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The Once and Future Classroom
Volume VI, Issue 2
Fall 2008


The Medieval Writing Workshop

Alex Mueller

If we compare elementary and secondary school classrooms today with their grammar school predecessors of the Middle Ages, we might find few similarities. The terrifying image of the medieval schoolmaster, seated in a chair with his birch in hand, ready to strike supplicant schoolboys for incorrect answers, does not match our more recent and comforting portrait of the teacher who circulates throughout the classroom and nurtures students through a student-centered curriculum.1 Yet, as an educator trained as both a medievalist and a high school English teacher, I am regularly provoked by the affinities I discover in medieval and modern pedagogies, particularly in their prevailing theories of knowledge acquisition and perspectives on the role of the writing instructor. In fact, the romantic conception of a teacher who creates a community of writers in the classroom by sharing her own writing and encouraging her students to make meaning through writing is firmly rooted in premodern notions of textual production and grammar school teaching practices. Medieval schoolmasters such as Bernard of Chartres, Geoffrey of Vinsauf, and Robert Henryson are striking examples of teachers who not only endorsed active learning, but also established the groundwork for the “workshop” model of writing instruction and other “modern” pedagogies. In particular, I want to demonstrate the way that premodern teaching methods have informed progressive educational movements such as the National Writing Project (NWP), which has been credited for developing the philosophy that the best teachers of writing should be writers themselves.

Writing Instruction in the Middle Ages

While it is mostly accurate to say that the medieval model of schooling was more exclusive, more hierarchical, and more oppressive than our current educational system, the clear distinction made between premodern and modern pedagogies is often overstated. For example, in what has become a seminal work of scholarship on the writing classroom, Rhetorical Traditions and the Teaching of Writing, C.H. Knoblauch and Lil Brannon argue that modern rhetoric, which originates in seventeenth-century thinking, constitutes “a new intellectual world” that writing instructors should readily embrace in their teaching. To separate this modern rhetorical tradition from its predecessors, Knoblauch and Brannon suggest that

Unlike the ancient intellectual world, which it has permanently displaced, this new world features a perpetual search for knowledge, where learning is an endless adventure in making sense out of experience, an exploratory effort in which all human beings are both teachers and students, making and sharing meanings through the natural capacities for symbolic representation that define their humanity. It is a world founded on this perpetual search, not on the authoritarian premises and unassailable dogmas of antiquity, not on the passive veneration of conventional wisdom or the declarations of privileged ministers of the truth.2

This bold claim, which has been thoroughly criticized by historians of rhetoric, assumes not only that premodern teaching was a fundamentally dehumanizing activity, but also that the Middle Ages contributed nothing to the “intellectual world” that would distinguish it from the classical tradition.3 Marjorie Curry Woods points out that although Knoblauch and Brannon are unique in their complete omission of the Middle Ages in their master narrative of the rhetorical tradition, their effacement of medieval rhetoric and pedagogy is typical of most histories of writing instruction.4

Especially vexing is the suggestion that premodern pedagogues neither endorsed “exploratory” learning nor treated their students as “human beings.” By claiming that the notion that knowledge could be obtained through “making and sharing meaning” is a post-Cartesian phenomenon, Knoblauch and Brannon relegate the Middle Ages to a time when the “banking concept of education” was the exclusive pedagogical mode.5 While the lecture (lectio) was undoubtedly relied upon as an instructional tool in medieval classrooms, it was by no means the predominant practice, especially in the teaching of reading and writing. Furthermore, the schoolmaster seated with birch in hand was not the only pedagogical posture. For reading instruction, particularly at the early ages, a student would be cradled between the legs of the teacher, who would hold the tablet in front of the student as they parsed the words together.6 Such a physical intimacy between schoolmaster and student demonstrates that even premodern students were in some sense “nurtured” through the curriculum.7 Once students advanced to the writing stage, they would study models of rhetorical devices, compose imitations, and even meet in groups to share their work. In the twelfth-century Metalogicon, John of Salisbury claims that his teacher, the renowned Bernard of Chartres, taught writing in a way that might strike us as surprisingly “modern”:

