—Michele Eodice, University of Oklahoma
—John Duffy, University of Notre Dame
The Embodied Playbook discovers a new approach to understanding student literacy in a surprising place: the university athletics department. Through analysis of a yearlong case study of the men’s basketball team at the University of North Georgia, J. Michael Rifenburg shows that a deeper and more refined understanding of how humans learn through physical action can help writing instructors reach a greater range of students.
Drawing from research on embodiment theory, the nature and function of background knowledge, jazz improvisation, and other unexpected domains, The Embodied Playbook examines a valuable but unexplored form of literacy: the form used by student-athletes when learning and using scripted plays. All students’ extracurricular prior knowledge is vital for the work they undertake in the classroom, and student-athletes understand the strengths and constraints of written text much as they understand the text of game plays: through embodying text and performing it in a competitive space. The book focuses on three questions: What are plays and what do they do? How do student-athletes learn plays? How can teachers of composition and rhetoric better connect with student-athletes?
The Embodied Playbook reveals the literacy of the body as a rich and untapped resource for writing instruction. Given the numbers of students who are involved in athletics, whether intramural, community-related, or extracurricular, Rifenburg’s conclusions hold important implications not only for how we define literacy but also for how writing programs can serve all of their students most effectively.