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Readings, and Related Inspirations


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Memory and the Formation of Internal Time-Consciousness

Right now. I am writing this blog, cooking some chicken, and listening to music. For me though, now is a rather large amount of time, when I think of all my movements compiled into a ‘now’ point. I set my timer for 40 minutes a few minutes ago. The timer is ‘now’ running, but I set it in the past… part of my continuous now moment. Now however, does not always work this way. Now is subjective… and as soon as I can say the word ‘now,’ it’s then.

Edmund Husserl, in his essay, “The Constitution of Temporal Objects,” from his book The Phenomenology of the Internal Time-Consciousness tells us that our experiences begin to “blur and draw together” the further we move away from them. The ‘now’ I had when I set my timer, is beginning to blend into a past. A past that, tomorrow morning, will be one blob of ‘last night.’ And all my ‘last nights’ eventually blur into ‘last month’s nights’ and so on. “Blur and draw together.”

This morning I walked to my coffee shop and on the way, read an excerpt from Marcel Proust’s epic novel In Search of Lost Time, which used to be called Remembrance of Things Past. In the 2nd chapter of Swann’s Way, Marcel remembers his childhood home.

William C Carter update

This is the edition I am reading.

At the house, the setting is always grey and the time is perpetually 7 o’clock in the evening – bedtime for the young narrator. Later, Marcel tastes a petite madeleine   dipped in tea, and this sparks more memories for him.

And this whole narrative causes me to think about the house where I grew up. that tiny green house in Huntington Beach. I remember that house as fondly as I might a family member. I remember it with such vividness – the color of the carpet in the dining room – the claw-foot bathtub in the bathroom – I had not ever considered to attempt to remember it the way Proust’s character does. And so:

If I stand in the street and look at the house, it’s morning. It’s time fore school. White fog is rolling in from the ocean and blanketing everything. But if I stand on the porch and look out, it’s daytime – sunny and bright. Each room of my little house contains a different set of memories – the living room is filled with Christmas, string games, blanket fort building, Saturday morning cartoons, and uncles. My parent’s bedroom is all spankings, reading Star Trek books with my dad, and brown quilts.

And so I wonder whether or not I remember more about my childhood than most people. If so, why do I remember so much so vividly? If not, why don’t more people talk about their memories from when they were little? Why does Proust have this singular memory of bedtime and the staircase, and I have hundreds of memories all over my house?

 

As I delve deeper into the study of time, memory surfaces again and again. It is such a subjective experience, both broken and powerful. Would that we could put Proust and Husserl in a room together and see what happens….

 

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The Unavoidable Logic of Empire, a Letter – 8150

Dear Capitalism:

You offer me whatever I could imagine. When I couldn’t find the right orange socks for my Velma costume last Halloween, you reminded me that I can get any color accessory I could imagine at American Apparel. When I wondered what a minor key rendition of “Call Me Maybe” might sound like, you delivered Ben Howard. When I wanted to watch a television show about a succubus, instead of the same run-of-the-mill vampires and werewolves, you gave me Lost Girl.

I love you Capitalism.

I consume, I discard, and I consume again.

But my love for you stops there.

As a committed pedagogue with an aspiring career in critical pedagogical scholarship, I don’t appreciate your move to commodify my institution. If Henry Giroux is right in his 2004 article “Cultural Studies, Public Pedagogy, and the Responsibility of Intellectuals,” when he claims “that pedagogy represents both a mode of cultural production and a type of cultural criticism that is essential for questioning the conditions under which knowledge is produced, values affirmed, affective investments engaged, and subject positions put into place, negotiated, taken up, or refused” (63), then I’m not willing to give up this unique space where I can give my students a variety of lenses through which to interpret our cultural milieu. Yet I am also constantly faced with the following question: what is higher education supposed to be accomplishing? Is it getting students ready to enter the workforce? Is it preparing them to be good producers and consumers within an economically capitalist system? If that’s the case, then the way that Rachel Riedner and Kevin Mahoney define Neoliberalism in their book Democracies to Come: Rhetorical Action, Neoliberalism, and Communities of Resistance, as “a way of defining work in relationship to culture that secures a workforce for capitalism” (19), this means that commodifying education – to deliver a product that our student-consumers pay for – is a very real occurrence. Just today, as I was writing a response to an article published two weeks ago in The Chronicle of Higher Education called “The Second-Chance Club,” I discovered that the featured school, Montgomery Community College actually calls their students “student consumers.” I balked. I do not appreciate the glitzy, attractive cage you have built. I do not appreciate how you have infiltrated my overly-ideological, arguably ignorant utopian fantasy that my classroom can be an ideal site for resistance and questioning. I am not bought and paid for in order to deliver my students a good in the form of a letter filled into a box at the end of the semester.

