Image: Writing and Reading Tools Volume 14 Deborah Forteza

Welcome to the first web-based issue of Fresh Writing! Throughout the year-long design process, our editorial, development, and design teams have returned to questions about this publication’s audience, purpose, and context—questions that, indeed, underscore the very theory and practice of rhetoric. We’ve designed this web-based publication with the needs of our students and faculty in mind, keeping in focus the larger cultural and intellectual contexts that shape our teaching and research practices. The resulting product is more than simply a digital copy of print-based essays; rather, the new format of Fresh Writing speaks in itself to the complexities of writing and reading in the 21st Century.

The publication does this in part by offering features not possible in the print-based predecessor. You’ll find essays across a variety of media formats—audio essays, video essays, a slideshow presentation, and, of course, traditional, print-based pieces. Many of the essays published in this volume are accompanied by discussion questions designed to promote engagement with the ethical, rhetorical, and conventional dimensions of the essay, and some essays also include instructional materials for faculty who may be interested in adopting similar assignments in their courses.

The cultural shifts that shape the evolution of Fresh Writing impact many aspects of our intellectual and personal lives, and several essays in this volume investigate the social ramifications of these shifts. Jesus Mendoza, for example, examines the rhetoric of Wendell Berry’s call for a return to intimacy in a mediated age, while Seamus Creedon uses psychological studies and empirical data to frame his investigation into non-normative behavior on the Internet.

Several pieces in this volume also address the import of visual rhetoric in our communicative landscape. Essays like Tommy Anderson’s video narrative, as well as a collaboratively authored video satire, explore the relationship between medium and message by performing the medium under scrutiny. Award-winning Snite Museum essays examine painting, sculpture, and glass, respectively, while Rachel Zavakos’ research project explores graffiti as a less traditional--yet culturally relevant--art form.

Within this cultural milieu, questions of identity and community persist--questions which drive many of the pieces published in this volume. Nwadiko’s “Jesus and J-Lo,” for example, engages complex cultural attitudes and assumptions embedded in naming practices. Mukumbi’s “The Elephant Ear Memory” engages the politics of race and difference with her compelling account of responses to her hair. Dearbhla Fay’s “Room 10” reflects on themes of space and place by way of a story about a classroom in Ireland. And two essays by Dan (April) Feng explore the essence of community—through group identification and cohesiveness, as well through touching moments of friendship and vulnerability.

Finally, the essays in the volume reflect the complexities of research in a digital age. These essays reflect some of the best research conducted by first-year students at Notre Dame, including three award-winning research papers. Research papers included in this volume engage such diverse and sophisticated topics as Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hinduism and democracy in India, religious rhetoric in the United States, and Federal Reserve policy. While the range of topics and approaches reflect the diverse interests of our students, each of these pieces underscore the complex ethical, rhetorical, and conventional dimensions of research.

I applaud the student writers published in this volume and congratulate them for their achievement. I also encourage current students and faculty to place these pieces into dialogue with one another, to extend the conversation to new modes and contexts, to critique, and to respond. My hope is that, as Fresh Writing continues to evolve, the publication will make visible the dynamic, responsive, conversational nature of academic writing. I look forward to continuing the conversation.

Best,

Erin McLaughlin,
Editor