Et quia in toto praeexercitamine erudiendorum nihil utilius est quam ei quod fieri ex arte oportet assuescere, prosas et poemata cotidie scriptitabant, et se mutuis exercebant collationibus, quo quidem exercitio nihil utilius ad eloquentiam, nihil expeditius ad scientiam, et plurimum confert ad uitam, si tamen hanc sedulitatem regat caritas, si in profectu litteratorio servetur humilitas.
[Since nothing is more useful in introductory training than actually to accustom one’s students to the art they are studying, his students wrote prose and poetry every day and exercised their faculties in mutual conferences. Nothing is more useful for eloquence and more liberating for knowledge than such conferences, which also add much to life, provided that charity moderates enthusiasm and that humility is preserved during progress in learning.] 8

The workshop-style pedagogy described here indicates that students were encouraged to experiment regularly in their compositions and share their work with their learning community. These compassionate postures and exploratory methods, which were typical after the twelfth-century, simply do not suit the prevalent assumption that medieval education was a system of discipline and punishment.9

Teachers as Writers  

To model a constructivist atmosphere of textual production in the classroom, instructors from Geoffrey of Vinsauf to Robert Henryson composed works that could be readily used by their students. In 1215 Geoffrey of Vinsauf finished the Poetria nova, a rhetorical treatise in verse that survives in nearly two-hundred manuscripts containing numerous comments and glosses added by later writing teachers and their students.10 As a testament to Geoffrey’s writing pedagogy, one commentator notes, “[L]oquitur de arte ita quod ex arte, versificatur dans precepta de uersibus. Et ita ipse agit quod docet, quod est boni doctoris de consuetudine” [He says about his art what he demonstrates from it; he writes verse while giving the precepts of verse. And thus he does what he teaches, which is the custom of a good teacher].11 This scholarship of teaching was both admired and emulated by future schoolmasters. Among Latin teachers, Walter of Wimborne, composed poetic satires and devotional works to the Virgin Mary, William Wheatley wrote a commentary on Boethius’ De Consolatione Philosophiae, and John Seward of London produced the Arpyilogus, a commentary on Virgil’s Aeneid.12 Teachers who composed works in the vernacular included John Lelamour of Hereford, who translated a Latin herbal into English, and Alexander Barclay, who wrote a version of Sebastian Brant’s Ship of Fools.13

Of most interest to English teachers, however, is the fifteenth-century writing of Robert Henryson, who composed both the well-known Testament of Cresseid, a sequel to Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde,and the animal Fables, a work that emerged from his experience teaching writing at a grammar school in Dumfermline.14 His rendering of the fables, a standard text in the school curriculum, demonstrates his adherence to moral didacticism and the virtues of writing practice.15 He emphasizes this latter point in his prologue, suggesting that

. . . it is richt profitabill
Amangis ernist to ming ane merie sport
To light the spreit and gar the tyme be schort. (19-21)
[it is very useful to mingle merry play with serious pursuits to lighten the spirit and make the time pass quickly]

His characterization of poetry as a “merie sport” implies that the writing classroom is a place where poetic experimentation could be encouraged as a pleasurable means to moral ends. Furthermore, Henryson models the tentative nature of composition by invoking the conventional humility topos, asking his reader to “correct” (42) his “language” and “termes rude” (36). This invitation of revision reflects a process-oriented pedagogy that is more often associated with modern rhetorical traditions.
In fact, the philosophy of “teachers as writers” is one espoused by the National Writing Project (NWP), a profoundly successful organization that has provided high quality professional development for teachers of writing since 1974. The NWP supports two hundred local sites throughout the fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands in their efforts to improve writing instruction in K-college classrooms. Each site invites seasoned teachers of writing to participate in a summer institute, an intensive workshop in which participants share effective practices and conduct classroom research.16 What makes these institutes unique is their additional emphasis on the writing of the participants. Time is set aside for teachers to write and share their work in groups in support of the belief that the best teachers of writing are writers themselves. Based on her experience running institutes for the Puget Sound Writing Project, Anne Ruggles Gere argues that NWP “must work continuously to convince teachers that their performance as writers is an integral part of their teaching responsibilities.”17 Another stringent advocate of this approach has been none other than Lil Brannon, the director of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte Writing Project, who co-wrote another book, Writers Writing, that provides models of sustained writing practice for teachers and students.18 Brannon’s scholarship and leadership has been particularly influential to the success of the NWP and their development of a national cadre of effective writing instructors who write actively with their students and emphasize the importance of exploration, collaboration, and revision.

