Queued up for carrying along to U Louisville’s Watson Conference next week, Thursday.
Writing in the abstract also suggests learning the rhetorical device of brevity and the rhetorical power of the aphorism. Teaching the value of exploring something in the abstract, without practical purpose or intention, would return composition pedagogy to its sophistic ethos (we dare not say roots). In other words, finding new touchstones means leaving touchstones behind. It means plumbing the depths of abstraction. It means ob/literating the ground.
at times I need this deep
(Haynes, 2016, 106)
Finished reading couple of middle chapters from The Homesick Phone Book yesterday, outdoors on the patio seating at Cultivate, sipping on a peach iced tea, strangers with an excitable dog sitting close enough that when the dog barked I could feel his breath on my leg. His ferocity or was it fear shook the table. Those middle chapters were “Writing Offshore” and “Glitch Rhetoric.” The first is a favorite, a steadfast influence (I can feel it still), an inspiration for the dissertation, a PDF I hand off often to graduate students, though I can’t say I’ve ever assigned it in a class I taught. It’s better adrift.
In “Writing Offshore,” I’ve wanted to pause questioning on water’s alternation to the slower-shifting and stabler-seeming ground of, well, ground. Why not air?, says Gemini with a huff. Earth-water is all. Haynes sets this tension so smartly, completely, convincingly, reason’s earthen stabilizers and uncertainty, wavecrash what’s deposited in tidal pools only to be reclaimed, though to be clear this is just playing at some extensible daydream beyond what Haynes writes, past that edge where the avanc towed the armada in Mieville’s The Scar. Ankle deep wade-in is recalling that I happened to read “Writing Offshore” and The Scar at the same time, when?, maybe twelve years ago. Their syncing up mattered. I don’t think I will ever forget them for being coincident.
I picked up The Homesick Phone Book anticipating a re-charge, intellectual kinship, a sip again of ideas I want to experience again and yet more vividly. We do this with reading, sometimes but maybe not often enough, picking something up again because we do our own most inspired thinking with it, through it, alongside it, from it. For Homesick through me, I am a firelit and alive–younger (transported to twelve years ago when I read so much more…or maybe just so much more excitedly). This time, though, it’s the stuff on addressivity that supplies the sort of trouble I want from scholarship: I am beginning to understand this, I don’t know what to do with this; something must be done with this.
On the note card bookmark I have a scribble about how I want this book to clink boat hull to craggy jut the telephone of the winds, that voice-portal shrine to relatives swept off by the 2011 Fukushima tsunami. The living call the dead (or maybe dead but certainly lost). They chat, catharsis in telephony implying but not quite answering, what if the lost and gone can hear us? I was thinking a homesick phone book would offer directory assistance, some kind of way to understand sublime-extrarational addressivity, or why it’s important to have the right number for a gone. I don’t want to talk to just any dead-departed-lost relative, but this one reasonably stable and identifiable figment. Oh, so telephone of the winds can only connect me to a baggy ephemera mass, mostly memory with touches of other flits and wisps of energy? Is this the only way?
It’s something of a pivot, but whose groundlessness is this inaddressivity? That is, whose un-dialable figment requires foothold? Hmm…what I’m trying to say is, I don’t need anyone else’s dead relative’s number, not so much. There’s trouble in this, the question of locative address for what’s groundless. And some germ of this I hope to carry to Watson in October for the presentation I’ll be attempting there, what I’ve titled for now as “Discipline Going Gone,” on the concept of gones, or dissolution and endings and termini, especiall in disciplinary contexts, unless by disciplinary in October and after manymonths I mean personal. This is not endism, no, but it is precarity-inventory. I hope for it to also outline how gone-noting can aid us in understanding (and perhaps also in continuously articulating) disciplinary fragility. The field’s a mess. Fumblesome af. Something in that willing confusion and its wish, to pick up the slivers of needing this deep and of asking forgiveness (see epigraph), of not finding in a book what’s not there but casting about nonetheless, picking up the phone of the winds, bloop-bleep calling into it, hello?, and asking whether this or that has fallen away, forever lost to waves and sea floor sediment and whale stomachs, whether it (e.g., the still-unbuilt but then almost-built but then washed away hacienda) will be back, asking with addressive precision down to sixteen decimal latitude and longitude when will we see one another again.
N.b. Aphids made it into the title for noticing bug life alongside the barking dog at the coffee place.
