Monday, March 28, 2005
I personally find this whole time thing to be an ongoing struggle. As does Jill of jill/txt apparently: see her Action Plan for Demartyring Self. An excellent plan, one I've made many times. Why oh why is it so hard to actually follow it? To some extent I really find the whole idea of "time management" to be distasteful. But until I somehow manage (there's that word again, but with a different spin) to internalize a more productive relationship to time, time management is all I've got.
I blame graduate school, where I was located for too many years to mention here. (But now I'm a complete English department unto myself, with grad degrees in creative writing, literary studies, and rhet/comp!) As Chris notes in her comment responding to Marcia's post, grad school tends to pull one into being driven by appointments and due dates. Then when you find yourself in a tenure-track job, the appointment-driven life becomes a nightmare formula for disaster. There's always a new appointment lurking around the corner, but these appointments don't tend to lead to a seminar paper at the end.
Anyway, enough belly-aching from me. My next blog entry will be nothing but sweetness and light. I'm just mad that my Spring Break is over. And it's Monday.
Saturday, March 26, 2005
I guess you could say I was too comfortable. So it threw me for a bit of a loop when I happened upon some commentary that described something I had written in my blog as unkind, sneering, and dismissive. Whoa there. Me? I so seldom have occasion to hear myself (or, more precisely, my discourse) described in that way; I wasn't quite expecting it. Especially, perhaps, in relation to what I thought was a pretty minor piece of a blog entry. Here's the offending section, from a much longer entry below:
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.)
Now, I'm not particularly interested in "defending" myself, but I am interested in (at least) two things: why I'm bothered by the way the notion of writing alongside one's students gets appropriated (sometimes one seldom stops to interrogate one's own aversions until being called out on it) and why what seemed, to me, like such an innocuous remark was received with such strong aversion. Since I probably can't answer the second question very well, I'll stick with the first one.
First, I should say that I do see how this passage could be construed as "dismissive." It's a pretty common rhetorical trope, I think, to elevate one thing (in this case, Jeff's notion of writing in order to learn how to teach) by showing how it is both different from and superior to another thing (in this case, something pretty hastily and sloppily associated with expressivism). And I would guess taking up that trope necessarily tends toward dismissing the thing you're using to make the comparision.
But, just to set the record straight (in case anyone is keeping records), I'm hardly dismissive, in real life, of what gets called "expressivism." I put that term in quotation marks because I'm really rather uncomfortable with all those taxonomies that Berlin et al set up back in the late 80s/early 90s. (See, I'm an equal opportunity critic: neither "expressivists" nor "social constructivists" get the full endorsement from me.) Like all categories, they tend toward reduction. But, then again, like all categories, they can be useful when writing in academic shorthand, which I more or less was doing in the above passage. That is, I was doing the "this is different from/better than that" trope, itself a kind of academic shorthand, and I was referring to a category that is associated with a certain practice, just to try to give a very rough sense of what I was talking about. Now that I've parsed out what I was doing there, I'm not sure it's such a great general academic practice, but it is a practice, all the same.
But, really, to get to the heart of what I wanted to write here: why do I distrust the "writing alongside one's students" thing? And it is that: a distrust. I haven't really theorized it. And, to be totally honest, I often myself do something that might be called "writing alongside my students," though I don't hold it as a dogma, as something I must do. So why do I distrust it? (This isn't a rhetorical question, btw, I'm really asking myself: I think it's tremendously useful to critically interrogate one's own affective stance toward practices and concepts.) Also, I want to point out (and here, I guess, I am being somewhat defensive) that I was objecting more to the way the practice/idea gets appropriated than the idea in general. That is, I've often heard people deploy this term as something like dogma, and I do distrust that. But, then, I tend toward a distrust of any pedagogical dogma. (Really? Are you sure? Those are useful questions, I find.) And when WAS (writing alongside students) becomes dogma, it seems to often be articulated with a certain kind of general adult/child orientation toward students. Now, I can't document this. (At least not here and now.) It's truly a feeling I have. But it's the same sort of feeling I quite often have when student writing gets talked about in publications (and often in public, too): I want to cringe. It makes me feel like I as teacher am being positioned as a superior being, one who stoops down to "write alongside" these sweet lesser beings. (Or, in the case of student writing getting talked about: like I'm the doctor observing another doctor examine a patient: a la Foucault.) I'm truly not trying to be unkind here to anyone who practices WAS: indeed, it isn't exactly the practice so much as the discourse, the attitude that comes across to my affective sensors.
