Monday, October 31, 2005

Rhetorics of place

Just happened on this suburbia blog (via Jon) and wondered if my fellow rhet/comp bloggers doing documentary stuff might find it useful.

And, one more thing . . .

With Jon's blog, I now have three former UWM folks on my blogroll. (Well, more than three, since Print Culture includes more than one person.) Just thought I'd give a little UWM cheer. After all, they did make it to the Sweet Sixteen last year. And these bloggers are making the blogosphere more like a return to graduate school every day.

Careful what you wish for

Not that I really wished for Harriet Miers to withdraw, but I kinda wished she wasn't the nominee. And now look what's happened.

Jim's already talking about it at the Blogora. Since he's the rhetorician with all the Supreme Court knowledge, read him.

And let this be a warning: any time you find yourself sort of agreeing with the extreme political right, even if your reasons are very different from theirs, be very scared.

Sunday, October 30, 2005


Conley House @ MU .

I set out on Thursday morning with the intention to document my trip to St. Louis and the conference there. I began with this photo of Conley House, which now houses the Campus Writing Program at MU.

We stopped there on the way out of town so that MT could pick up MP.

Sadly, my plan to photoblog the conference didn't really materialize. I have a few photos of people, but nothing at all of the lovely Saint Louis University campus and precious little that would suggest a conference going on.

Marcia, though, has a nice photo of Gail Hawisher, the keynote speaker, at her place. And a nice synopsis of Gail's talk, with shout-outs to a couple of fellow bloggers who were either present or hailed during the talk.

In addition to the keynote, a highlight for me was MNP's talk, based on the dissertation that she just defended one month ago. (The defense took place at SIU; I participated via speakerphone.) Her topic (for the talk and the diss) was social class and issues of technological access and the degree to which nontraditional students tend to assign agency to computers rather than to understand computers to be a medium for use. In other words, access isn't always about availability of technology: it's also about the affective relationship to technology. (I think I inserted the part about affect, but it's more or less what M was getting at, really.)

Getting along

Gabe and Simon, perched
We've been taking it slow, introducing Simon to the resident cats over about two to three weeks. Even now, almost a month later, he still isn't spending all day outside his safe room. He's still known to hit a little too hard sometimes. But, as you can see, he doesn't mind a bit of downtime with his fellows. Here, he and Gabe check out the world beyond the window. Below, you'll find him getting some rest first next to Clyde and then with Casey.

Simon and Clyde

Simon and Casey asleep

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Adams Walls of Books

storefront of Adams Walls of Books

No one seems to know about this bookstore, hidden away behind the government buildings on 8th St. But C. and I found it shortly after moving here last year: it's right next to the ticket office for the jazz series. All the same, we hadn't made it back since then. Until last Saturday.

Adams Walls of Books is one of those old-school used-book stores: some sort of order is suggested by various shelf labels, but it isn't the kind of place to go to with your mind made up about what you want to buy. No, you go there to see what you can find.

What I found:

Psychology for Business and Industry, by Herbert Moore. Published 1939.
I'm sure I could find this book or a similar one in the library, but I love having old texts around to peruse for research and teaching. I'm interested in industrial psychology, of course, because it's a preeminent management tool, a strategy for the management of workplace emotion. I brought a couple of pages to class last Monday:

Table 1: Psychological Problems of Businessmen (Problem #2: "How to make employees enthusiastic and energetic")


The Frederick Test for Emotional Maturity, which asks, among other things:

Do I get discouraged rather easily and have moods and occasional fits of depression?

Do I incline toward tears when attending an emotional play?

Do little annoyances tend to "get my goat"?

And my second find:

The School Administrator and Subversive Activities: A Study of the Administration of Restraints on Alleged Subversive Activities of Public School Personnel, by E. Edmund Reutter, Jr.

Published in 1951, this book takes a look at the extent to which public schools were making efforts to identify and rid themselves of Communists and other subversives. If we've entered an era of New McCarthyism, this book might be a useful warning of where we don't want to go. Twenty-one states, for example, required faculty at the public universities to take loyalty oaths. Here's one from the University of Illinois:

I,-----, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I believe in and pledge my allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the system of free representative government founded thereon; that I do not nor will I advocate the
overthrow of the Government of the United States by force or violence; and that I am not a member nor will I join any political party or organization that advocates the overthrow of the Government of the United States by force or violence.

Two books that provide insight into the history of control, control of workers, control of teachers. Found at a bookstore that looks a bit like the antithesis of control.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Hammer's adventures at my alma mater

Bill says, in a comment on yesterday's post:
Not sure if you're taking votes or not, but I'd love to hear more about smarmy Tom DeLay getting the boot from your school!

I'm all about keeping my readers happy. So, I'll tell what I know. Which, sad to say, isn't much. To begin, though, consider the difference in these two sentences, the first from his official website, the other from a biography posted on the website for Bill Moyer's Now:

DeLay graduated from the University of Houston in 1970 with a degree in biology.