As an active member of the NWP and an ardent disciple of its programs, I greatly admire the efforts of scholars and activists such as Brannon, who argue for writer-centered learning environments, in which both teachers and students are readily composing and sharing their work with each other. However, I think it is a mistake to characterize such pedagogy as exclusively “modern.” As Nicholas Orme has demonstrated, “Apart from schooling for all, which did not become a national policy until the late nineteenth century, there is hardly a concept, institution, or practice of modern education that cannot be traced, somewhere or other, in medieval England.”19 Few would refute Orme’s point that our schools find their origins in medieval inventions such as the university, yet many assume that our current teaching methods are a drastic departure from premodern forms of recitation and disputation. In her classic 1947 paper, “The Lost Tools of Learning,” Dorothy Sayers punctuates the great chasm she perceives between medieval and modern education by suggesting that schools could be improved through a neomedieval curriculum, which would be based in methods of the trivium (grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric), instead of discrete subjects such as English and History.20 By claiming that the medieval tools of learning have been lost, Sayers seeks a return to premodern pedagogy and a skills-before-content educational program. While I recognize the obvious curricular changes that have occurred since the fourteenth century, the continual use of scholastic methodologies, such as the writing workshop, does not compel us to return to the Middle Ages – rather, their persistence confirms the fact that the medieval continues to emerge and find relevance in the postmodern.

Medieval Pedagogy in the Postmodern Classroom

Even though we cling to many of the best practices of premodern education, we have not recognized them as such. For example, preeminent composition theorists, such as Ann Berthoff and Donald Murray, have championed glossing, or marginal commentary, as a critical reading and writing technique, but have left its scholastic origins unexplored.21 An exception to this neglect of premodern pedagogy is Bruce Brasington, a professor of history at West Texas A&M University, who has his students analyze campus library books as if they were medieval manuscripts. By analyzing the marginalia in books that have been loaned out over time, students can gain insight into how specific passages and short texts have been interpreted by their patrons. As Brasington recognizes, this practice was central to medieval scribal culture, in which books were scarce and their interpretive history was not recorded in monographs, but inscribed into the margins of the codices themselves.22 Many of today’s composition teachers ask their students to write in the margins of textbooks as well as the texts of their peers without ever realizing the larger pedagogical context of this common reading and writing activity.

Like Brasington, I use medieval educational practices quite consciously, not because they are medieval, but because they are effective. One of my favorites is the technique of imitatio that medieval schoolmasters employed to familiarize their students with the writing styles of the classical auctores and to improve their writing proficiency. Students would immerse themselves in the writings of Cicero, identify the characteristics of Ciceronian style, and then write their own sentences in the manner of Cicero. I have adapted this imitative practice for my teaching of Aristotle’s Poetics to both high school and college students. Instead of imitating Aristotelian style, however, my students imitate Aristotelian tragedy. I have them read Greek and Roman tragedies, such as Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Seneca’s Phaedra, as well as Shakespearean examples, such as King Lear and Richard III; identify their Aristotelian elements; and then compose their own tragedies based on a current event, such as 9/11 or the death of Heath Ledger. This seemingly macabre activity yields remarkable results because it both invites students exercise their creative faculties and demands that they understand the nuances of Aristotelian plot structures, characteristics of tragic protagonists, and the complexities of catharsis.

As a believer in NWP’s philosophy of “teachers as writers,” I share my own attempts at this assignment with my students and invite them to critique it as if they were postmodern Aristotles. 23 In 1998, while teaching at Standley Lake High School in Westminster, Colorado, I composed a tragedy based on the death of Ennis Cosby, the son of actor and comedian Bill Cosby. The news had reported his death as the result of a random roadside attack, which made my task of manipulating the plot, while remaining as true as possible to the facts, a challenging one. As my students noted then, my tragedy was only marginally Aristotelian because of its shaky rendering of hamartia, or the protagonist’s tragic error.24 Here is my flawed account: “On the Sepulveda Pass, [Ennis] got a flat tie and pulled over to the side of the road. Even though he knew it was dangerous to change the tire without calling the police at that time of night, he chose to do so. While working on the tire, a man by the name of Mikail Markhasev approached Ennis at his car. His intention was to rob Ennis, but it failed because Ennis made a bad choice and resisted the robbery. In the end, Markhasev fatally shot him.” My narration of the events emphasized Ennis’ complicity in his own downfall by noting his decision not to call the police and resist the robbery, but my students rightly challenged these details as too minor to constitute a tragic mistake on par with Oedipus’ desire for knowledge and Lear’s hubris. Yet, the flaws of my narrative served the pedagogical purpose of empowering students to engage in academic discourse by critiquing their teacher’s work and refining their understanding of Aristotelian poetics.

