Steven Lessner

HIP HOP PROF

Hello and welcome to my faculty website at Northern Virginia Community College.   I am an Associate Professor of English here at NOVA, where I teach writing and literature courses.  In these courses, I invite you as undergraduates to explore how your diverse music literacies, including Hip Hop, can be used to effectively transition to writing in college.  Before coming to NOVA, I taught undergraduate writing previously at Elon University and Michigan State University.  In my research, I focus on how African American male students’ literacy and language practices can be invited, included, and learned from in first-year writing pedagogy, and how Hip Hop artists exhibit specific characteristics of organic intellectuals.  I’ve presented my research at the Annual Convention of the National Council of Teachers of English, Conference on College Composition and Communication, Hip Hop Literacies Conference, and Circling the Elements: Hip Hop Conference.  I’ve published my research on writing pedagogy in a book chapter co-authored with Collin Craig entitled “Finding Your Way In: Invention As Inquiry Based Learning In First Year Writing.”  I enjoy working with and mentoring first generation college students and serving as a mentor for Man Up, a minority male mentoring program here at NOVA.  In my free time, I love visiting radical bookstores in Baltimore and DC, writing poetry, visiting family, and listening to lots of Hip Hop. My favorite Hip Hop artists include Nas, Method Man, Kendrick Lamar and Lupe Fiasco.   My favorite albums are Method Man and Redman’s Blackout, Nas’ Illmatic, and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly.

Check out J. Cole discussing his writing process below:

Check out the article Book of Rhymes” detailing rappers’ invention writing techniques:  http://www.xxlmag.com/news/2011/05/book-of-rhymes-may-2011-issue/

 

Courses Taught

                                                                        

English 111: College Composition I

Course Description from my Syllabus:  Our section of ENG 111 will focus on the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that enhance writing, reading, and researching successfully in higher education in America.  Our section will invite each of you to consider how the outside literacies (such as listening to popular music of women, men, and groups) you bring to Northern Virginia Community College can help with your transitions to writing, reading, and researching in American higher education.  In terms of organization, our course section will be driven by focusing on key concepts in writing to help your growth as a writer, reader, and researcher.  These key concepts will include: Invention, Arrangement, Research, Revision, Style, and Delivery.  With these writing concepts, you will have an opportunity to write reflective work on what you have learned about them and how you plan on applying this new knowledge to your future college, personal, and professional lives.  With each of these writing concepts, we will be looking at popular music to think about what we know about literacy, how we know what we know, and how we can engage and enhance our literacies through deep explorations of what things mean. The major writing assignments in the course are as follows:  two reflection writings that focus on explaining your writing processes, a Critical Music Artist Review paper (will have a significant amount of research involved), and one alternative form of presentation/ Remix project.  There will also be peer critique responses and informal writing responses you will be given credit for completing.

English 112: College Composition II

Course Description from my Syllabus:  Our section of ENG 112 will focus on the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that enhance writing, reading, and researching successfully in higher education in America.  Our section will invite each of you to consider how the outside literacies (such as listening to popular music of women, men, and groups) you bring to Northern Virginia Community College can help with your transitions to writing, reading, and researching in American higher education.  Throughout the semester, we will be looking at popular music to think about what we know about literacy, how we know what we know, and how we can engage and enhance our literacies through deep explorations of what things mean.  We will have 4 major projects: one focused on your personal literacy history, one focused on your cultural literacy, one focused on the literacy practices of a discipline/profession you are interested in, and one short alternative media project in which you turn one of your essays into a message in an alternative media or genre (e.g., video, poetry, music, painting, etc.).  We will write parts of these assignments together as the semester progresses. One key component of your course will be paper conferences where you bring your first versions of papers to my office and I provide feedback, suggestions, and encouragement to you in your writing process.

English 125: Introduction to Literature

Course Description from my Syllabus:  This section of ENG 125 Introduction to Literature- From Harlem to Hip Hop: African American Authors 1918-2018, will focus on examining a wide variety of African American authors’ texts in the Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Movement, and in Hip Hop.  The course will trace literary elements and writing strategies during these time frames in the genres of poetry, drama, fiction, nonfiction, and in lyrics and performances.  African American authors’ use of writing as activism for social equality will be studied in each time frame and genre listed above. We will have 3 major projects: two papers focused on exploring and analyzing some form of literature, and one short alternative media project in which you turn one of your essays into a message in an alternative media or genre (e.g., video, poetry, music, painting, etc.).  We will write parts of these assignments together as the semester progresses. One key component of your course will be paper conferences where you bring your first versions of papers to my office and I provide feedback, suggestions, and encouragement to you in your writing process.

English 254: Survey of African American Literature II

Course Description from my Syllabus:  This section of ENG 254: Survey of African American Literature II, will focus on examining a wide variety of African American authors’ texts in the Civil Rights Movement, Black Power Movement, Black Arts Movement, as well as in Hip Hop and Contemporary Literature.  The course will trace literary elements, major literary theories, and writing strategies during these time frames in the genres of poetry, drama, fiction, nonfiction, and in lyrics and performances. African American authors’ use of writing as activism for social equality will be studied in each time frame and genre listed above. We will have two major papers focused on exploring and analyzing some form of literature.  We will write parts of these assignments together as the semester progresses. One key component of your course will be paper conferences where you bring your first versions of papers to my office and I provide feedback, suggestions, and encouragement to you in your writing process.

Publications

Lessner, Steven and Collin Craig. “Finding Your Way In: Invention as Inquiry-Based Learning in First-Year Writing.” Reprinted in Writing College, Writing Life (a reader for the First Year Writing Program at Boise State University). New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012.

DeJoy, Nancy C., Collin Craig, Steven T. Lessner and Bonnie J. Williams, eds. Reading and Writing Literacies (a revised reader for First-Year Writing Program at Michigan State University). Boston: Pearson, 2011.  Print and Online. DeJoy, Nancy C., Collin Craig and Steven T. Lessner, eds. Reading and Writing Literacies, (a reader for the First-Year Writing Program at Michigan State University). Boston: Pearson, 2010.  Print and Online. Lessner, Steven and Collin Craig.

“Finding Your Way In: Invention as Inquiry Based Learning in First-Year Writing.” Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, Volume 1. Ed. Charles Lowe and Pavel Zemliansky.  Parlor Press and WAC Clearinghouse, 2010.  Print and Online.  Link to chapter:  http://writingspaces.org/essays/finding-your-way-invention

Contributor to The iDeal Reader published online by The McGraw-Hill Companies, writing questions for reading selections and providing author biographical information, Spring 2009-Summer 2009.

Resources

Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, Volumes 1 & 2. Ed. Charles Lowe and Pavel Zemliansky. Parlor Press and WAC Clearinghouse.  Link to full chapters giving helpful advice on a variety of writing strategies:  http://writingspaces.org/essays

Nas interviewed about his writing by Harvard Poetry Professor

   Kendrick Lamar-Grammy Performance, 2018

Nas, Dave East, Lin-Manuel Miranda & Aloe Blacc- “Wrote My Way Out”

Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap documentary trailer, 2012