After starting his education at Baylor University, DeLay graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in Biology in 1970.

The absence of Baylor in his official biography isn't really that curious: after all, what matters is where you get your degree, not where you started it. (And, actually, Baylor is mentioned on the more commercial Tom DeLay site. It only makes sense, doesn't it? Some donors might be Baylor alum. Give the man a break.) But start at Baylor he did, and asked to leave he was. (Why I'm writing like Yoda, I can't say.)

One version of the story says he "played some pranks" at Texas A & M while a student at Baylor. Bizarrely, some forty years later, the now born-again DeLay denounced both schools as not adequately Christian. (I'm not sure why he thought A & M was supposed to be upholding Christian values. When I was there, the Aggie Corps would shout their usual "Beat the hell out of Baylor" during football games, and worried Baylor students would mutter that they really shouldn't do that. Not at Baylor.) Why not adequately Christian? Because they don't teach creationism, of course. (It's true, folks. They don't teach creationism at Baylor. Where do they get those professors? I remember the stir that was caused in my own biology class there when evolution was mentioned. I overheard one of my classmates describe the professor as a "peacenik evolutionist." I don't think he meant it as a complement.)

Anyway, back in the day, Mr. DeLay apparently was not adequately Christian in his behavior and so was asked to leave Baylor. According to some sources, these pranks involved "drinking and carousing."

But like our president, he's put those drinking and carousing days behind him and now considers himself poised to lead us all into a new Christian world order. Remember, he helped fell our previous president:

Speaking to about 300 people at the First Baptist Church of Pearland, Tex., on April 12,[2002,] DeLay said that God is using him to promote "a biblical worldview" in American politics, and that he pursued Bill Clinton's impeachment in part because the Democratic president held "the wrong worldview."

"Ladies and gentlemen, Christianity offers the only viable, reasonable, definitive answer to the questions of 'Where did I come from?' 'Why am I here?' 'Where am I going?' 'Does life have any meaningful purpose?' " DeLay said. "Only Christianity offers a way to understand that physical and moral border. Only Christianity offers a comprehensive worldview that covers all areas of life and thought, every aspect of creation. Only Christianity offers a way to live in response to the realities that we find in this world -- only Christianity."

Now if only he can get that pesky indictment behind him. Getting arrested is such a drag when you're trying to perfect the world. And we all know the ends justify the means. Right?

(And give the man some credit: apparently he later apologized for casting aspersion on Baylor's Christian credentials. Good Lord. Let's not forget all those well-healed alum . . .)

Oh, and some ask how he avoided the draft while he was taking a rest from Baylor:
The Washington Post reported that he had received student deferments while at Baylor, gotten a high lottery number in 1969 and then gotten married prior to his 1970 graduation from Houston.

However, he had been asked to withdraw from Baylor for a semester and managed to keep his student deferement during that time, which has never been explained.

But anyone who asks that sort of question must hate freedom.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Things to blog about

The good thing about blogging is the subtle pressure exerted by knowing that a few people, at least, tend to take a look at one's blog most every day and that you owe it to them to get something up there. So I'm keenly aware that I haven't kept my end of the bargain for a few days. Here, then, is a list of things I've wanted to blog, will probably blog, but haven't yet blogged.

1. My visit to Adam's Wall of Books on Saturday. I've even got a picture for that one.

2. The two books I bought there. (One from 1939 and one from the 1950s. I'll save the details for later.)

3. The adventures of Simon and Gabe.

4. Pictures of Simon *without* his fancy blue collar.

5. The very bleak state of unions in Missouri (esp. for state employees)

6. How much I like my class.

And a few other things I've sort of thought about but not that hard:

1. The NBA dress code and affective public rhetorics

2. The increasing availability of pumpkin beers and lagers

3. How I went almost two weeks without taking any cat to the vet (ended today)

4. How I'm going to a small regional conference in St. Louis on Thursday and Friday.

5. Is Tom DeLay smarmy or what? And he was kicked out of my alma mater, too. For drinking.

Friday, October 21, 2005

What I've been working on

At the beginning of the week, Jeff issued a call to all of us out here:

Ok academic bloggers. Let's start getting intellectual. No carnivals. No circus. No Inside Higher Ed griping. Just straight up trash talk. What are you working on and when are you going to put it out there for discussion?

For the last couple of weeks, I've been writing three grants to get release time during which I will finish my book. So here's one version of a grant proposal, with an outline of my book project.