After workshopping my writing, my students practiced the medieval art of imitatio, composing their own tragedies by manipulating the plot of a current event, book, film to suit Aristotle’s definition. When I first began using this technique, I was teaching eleventh and twelfth-grade students, but in the spring of 2005 I had the opportunity to adapt this practice for a course on ancient literature at the College of Visual Arts in Saint Paul, Minnesota. These art students relished this creative activity and produced tragedies on topics ranging from Sleeping Beauty to Martin Scorcese’s Taxi Driver. One student wrote a tragedy entitled “The King of Pop,” which beautifully describes the rise and fall of Michael Jackson. Her adherence to Aristotle’s insistence on the nobility of the tragic protagonist is especially impressive. Rather than emphasize his humble origins, she introduces Jackson’s fandom: “There was a time when Michael Jackson was a noble and benevolent icon . . . He danced and sang his way into the hearts of Americans, and eventually the rest of the world, in the 1960s when he appeared as the front for the musical group The Jackson Five . . . By the time his solo career took over his involvement in the group he was the target of Beatles-like adoration with fans shrieking and fainting at his very presence.” She acknowledges his working-class roots later in her narrative, but her laudatory prologue establishes Jackson as a man held in the esteem of characters such as Oedipus and Thyestes.25

Another student bested my attempts to represent the tragic error of the protagonist in a tragedy about NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt. This student’s writing is not as elegant as most of his classmates, but his elaboration of Earnhardt’s hamartia is convincing: “Dale did whatever he could do to get ahead; he was bumping cars and ramming others into the walls. He could tell everybody else was getting furious with him, but it didn’t matter because he was winning. Near the end of the race he could see his dad coming up on him in his rear view mirror. His dad eventually caught him and bumped him causing him to swerve enough to slip back to fourth place. After the race his father came up to him and said, ‘If you keep racing like that it’s going to come back and hurt you even more.’” A story in which Earnhardt’s impetuous ambition leads to his death may not please adoring NASCAR fans, but I am confident that Aristotle would be beaming with cathartic delight.

New Medieval Literacies

If these pedagogies are effective, why is it important that we recognize writing workshop models, textual glossing, and artistic imitation as medieval practices? After all, good teaching is good teaching. Yet, if we consult the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) position statement on 21st Century Literacies, we find objectives that medieval pedagogies are paradoxically positioned to address.

According to NCTE, educators must respond to the increasing need for students to “[b]uild relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively.”26 Our digital culture of blogging and wiki-writing demands collaboration at a rate never seen before, but few teachers realize that the performative and collaborative nature of this literacy is shared with the manuscript production, communal readings, and memorized recitations of premodern oral cultures. In characterizing this late age of print, Richard Lanham, author of The Electronic Word, asserts, “The oral world returns in a hyperliterate form.”27 The dynamic relationship between oral performers and their listeners, in which applause or silence alters readings, emerges again in hypertextual environments, in which digital writers respond to shifting texts and belligerent bloggers.28 Both medieval and digital literacies demand collaboration for the dissemination and authorization of knowledge, either through commenting online, glossing texts, or creating web or manuscript pages. By asking our students to critically evaluate and produce dynamic texts in the classroom through marginal notations and peer workshops, we are using methods appropriate for literate cultures, pre- and postmodern, that thrive on the instability of textual knowledge and collaborative writing.

In addition to this performative collaboration, both new and medieval literacies demand that students, in the words of NCTE position statement, “[c]reate, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts.”29 For 21st century-students, multimedia texts such as Facebook profiles, instant messaging, and Wikipedia are the norm -- so much so that the visual poverty of the printed book is often difficult for many of them to endure. As Richard Mayer has argued in Multimedia Learning, this increasingly visual literacy “involves making connections between word-based and image-based representations.”30 Such a characterization of 21st century learning paradoxically suits the manuscript culture of the Middle Ages, in which readers made direct correlations between the text on the page and the illuminations in the margins. Even cursory comparisons between medieval codices and web pages reveal striking similarities in their uses of text, marginalia, colorful images, indices, and commentary. These two very different worlds of text and image share literate practices that educators must not ignore.