But why do my affective sensors go off and others don't? Not sure. Merits more reflection, probably. But what I like about Jeff's idea is that it isn't writing *alongside* students; it's a writing practice that gets further practiced in the classroom, that affects one's pedagogy. That's why the practice of blogging has changed the way I think of blogging as a pedagogical practice: as a blogger, I *get* blogging in a way that I didn't get it when I was just setting up blogs for my students to use. Which makes me think of a smart thing Derek said sometime back and that I referenced before--and now that I look at it again, I realize he even called it "writing alongside students," but in the blogosphere, doesn't that become something different? Something much more, well, like people talking with people (even while recognizing that power differentials aren't going away) than like adults and children working side by side? (And I have to acknowledge that the adult/child thing is just one of my peeves that I should maybe also examine some: it bothers me when college students are called "kids." When I was 18, I thought I was embarking on a serious adult intellectual journey. I would have been hurt to know my teachers thought of me as a "kid." )
OK. That's enough. Thanks, Mike, for getting me thinking. Comments welcome.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
C. and I just stopped by the Humane Society because we were given a lead on an "adorable" kitten there. Said kitten wasn't there (he's in foster care), but little Gabe was. He's not a kitten, but he's quite petite. I completely ignored him because he looks so much like my 18-year-old Clyde (gray and white), and so seemed merely ordinary, but the volunteer on duty took him out of his cage and asked me if I wanted to play with him. Well, sure--I'm not one to pass up a chance to get to know a new cat. After I held him for, oh, a good 10 or 15 minutes, I realized I wasn't going to be able to leave him behind. I handed him over to C., and he fell totally and completely asleep in C's arms. I've never seen such a relaxed cat. Just the ticket for not upsetting my old guy.
So Gabe is coming to live with us tomorrow (after a little alteration). Let's hope he really is as laid-back as he seemed this afternoon and that Casey and Clyde take to him without too much hissing and flying fur.
And for those who might remember my Siamese obsession of a few weeks ago: I've gotten over it.
At any rate, now that I've written that anxious mix of disclaimer/endorsement, I'll get to what I really meant to blog about: today's neurolearning blog post about autobiographical learning, which has some nice tie-ins with my own blogging yesterday about the [j] session ([j] from the International Phonetic Alphabet, by the way, the initial sound in each presenters' first name). There's the Proustian title, though obvious enough, for starters: Remembrances of Things Past: Autobiographical Memory. And then there's this:
Sometimes when we assess a child who has had significant neurological difficulty that impairs both auditory and visual memory, we have used autobiographical memory techniques to see whether it helps them retain the information better. Often it works like a charm - this may meaning weaving the information to be learned into a story that is dramatized (sensory-motor memory too) so that they experience it and then recognize it later. The pictures below
show one strategy for studying autobiographical memory. Subjects travel in a taxicab in a virtual reality environment while in a scanner, and then time in taxicab is correlated with brain activity - the area that lights up is the medial temporal lobe. Autobiographical memory is also being tapped in the 'spatial technique' used by Superior Memory champions (originally devised by an
ancient Greek) whereby list information is projected on a familiar (autobiographical) scene.
Space/memoria/the virtual. Though here primarily for retaining information, surely also for producing, creating, making possible.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
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.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Purists should relax, a panel of experts declared at a recent symposium on "Language on the Internet" in Washington. This rapidly spreading digital dialect of English is doing more good than harm, they contended.
"The Internet is fostering new kinds of creativity through language," said David Crystal, a historian of language at the University of Wales in the United Kingdom. "It's the beginning of a new stage in the evolution of the written language and a new motivation for child and adult literacy."
Most interesting is Crystal's contention that the internet has introduced an informal approach to language that has been largely missing since the middle ages--an approach that makes way for creativity:
Thanks to the Internet, the language's "resources for the expression of informality in writing have hugely increased, something which hasn't been seen in English since the Middle Ages, and which was largely lost when standard English came to be established in the 18th century," Crystal
"Rather than condemning it, we should be exulting in the fact that the Internet is allowing us to once more explore the power of the written language in a creative way," he added.
(I wonder, though, why other kinds of dialects couldn't be said to foster this kind of creativity? Internet language is more widespread, no doubt--not geographically isolated.)