The Managerial Unconscious: Administration and the Subject of Composition Studies

1) Proposal
Overall Goals and Objectives
I am applying for an ACLS fellowship in order to complete the research for and writing of my current book manuscript, “The Managerial Unconscious: Administration and the Subject of Composition Studies.” In this book, I present a critique of existing histories of the field of composition studies and offer a revised history that highlights the overlooked administrative dimension of the field. This field is a relatively new one: although required composition courses have been a ubiquitous feature of American college curricula since the nineteenth century, graduate programs in the area have developed only over the last three decades. Despite this relative newness, the development of the field has already been chronicled in a number of histories. I contend that these histories, in part because of their lack of distance on the time in which the field developed, offer a skewed story. Specifically, these histories understand the field of composition studies to be primarily what one calls a “teaching subject,” an area devoted to writing pedagogy (see Harris). While writing pedagogy is certainly a significant part of the field’s scholarship, I shift attention to the often overlooked fact that specialists in the field tend to find employment not primarily as teachers of writing but as administrators of writing programs. Indeed, most composition specialists will at some point in their careers be called on to do administrative work, whether as directors of first-year composition courses, of writing across the curriculum programs, of writing labs or writing centers, or of other writing-intensive programs. Because the existing histories of the field offer little exploration of this crucial feature, I argue that the field suffers from a “managerial unconscious.”
In short, I argue that histories of composition studies have been, paradoxically, insufficiently historicized. That is, these histories have failed to examine the contexts in which first-year composition has been taught and the exigencies that have led to the proliferation of various kinds of writing programs over the past three decades. Thus, they have produced a kind of idealized vision of composition studies rather that a broad history that situates writing instruction within the political and economic contexts of the modern university. To produce research that adequately addresses the complexities surrounding the teaching of college-level writing, the field needs better histories that account for the crucial influence of administrative necessity. My book is intended to fill this need.
Moreover, because of the ubiquity of the required college composition course, a greater understanding of the cultural and institutional work performed by this course will contribute more broadly to American cultural studies. Specifically, a genealogy of composition studies will cast light on the values associated with writing in American culture and institutions and will provide critical insight into the formation of an often overlooked and—until recently—uniquely American phenomenon.
Significance of Project
Confronting the managerial unconscious seems an especially crucial task for composition specialists at this historical moment, as academics outside of composition studies are bringing increasing attention to the influence of corporate management structures on the academy, which has led among other things to the hiring of increasing numbers of administrators and flexible workers (see, for example, Martin). Gary Rhoades and Sheila Slaughter, moreover, have argued that university faculty “are increasingly ‘managed professionals,’” whose work lives are subject to managerial “restructuring” (43). At the same time, universities and colleges are hiring increasing numbers of “managerial professionals,” who “do not fit squarely into the category of faculty or administrator but constitute an occupational type that bridges conventional categories. They share many characteristics of traditional liberal professions . . . .Yet they also mark a break with the liberal profession of faculty, being more closely linked and subordinate to managers and indeed being very much managers themselves” (49-50).
Like the group Rhoades and Slaughter describe, composition specialists fail to fit neatly into traditional categories; they too, when hired to take on administrative duties, are more closely linked to management than are traditional faculty. Moreover, like managerial professionals, composition specialists often find their days “marked by more contact with superiors and subordinates than with peers or clients” (50). At the same time, however, composition specialists rarely are hired to take on a “nine-to-five” day and only occasionally have an “eleven-month contract, ” two characteristics of managerial professionals’ “workday existence” (50). Rather, because composition professionals usually also are required to teach and, depending on the institution, to publish, they officially have schedules like traditional faculty. (Whether or not their days are, in fact, like traditional faculty’s is another question.) Composition specialists, then, occupy the border between traditional academic faculty and this new group of managerial professionals. The rather good job prospects that composition specialists face, compared to others in English studies, may be due more to the rise of corporate managerial structures in the university rather than to a renewed interest in pedagogical or rhetorical scholarship in colleges and universities.
In suggesting that composition specialists enjoy relatively good job prospects, and in arguing that management looms large in their professional lives, I may seem to be aligning myself with those critics outside of composition studies who characterize members of the field as opportunists attracted to the “lucrative areas of composition theory and ‘pedagogy’” (BovĂ© 163) and who function as mere “technobureaucrats,” imposing what Richard Ohmann has called “administered thought” on students in composition classes (Ohmann 133-171; see also Guillory 79). As a composition specialist myself, I am, rather, working to meet those accusations with something other than silence or outright rejection.
Proposed Table of Contents
1: Managing the Self-Managed. The book opens with a reconsideration of the traditional history of composition, in which the emergence of research universities in the late nineteenth century is posited as the cause of a decline in a pedagogically-oriented curriculum. I demonstrate that, on the contrary, college presidents like Harvard’s Charles W. Eliot were committed to pedagogical innovation. The problem for composition, I argue, is that the course occupied a contradictory space as a requirement in a curriculum that promoted the cultivation of individualism and masculinity through an elective curriculum.
2: The Emergence of Writing Programs and the Feminization of Composition Teaching. The second chapter chronicles the development of writing programs in the first half of the twentieth century and the simultaneous increase in the employment of women to teach composition. My argument is that the current configurations of writing programs are analogous to the configurations of the corporate workplace; that divisions of labor emerged, as they emerged in corporations, to make work more efficient; and that when one level of work came to be associated with routine and correctness, then it came to be associated with women.
3: Professionalism and the Discourse of Disorder. Texts connected with the founding of the Conference on College Composition and Communication—the professional organization for composition specialists—and with the emergence of the dominant “process paradigm” for teaching composition tend to figure composition teachers as confused masses in need of professional management. I argue that in addition to being a revolution in teaching, the professionalizing of composition has been a revolution in the management of teaching writing, a revolution that parallels the so-called managerial revolution in American business.
4: The Corporate University and the Humanization of Administration. This chapter examines the ways in which the emergence of an administratively-heavy “multiversity” created the conditions necessary for the emergence of the discipline of composition studies. In addition to tracing the simultaneous emergence of the corporate university and proliferating writing programs (including basic writing programs, writing across the curriculum programs, etc.), I look at the history of the Council of Writing Program Administrators, an organization that, in part, set out to make administration more palatable to humanists.
5: Postmodern Pedagogy and the Persistence of Capital. In the final chapter, I examine key texts of the “social turn” in composition studies and argue that these social pedagogies often mirror trends in management, such as Total Quality Management. I argue that appeals to democratic teaching in socially-oriented pedagogy too often leave the meaning of democracy as a concept unexamined and leave open the possibility of reinforcing the privilege of the traditional capitalist subject and aligning writing instruction with the new “flexible” economy.


