Month: April 2007


Sick with the burbly chest-cough. I want to post my last CCCC notes, but I keep getting too tired, doing curriculum stuff, trying and failing to read. Tea’s no good, and all the leftovers suck when you feel like this, even the gumbo, which has good fresh okra and shrimps and peppers in it, and which I’m not even interested in right now.

Cadets: “You don’t sound so good, sir. Maybe a short class today?”

On the good side, Tink and Zeugma seem to like that I have something approximating a nocturnal purr/gurgle, and curled up with me the last couple nights.

CCCC07 O.07: Wireless Identities

After this, I’ve got notes on one more, and that’ll be it for this year. As far as process goes, typing up my notes like this helps me figure out what I learned at conferences, and I hope also honors in some way others’ work of composing and presenting — but it’s also a way of archiving, of coming back to how others’ ideas have shaped my thinking in previous years and tracking how those threads and themes evolve.

This session, “Creating Wireless Identities and Literacy in Higher Education,” was of particular interest to me because of the ways my institution has attempted to position itself as a leader in the use of wireless technologies. Several years ago, the Point was recognized for being one of the top “un-wired” institutions in the nation — and yet in my classroom practice, I see frequent connectivity problems and reluctance on the Cadet side towards bringing their government-issued laptops to class. That resistance is reinforced by some faculty member’s distrust of what open and connected laptops might mean in a composition classroom: what if we’re not actively surveilling their screens, the worry goes, and they do something other than what we want them to do with their computers? What if our wireless network facilitates a somehow illegitimate backchannel discussion of classroom activities? I came to the session, then, out of particular interest in its subtitle: “How Emerging Technology Changes Institutional, Programmatic, and Classroom Roles.”

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NYCEA New Paltz

On Friday afternoon, I served as chair and respondent for a panel on “The Evolution of the Classical Imagination” at the New York College English Association conference on “Evolution and Revolution” at SUNY New Paltz. Each of the presenters offered a perspective on an Augustan poet — Horace, Ovid, Virgil — and how that poet might help us understand the complexities of contemporary military service.

The panelists were undergraduates presenting at a graduate conference, and they were absolutely amazing: poised, confident, insightful, professional. As several auditors noted, had the presenters not been in Cadet grey, everyone would have assumed they were graduate students.

Cadets at SUNY New Paltz

After the Friday presentations, we went to the keynote presentation by Ed Sanders, founder of The Fugs and biographer of Allen Ginsberg, wherein there was much hectoring of anyone who didn’t subscribe to the ideological certainties of the academic left, and wherein many of the clichés and platitudes of the academic left were cheered and applauded. It made me cringe a little: I know that I’m far more liberal than most of the Cadets in my classes, but in the keynote, Sanders came across almost as a comedic caricature of smug, self-indulgent would-be left radicalism, and the rest of the audience seemed all too happy to agree that every problem in the world — the environment, genocide, consumerism, war, intolerance, corruption, poverty — would be solved if more people just agreed with the left-good, Bush-bad bromides Sanders offered.

It didn’t faze the Cadets, and in fact, they went down after the keynote and waited in line to talk to him and shake his hand. That was a side of Cadet life I hadn’t yet seen, but it was in full evidence throughout the conference: these students are absolutely remarkable in their social facility, and with their forthrightness, curiosity, and directness, they charmed everyone they met.

Tagged, Belatedly

Amy and Joanna both tagged me with the “success” query, and I’m partial to Amy’s scare quotes around the word “success” regarding that prompt: list five things you do every day that contribute to “success.”

I don’t know about that word just yet. I’m a new PhD and a new assistant prof, and perhaps like (or unlike) other members of my graduating cadre, I remain uneasy, uncertain, ambivalent, worried about that term: don’t jinx me, I want to say. I’m not yet a success. Not by a long shot.

But here’s what I’ve tried so far.

  1. Teach. For me, five days a week. Before everything else, the pleasure of time spent in the classroom is the reward for my work. The pleasure of working with others on writing.
  2. Talk. I ask colleagues what they’re working on. I talk about what I’m doing. Talk about pedagogy; talk about scholarship. Collaborate.
  3. Write. I write it down. Blog it. Write through it. Take notes. Keep journals; take notes. Always carry a pen and something to write on. Always.
  4. Cook. Put things together in a pot. Experiment. Season. Eat. Repeat.
  5. Learn. I try to have a sense of the present state of the literature and what I’m unaware of. Have a sense of the gaps, both in the literature and in my knowledge. There’s a tension there: that sense of incompleteness is a source of anxiety, but also a condition of possibility.

