Arrived home from MLA via Detroit on Thursday. Since I’ve surrendered almost three full days to gluttonous lazies: home-made fried chicken, NFL playoffs, afternoon naps, a nightly Wolavers’ oatmeal stout, a breeze through Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, and darn near nothing else.

Today I can feel the low, resistant grind of changing gears–from no gear to anything-chug productive. Spring syllabus is due tomorrow–or Wednesday, depending on who you ask (this would be easier if I didn’t read *all* of my email). I’m penciled in for a section of WRT205: Critical Research and Writing, a course that more or less picks a topic (invention by topoi) and then gets on with research a la “critical inquiry”, which I take to mean “examined” or “deliberate” inquiry: self-reflective inquiring.

Did I mention that it’s an online class? I still thinking about whether to heave Blackboard into the weeds (where it belongs?): bypass it altogether and instead channel all of our encounters through a wiki-blog-delicious-youtube mash-up. The former is, if you can stand it, a cinch; the latter is far more interesting and also more work coming at a time when, well, there is already plenty enough work. Tonight, I can’t decide. Tomorrow I’ll flip a coin. But if the coin comes up “Blackboard,” that just might be enough to jolt me back over to the mash-ups.

The course itself–as planned–is a dance with pop culture and media valuation. We’ll read Johnson’s Everything Bad Is Good For You, contemplate his handling of the good/bad reversal, and think/write/talk about his book–what he calls “an old-fashioned work of persuasion” in the first sentence–as a dissoi logoi, or strengthening of the (presumed to be) weaker position.

In keeping with program-level expectations for the course, the first unit will be something of a reading of Johnson and his work with sources and evidence. It’s a sort of parlor inventory with a hermeneutic slant, viz. who’s saying what, what it means, and so on. The second unit in the course usually involves some sort of annotated bibliography, but I’m thinking along the lines of a collection/annotation aspect (rel. Sirc’s “box-logic”) that might involve a playlist/compilation in YouTube or Seeqpod. Will put that alongside a more recognizable batch of article/chapter annotations and ask students to speculate about their complementarity. Unit Three is that well-run horse, the sustained research project, 10-12 pp. By that time, I’d like to have the dissoi logoi well-enough in hand that students will be developing arguments rel. to popular culture that complicate status quo views of brain-rotting media. And the fourth, final piece of the course will be some kind of semester-long foray into “serially immersive” new media writing: blogging, annotated social bookmarking, etc. The point here: to again insist on the generative, associative collusion between immersive new media writing and its (still) eventful counterparts in the academy. It’s an online course: this is the both-and set up to bridge the institutionally recognizable (and desired) and peppy, alt-logic digitality.

Five Minutes?

If you can spare five or ten minutes, Ph. is working on a school project for his Government class. He has been asked to develop an argument concerned with public policy, and he has been thinking about a focus on smoking in public places: specifically about recent changes in smoking bans in public spaces, indoor and out. This afternoon we spent some time together getting his questions set up on Survey Monkey.

Basically, I’m just trying to help him get word out on the survey, which you can complete here. If you can spare five or ten minutes.

Cooper/George/Lynch, 1998, “Moments of Argument”

Marilyn, Diana George, and Dennis Lynch. “Moments of Argument: Agonistic
Inquiry and Confrontational Cooperation.” On Writing Research: The Braddock Essays, 1975-1998.
Ed. Lisa Ede. New York: Bedford St. Martin’s, 1999. 390-412.

Big Idea
George, Cooper and Lynch, teaching from Michigan Tech, call for more
sophisticated argument pedagogies in this essay.  They begin by waving off
the slew of textbooks that introduce argument as a simplistic binary, a scheme
of either/or, right and wrong, often setting up hypothetical tensions and
straw-thin oppositions.  The trio historicizes cooperative models for
argument, juxtaposing them with caustic models.  They invoke Susan Jarratt,
citing, at length, her call for "composition instructors to rethink their
objections to agonistic rhetoric and conflict-based pedagogy" (391), and
John Gage, for his concern that "the real conflicts are already there at
the outset of a disagreement" and that teachers ought to draw students
toward cooperative, collaborative interchanges toward a shared sense of social
resolve (394).  The authors also acknowledge the rootedness of their
central research question–toward an improved model of argument in writing
pedagogy–in their own teaching.  To that end, George, Cooper and Lynch,
propose the blend of "agonistic inquiry" and "confrontational
cooperation" so that teachers and students might see "argumentation as
a crucial social responsibility–an activity that requires us to position
ourselves within complicated and interconnected issues" (411). 

Monday Morning
Before wrapping these notes up and putting them to blog (this is the bit I’m
doing last), just wanted to make a few pieces about my experiences teaching
argument as argument.  Once I inherited an argument-based course. 
Last minute appointment, two-alarm shortage.  Usual adjunct drill.  The syllabus was already written (ugh!) and the text already ordered.  I don’t remember the name of the textbook, but I do recall its onerous simplicity with respect to polarized arguments.  

Sample assignment: Pick a side:  For war or for peace.  Go.  

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Connors, 1982, “Modes of Discourse”

 Connors, Robert. “The Rise and Fall of the Modes of Discourse.” On Research Writing: The Braddock Essays, 1975-1998. Ed. Lisa Ede. New York: Bedford St. Martin’s, 1999.

Big Idea
Connors historicizes the ascent and decline of the modes of discourse as a
widely favored, pervasive scheme for organizing FY composition from the early 1800’s until the late 1960’s when
modified approaches and the process movement, bound up with phenomenological underpinnings
in many cases, threw off the charm of modal curricula. The modes of discourse commonly included Narration, Description, Exposition and Argument, although variations included Didactic in place of Expository (Newman), Pathetic (Parker) and Speculation (Quackenbos). Connors’ essay offers a fairly clear chronology of the modes, their brief reign, and the forces that brought about their gradual (and yet ongoing) unraveling: single-mode text books, especially ones centered on exposition, and what Connors calls “thesis texts”–texts purporting a central, masterful method for engaging students to write powerfully, effectively. He details the causal relationships from a classical belletristic set of modes, to Newman’s
A Practical System of Rhetoric in 1827, to Winterowd’s condemnation in 1965, “that the modal classification, ‘though interesting, isn’t awfully helpful.'” 

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