Ya know, the whole Harriet Miers fiasco is just too much some days. I mean, how embarrassing is it to be given back your questionnaire and told that your answers were inadequate? At the same time, from the minute I learned of her nomination, I felt it was an insult: an insult to female judges everywhere. Harriet Miers, the former personal attorney to the current president who has never presided as a judge a day in her life, is the "most qualified" person to fill Sandra Day O'Connor's seat on the court. Hmm. Seems like a no-brainer. Can't be.

But it's hard to find yourself agreeing with the right-wingers that the nomination is a mistake. And it's hard to see a woman who is no doubt well-educated and capable being demeaned so dreadfully by the Senate. And the hearings haven't even begun.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Cats in prisons

This is kind of a nice story, even though I generally worry over the "nice things happening to inmates" line. Too much interpellation usually going on there. But I more or less freely answer the call when cats are involved.

Inmates Take in Cats Displaced by Katrina

[that's all, folks: no need to follow the link below]

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Hacking as rhetorical invention

x-posted to 8040 blog

I've really not thought this out (though someone more given to hacking perhaps has; I would be surprised if I'm the first), but this article in today's NYTimes Magazine has my wheels turning. Check it out if you can (after Sunday, you'll need to register [free] to read it): "Meet the Life Hackers".

For the purposes of our class, I'm especially interested in the way in which information work is described as inextricably linked to affect:
The upshot is something that Linda Stone, a software executive who has worked for both Apple and Microsoft, calls "continuous partial attention": we are so busy keeping tabs on everything that we never focus on anything. This can actually be a positive feeling, inasmuch as the constant pinging makes us feel needed and desired. The reason many interruptions seem impossible to ignore is that they are about relationships - someone, or something, is calling out to us. It is why we have such complex emotions about the chaos of the modern office, feeling alternately drained by its demands and exhilarated when we successfully surf the flood.

The connectivity of the postmodern economy is the very thing that simulateously fragments and makes us feel part of something.

Life hackers are those who ask if we can't "hack" technology to make the constant interruptions work for us rather than mess us up. On the one hand, this is a question of productivity: once someone is interrupted from their work by, say, an email message, it takes, on average, 25 minutes to get back on task. One researcher found that expanding the size of the screen so that all applications are visible at once reduces the amount of time taken to get back on task.

The visual: we need to see in order to remember what we were doing. The informatic: we want to know in order to be in the know, in the flow of information being circulated. Which gets us to the affective: we want to feel ourselves in the flow, but we want feel anxious because there's always a piece of information tickling the backs of our brains, making us feel undone.

If the workplace is a place where emotion resides, where the feel for information lodges itself in our hands, our eyes, our neural networks, then what kind of rhetorical work is possible, if we conceive of rhetoric not simply as the quotidien persuading us to perform in habitual ways but as invention and intervention (a techne?) Is "hacking" at least one way of intervening in the information economy: hacking not only to perform better, but to live better? [I realize I'm asking something of a "rhetorical" question here: of course hacking is an intervention: my question is what's the quality of that intervention.] And what would that mean? What would it mean to hack not simply to alter job performance (a kind of emotional management, that), but to hack to actually transform those work spaces into something less affectively "controlling"?

I need better language here, but I hope we'll have time to think along these lines in class tomorrow.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Who's that cat?

who's that cat

Simon the fashion cat

Meet Simon, who joined us a few days back. He's wearing a fashionable Elizabethan collar this week to help him forget that his eye kinda itches. Soon, though, he'll give it up, and then he'll proceed to meet those interesting cats on the other side of his door. He and Casey have done a little foot play under the door, and Gabe has sniffed and hissed a bit. Next week, we'll make it face to face.