I'm always simulataneously amused and disturbed by people--including some students--who worry over the dire effects of email and IM on students' writings. Now I have some nice research to use as an answer to such worries.
(1) the virtual and the material: not just the body as material (a la Grosz et al), but the old fashioned materialism, that worries over economics and such. My attachment to historical materialism is what used to make me wary of the virtual. I'm less wary now, and I know there are folks out there combining the two, but it struck me how different the audiences for the two things were at Cs.
(2) space/topoi that mess with Taylorized time, aka "the writing process": the digital (thanks Jenny, Jeff, Geoff)
(3) why do I forget to do the fun things?
(4) moving out of a pedagogy of ought into I don't know: try this (Harriet's article where she says she probably wouldn't have majored in English if she hadn't found a way to do it so that there was some kind of pain in it to Sirc's happening?)
(5) Or a way to limn that?
(6) creative with: network as centrifugal and centripetal--the blogroll, for example (thanks, Collin, Jenny)
Monday, March 14, 2005
Sunday, March 13, 2005
What I was really gonna say is that at long last I. and I have finished that chapter on feminism and administration that was supposed to have been done, oh, back in January. Yeah. Took a little longer than we hoped.
And now I need to figure out what to do with the CCCC talk. I have a draft, but it's long and probably not sufficiently talky. Need to edit with a captive audience in mind. And still need to make my handout.
And also have to remember to reserve a shuttle to the airport (in KC, an airport I've never used before), make a handout for my 1000 students, get proposals back to my 8010 students, and print drafts of chapters for the book JG and I are editing. (That's my list for my own reference. Sorry to bother you with it.)
Where to begin? That's the real meaning of my selection Sunday. You can always check out Jeff's and Collin's blogs if you want real bracket talk.
Saturday, March 12, 2005
(2) Wrote some email
(3) Paid some bills
(4) Adopted a cat (Casey, the tuxedo cat we've been fostering since January)
(5) Did some grocery shopping
(6) Made some guacamole to take to dinner
(7) Had dinner with my fellow first-year assistant profs in English at one of their houses
(8) Talked to family in Texas
(9) Did some laundry
(10) Wondered what I would write in my blog
Friday, March 11, 2005
Nor is this.
The strange thing is that I feel I almost vaguely look like both of them. Even though the two of them don't look alike. But if you morphed their faces together, maybe it would come out looking like me.
Or if my old roommate from my freshman year in college was trying to find me and saw their pictures, she might for a minute think that either of them could be me.
Well, maybe not. But my old roommate did look me up recently. She lives in Marin County, so I'm staying over at her place on Saturday night after the C's ends.
She, however, doesn't look like me.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
A morass? Hardly. I didn't realize you were doing this kind of historical work now. Bringing in that extended context is what I was originally trying to do in my diss (back when I was doing my diss), then it became more focused and some of the context got lost. This is amazing and important work you're doing: re-visioning the history of composition so that we see more than the narrow halls of English departments. It's so odd how easy it has been for our field to write histories that ignore most of the history that created the conditions of possibility for fy writing. The examples in the paper you linked to are really stunning: "Four of the seven convicted of the 1886 Haymarket bombing at a labor rally in Chicago were executed. In that same year, John Genung published his Practical Elements of Rhetoric." Yes. That puts a rather different spin on the history, doesn't it?
Are you presenting on this, by chance, at the Cs?
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
So even though, as usual, I enjoyed my 8010 class very much (cheered me up after a generally grumpy sorta day) and went on and on about my "cognitive shift" that has allowed me at last to understand why blogging is the most exciting pedagogical (and writerly) possibility I've encountered in the last decade, even though I generated all that energy and enthusiasm, and even though my Colleague Circles dinner was also fun and stimulating, even though all of that--
I just don't feel much like blogging at the moment. Instead, I'll just say goodnight.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
In December my 18-year-old cat, Kitty, died. People often remarked that he must have been part Siamese: he had the Siamese voice. And he was the ultimate cuddle-cat. Not to mention quite the mischief-maker, even after he was diagnosed with kidney failure.
I have two cats at home now, both domestic short hairs, one gray and white, one tuxedo. Clyde, the gray and white guy, is 18--he has arthritis and is being treated for hyperthyroidism. Casey, the tuxedo cat, just came to live with us in January. He's about 5, and he needs another cat to chase around and generally befriend. Clyde certainly isn't up to it (though he did manage a couple of seconds of batting at Casey today).