Later in the second chapter of their book, Riedner and Mahoney point out that “when we use modes of address, we are connected to social relationships that produce relations to capital” (20). I know this is a lower-case ‘t’ truth. I know that my material being is so wrapped up in consumer capitalism and market economy, that no matter what I say or do, I am enveloped in it. I cannot imagine my life without you. I cannot imagine a Zapitista lifestyle. I have never seen it.

So tell me, capitalism. What is your kryptonite? Is it fluency in multiple languages, as Gramsci argues? Is it a continual dialogue with students about modes of discourse, modes of power, racism, gender, working conditions… what do I do to quit you?

How do I quit you in my classroom when I love you so much in my closet?


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Agency – The Necessary Illusion? – 8150

I am pretty sure I did a lot more staring at a wall and breathing out rather heavily than I did actually reading about agency this weekend. I’m glad I read Nedra Reynolds‘s article “Interrupting Our Way to Agency: Feminist Cultural Studies and Composition” (1998/2009) before I read Marilyn M. Cooper’s “Rhetorical Agency as Emergent and Enacted” (2011). Had I read them the other way around, I probably would have thrown down Reynolds and just shouted “COOPER DECREES THIS CANNOT BE!”

It took me a bit to come to the above conclusion however, and a lot of freaking out the guy next to me at the coffee shop as I voiced out-loud when I did and did not agree with Cooper.

In the following lines, I will attempt to encapsulate my thoughts on our two readings without falling down any rabbit-holes.

Beautiful Rabbit Hole - taken from www.astonrep.com

Beautiful Rabbit Hole – taken from http://www.astonrep.com

The Reynolds article features an argument centered around tactical rhetoric for marginal, subaltern and otherwise oppressed peoples (898), made up of “multiple and competing subjectivities while also allowing for the possibility of ‘resistance to ideological pressure'” (897). This, by general definition would allow for the existence of the subject. In this way, the subject acts consciously, and the agent possesses agency in using the interruption of the dominant hegemonic force as her lever.

Cooper however, explains somewhere near the beginning of her article, that “a workable theory of agency requires the death not only of the modernist subject but of the whole notion of the subject” (423). [Italics mine]. This took me a minute to wrap my head around, and I’m not sure I agree with her. While Reynolds begins her essay denying postmodernist and poststructuralist theories that suggest that subjects cannot ‘possess’ agency, Cooper claims that the subject is not even part of the equation here. She explains that freedom is not necessarily freedom from constraint, but conglomerations of decisions influenced from several dynamic angles, always moving and changing (440). At this point, I find my ideographical understanding of freedom to be disrupted, and am forced to rethink my notions of ‘freedom.’ If my choices are always already influenced before, during and after I act, perhaps Carolyn Miller IS correct when she “argues that it is agency that is a necessary illusion” (439).

Early on in the article, Cooper rejects the claim made by Rickert that “The subject is inescapably defined by an agonistic relation to the object/other” (423) claiming that “any theory of agency that depends upon a notion of the subject is thus hamstrung at the start, struggling with how to account for any action that is not either determined by or resistant to semiotic, social, political, and material others or orders” (423). According to this claim, Reynolds’s argument is thus ‘hamstrung from the start.’ This I can agree with, but not necessarily for the same reasons. Reynolds does not account for the dual agency involved in persuasion – she does not discuss the need for the dominant players in cultural discourse to have agency in their own reactions to the interruptions she deems important. It appears that if the dominant players simply reduce interruption to belches and farts, they are then rejecting the interruption-as-agency and thereby rejecting the subject interrupting. According to Cooper’s theories, Reynolds has succeeded in nothing in relying on interruption this way.

Cooper does make a curious turn in the later pages of her article. She appears to be content with replacing the subject with the agent (441). By this logic, subjects are necessarily static, and agents are necessarily dynamic. Since I have never thought of a subject as being static, I have a hard time understanding why this distinction is so necessary.