(We learned this week that none of our other cats were infected with Feline Leukemia. Thank whatever cat gods may be.)

My brain in October

Saturday, October 08, 2005

In praise of side(wo)men

McCoy Tyner: just because he's spent the last 40 years as a leader of bands doesn't mean he isn't still widely known and loved as a sideman with that incredible quartet of John Coltrane's.

Charnett Moffett: played the bass with McCoy last night (at Finale, a new club at a swanky hotel in Clayton). I thought I'd never heard him before. What I heard: almost inhuman virtuosity, like Jaco, the curmudgeonly critics say. And they're right: hitting with his knuckles in a fast motion that blurred his thumb, plucking with the bow, and just playing with amazing depth and passion. Oh yeah.

Turns out he appears as a sideman on two CDs I own: Kenny Kirkland's sole CD as a leader and Kenny Garrett's Triology. Sideman for the two Kennys.

That's the thing about sidemen and women: I almost never notice them until I see them live. Or unless they're part of an established band. But they're worth noticing. Goodness. I've missed so much sound by not paying attention to Moffett's bass work all these years.

It was another amazing night of music, friends. St. Louis is bringing them in this year. McCoy was introduced, he came out, began to play the very moment he was sitting down. Played Manalyuca (hear it here, with Charnett on bass even). Kept playing. There were a few moments of confusion when, after playing St. Louis Blues an hour after starting, he said, "Thank you," stood up, exited. Charnett and the drummer (Eric Harland -- another amazing sideman I had truly never heard, as far as I know) exited. Was that it? Only an hour of playing? We in the audience began clapping tentatively, then harder, louder, hoping for at least an encore if that was really it. Finally, we stopped clapping. Some people stood up, milled about. After five or ten minutes, McCoy returned. Said the others were taking an early lunch, played solo. After the solo, the trio reconvened for another half hour.

McCoy Tyner. He's a great leader--I loved watching his attentive listening to his trio members, his unrelenting meeting of their musical challenges, and theirs of his--but I can't help thinking of him as a sideman. A Love Supreme (along with Kind of Blue) was one of the two albums that really pulled me into jazz. And you can't listen to that album, or anything by the Classic Quartet, without being struck by that firm hand on the keyboard. I keep thinking, though, not of any of Coltrane's pieces but of the opening of Wayne Shorter's "Juju" as classic McCoy. Maybe it's because a few years back I was listening for weeks to that piece on the more recent Footprints Live, with Danilo Perez on the piano. Perez is a wonderful player, but he doesn't have the forceful approach of McCoy. So when, after weeks of the new Juju, I went back to hear the old one, I was blown away with those opening notes.

And I was blown away last night. Blown away by the playing of all those beautiful sidemen.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

More meta

During yesterday's interview, K asked me to explain "the meaning of blogging" for me. I referred to some things I've said here before, like how blogging is the best thing since graduate school for intellectual conversation. And now Henry Farrell of Crooked Timber offers a rather nice description of this dimension of blogging in the Chronicle (in what seems to be an implied response to the Tribble's warning against junior scholars blogging). Steve quotes from the paragraph in which Farrell describes blogging as an "academic carnival," and so I'll pick up with the next paragraph, in which Farrell highlights the advantages blogging holds over traditional academic publishing:
What advantages does blogging offer over the more traditional forms of academic communication? Blogging sacrifices some depth of thought -- it's difficult to state a complex thesis in the average blogpost -- but provides in return a freedom and flexibility that normal academic publishing can't match. Consider the length of time it takes to publish an article in a peer-reviewed journal. In many disciplines, a period of years between first draft and final publication is normal. More years may elapse before other academics begin to publish articles or books responding to the initial article. In contrast, a blog post is published immediately after the blogger hits the "publish" button. Responses can be expected in hours, both from those who comment on the blog (if the blog allows them) and from other bloggers, who may take up an idea and respond to it, extend it, or criticize it. Others may respond to those bloggers in turn, leading to a snowballing conversation distributed across many blogs. In the conventional time frame of academe, such a conversation would take place over several years, if at all.

Once you get used to this rapid back-and-forth, it can be hard to return to the more leisurely pace of academic journals and presses. In the words of the National University of Singapore philosophy professor and blogger John Holbo, the difference between academic publishing and blogging is reminiscent of "one of those Star Trek or Twilight Zone episodes where it turns out there is another species sharing the same space with us, but so sped up or slowed down in time, relatively, that contact is almost impossible."
Blogging is different from, more immediate than, while not necessarily a replacement for, traditional academic publishing. As I said to K yesterday, I do think blogging has had an impact on my academic work, but not in the kind of direct way that non-bloggers might appreciate. It's more a matter of being involved, immediately, in intellectual conversations; of having realized that a little writing every day, as Collin often points out, actually adds up to a lot of writing; and of even beginning to get a little feedback on some ideas I'm working with (ok, see Collin again on this topic). I used to believe I could only write intelligently if I had lots of time and lots of space and that early feedback was not for me. Both of these beliefs, need I say, contributed often to very slow production.