So I'm thinking a Siamese cat needs to come live with us. A rescued cat, not a fancy one. I think that should make both Casey and me happy. I can't really speak for Clyde. Mostly, Clyde likes to eat his food.
Monday, March 07, 2005
Me, I tend to read, but with asides and inflections. I like having my whole text in front of me, but I like to make it into something that's worth hearing. But it is an odd thing, no? Why read?
What really chagrins me about my own slowness in changing long-established habits is that I really, really want to be able to project images for my upcoming presentation at CCCC but never even thought to request the necessary equipment. So looks like I'll be making handouts instead. Poor substitute. Oh well. I'm already competing with Ulmer's talk as it is; I'm sure he didn't forget to ask for the projection equipment.
Sunday, March 06, 2005
"'People endowed with social power and prestige are able to use film and media images to reinforce their power - we need to look to film to grant power to those who are marginalized or currently not represented,' said Mr. Herbst, who envisions a future in the public policy arena. The communal nature of film, he said, has a distinct power to affect large groups, and he expects to use his cinematic skills to do exactly that."
Marginalization, representation: doesn't really sound like an MBA degree to me. The analogy comes from the apparently surprising usefulness of a film degree: the article describes film majors who have gone on to get jobs in various industries beyond Hollywood. But what's much more interesting (and unsurprising) is the portrayal of the study of filmic media as the development of literacy:
"At the University of Southern California, whose School of Cinema-Television is the nation's oldest film school (established in 1929), fully half of the university's 16,500 undergraduate students take at least one cinema/television class. That is possible because Elizabeth Daley, the school's dean, opened its classes to the university at large in 1998, in keeping with a new philosophy that says, in effect, filmic skills are too valuable to be confined to movie world professionals. 'The greatest digital divide is between those who can read and write with media, and those who can't,' Ms. Daley said. 'Our core knowledge needs to belong to everybody.'"
All the more reason to make FY "comp" courses into courses that integrate a variety of literacies: traditional, visual, digital. Not that the idea of visual media as rhetoric is going to surprise any of my colleagues in rhet/comp (or at least not any who are likely to read this blog), but it's always interesting to see a popular venue putting these ideas into circulation.
Metanote: This article is the kind of thing I would usually clip (literally, with scissors) and save, either in a pile with other clippings or maybe in a folder. For the most part, such clippings rarely see the light of day or get much use. Blogging about news pieces that catch my eye is far more productive: writing about them makes them more memorable, and as long as my archive holds up I'll be able to find the link to the article with a couple of clicks. One more reason blogging makes me happy.
"'The (Un)Changing Face of the Ivy League,' a report conducted by a graduate student group at Yale University, found that women and minorities at Ivy League schools have made little progress breaking into the tenure track faculty ranks, and are instead becoming a larger part of the growing group of highly qualified but non tenure track faculty and staff. The report uncovered a two-tier system in the universities in which women and minorities are concentrated in unstable, poorly compensated teaching and research positions while the secure, higher status, better paid, tenured and tenure-rack positions are held mainly by white males." (from Feminist Majority)
Saturday, March 05, 2005
"Arguing that theories of temporality have significant and underappreciated relevance to the social dimensions of science and the political dimensions of struggle, Grosz engages key theoretical concerns related to the reality of time."
Katherine Hayles says this book "is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding how memory, historicity, and politics connect to and are reconfigured by temporality."
And Brian Massumi says the book offers "a contemporary dialogue on the politics and philosophy of change."
I'll blog more once I've read it, which may be a little while, seeing as I have still yet to finish Booth and also have a Cs paper to get ready.
Friday, March 04, 2005
Shaviro has a nice post on Collateral, which reminds me that for all their cool ideas, none of my 1000 students seem to have chosen to write about this particular movie. I showed them a couple of clips: the scene with Tom Cruise/Vincent getting in the cab and talking to Jamie Foxx/Max about driving a cab. Then the scene after Max realizes what kind of guy he's driving around, and Vincent's admonition to do the job. Raises some pretty interesting questions about work, though none of them are very straightforward kinds of questions--more ontological/epistemological, like Shaviro says. Hence it's infinitely higher interest, in my mind. And we had a good discussion, too. (Which reached quite the pitch when I pointed out--gasp--the cab driver has the same first name as Weber! But, really, it *was* a good discussion.)
