I count 110 days until I’m taking qualifying exams. Over the past 24
days, I have read and annotated 19 units–books and articles combined. I’m not
making any distinction between books and articles for now, even though I know
that I need an hour for an article and ~6 for a book. My notes for each are
roughly equivalent coming out at around 1-2 pp. The first 19 units fit in while
teaching two online courses together enrolling ~50 students (my fall will not be
so engorged…with teaching, but, of course, the fall will be babyful, so the
formulas are all amiss). Because I’ll lose my mind if I work constantly, I took
fifteen minutes to monkey around with my lists as a bar graph. When I paste the
sets into a spreadsheet, Excel tells me there are 169 items in my three lists

I think of it like a fundraising chart:

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Re Collection

Walter Benjamin, in "Unpacking My Library," writes

The most profound enchantment for the collector is the locking of
individual items within a magic circle in which they are fixed as the final
thrill, the thrill of acquisition, passes over them. (60)

Today, I’m thinking of my exam areas and the respective lists–collections,
really–as temporarily locked items in magic circles. I’m semi-officially
in the exam phase of my program of study, and although I have yet to type up a
reflective essay (a post-coursework "Stuff I’m Thinking About") and get
thumbs-ups from the grad committee in the fall, my lists are


With a streak of good, steady studying, I hope to examine in November.

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Coursework Retrospective, or What Just Happened?

I’ve been thinking about coursework for some time this afternoon. I
finished coursework two weeks ago, and I’ve been roughing out some of the
materials in preparation for exams. My program requires
a brief reflective essay as a step
toward proposing qualifying exams. Basically, the process of writing the
essay is meant to crystallize, for us and our committees, favorite theorists/ies,
intellectual sparks/combustibles, trends and patterns, habits of mind, formative
identities as scholars and teachers, and the like.

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Decompress: Minnowbrook

The three-day conference in the Adirondacks ended yesterday; in the
afternoon, several of us caravanned back to campus in the rides provided by the
University. More background: The event convenes each year in the spring.
Put on by the Graduate School staff whose work involves professional development
for graduate students, the conference draws together PhD students and faculty
from a variety of disciplines (journalism, anthropology, geography, and so on)
and institutions (SU, Onondaga CC, and several SUNY schools). Attendees
pop in and out throughout the three days, but altogether there were 40-50 people
present on any given day. Our program sent two faculty members and three
students, all of us involved with the Future Professoriate Program at SU. The
program, as I noted the other day, was a mix of general sessions and concurrent
sessions. On the final day (yesterday), there were a few roundtables, but
with just 30-45 minutes, they felt too brief to get into much substantive
discussion. Still, the conversations across disciplines linger as the most
compelling aspect of the conference. It’s unusual to locate avenues for
cross-disciplinary contact, much less opportunities for the convergence of
multiple disciplinary vantages rather than the perspectival 1:1 of rhet/comp and
geography, let’s say, or rhet/comp and IST. This oversimplifies, of course, glossing that
any individual might be a nomadic collocation–a knot of multiple
influences–unto themselves. But I’m getting at primary affiliations and
recognized roles: the label on a name tag, for instance.

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Day two of the ’06 Syracuse FPP Conference is winding down
(Next: dinner at six).  It’s a three day retreat focused on teaching and
professionalization hosted by SU’s graduate program.  In a nutshell:
general sessions, breakout sessions, good food and drink, and an amazing setting
deep in the Adirondacks. A mix of disciplines are represented here, so there
have been several lively conversations.  I’ll try to report on some of the
pleasant surprises and encouraging moments in the days ahead.  Here’s a
photo of Blue Mountain Lake from the main lodge. 

Minnowbrook: Main Lodge

And this is Castle Rock. Dianna, Chris, Eileen and I just hiked
there and back through downed trees, brambles and hoards of blackflies.

Adirondack Hike

In Search Of

We capped our discussions of Smit’s The End of Composition Studies
(2004) and
Cosgrove and Barta-Smith’s In Search of Eloquence (2004) in 712 this afternoon.
Smit opens for us with six chapters leading down the skeptic’s
infinite regress into complandia’s hopeless abyss before turning to his
recommendations for reform. His plans for a refurbished curriculum aren’t
as despairing as his account of the impossibility of teaching writing. No
screeching demons, no ravenous hellhounds. In fact, the curriculum pretty well matches with
Writing Across the Curriculum efforts. Smit turns out to be a proponent
of a first-year course called "Introduction to Writing as a Social Practice"
(185). Upper division instructors would share responsibility for teaching the
course; "They must," Smit contends, "be part of a broad university-wide program
that introduces all novice writers ‘slowly but steadily and systematically’ to
new genres and social contexts, a program that encourages students to develop
their ‘structural, rhetorical, stylistic facility’ over time (Rose 112)" (188).
The second tier of Smit’s curriculum involves discipline-specific courses
emphasizing writing, and the third tier involves "writing outside the classroom"
(190). I’m sure I’ll sound glib in characterizing it so flatly, but much
of it sounds, well, familiar enough. A more radical turn, however, comes
in Smit’s proposal for graduate training:

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GREater Than

Next October ETS is rolling out a

new and improved GRE
Allow me to break it down for you.

The press release tells us this: Old GRE < New GRE

The soon-to-be-former GRE ran 2.5 hours split out like so:
Verbal 30 minutes
Quantitative 45 minutes
Writing 75 minutes
(These are approximations pieced together from what few clues I could gather.)

The new and improved GRE will run just about 4 hours split out this way:
Verbal 80 minutes (2×40)
Quantitative 80 minutes (2×40)
Writing 60 minutes (2×30)

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Why blog?

Earlier this afternoon, I stepped up front for a brief talk about why I blog
(framed as "Blogging as a Graduate Student").  The session was part of SU’s
featured Gateway Focus on Teaching Luncheon
; the broader theme for the event: "Technology to Support Student
Motivation." I decided that it makes sense to share a few small details about
the talk, including my list of five motives/motifs on grad student blogging. 
It’s testimonial for the most part, and perhaps it’s well-worn terrain for you
who have been keeping a weblog, but it’s also useful for me to flesh out my
talking notes and to write through some of the fuzz, the un- or under-answered
questions, and the relative merits–from my perspective–of keeping a weblog
throughout a graduate program of study.  I should also be clear that these
are conversation starters and supple categories for organizing such
conversations rather than some rigid and deterministic boxes.

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