Shitty First Introduction (with apologies to Anne Lamott)

Hello Colleagues! I’ve delayed writing this post because I kept wanting to wait until I had time to write a really good and thoughtful introduction. But somehow I never found that time and now it’s Friday and I want to get this posted, so I’m going to take a page from Annie Lamott in “Shitty First Drafts” and start my participation in the PD seminar by just writing something, never mind making it perfect, in the few minutes I have between dinner and bedtime reading with my kids.

So my name is Denell. Weird name, I know–pronounced sort of like Janelle but it’s actually a combo of my maternal grandparents’ names, Daniel and Eleanor. My conscious perception of myself as a reader began when I was maybe four years old and my other grandmother Evelyn, a history professor turned children’s librarian, read The Hobbit out loud to me. I was blown away then by how reading (okay, being read to) expanded my world, how Tolkien’s words created a world whole in my mind. All these years later, reading can still blow my mind. Yesterday I reread James Baldwin’s “A Talk to Teachers” in preparation for class and was challenged anew by his urgent call for transformative teaching that disrupts the status quo, while also inspired by his eloquent description of a world that is “larger, more daring, more beautiful and more terrible” than anything anyone has ever said about it.

That lifelong love of reading led me to a Ph.D. in English and underlies my work in the writing classroom. I’m interested in exploring the connection between reading and writing, and in developing pedagogically-sound ways to emphasize reading in the writing classroom. I think that the turn away from literature in composition circles was a useful corrective but has sometimes been taken too far to mean not only avoiding a focus on literary analysis (which I agree is not appropriate in FYW courses), but also de-emphasizing reading assignments altogether. I’d like to see reading as an area of mutual interest among comp rhetoric scholars and literary specialists, rather than a line that divides English departments.

Multimodal composing is not my strength, but in an attempt to follow Carrie’s instructions I’m attaching a recent picture of myself (I’m the one with the straight brown hair) with my friend Emily and a dozen Wellfleet oysters.

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