Another bit I take issue with is the fact that Cooper does not acknowledge the passing of time in questions of agency. Reynolds observes that in the case of an occurrence of interruption at a conference, “the results of the interruption were not immediate, but they have been productive” (901), while it does not appear that Cooper, in her theories of agency in persuasion working in multiple directions, has accounted for the change in agent/subject over time. I can’t help but think of the metaphor of seed planting as I think about time and agency.

Taken from ideas.time.com

Taken from ideas.time.com

What I wonder then, is how/where the passage of time might fit into the neurodynamic intentional arc featured in figure 2 on page 429 (I cannot seem to find an illustration online), which begins with short and long term goals, and moves around to learning. And while I pretty much shouted to the hills how I don’t really believe time to exist, this weekend someone reminded me that in physics, space and time are inextricably linked, so I am currently retracting my denial of time, and will revisit this issue at a later date.

I have plenty more to say, but I’m going to leave you with the above, and bring the rest of my thoughts to class. The moral of this story is that I’m learning that no one who theorizes about agency can seem to agree on what agency is, what it does, who can and cannot have it, or what it is for. Great googly.


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Marking the Public Sphere – 8150

As soon as I began to read “Gangs and Their Walls” by Ralph Cintron (1997), I thought about my own experiences growing up on the West Coast, hearing about gang violence, knowing several gang members, and even having a couple of ‘tagger’ friends (tagging is a MUCH different practice than gang related graffiti). In his paper, Cintron discusses gang graffiti and its placement in public spaces – its “manifestations of desire and frustration” (164), and how gangs are an alternate sub-altern group that do not fit under the same systemically voiceless rubric as do women, as Nancy Fraser discusses  women as subaltern in her text “Rethinking the Public Sphere.”

I couldn't find one of the images from the text, so here is some random gang graffiti - taken from people.howstuffworks.com

I couldn’t find one of the images from the text, so here is some random gang graffiti – taken from people.howstuffworks.com

This week, we also read “Community Literacy: A Rhetorical Model for Personal and Public Inquiry” by Lorraine Higgins, Elenore Long, and Linda Flower (2006).  This paper is an interesting look at how local discourses can be fashioned so participants at a community level may have a voice in their everyday lives and ‘problems.’ In four parts, the authors define the problem(s), and discuss how to transform these problems into discourses where community members can take action for their own well-being, in their own lives, through writing and communicating among many embodiments of the levels of the hierarchical system.

It’s a little difficult to connect these readings to each other, though there are many ways this could be done. Even so, as usual, I’m going to take these off to play in the deep end of the pool and talk about something that has always been of interest to me: tattooing. In order to bring this into the conversation with some relevancy, I turn to the first section of the Higgins, Long and Flower piece: “Assessing the Rhetorical Situation” in which the authors claim that “problems are not empirical entities ‘out there’; they are, as so famously argued in the exchange between Lloyd Bitzer and Scott Consigny, interpretations” (6).

The first problem I seek to identify is the problem of the body as both public and private space. Like the wall of a building, or an underpass, or even the side of a cargo train-car, the body is both privately owned, and considered fit for public view, presumably while one is clothed. Like a wall, the body poses something of a problem area as it is both and neither belonging to public sphere. We see Fraser, for example, address women’s issues this way. When the body is marked in some way that is ‘other’ than what the dominant public sphere deems suitable, it may fall lower on the scale in  “societies whose basic institutional framework generates unequal social groups in structural relations of dominance and subordination” (Fraser 66) – societies like America. Like the problem of domestic violence, or women speaking in public, the marked body hovers somewhere not quite public, and not quite private.

This piece was done by Sammy Bockleman of Birch Avenue Tattoo in Flagstaff, AZ - taken from www.birchavenuetattoo.com

This piece was done by Sammy Bockleman of Birch Avenue Tattoo in Flagstaff, AZ – taken from http://www.birchavenuetattoo.com

Bear with me as I make all this up pretty much on the spot – feel free to provide insightful feedback:

Until recently, and still arguably today, people that are tattooed are generally viewed as rebellious, often drug users, or even violent. Women with tattoos are sometimes assumed to be ‘loose’, or otherwise tainted. Google “Tattoo Women” and you get an entire page of hypersexualized women with chest tattoos. Depending on the nature and degree of tattooing, people are denied jobs, asked to cover parts of their bodies (sometimes rather creatively), or assumed to be less than a contributing member of society. Bodies of Inscription, by Margo DeMello and Bodies of Subversion, by Margot Mifflin are both scholarly books entering a discourse on tattooing, anthropologically in American and Canadian culture, and gender specifically, respectively.