You can't get this if you don't blog. That's why I get annoyed when non-bloggers disparage blogging as mere self-indulgence, as a distraction from scholarly writing, as a potential employment liability. Sure, it can be all those things. So can just about anything one does in life, eh? Let's see: administrative work. A way to feel like you're important? Check. A distraction from scholarly writing? Check. A potential employment liability? Well, only if you're untenured, I guess. Oh, yeah. Same with blogging.

So I'm glad to see the Chronicle, for once, publishing a piece on blogging that isn't mere Tribble drivel. In other words, something written by a real blogger.

(And on another note: Farrell also points out that cross-disciplinary and cross-ranking conversations happen on blogs in a way that you simply don't see on campuses. Yes. Another way that blogging-across-the-curriculum could be something very, very--say it! exponentially--different from writing across the curriculum.)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The blog interview

K. just finished up her third interview with me about my blogging practice; it's for a qualitative research class she's taking. Among other things, she asked me why I think no one (with a couple of exceptions) from last semester's grad class kept blogging. Although this didn't answer her question directly, I talked about how surprised I was that most people used their individual blogs as something more like a diary than a place to reflect on the course readings and how they might use what they were reading in their teaching. She wondered if that "misuse" was a function of lack of direction or of the blogging genre. So I looked to see what I said in my syllabus to make sure I had said what I meant. Here's what I wrote:

I would like each of you to keep an individual weblog in which you record responses and questions to each week’s readings. The individual weblog is mainly a space for you to talk to yourself: to think through ideas, puzzle over ideas, etc.

Please use your first entry in your blog to answer the following questions, ideally before you’ve read anything for class:

How would you currently characterize the function of a first-year composition class? What should it ask students to do, and why? What’s the role of the teacher? What does a teacher need to do so that the class functions as it should?

Then as you add responses each week, consider whether the readings are prompting you to think in new ways about the role of a composition class and the role of a composition teacher.

Marcia pointed out to me early on that I was saying something potentially untrue in saying that a weblog is a space primarily to talk to one's self, and that statement definitely reflects my own early misunderstanding of blogs as something like paper journals. So, given my own misunderstanding, it's little wonder that, despite my instructions to use the blogs as a space for pedagogical and scholarly reflection, they were most often used as something else: as a whatever space to write about whatever. Not that I want or wanted a blog to be only one thing, but I did want students to think of it primarily as a space for reflective thinking.

At any rate, one definite problem is that blog=journal analogy that is so easy to slip into and that really misses what makes blogs unique: the network that blogs enable. Margaret Ganley talks about that in a recent entry:
If we want to encourage our students to use blogging as a powerful communication tool, we have to teach them the difference between blogging as daily diary, and blogging as a way to dig deep into ideas and to grow communities of discourse, of knowledge and of action. So, of course it isn't simply a matter of handing blogs to students as they enter our institutions and saying, go ahead, write; you have to give students a chance to grow in this work within a learning community--the new wall-less classroom--and then turn them loose to develop their own blogging practices within a supported framework. The institution and its faculty must mentor and model this practice of reaching out in the world to discuss and share ideas, ask questions, and work collaboratively. In other words, it is in the second-wave blogging, the blogging that my juniors are doing out in the world as a way to express, explore and understand the world in which they have been thrust that will teach them huge lessons about the role of communication, of technology, of community in bringing about change in this stumbling world.
Ganley seems to be calling for something like blogging across the curriculum (with nods to Marcia), except that, because it's blogging, it's something else: not simply blogging as part of a class, but blogging as networked practice, as lived experience. Just go read Margaret's post. As usual, it's all good.

[Entry ends here; ignore the link at the bottom]

Monday, October 03, 2005

Class Notes: Burke & Bourdieu

If you want to read my somewhat cryptic notes for 8040 (last week and this week), click on the "Keep Reading" link below.

Notes for Monday, Sept. 26
Topic: Burke


Some general questions to keep in the back of our discussion:
—how does thinking with Burke give us new tools for thinking about/doing something with rhetoric and affect? What are the limits of this possibility?

—what do we do with the affect involved in reading Burke?

Reading Burke:
—reading Burke seems not unlike reading hypertext, so tagging seems to be useful
—Collin’s strategies for reading: take 10 minutes and try them out

Thinking with the tags:

(1) Identification: Though I’m interested in dissociation, there’s certainly a crucial association between Adam Smith and Kenneth Burke on this one. Having sympathy, which ultimately connects to selfish, individualistic interests. Dependence on imagination. Etc. [Begin here with Talena’s presentation on the Oravec article]

(2) Hierarchy: Endemic to bureaucracy. Bureaucracy isn’t exclusive to corporate/managed capitalism, but it certainly looms large in a way it didn’t before the late 19th century. By making hierarchy a universal term in human relations, is he revealing something about his own terministic screens?