While we should never deny the exclusive and hierarchical nature of medieval schools or collapse the pre- into the postmodern, it is time to repay our great debts to medieval schoolmasters and their models of successful teaching practice. If medieval literate practices are reemerging in the postmodern classroom, teachers should increasingly consider the relevance of premodern pedagogies for meeting the needs of their digital students. Perhaps then, a reference to a fellow teacher’s methods as “medieval” would no longer be considered an insult. By shedding its aura of denigration, medieval pedagogy could be recognized for its innovation.                            

Alex Mueller is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He is beginning work on a book entitled Veni, Vidi, Wiki: A Prehistory of English Education, an investigation of how premodern pedagogies such as medieval dialectic, encyclopedic writing, and manuscript glossing inform postmodern classroom and digital writing environments such as workshops, weblogs, and wikis.


1 For a discussion of the birching of boys, see Nicholas Orme’s Medieval Schools from Roman Britain to Renaissance England (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006), 144-5. See especially figure 40, which depicts a fourteenth-century teacher birching a pupil (164). For a helpful overview of modern pedagogical ideals, particularly for writing instruction, see C.H. Knoblauch and Lil Brannon, Rhetorical Traditions and the Teaching of Writing (Upper Montclair, N.J.: Boynton/Cook, 1984). For a critique of Knoblauch and Brannon’s claim that students ought to be “nurtured, rather than ‘taught’” (4), see Marjorie Curry Woods, “Among Men -- Not Boys: Histories of Rhetoric and the Exclusion of Pedagogy,” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 22.1 (Winter 1992): 18-26, at 18.  

2 Knoblauch and Brannon, Rhetorical Traditions and the Teaching of Writing, 51-2; see also Knoblauch, “Modern Composition Theory and the Rhetorical Tradition,” Freshman English News 9 (Fall 1980): 3-17; Edward P.J. Corbett, “John Locke’s Contributions to Rhetoric,” in The Rhetorical Tradition and Modern Writing, ed. James J. Murphy (New York: Modern Language Association, 1982), 73-84; Donald Stewart, “Some Facts Worth Knowing About the Origins of Freshman Composition,” The CEA Critic 44 (May 1982): 2-11; Robert J. Connors, “The Rise and Fall of the Modes of Discourse,” College Composition and Communication 32 (December 1981): 444-55.

3 For a response to Knoblauch and Brannon, see Richard Lloyd-Jones, “Using the History of Rhetoric,” in Learning from the Histories of Rhetoric: Essays in Honor of Winifred Bryan Horner, ed. Theresa Enos (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1993), 15-25, at 18-9. Knoblauch and Brannon offer their own reflection on the critiques in Critical Teaching and the Idea of Literacy (Portsmouth, N.H.; Boynton/Cook, 1993), 143-4.

4 Marjorie Curry Woods, “The Teaching of Writing in Medieval Europe,” in A Short History of Writing Instruction from Ancient Greece to Twentieth-Century America, ed. James J. Murphy (Davis, California: Hermagoras Press, 1990), 77-94, at 77. She includes the following histories of rhetoric within the corpus of scholarship that neglects the medieval period: Edward P.J. Corbett, Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971); George Kennedy, Classical Rhetoric and Its Christian and Secular Tradition from Ancient to Modern Times (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980); Brian Vickers, In Defense of Rhetoric (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988); William A. Covino, The Art of Wondering: A Revisionist Return to the History of Rhetoric (Portsmouth, N.H.: Boynton/Cook, 1988).

5 Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed: 30th Anniversary Edition, trans. Myra Bergman Ramos (New York: Continuum, 2000), 71-86.

6 Orme, Medieval Schools, 57. See also figure 18, the title page of Hornbyes Hornbook (London, 1622), which depicts this posture.

7 See note 1.

8 Ioannis Saresberiensis Metalogicon, ed. J.B. Hall (Turnhout: Brepols, 1991), 1.24.109-15. All translations from Latin to English are mine. For another translation, see John of Salisbury, The Metalogicon of John of Salisbury: A Twelfth-Century Defense of the Verbal and Logical Arts of the Trivium, trans. Daniel D. McGarry (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1955), 70. For another discussion of John’s thoughts on Bernard’s teaching, see Marjorie Curry Woods, “Some Techniques of Teaching Rhetorical Poetics in the Schools of Medieval Europe,” in Learning from the Histories of Rhetoric, 91-113, at 98-9.

9 Ibid., 91.

10 Geoffrey of Vinsauf, Poetria nova, trans. Margaret F. Nims (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1967); for the Latin, see Edmond Faral, Les arts poétiques du xiie et du xiie siècle: Recherches et documents sur la technique littéraire du moyen âge (Paris: Champion, 1962), 194-262; Woods, “Teaching Rhetorical Poetics,” 93.

