Examples of good book titles

Good examples of academic book titles:

  • Complexity in Classroom Foreign Language Learning Motivation: A Practitioner Perspective from Japan – This displays the overall topic as well as the specifics of the author’s context.
  • Multilingual Perspectives on Child Language Disorders –This clearly depicts the area covered and the perspectives taken.
  • The Linguistic Landscape of Chinatown: A Sociolinguistic Ethnography – As well as a clear main title, the subtitle here clarifies the approach taken.

Bad examples of academic book titles:

  • Language and Society – This is too broad and does not show what aspects of language and society are being explored.
  • Discover, Discuss, Debate: Investigating Language Use in the Multilingual Classroom – Although the main title might sound snappy and appealing it actually tells you nothing about the book and in fact, the subtitle would make a much better main title.

Key tips

  • Use as many keywords as possible in the title, preferably ones that you have also used throughout the book.
  • Think about the search terms that potential readers would use when searching for your book and include those in the title.
  • You need to remember that sometimes all the information a potential reader will have about your book is the title. If that isn’t enough to sell it, you’ve missed your chance.
  • Don’t use obscure or incomprehensible language or technical jargon.
  • Don’t be vague, anything with multiple meanings that could be misconstrued or misunderstood should be avoided.

What We Talk about When We Talk about Creative Writing

6 July 2016

This month we are publishing What We Talk about When We Talk about Creative Writing edited by Anna Leahy. In this post, Anna explains how the book came together.

What We Talk about When We Talk about Creative WritingWhat We Talk about When We Talk about Creative Writing has 32 contributors, including myself. Pulling that many voices together, chapter by chapter and on the whole, took a good deal of organization and effort on my part and, undoubtedly, a good deal of patience and agility on the part of each contributor. During the writing and editing of this collection, I sometimes wondered whether I should have written a single-author book instead. I’m glad I didn’t. This book is stronger for each perspective it includes.

Ten years ago, I edited the first book in the New Writing Viewpoints series, Power and Identity in the Creative Writing Classroom. That book had grown out of a conference panel—out of an organized, performed conversation—and, as a result, achieved both breadth and depth in ways that a single expert could not. When the dean interviewed me two years later for my current academic position, she asked about my plans for future scholarship in creative writing pedagogy and the profession. Power and Identity in the Creative Writing ClassroomI answered that, while I was considering writing a single-author book and found such volumes imperative, it seemed especially important for me to contribute articles to journals and chapters to others’ books as this field continued to take shape. In other words, I appreciated my role as instigator of conversation and was less concerned about claiming my own territory within an academic field. Because I was also writing poetry and creative nonfiction, I felt some freedom and perhaps responsibility to play in my scholarly work.

By the time the calendar rolled around to the possibility of a follow-up book for the tenth anniversary of the series, some scholars were calling what we’d been doing Creative Writing Studies. At the same time, Stephanie Vanderslice and I had begun moderating a Facebook group called Creative Writing Pedagogy, which now has more than 4300 members. I’d concluded that what I most wanted this field to be, no matter what it’s called, is a sprawling, smart, theoretical and practical conversation about what we’re doing as creative writers in the academy and why. With tenure and a track record of publication, I could push the scholarly boundaries with this new project while building on the earlier work. By including 32 contributors interacting, What We Talk about When We Talk about Creative Writing is sprawling, smart, and, chapter by chapter and on the whole, useful.

I invited all contributors to the previous collection to contribute to this new book, and those who were still working in the academy have added their voices. I invited some longtime collaborators of mine as well, and I invited new voices that were emerging in the field. As large as this group became, it remains not inclusive enough, an issue with which I grapple in the book’s conclusion as well as in some other chapters. Inclusivity is, to my mind, the most pressing issue for creative writers in the academy to address over the next ten years.

I’d like to think that the lists of works cited are also a form of collaboration. These represent texts and, by extension, authors we’ve invited into our conversations. We’ve worked with each other as contributors and worked with the references we’ve used. These references are additional voices and perspectives for readers to seek out and work with as well.

The mode of conversation used for this book is an invitation for engagement. What We Talk about When We Talk about Creative Writing enters into the now widespread and ongoing scholarly conversation about creative writing pedagogy and the profession. I want it also to instigate further conversation among creative writers who teach and graduate students in creative writing, too. In our field, there exists plenty of room for more voices, more questions, more possibilities to spin off from the analyses, ideas, and practices we document in this book. Let’s keep talking!

Dr. Anna Leahy, www.amleahy.com

Creative Writing Pedagogy on Facebook (you must be logged in to request to join; send a message to a moderator if your request isn’t reviewed within a few weeks): https://www.facebook.com/groups/39509228012/

For further information about the book please see our website or Anna’s own website.


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