(3) Addressed: Why is this so important to Burke? Is it simply because he wants to insist upon the relational nature of rhetoric, that it’s never “simply” talking to oneself, since talking to oneself is still an address to someone? His discussion in that section also could connect with Althusser on interpellation. How might it also undo Althusser? Or how might Althusser undo Burke?

(4) Perversion: Burke talks about one term being a perversion of another. What’s with that choice of words? I noticed it first when he refers to Oscar Wilde: p. 8

(5) Magic: Amy’s blog post

(6) analogue= this is this (extending into another realm: Burke says way of criticizing end by criticizing means) = metaphor; compares with ideology (analogue with digital? dispersion, many): but what about Burke’s own analogical method, borrowed from theology: God terms, Babel after the fall, logology, etc. How do they set up a terministic screen that could indeed limit the ends?

. . . .

Imagination: image–>idea?

Notes for Monday, Oct. 3
Topic: Burke and Bourdieu

✓ Secondary readings: Quandahl and Anderson
I’m particularly keen on looking closely at the secondary readings this week, both for what they argue and how they do it. Quandahl theorizes and then uses the theorizing to propose a pedagogical approach (one that is grounded in “synecdochic” thinking rather than in rote application); Anderson uses one theorist to extend Burke’s theory. We might look at what they’re doing as motivation to think about what we (and I am truly including myself here) might do, what kinds of things we might write.

(1) Because Anderson’s article (“Questioning the Motives of Habituated Action”) provides such a useful overview of both Burke’s pentad/dramatism and Bourdieu’s theory of practice, I’d like to begin today’s class with Kevin’s presentation.

tags from Anderson: practice
habitus (dispositions: see below)1

• Use Anderson to think through Burke’s pentad (or should it be a hexad?) and through Bourdieu’s theory of practice (“practical reason”).

(2) And then move to Talena’s presentation on Quandahl.
How might we put together some of Anderson’s readings of Bourdieu along with Quandahl’s initial observation about dominant pedagogical practices: “Trained by teachers and textbooks in thematics, students will insist that Romeo and Juliet is a play about star-crossed lovers who are fated to die,” and her assertion that “pedagogy has ignored the performative aspect of texts.”
• what is such training doing? What sorts of attitudes are being formed?
• what’s lost through such terministic screens? Gained?
• how could we describe what Quandahl is doing and what kind of practice she understands writing pedagogy to be?

And what use might we make of this bit on p. 118: “The synecdochic garment, for example, takes on the ‘spirit’–the emotional intensity, the perspective, the motive—of words attributed to its wearer”...? And how does this “garment” transfer to Anderson’s discussion of the British official’s garment? In Quandahl’s words: “What equals what?” and “What difference does the equation make?”

tags from Quandahl: spirit

In what other ways might you talk back to these two articles? Or what is left unsaid in each that you might want to further explore?

✓ Primary Readings: Burke (Intro and Ch. 1 of Grammar of Motives) & Bourdieu (“Is a Disinterested Act Possible” and “The Economy of Symbolic Goods” from Practical Reason)

My plan is that discussion of these texts will be woven into our discussion of the two secondary texts.

Some additional aspects of this Burke that we might take up:

• why “simplifying complexity”? What does that do? What motivates this action?
• what about “quality” as another avenue into emotion? (7, 16)

And of Bourdieu:

• if Bourdieu isn’t talking about language (at least not here so much), why are we reading him? What do we do with this idea of motivation as sub-linguistic?


Says Bourdieu (in Outline of a Theory of Practice, and quoted in Dana Anderson's "Questioning the Motives of Habituated Action"):

The structures constitutive of a particular type of environment . . . produce habitus, systems of durable, transposable dispositions, structured structures predisposed to function as structuring structures, that is, as principles of the generation and structuring of practices and representations which can be objectively 'regulated' and 'regular' . . . without being the product of the orchestrating action of a conductor. (72; qtd. in Anderson 263)

Reading Anderson's useful article that brings Bourdieu's theory of practice to bear on Burke's dramatism, I was struck by this word: dispositions. Struck by its implication of an emotional state, as well as by its touching upon structure, both spatially and rhetorically. I need to think about other things (ie, this afternoon's class) right now, but I wanted to get these down as a place holder for future thought. Some definitions to think through later:

disposition Audio pronunciation of "disposition" ( P ) Pronunciation Key (dsp-zshn)

1. One's usual mood; temperament: a sweet disposition.
1. A habitual inclination; a tendency: a disposition to disagree.
2. A physical property or tendency: a swelling with a disposition to rupture.
3. Arrangement, positioning, or distribution: a cheerful disposition of colors and textures; a convoy oriented into a north-south disposition.
4. A final settlement: disposition of the deceased's property.
5. An act of disposing; a bestowal or transfer to another.
1. The power or liberty to control, direct, or dispose.
2. Management; control.

