What is curriculum?

Like any term we’ve attempted to define in this class, “curriculum” can be muddied until it doesn’t make sense anymore. I can also say that simply saying that does little for actual discussion. Okay, so terms are ambiguous; language is complex; meaning is subjective ad infinitum.

What becomes more productive relies upon taking a good look around. When I think of curriculum, I think of pedagogy—of what it is I am teaching. This grounds my discussion away from ambiguity, but it also sets up new complications.

Because I am teaching composition and I am very much able to look around at what it is I am doing, my understanding of curriculum begets the Text of my class. Just last week, we read a piece by James Porter: “Intertextuality and the Discourse Community”. Teaching this text highlighted the larger Text of what I consider curriculum.

Let me elaborate, and make sense for once.

Porter’s text deals with Text, and what the difference between one capitalized letter can be. He says, “Examining texts ‘intertextually’ means looking for ‘traces,’ the bits and pieces of Text which writers or speakers borrow and sew together to create discourse” (Porter 88). Porter gets out how our entire world is made up of all this text, which makes up the entirety of our lives—Text. I took this statement, and I ran with it, pedagogically speaking.

Since Porter is a bit dense, full of Foucault and what-not, I decided to embed texts from my discourse community to show my students several things: that intertextuality is a part of our everyday experiences; that we participate in its making all the time; and that to do so contributes to the living Text that is our lives. So very Derridean, ah.

I was reading Porter, getting my lesson plan for the day started. As I was doing that, I was checking both of my twitter feeds to see what was going on, and answer @ replies from some fellow rhetor friends in weird Twitter[1]. That was when some really great intertextuality went down. @SuicideGirls asked Twitter to participate in a hashtag game tagging #TittySprinkles to tweets: https://twitter.com/suicidegirls/status/259137623837253632  Considering they have over 161, 000 followers, this took off pretty quickly. But, as you can see, that tweet morphed: https://twitter.com/princezarek/status/259140313896071169 This is a meme photo that turned up as a shift from one that had been circling ever since the last Presidential debate (which I had taught the day before): https://twitter.com/korgasm_/status/259117865251262464 Before we discussed the meme’s morphing, however, I showed my class this video that explains what TittySprinkles are: http://vimeo.com/48836138 This allowed us to see the final shift in the hashtag’s life that night: https://twitter.com/suicidegirls/status/259138154852909057

Through this discussion, my class was able to see how my discourse community ruptures the Text of our lives by contributing to it, by making meaning. Our culture has the power to take something humorous and noncommittal, and then turn it into a very serious, very significant speech act. I advised them that this last turn of meaning was what we call rhetoric.

But what does this say of curriculum? Of teaching? My implementation of an intertextual artifact through its stages of being permitted me to see that my curriculum is the Text. The Text is whatever happens to be living at the very moment in our lives. This does not mean that I don’t teach anything “dead”, say a textbook. Quite the contrary. Porter’s piece is alive and well in Writing about Writing. All of us literature and creative writers know about literary present tense.

The Text is assuredly composed of pieces already written. Yet, the Text (for me at least) is also very much what is happening in the moments we are currently breathing. I found that students respond best—they understand the dense texts we must assign from our field—if they see them alive in their everyday. Putting the #TittySprinkles meme in context with our text made a new rupture in the Text.

My students learned that our lives are composed intertextually, but they learned something far greater, far more important. They learned that they have the chance to write into the Text and stop things like NDAA from affecting their lives. At least, that’s the text I’m writing.


[1] weird Twitter has been coined by Berkeley scholar Sebastian Benthall.

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