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Grammatological Rewrite

For Ross McElwee, Sherman's march to the sea is not only a historical event, a key moment in the Civil War, it is a metaphor rich enough to explain both the filmmaker's disastrous love life and his fear of nuclear holocaust. Moreover, this metaphor grants McElwee a means of organizing his filmic materials. Sherman's March documents its maker's own march to the sea. The movie actually does what it is talking about. Hence, Sherman's march is a grammalogue.

Put technically, a grammalogue is a metaphor projected onto the metonymic axis of language. More simply, it's an image that suggests a form of organization. Grammalogues are algorithms.

Sounds pretty complex, huh? Well, consider this: When you write a story--when you plow through a series of events--you order your materials, right? You follow an organizational method that we label "narrative." It has rules that create a comprehensible pattern; it's an algorithm. In narratives one action follows another in a series of perceived cause-and-effect relationships. But because you learned this organizational method as a child (and probably not in school), you're often unaware that you're using it (until you make a mistake). Narrative, to good storytellers and their audiences, feels absolutely natural.

But what if we, as creative writers, forsake narrative for collage? What do we lose? Writing collage texts means that we drop the cause-effect sequencing that generates plot, and it means that we give up or, at least, de-emphasize the enigma that pulls readers to the close of conventional narratives. In a word, when we abandon narrative form, we run the risk of losing readers by creating texts that are little more than scrapbooks. What collage seeks to do, therefore, is provide writers and their readers with new forms of textual organization. It seeks to gain interest through variety.

Grammalogues arise from the mystorian's subject matter. As images that suggest form, they grant docu-novellas (and, in particular, mystories) coherence. Grammalogues keep your work from becoming a hodgepodge or the scrapbook of a fan. Finding a good one is often hard work, but the metaphor and metonym projects you've already completed should provide you with plenty of candidates for workable grammalogues.

ASSIGNMENT: Rewrite the narrative you composed early in the semester, the one that told the story of your "ego ideal." Using all of the materials you've gathered (including a revised ground-zero anecdote), order them in a manner suggested by the grammalogue. Most often, this means that you should follow "pictogrammatical," not ratio-analytical, logic. Treat your grammalogue as a hieroglyph or rebus that confuses the verbal and the visual.