11 An Early Commentary on the Poetria nova of Geoffrey of Vinsauf, ed. and trans. Marjorie Curry Woods, Garland Medieval Texts 12 (New York: Garland, 1985), 6.53-4; Woods, “Teaching Rhetorical Poetics,” 94.

12 The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2nd ed., ed. C. Matthew and B. Harrison (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). For more on William Wheatley, see A.B. Emden, A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to A.D. 1500, vol. 3 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1957-9), 2030-1. For more on John Seward, see V.H. Galbraith, “John Seward and His Circle,” Medieval and Renaissance Studies 1 (1941-3), 85-104; repr. in V.H. Galbraith, Kings and Chroniclers: Essays in English Medieval History (London: Hambledon Press, 1982). See also Orme, Medieval Schools, 181.  

13 Lelamour’s herbal is contained in Sloane MS 5, ff. 13r-57r in the British library; Nicholas Orme, “The Cathedral School before the Reformation,” in Hereford Cathedral: A History, ed. Gerald Aylmer and John Tiller (London: Hambledon, 2000), 565-78, at 574. For more on Barclay, see the Dictionary of National Biography and Nicholas Orme, Education and Society in Medieval and Renaissance England (London and Ronceverte: Hambledon, 1989), 259-65; Orme, Medieval Schools, 181.  

14 The Poems of Robert Henryson, ed. D. Fox (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981), xiii-xxv; Orme, Medieval Schools, 181.

15 Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, Nicholas Watson, Andrew Taylor, and Ruth Evans, eds., The Idea of the Vernacular: An Anthology of Middle English Literary Theory, 1280-1520 (University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999), 281-2. Citations of Henryson’s Fables refer to this edition.

16 The National Writing Project, “About NWP,” (accessed November 5, 2008).

17 Anne Ruggles Gere, “Teachers as Writers,” The Quarterly 2.2 (February 1980): 1-2, at 2.

18 Lil Brannon, V. Neverow-Turk, and Melinda Knight, Writers Writing (Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 1982); see also Lil Brannon and Gordon Pradl, “The Socialization of Writing Teachers,” Journal of Basic Writing 3.4 (1984): 28-37.

19 Orme, Medieval Schools, 345.

20 Dorothy Sayers, The Lost Tools of Learning: Paper Read at a Vacation Course in Education, Oxford, 1947 (London: Methuen, 1948). I have consulted a reproduction of her essay on the Trinity School of Durham and Chapel Hill website,

21 For a recent adaptation and application of glossing, see Deborah Minter and Amy M. Goodburn, “A Critical Reading and Revision Strategy: Glossing Arguments As Cultural Work,” Teaching Ideas for University English: What Really Works (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Faculty Publications – Department of English, 2004). The article is available via DigitalCommons@University of Nebraska-Lincoln, See also Donald Murray, Writing to Deadline: The Journalist at Work (Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 2000); Ann Berthoff, Forming/Thinking/Writing: The Composing Imagination (Montclair, N.J.: Boynton/Cook, 1982).

22 I wish to thank the anonymous referee of this article for passing on a copy of the essay by Brasington and his students, David Holt and Jennifer Parsons, “High Plains Scriptorium: Using the WTAMU Cornette Library in the Teaching of Medieval Education and Scribal Culture.”

23 I shared this “Art of Imitation: Writing an Aristotelian Tragedy” unit during the 2005 Summer Institute of the Minnesota Writing Project, a local site of the National Writing Project at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, MN. My demonstration lesson plan can be found online on MWP’s website:

24 Aristotle, Poetics, trans. Malcolm Heath (Penguin, London, 1996), 21.

25 Ibid.

26 National Council of Teachers of English, “The NCTE Definition of 21st Century Literacies,” (accessed March 20, 2009).

27 Richard A. Lanham, The Electronic Word: Democracy, Technology, and the Arts (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 214.

28 For a thorough treatment of the history of writing, see Jay David Bolter, Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print (Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 2000).

29 See note 26.

30 Richard A. Mayer, Multimedia Learning (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 57. For an application of this multimedia learning in the medieval literature classroom, see Tara Williams, “Multimedia Learning Gets Medieval,” Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture 9.1 (2009): 77-95.

The Once and Future Classroom , Volume VI, Issue 2, Fall 2008


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