Yoga Minds, Writing Bodies: Contemplative Writing Pedagogy
Christy Wenger, Shepherd University
Pub Date: 2015
ISBN 13: 978-1-6023566-0-3
Publisher: WAC Clearinghouse
Conditions of Use
Wegner's book argues that students can better be taught to write by helping them understand the multiple ways that their bodies are also engaged in read more
Wegner's book argues that students can better be taught to write by helping them understand the multiple ways that their bodies are also engaged in this process. She uses her own experience as a yogi to work through how she models this process in her writing classes. However, this book is NOT as textbook for a writing class, or any class, so I cannot really give it a score for conmprehensiveness.
Again, as this is NOT a textbook, I cannot address the book's accuracy in that light. Her scholarly arguments are thoughtfully laid out, and grounded in the appropriate theory.
Wegner's arguments about understanding through yoga how the body is implicated in the writing and learning process are extremely relevant given the popularity of yoga in the United States at the moment. In that way, I believe that the book is timely. Too, I believe that Wegner's ideas will have some longevity as university students in physiology, kinetics, pre-med, physical therapy, psychology, biology, and sports medicine programs are studying how exercise affects mood, and are pursuing modes of therapy such as "exercise as medicine" which might eventually change how practitioners think about physical therapy. But again, this book is not a textbook. It's audience is not students, but rather, their teachers who are interested in changing what they do in the writing classroom.
If I judged this book as an academic book, then yes, Wegner's writing is clear and relatively free of jargon, a remarkable accomplishment for many academic books. However, her prose is too difficult for students in most introductory writing classes to understand. I teach at a Research I institution, and I know that my students would be confused if I assigned a chapter of this book to them for use in our classroom. Again, this book is NOT a textbook.
Yes, the book extremely consistent in this regard. The writer structures her thoughts of writing about the body around how her own practice of yoga has transformed how she thinks about the multiple ways that her body is involved in her writing process.
I could easily use parts of this book in a senior or graduate seminar in rhetoric and composition. However, I couldn't use any part of this book in an introductory writing course because the writing level is too advanced for those students. Also, Wegner's book in no way resembles any composition book that I have ever seen. It does not have enough examples and exercises to be a book that could be used to help students understand what constitutes a good piece of writing, and the writing level is too complex to use parts of the book as food for thought in a class where I might encourage students to think about some of the issues that Wegner explores such as the discipline of the body as Foucault described it, or the spurious model of a mind body split that we have been habituated into using in order to understand ourselves and our world.
The writer has chapters and another element that she calls "interchapters." I don't understand what these things are or why they are necessary. Why can't they be chapters of their own, or attached to the other chapters and labeled something else? That element was just too clever by half and really irritated me.
It was very easy for me to navigate this book on my Surface Pro, and I assume that any other student who had a tablet or computer would be similarly able to find things with ease. However, I was unable to do some things with the book that I have come to expect in both PDFs and e-books such as search for a specific word or phrase. That's a shame. I would like to see this book and all open textbooks really structured so that they are searchable as a other types of ebooks.
I did not see any obvious grammatical errors.
This book is a model of cultural relevance. The body is the primary site of oppression, and the writer examines how discipline facilitates this oppression through promoting the idea of mind body dualism. To support this argument, she offers examples of how differently abled people approach writing, as well as of how her students' attitudes towards the writing process changed once they were given mindfulness exercises to consider how their own bodies were involved in the writing posture. Too, the writer's use of yoga as a tool to unpack the idea of mind body dualism is also culturally relevant and sensitive. Yoga is an ancient Eastern practice that has only recently become popular in the west, and some easterners and westerners see this popularity as nothing more than cultural appropriation that has erased the spiritual elements of yoga and turned it into a multi-million dollar industry selling lessons and specialized clothing that plays into patriarchal norms of women's bodies. .
While I love this writer's topic, her book is not suitable as a textbook, at least, not in most college level introductory writing classrooms. The writing level is too theoretical for these level of students, who need writing instruction most of all, and it addresses the teacher rather than these students. However, people who teach writing might find this book useful for helping them develop their own assignments, or even designing a course around the theme of writing about the body.
Table of Contents
From the Sticky Mat to the Classroom: Toward Contemplative Writing Pedagogy
Chapter One: The Writing Yogi: Lessons for Embodied Change
Interchapter One: Using "Body Blogs" to Embody the Writer's Imagination
Chapter Two: Personal Presence, Embodied Empiricism and Resonance in Contemplative Writing
Interchapter Two: Habits of Yoga Minds and Writing Bodies
Chapter Three: Situating Feelings in Contemplative Writing Pedagogy
Interchapter Three: The Writer's Breath
About the Book
In Yoga Minds, Writing Bodies, Christy Wenger argues for the inclusion of Eastern-influenced contemplative education within writing studies. She observes that, although we have "embodied" writing education in general by discussing the rhetorics of racialized, gendered, and disabled bodies, we have done substantially less to address the particular bodies that occupy our classrooms. She proposes that we turn to contemplative education practices that engages student bodies through fusing a traditional curriculum with contemplative practices including yoga, meditation, and the martial arts. Drawing strength from the recent "quiet revolution" (Zajonc) of contemplative pedagogy within postsecondary education and a legacy of field interest attributable to James Moffett, this project draws on case studies of first-year college writers to present contemplative pedagogy as a means of teaching students mindfulness of their writing and learning in ways that promote the academic, rhetorical work accomplished in first-year composition classes while at the same time remaining committed to a larger scope of a writer's physical and emotional well-being.
About the Contributors
Christy I. Wenger is Assistant Professor of English, Rhetoric and Composition at Shepherd University, where she directs the Writing and Rhetoric program. Her research has focused on the intersections between feminisms, contemplative traditions and composition. In addition to bringing her own practice of yoga into the classroom, she has partnered with local yoga instructors to create learning communities between first-year experience courses and first-year writing courses and her research has benefited greatly from the generosity of her yoga community. Her work on the materiality of teaching and the value of contemplative pedagogy for writing studies has previously appeared in journals including English Teaching and Practice and JAEPL, and has been shared at conferences held by the Conference on College Composition and Communication, the Rhetorical Society of America, and the Association for the Contemplative Mind in Higher Education, among others. She serves on the board of the Assembly for the Expanded Perspectives on Learning, an organization that allows her to connect with other compositionists interested in alternative pedagogies. Her additional scholarly interests include feminist writing program administration, digital pedagogy and feminist disability studies.