Another issue I face in being interested in the rhetorical space of talking about tattooing, is in my inability to uncover ‘why’ people get tattooed. Popular reality television shows like L.A. Ink or Ink Master spend much of their time discussing the deep meaning and/or memorialization behind every tattoo they feature. As a result, as common argument I have heard is that people with tattoos should not have got tattooed if they didn’t want to divulge all the inner (private) meanings of their tattoos. It is as though the ‘norm’ of the public sphere is somehow transformed into a public body with permissions to interrogate, gaze at, and even touch a person who has chosen to get tattooed. Further, it is not uncommon to hear phrases like, “What will you do when you are older?” ; “How will you find a job?”; or “Don’t you know you are stuck with that for life?” – as though the tattooed body is somehow now in a prison from which the marked cannot escape. Somehow, because their body is less private according to the ‘norm,’ is it more of an inescapable prison than it was before it was marked?

Unlike communities aimed at building a literacy for a perceived common good (though Higgins, Long and Flower tell us that common ground is very hard to come by), tattooed people do not automatically form a common culture based on their tattooed status. There is no ‘local public’ for them to seek out. What would be interesting however, is to find (or create) an empirical study based around how two tattooed strangers might approach and greet one another as opposed to how someone ‘normal’ and endowed with the right to interrogate, gaze, or touch, engages a tattooed person. Again, this likely varies depending on the degree and nature of tattooing involved parties possess. Is there a public code one tattooed individual adheres to with another tattooed individual? If so, is this code understood, as a covert gang sign, color, or graffiti symbol might be understood in Cintron’s article? Where does one learn this code? Is it transferable?

As you can see, I am unsure exactly how this all ties together, but I have yet to see much work done rhetorically on this topic, though there is a particularly interesting piece by Sonja Modesti called “Home Sweet Home: Tattoo Parlors as Postmodern Spaces of Agency” (2008) which addresses the parlor as the space of agency and Megan Jean Harlow‘s “The Suicide Girls: Tattooing as Radical Feminist Agency” (2008), which addresses reappropriation of the body via tattooing in a subcultural third-wave feminist group called ‘The Suicide Girls.’ Neither directly address the public paradox of the tattooed body, or the particular nature of the tattoo, though there is rather extensive anthropological work on both gang tattooing and prison tattooing available for your reading pleasure.

I ask then, if a local public cannot be identified, how do we develop a common rhetorical capacity for tattooed people to express the myriad reasons for inscripting their flesh? How does the larger public sphere, the dominant culture that determines the ‘norm’ negotiate all the varieties of tattooed individuals? Do we bracket tattooing and pretend like we can’t see the ‘neck blast’ on our poetry professor? Do we pretend like we are not taken aback by the knuckle tattoos on the manager’s manager in the customer service department of the phone company? Are tattooed people to be shut away and relegated to telemarketing so ‘normal’ people don’t have to look at them? What – in a quasi-public/private situation as the appropriately exposed parts of the body – are we supposed to do to direct discourse that reduces discrimination in this context?


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WPA as Theorist makes my knowledge work

I have officially finished the first book on a list that will eventually be included in my comprehensive exams. Yeay me.

Below, in response to the reading, I will answer some pre-provided questions (provided by a prof) to help me get me head around it.

The text in question:

Rose, Shirley K. and Irwin Weiser. The Writing Program Administrator as Theorist: Making Knowledge Work. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, 2002.

— Apparently, if you look for this book online, you can see that it is out of print and currently running for about $900. Holy cow! I accidentally walked right out of the library with it and when I went back to check it out, the computers were down. So I officially have this book on honorable loan, which I do intend to uphold.

The Questions:

1. What is the explicit argument(s)?

The best way to sum up the explicit argument is with the following bumper-sticker wisdom I have gleaned from the final essay by Weiser and Rose titled, “Theorizing Writing Program Theorizing”: Practitioners theorize while doing. To get to this bumper-sticker wisdom, I have observed an explicit argument that basically states that there is no one way to be a writing program administrator. There is no one theory to look to, and no one way of carrying a theory off. Another explicit argument that runs throughout the book is that the WPA title is a multi-tiered, rather low-status, social process that must become more pragmatic across the whole community of WPAs.

