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There's no denying that television is a forceful presence in students' lives. Yet in writing classrooms the assumption is often that television is only an obstacle to teaching critical print literacy. Little careful attention has been paid to exactly how television influences the ways in which students write, or how their experiences with television might be used to help them write more effectively. Bronwyn T. Williams argues that television is a powerful influence that is always present in the writing classroom, even if it is not acknowledged by either teachers or students. His interviews with students and observations of their television viewing and print reading have led him to conclude that the rhetorical skills students develop that allow them to read televised communication fluently, and even critically, can be used in a writing class to explore the same concepts in print, such as narrative form, audience, plot, and irony.
Williams shows teachers how they can harness these skills to influence the ways students perceive and engage in writing and reading from the first day of a composition course. Chapters in the book are followed by classroom practice interchapters which offer practical suggestions to help teachers use students' existing television literacies to achieve a more complex, nuanced, and critical literacy in print.
The influence of television on student writers is complex, however, and Williams also examines how the discursive nature of television can conflict with writing pedagogies. Television as a communicative form that is structured by time, without a clear authorial presence, and dominated by emotion often conflicts with what writing teachers consider fundamental properties of discourse in the academy such as reflection, individual authorship, and detached analysis. Finally, Williams considers the implications of his study for the field of composition in a time of expanding communication and literacy technologies.
In a world in which communication happens increasingly by electronic and visual means, where popular culture is seen to collide with the academy, Williams provides a refreshing and thought-provoking look at the intersections of seemingly disconnected literacies-television and print-and the ways in which teachers can draw upon certain critical discursive abilities their students already possess, but that have generally been dismissed and ignored.