From OED:

I. The action or faculty of disposing, the condition of being disposed.

1. a. The action of setting in order, or condition of being set in order; arrangement, order; relative position of the parts or elements of a whole.
1563 W. FULKE Meteors (1640) 24 It comes of the divers disposition of the clouds. 1597 MORLEY Introd. Mus. Annot., In the natural disposition of numbers thus, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. 1695 WOODWARD Nat. Hist. Earth III. i. (1723) 156 The Disposition of the Strata. 1713 SWIFT Frenzy of J. Denny Wks. 1755 III. I. 139, I then took a particular survey of..the furniture and disposition of his apartment. 1756 BURKE Subl. & B. II. xii, Stonehenge, neither for disposition nor ornament, has anything admirable. 1827 H. STEUART Planter's G. (1828) 15 Single Trees and Bushes, in groups and open dispositions. 1865 GEIKIE Scen. & Geol. Scot. vi. 122 Looking at the disposition of the Highland glens and straths.

c. Rhet. and Logic. The due arrangement of the parts of an argument or discussion.
1509 HAWES Past. Pleas. x. i, The second parte of crafty Rethoryke Maye well be called Disposicion. 1553 T. WILSON Rhet. (1567) 82a, Inuencion helpeth to finde matter, and Disposicion serueth to place argumentes. 1628 T. SPENCER Logick 13. 1788 HOWARD Roy. Cycl. II. 715 Disposition, in Logic, is that operation of the mind, whereby we put the ideas, operations, and arguments, which we have formed concerning our subject, into such an order as is fittest to gain the clearest knowledge of it, to retain it longest, and to explain it to others in the best manner; the effect of this is called method.

d. Arch., etc. The due arrangement of the several parts of a building, esp. in reference to the general design: see quots.
1624 WOTTON Archit. (1672) 14, I may now proceed to the Disposition thereof [i.e. of the matter], which must form the Work. 1706 PHILLIPS (ed. Kersey), Architecture, is the just placing of all the several Parts of a Building, according to their proper Order. c1850 Rudim. Navig. (Weale) 115 Disposition; a draught or drawing representing the several timbers that compose the frame of the ship, so that they may be properly disposed with respect to the ports, &c. 1876 GWILT Encycl. Archit. Gloss., Disposition, one of the essentials of architecture. It is the arrangement of the whole design by means of ichnography (plan), orthography (section and elevation), and scenography (perspective view). 1886 WILLIS & CLARK Cambridge III. 247 The general inclosure within walls, the disposition into courts..all have their the monastic buildings.

2. a. Arrangement (of affairs, measures, etc.), esp. for the accomplishment of a purpose; plan, preparation; condition or complexion of affairs.
1382 WYCLIF Prov. xxiv. 6 For with disposicioun me goth in to bataile; and helthe shal ben wher ben many counseilis. 1604 SHAKES. Oth. I. iii. 237, I craue fit disposition for my Wife..With such Accomodation and besort As leuels with her breeding. 1712 BUDGELL Spect. No. 404 {page}1 In the Dispositions of Society, the civil Oeconomy is formed in a Chain as well as the natural. 1736 BUTLER Anal. Introd. Wks. 1874, I. 8 To judge what particular disposition of things would be most..assistant to virtue. 1814 tr. Klaproth's Trav. 3 My dispositions for the journey would soon have been completed. 1871 MORLEY Voltaire (1886) 317 To observe..those secret dispositions of events which prepared the way for great changes.

3. Ordering, control, management; direction, appointment; administration, dispensation; = DISPOSAL 1. (Cf. DISPOSE v. 2, 7.) arch.
c1374 CHAUCER Troylus II. 477 (526) O god {th}at at {th}i disposicioun Ledest {th}e fyn by luste purueyaunce Of euery wyght. 1382 WYCLIF 2 Chron. xxiii. 18 Forsothe Joiada sette prouostis in the hous of the Lord..after the disposicyoun [1388 by the ordynaunce] of Dauid. 1520 Caxton's Chron. Eng. v. 56b/2 To submytte hym to the dyposycyon of God. 1530 PALSGR. 214/1 Disposytion, disposition, govuernement, ordre. 1582 N. T. (Rhem.) Acts vii. 53 Who receiued the Law by the disposition of [so 1611: R.V. as it was ordained by (marg. or, as the ordinance of)] Angels, and haue not kept it. 1661 BRAMHALL Just Vind. ii. 6 Which things by the just disposition of Almighty God, fell out according to the..desires of these holy persons. 1719 DE FOE Crusoe (1840) II. xii. 262 This seemed to me to be a disposition of Providence. 1841 MYERS Cath. Th. III. §14. 53 Inexpressibly thankful to receive this Law by the disposition of Angels.

From Silva Rhetoricae:

Arrangement (dispositio or taxis) concerns how one orders speech or writing. In ancient rhetorics, arrangement referred solely to the order to be observed in an oration, but the term has broadened to include all considerations of the ordering of discourse, especially on a large scale.