2. What is the implicit argument(s)?

There are several implicit arguments that run as a theme throughout the text. The first I noticed is that the profession of WPA is broken. Writing programs need fixing, and a lot of it. But because (as of 2002) WPA scholarship is rather new in the whole scheme of academia, no one can really say how to fix it. Another implicit argument involves what I am calling “The GTA problem.” I chose this as an implicit argument because it is a glaring absence in the book. Only two essays, located in the final chapters of the book, even mention GTAs and training. There is some exception to this – in chapter 2, “Breaking Hierarchies”, Popham, Neal, Schendel and Huot say that GTAs should encourage their students to reflect (19). Last, I get a sense of hostility about the WPA field from many of these authors. I can’t pinpoint a why at this moment, before I’ve discussed this more, but this hostility rests just under the surface of the text.

3. Why is the text important to my work/research and trajectory/dissertation?

As this is the very first book in the immense amount of reading I have ahead of me, this question is extra speculative for me. WPA theory as a whole is important for me because it will begin to mold the way I think about thinking about the field of WPA. In fact, I chose this as my first simply because it was the only one readily available at the library. But now that I’ve read it, I’m really glad I started with it. I feel like it is quite foundational. As far as the trajectory of my dissertation goes, I am headed in a New Media pedagogy direction and I find it quite interesting that there is no mention of technology in this book at all. There is a near mention when Kelly-Riley, Johnson-Shull and Condon predict that hierarchies will break down in our new information age based on the way networks are created and disseminated on a flat level, rather than a vertical flow (132-134). I find it interesting that even by 2002, WPAs were not talking about how to work with media (at least not in this book).

4. Why is it useful to the field?

In the GSU English department, I often get a sense that theory is not at the top of everyone’s favorite ‘to learn’ list. I’m not sure what the reason for this is, and perhaps I am very wrong, but that’s the vibe I get from our up-and-coming scholars. I see this work as important to our field as it reminds us that we are theorists, whether we think so or not. We use praxis in everything pedagogical we do.

5. What are the limits of the argument(s)?

One of the biggest limits for my studies is the lack of talk about technology, as I mentioned before. It is almost as though all these authors are trying to ‘fix’ (implicit) the WPA, but are trying to do it in the past. Another limit is that most WPAs work with graduate student teachers. This is a fact of life. GTAs cannot be tossed aside. They are a part of the system as long as first year composition is a requirement at most universities. Ignoring them will not make them go away.

6. What counts as evidence for the author(s)?

All of these authors cite from other authors. That seems to be the larges source of evidence. However, some authors, such as Jeffrey Jablonski in Chapter 14, use case studies to illustrate the issue in question. Still others, such as Roen, Maid, Glau, Ramage, and Schwalm in Chapter 13, use tables and charts to present evidence.

7. What connections can I make to the other texts on my reading list (or others I’ve read)?

This is a rather easy one for me at this stage in the game, as I have never ever read another WPA text. This is my very first. However – as a shot in the dark, I will attempt to relate it to something else I have read… I have read a bit of praxis, though mostly in the form of textbooks. Recently though, I have been reading Now You See It, by Cathy Davidson, and this has influenced some of my thinking about how our writing programs are quite out of date. Davidson’s book talks about the traditional classroom and points to the idea that we are training students for an industrial past that they are not going to be looking for jobs in. If that’s the case, I question the need for the type of writing program this book discusses.

And there you have it. I’ll leave it at that for now – I hope this proves useful to others out there studying WPA.


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New Course – New Entries

I’m VERY excited for 2 specific reasons:

1. I am taking my very last course… ever. Next are my comprehensive exams, and then on to my dissertation.

2. That last course I’m taking happens to be Modern and Contemporary Rhetorical Theory with Ashley Holmes, our brand new professor at Georgia State. I’ve been wanting more, denser, theory for a while and now I get it. We get to read folks like Perleman, Habermas, Foucault, and Baudrillard, just to name the big big ones. And Burke, but I’ve had enough Burke to last me the rest of my theoretical life.

Therefore – this blog is about to become very theory heavy, which I happen to be quite comfortable with. I hope you enjoy it too. Also – I will still be posting a bunch of pedagogical maneuvers I undertake to stab in the dark at, and I will be posting those too. So anytime I post for the theory course (once a week), I will put an 8150 in the title so you know it’s about to get really deep in here.

Thankfully, I like to think I’m a pretty accessible writer, so that should stay the same.