“Community Writing in a Time of Violence” … discussion facilitated by Eli Goldblatt

What role does writing play in responding to fears and disillusionment that can emerge after being inundated with reports of mass violence? How can we help communities that feel shaken by violence on the streets or violent images projected on to them by others? How can people respond through writing to disturbing scenes they see either in the media or in their daily lives? How should literacy leaders respond to the cheapening of public discourse and attacks on verifiable reporting? This session brings together people concerned about the effects of the near-daily reports of mass violence, threats against women and minority communities, public insult exchanges, and social polarization. No speaker can tell us how to proceed; we will write, read, and talk together, sharing responses that support both communities and individuals in moments of distress.

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Eli Goldblatt is Professor of English at Temple University and director of New City Writing, an institute focused on community literacy in North Philadelphia. Goldblatt’s research and published works include Writing Home: A Literacy Autobiography (S. Illinois UP 2012) and `Round My Way: Authority and Double-Consciousness in Three Urban High School Writers (U of Pittsburgh P 1995), as well as Because We Live Here: Sponsoring Literacy Beyond the College Curriculum (Hampton P 2007), which won the 2008 National Council of Writing Program Administrators’ Best Book Award. The Conference on Community Writing presented him with the Outstanding Scholar Award in 2015. With David Jolliffe, he is currently working on a book about non-school literacy projects in urban Philadelphia and rural Arkansas. Goldblatt’s poems have appeared over the last forty years in small literary journals and his poetry collections include Sessions 1-62 (Chax P 1991), Speech Acts (Chax Press 1999), and Without a Trace (Singing Horse Press 2001). Goldblatt’s two books for children are Leo Loves Round and Lissa and the Moon’s Sheep (both Harbinger House 1990).



Evening Performance:

“The Prison Story Project : On the Row” … discussion facilitated by David Jolliffe


On the Row

THE PRISON STORY PROJECT: ON THE ROW is a production of the Northwest Arkansas Prison Story Project, which since 2011 has been sending teams of writers into prisons, leading writing workshops with the inmates, and then developing readers’ theatre scripts that are performed by professional actors both for the inmates who write the material and for public audiences. In the summer of 2016, the Prison Story Project undertook its most challenging initiative: eight inmates housed on Arkansas’ Death Row met with Prison Story Project workshop leaders one Saturday a month from May through September to read and discuss imaginative literature and write in response to issues, themes, and problems raised by it. ON THE ROW, the 70-minute script generated by the initiative, was performed on Death Row for the writers on October 8 and subsequently presented to large, enthusiastic public audiences in the weeks and months following the initial performance.

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David Jolliffe is the initial holder of the Brown Chair in English Literacy at the University of Arkansas, where he is also Professor of English in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and, by courtesy, Professor of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education and Health Professions.

Prior to coming to Arkansas, Jolliffe was Director of Composition at the University of Illinois at Chicago from 1987 to 1994 and then Director of Writing Programs and Director of the First-Year Program at DePaul University, where he taught from 1994 through 2005. He has been a member of the executive committee of both the Council of Writing Program Administrators and the Conference on College Composition and Communication.

A long-standing actor and director, Jolliffe creates many of his community literacy outreach projects by emphasizing the power of performance to teach the world of the word. With the Classical Edge Theatre Company, which he helped to found in 2011, Jolliffe sends teams of actors into schools throughout Arkansas to perform scenes from Shakespeare and lead workshops. Most recently, he has joined the Northwest Arkansas Prison Story Project, for which he helped to run writing workshops for inmates housed on Arkansas’ Death Row in the summer of 2016. Beginning in October 2016, Jolliffe portrayed a role in the readers’ theatre performance of ON THE ROW, the production developed solely from the writing produced by the Death Row inmates.

The author or editor of several books on literacy in communities, rhetorical theory, and the professional preparation of writing instructors, his most recent publication is The Arkansas Delta Oral History Project: Culture, Place, and Authenticity, co-authored with Christian Z. Goering, Krista Jones Oldham, and James A. Anderson Jr. and published by Syracuse University Press.