By Adedoyin Ogunfeyimi
Adedoyin Ogunfeyimi, a Fulbright scholar from Nigeria, completed his Ph.D. in rhetoric and composition studies at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Ogunfeyimi explores the place-based notion of ethos and focuses on how disenfranchised groups often invoke their cultural ethos to negotiate a hospitable ecology for their survival. While doing his doctorate in Wisconsin, Ogunfeyimi tutored at the writing center for five years, drawing on his research interest to create hospitable writing sessions for a diverse range of student-writers. Presently, he teaches writing courses and participates in a data-driven writing research project at the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.
What If . . . ?
What if we also begin to think about the writing center as a storycenter, a place where student-writers come, meet, and share their stories? What if we begin to think about the work that we do in the writing center as storytelling, a way of encountering student-writers and their writings as repositories of stories? And if we must recast our writing center location as a storycenter, what might this “new” metaphor afford us, open up for us, and how might it shape how we see, engage, and interact with student-writers who frequent or visit the writing center?
Writers’ Stories in the Writing Center
Not until I began to reflect on the role of storytelling in my writing class did I consider these questions while working with the student-writers at the writing center. But I had always engaged with these writers from this metaphorical lens. That is, I had paid attention to the stories that the writers brought to my writing sessions and shared about themselves and (through) their writing experiences. Some of these stories touched on their college transition experiences, commemorated their migration struggles, reminisced about their community advocacy, contested their racialized identities and bodies, narrated their escapes from war-torn nations, etc. Through these stories and their vast rhetorical purposes, I came to understand that my work in the writing center had always figured as a storytelling project, that is, as an opportune moment seized upon by the writers to share their writing and writerly experiences, and, more importantly, as a way of encountering the writers as storytellers.
When I met with these writers in the writing center, I always looked forward to the moments they would tell their stories. I anticipated these moments because their stories and the ways they crafted such stories often helped to repurpose, reorder, and reshape our writing sessions. And because these stories showed the writers’ ways of writing about and seeing their worlds, their stories also constituted the meaningful ways of ordering and talking through their writings. For instance, these writers invoked their stories to clarify the directions of their drafts, redirect the conversations for better understanding, and contextualize their writing purpose. (more…)