Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Sat. noonish: the [j] session

Much blogging of CCCC going on. But no one yet (as far as I've seen) has blogged Jeff Rice, Jenny Edbauer, and Geoffrey Sirc's panel ("Home Words: City Writing), so I will. I'll get down a few notes, at least. Truth be told, I had trouble hearing much of it (in one of those awful tent things, sadly).

But maybe not being able to get down the line of argument faithfully is pretty much in keeping with Jeff's talk, anyway, during which I heard many references to the exile, the fragment, looping rather than linear conversation: the digital. I especially was struck by something he said during the first part of his presentation: (in my inadequate paraphrase) that he wanted to write Detroit in order to learn how to teach Detroit. Which really caught my ear and made me think during the rest of the panel that this was a thread throughout: not just that students were being asked to be creative rather than simply critical, but so were the teachers/scholars positioning themselves as writers, as actively participating in creative production. And in a way that's so much more--what, authentic? No, but something like authentic--than the old "writing alongside one's students" stuff that you get from some of the expressivists. (Maybe some of them really were writing alongside their students, but the way that idea gets appropriated really irks me sometimes: it seems too much like a parent using crayons alongside their child.)

Maybe because of where I was sitting, Jenny's talk was the one I could hear best. She also had a cool handout (which I'd like to use in my class for new GTAs--if you happen to read this, Jenny, let me know what you think) with annotated excerpts from the class she taught. The class--"The Writing Process"--reconceived research as starting from "finds" (collected in a blog) and proceeding to a documentary project. The goal: writing that could be located, that came out of a place, rather than being infinitely reproduceable, that could have been written anytime, anywhere. With the usual kinds of (standard) assignments, Jenny said, the "situated body of the writer becomes immaterial" (might not be an exact quote, but something like that). (My CF: Haraway's politics of location, though somewhat different, where she argues against knowledge claims are unlocateable, and therefore irresponsible.) An exciting class, one that disrupts the usual writing process [which, to my mind, compartmentalizes time and makes it interchangeable spatially: Jenny's pedagogy is about creating spaces for creativity--see also Collin and Jenny Bay's talk: Clancy makes the point about realizing maybe she doesn't need to control everything so much: my lightbulb, exactly: moving away from a managed pedagogy of predictable outcomes (though exactly what administrators are asking for these days) and toward a pedagogy of locatable spaces that themselves are full of potential (cf Massumi on force)].

And, finally, Geoff Sirc's talk, which was particularly inaudible to me. Though I did hear this: That's what writing is about: something gets under your skin and you want to figure it out. And Proust: attention to moments (which connects nicely with Jenny's emphasis on "finds": attending to what's around you).

After Geoff finished and the floor was open for questions, there were several moments of intense silence. Then BK spoke up: the panel was so important, she said. She felt sad that she was *not* doing this: not asking students to create. It was moving. We were moved. An important panel, indeed. And, hey, all you early departers: you missed it. Stick around next time.