21st Century Literacies and Reading/Learning in Public: A Discussion with Richard E. Miller

Friday, February 28, 12:00-1:30 p.m.
Williams Building “Skybox” (fourth-floor conference room)

After N. Katherine Hayles’s call in Poetics Today to consider media-specific analysis (MSA) as a way of extending hypertextual values to print, some devotees of literary study are arguing that the digital has provided a renewed and timely attention to the materiality of “texts” over “works,” in turn provoking new ways of thinking simultaneously about print as a medium and about non-print-based mediums. Since then, the question of what makes a text material has become salient for other questions regarding reading, learning, and the production of knowledge. What constitutes reading in different im/material forms? What constitutes more or less public ways of learning these forms, within and without of the university? How do various ways of reading and learning publically reflect or inform various attitudes toward knowledge production?

Join us for a special discussion with Richard E. Miller of Rutgers University, where we will consider how Miller’s work can problematize the idea of reading in public beyond a mere acceptance or rejection of material forms or digital mediums — beyond merely lauding permanence or change. Miller’s own online experiment in writing (text2cloud) calls for a more “meditative” approach to thinking about institutional change, inviting readers to take up learning controversies in dimensions other than traditional vs. modern. We will take him at his word. This discussion group may be of special interest to students and scholars of book history, text technologies, 21st century literacies, technological consumption, and digital pedagogy, but all are welcome.

Miller’s visit is co-sponsored by the Literature Program in English, and lunch will be provided. For planning purposes, RSVP to tgraban@fsu.edu.

Participants are invited to read the following in advance of Miller’s visit:

and to browse the following:

NB: For those who cannot attend the discussion, Professor Miller will also be giving a departmental lecture in English on Friday, February 28, from 4:00-6:00 p.m. in Williams 013 (a.k.a., the “Common Room,” basement level). All are welcome.


1 thought on “21st Century Literacies and Reading/Learning in Public: A Discussion with Richard E. Miller

  1. More than anything, I was intrigued by Miller’s ideas about “slow reading.” He occupies an interesting middle ground between digital apologists, and alarmists like Mark Bauerlein: while he is clearly not anti-technology (and he makes it clear, in “The Coming Apocalypse,” that changes to the way students compose, because of new technology, are inevitable), he does seem to think something is being lost because of it. At least, that’s what we infer from the fact that while he allows digital editions of books to be read, he does not want students to read the way they usually read: in a hypertextual manner.

    FYC tends to take for granted the idea that students arrive at the university unprepared to think in an academic way–they tend to think, as Miller would say, in paratactic terms. Our jobs as teachers, we tend to think, are to help them think hypotactically–to subordinate ideas, to acknowledge nuance, to reason with finer instruments. And I think many of us would agree that while it would be nice to get undergraduates to think with book-length texts, we would settle for careful, reasoned interaction with almost any text.

    But Richard Miller is hunting bigger game. Some might say it’s a sad thing for universities that courses like this need to be taught, courses that try to force students to read one book attentively. But Miller is a pragmatist, and I value that quality in a teacher. I think he’s probably right that we need to help our students learn to hold onto an extended argument, to follow it through to the end and sift it. But I wonder if he’s subtly giving away the farm by signaling that linear reading is somehow better than hypertextual, instead of simply a different way of interacting with texts.

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