But no papers about Collateral, unless someone in the Monday crew is doing it. Lots of Office Space. Lots of Erin Brockavich. A few movies they brought in on their own (8 Mile being one especially interesting entry.) Good stuff, just wish I coulda seen that Collateral piece.
Then I think, but would that really work for all students? What about the students without good internet access at home? What about... What about...
But, really, I'm thinking next time individual blogs and blogrolling will be a requirement. See how it goes.
Cause, as I told student M and as I told my 8010 class and as I told Marcia, I'm loving it. I'm loving the generative push of blogging. I'm loving the way it forces me to not just think but do something with that thinking, that makes me think more. And isn't that generative thinking process exactly what rhetorical invention is all about?
So thanks, Marcia. Thanks, Collin. Thanks to all you bloggers over there on the right who unknowingly served as inspiration. Thanks for getting me going.
Thursday, March 03, 2005
Yeah, well, haven't quite made it to the image uploading stage. At any rate, one image is a photograph of a stenography office pool from 1917. Nothing unusual about that, except each stenographer is black and more of them are men than women. Kind of complicates the stuff I say about office workers in "Taking Dictation." Though it does look they're in a room of their own, out of sight of customers, which I do mention (from Jacqueline Jones's book American Work).Even more intriguing, though: a stenography class at a prison (circa 1920). Wow. Now that's something I hadn't anticipated. Traveling "business school" representatives swept into rural areas in the early twentieth century to sign up young women for secretarial training (my mother was one such young woman so swept up, but not until mid-century), but I had never ever read about prisoners being trained to take up office work as part of a "reform" effort. Though it makes sense--the whole prison/exam connection from Discipline and Punish comes to mind. And maybe it was even thought that learning to do typewriting would have a moral influence on prisoners, in the same way that white women were expected to be good at it because of their supposed superior morals.
It's also interesting that I don't see a lot of "joy" being expressed on these faces, not like the joyful (white women) secretaries on display in the early 20th century textbooks I've been reading--though the one woman in the first image does seem to show a slight smile. Hmm. Need to rethink the whole literacy/affect/division of labor thing. More nuance there than I've thus far expressed.
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
It's really sad to find one's fancy URL is actually not so fancy. Actually, I had no plans to come up with a French URL, but the English version (as it appears in the title of my blog) was taken.
All the more reason to become a real blogger and get my own domain address.
(I owe this discovery to A, who couldn't find my blog but did find the French one.)
And then it explodes. One minute the pop universe is dominated by There! I've Said It Again, the third of four #1 hits by the Polish Prince, Bobby Vinton, and the next minute the Beatles descend on America with their funny hair and accents, and it's like the Big Bang of Elvis all over again. And to add insult to injury for the shattered remnants of the constellation Old Guard, the Beatles conquer the world playing music inspired by and sometimes literally lifted from the very sources that Pat Boone et al. had tried to extinguish in the late 1950s: Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino. Born in the midst of a dramatic conquest of the popstrological firmament by a foreign invader, do the children of the first Beatles generation bear the mark of the conquerors, or the mark of the conquered? They probably bear the mark of something in between-of the type who joins many battles in life without winning any decisively but also without ever being utterly defeated .
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
So I just commented over on Marcia's blog about how time or my sense of time disrupts and confounds my desire to connect and articulate connections (is that redundant?) Which gets me to thinking about relationships to time and also if time is something of a gendered concept/experience. That isn't to suggest that I haven't noticed that plenty of bloggers of the masculine gender have slacked off on blogging lately, but, still, I wonder if there's something about affect/gender/time that connects up with the kind of labor women *feel* compelled to do, particularly the kind of word work they feel *compelled* to do. Just wondering. Kristeva wrote about women's space. (Or was it time? Wow. Now I'm losing threads of past knowledge. But I can look it up. Just not now.) Anyway, what about space/time? Women's space/time and how desire gets all tangled up in that continuum.
A place holder for future thoughts.
Some future thoughts at 9:19 pm: Should make that how rather than if. Of course relationships to space/time are gendered. So not a matter of conjecture so much as quality. And even "gendered" gets at only a fragment of what I'm thinking: a network itself is spacially complex, and so any node in that network is connected up and linked out to not only a professional network but also all kinds of networks that suggest ways of being and doing and thus affect how one gets linked up to other networks.