CCCC07 N: Re/Visions of a Field

At this excellent (and disappointingly under-attended) featured session, “Re/Visions of a Field: Representing Disciplinary Identities in the Pages of College Composition and Communication,” Deborah Holdstein began by talking about her work as the editor of CCC and offering an overview of article titles from the journal from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Her rhetorical intent in so doing was quite clear: the titles sounded very similar in focus and scope to the concerns our field discusses today. That they sound familiar, as Holdstein put it, is a “modest revelation,” but one that we ought to heed and act on for important reasons. Holdstein pointed to Joseph Harris’s 1999 comment as editor of CCC that in 1949, composition didn’t yet exist as a discipline: in fact, Holdstein pointed out, a prototype for the current state of composition studies was set in the 1950s in the pages of that same journal. Yet despite the longstanding disciplinary concerns that recur in those pages, we are largely neglectful of our bibliographic reach and scope: the CCC bibliography was for a long time unavailable, and we’ve all but lost our deep connection to rhetoric and rhetorical history. We ought to use our past more than we do, Holdstein argued, pointing as an example and possible model to Cheryl Glenn’s 2006 MLA examination of the usable past of rhetoric in the pages of 1960s issues of CCC. The journal has been an accountable voice for scholarship, and we stand obligated to use that history of the “golden age” of composition as a precursor and foundation upon which to build our scholarship today, lest we continue to find ourselves rehashing old debates. Holdstein’s argument seems beyond dispute here, and I might extend it beyond CCC (which was, of course, the focus of the presentation: this is in no way a criticism of Holdstein): Helen Sard Hughes anticipated by 70 years or so the controversy among James Berlin, Linda Brodkey, Maxine Hairston, and others about what should and shouldn’t be taught in composition courses in her 1922 English Journal piece on “English, Economics, and Literature;” and Arthur Coon’s 1947 College English essay “An Economic X Marks the Spot” prefigures the debates over the labor of teaching college writing by half a century. The bibliographic reach and scope Holdstein describes is part of her reason for instituting the Re-Visions feature at the CCC Online Archive, she said, and she hopes to continue such conversations in the journal’s paper and online pages. Ultimately, she said, she’s humbled to peruse the journal’s old pages. Many of our practical concerns remain the same, and we ought to take this history and use it as we seek change: the past, as Jefferson said, is prologue.

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Coffee Table Books

Clancy asks, “What books are on your coffee table?”

coffee table books

Left to right: magazines, mostly Atlantic and Harper’s. Then The Times Atlas of World History and Past Worlds: The Collins Atlas of Archaeology, which feature enormously cool maps of things like “The Mongol Empire 1206 to 1405” and “Trade and Empire in Africa 1500 to 1800” and “The Disintegration of the Ottoman Empire 1800 to 1923”: these books, with their visual representations of data and textual commentary, are things one can pick up and get lost in for hours at a time. Below them, volumes 5-9 of Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For. (Best. comic. Evar.) And, at far right, Worldchanging, a wonderful book of ideas for promoting sustainability and being green.

CCCC07 F30: Self in Online Environments

Quinn Warnick and James Donelan’s panel, “The Construction of Self in Online Environments: Helping Students Create and Understand the Virtual Realm,” was small but well-attended, and what was perhaps most interesting was the way that discussion afterwards worked to bridge the apparent gulfs in philosophies and approaches. I don’t think Warnick and Donelan ever explicitly disagreed with one another, but they were clearly approaching a common theme from divergent perspectives.

Warnick’s presentation, “Would Aristotle Link to Wikipedia? The Role of Ethos in a Hypertext Age,” began by noting that to speak about Wikipedia is to speak about a moving target, and that Wikipedia’s evolving rhetorical ethos led him to continue to revise his presentation and conclusions until the day before he presented. Which sounds like a much better apologia than the unfortunate (and unfortunately common) CCCC confession that one wrote it on the plane — but in Warnick’s case, it certainly wasn’t an apologia: his analyses and conclusions were sharp and spot-on. Warnick framed his examination of Wikipedia’s ethos and its apparent sourcelessness, its lack of attribution, in the context of the familiar question from Foucault and Beckett: “What does it matter who is speaking?”

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