I’ve asked students to write a semester-capping reflection in-class, today marking the end of the Winter 2018 semester at EMU and, with it, the final session of WRTG121: Composition II: Researching the Public Experience. The prompt occasions a letter noting takeaways in terms of attitudes and habits relating to writing, command of language, and grasp of research processes, although it’s a stacked ask insofar as its privileging ground and anchorage qua affirmations of footing, solidity, presumptions of growth that value lodging over dislodging, mooring over unmooring. Another way: might just as well be asking about attitude-habit upheavals, a churn of language, ungrasp of research processes. Whatever of the teaching-learning paradoxes, here are a few of the takeaways for me:
- Our curriculum moves swiftly from establishing researchable questions and attempting, with the aid of systematic note-keeping, a brief proposal and cursory lit review, next to carrying out a microstudy documented with research memos that adheres to an appropriate research method, and finally to a pair of presentational moves, one in-class (elevator pitch to peers with careful consideration of slidecraft), one at the Celebration of Student Writing. Much of the semester felt to me to be balanced and right-paced, although at the end, two presentational gestures left one (the CSW) lagging secondarily a bit, without enough time to develop it fully.
- That said, the curriculum remains promising in that there surfaced (for most?) a more obvious and followable connection among an evolving researchable question (or series of questions), sources gathered and annotated in association with the question, the enactment of methods chosen as ways of following rigorously the question out into the world, and the variations on presenterly circulation that care for translation of a nuanced research process into something shareable. Obvious and followable: this, according to students who informally related not having especially much experience with being guided to undertake research writing this way.
- Our program’s bundle, Understanding Rhetoric and EasyWriter, primes this approach, introducing key ideas and standing readily by as consultatory resources for reminders and support, though at moments this reminding and support isn’t quite enough due to my assumptions about everyone’s remembering these materials as backdrop. I forget to say, use these books in this way (even after reading selections or pitching and modeling usefulnesses at the semester’s outset). Thus, the consultatory function of these books, this semester, seemed to fade, seemed to follow a declining use-trend, when I’d imagined an increase, expansion, uptick.
- In future semesters, when teaching a class like this one, I may try to do more to poll students before the semester begins, to think together and ahead about thematic orientations. We ventured into environmental justice this semester, but I’m not convinced that the explicit and direct attention we devoted to EJ at the outset sustained as the semester wore on. It felt to me like the most prominent concerns of EJ quieted as our efforts shifted to more tightly tailored research projects; with this is that inevitable tension between the general and the acute, between the frame and the pixel.
- Early-semester one on one conferences continue to be tone-setting for interpersonal rapport that builds as a semester goes. This practice is reasonably enculturated in the FYWP at EMU, carried out section for section for section, but it’s a practice I’d like to extend with focal intention to other classes I teach, doing more with these scheduled conversations while also thinking about how to keep them student-led and only in minor ways repetitive.
That is it. Enough for forty minutes of in-class writing. Enough to say the semester that was, was. Enough to mark even lightly a few of the details I’ll carry for a while hereforward.
EMU’s First-year Writing Program invites you to join us in Ypsilanti on Friday, March 23, for the 2018 Winter Colloquium. Dr. Melanie Yergeau will present at 10:30 a.m., “Black Mirror Meets the Classroom: Neurodiversity and Social Robots.” After lunch, at 1 p.m., she will lead a writing pedagogy workshop, “Disability, Access, and Multimodal Pedagogies.” For more information, contact Derek Mueller, Dir. of the First-year Writing Program, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Rachel Gramer, Associate Dir. of the First-year Writing Program, at email@example.com.
Especially the second paragraph:
Close to large tinajas [water pockets or pools] the trails converge like strands of a spiderweb coming to the center, and within a few miles of water, broken pieces of pottery tend to appear alongside. Mostly the pieces are plain: thick-rimmed, ochre ceramics called Colorado River buff ware. Clay vessels would have been hauled back and forth until finally a carrier stumbled. The stumbles added up in places so that over hundreds upon hundreds of years pottery became evenly scattered, in some places pieces on top of pieces. Along with the pottery a small number of shells might be found, brought from far oceans probably for adornment, wealth, or ceremony. Along one of these trails I picked up part of a shallow-water cockleshell, its delicate hinges still intact after being carried hundreds of miles from the Sea of Cortés.
I started calling these trails waterlines. Waterlines are the opposite of canals, moving people to water rather than water to people. This bestows a formidable significance on the origin itself, the tinaja, because that is where you must go. Must. It comes and goes over the year, or over the days, while the location always remains the same. You can put your finger down and say here. Of all this land, all this dryness, all of these mountains heaped upon mountains, here. (31)
Childs, Craig. The Secret Knowledge of Water. New York: Back Bay Books, 2000.
For the talk I’m giving next month at Macomb CC, “Writing Desert Survival Kit,” I’m leafing Childs’ Secret Knowledge, struck by the shard trails, anticipating the desert metaphor (much like food deserts) as accounting for what diminishes, dehydrates, and becomes perilous in crawls across the writing barren, writing spare curriculum. Waterlines, in this extended metaphor, however, introduce a centripetal and extracurricular counterpart, desert traversals, travels that surfaces and circulate writing (also supporting it). These tinajas are comparable to the writing center, which, if you decline to provide a formidable writing curriculum (e.g., explicitly guided and supported writing experiences in every year of university education), you’d damned well better fortify your tinajas.
Immersed in prepping this talk for much of the morning, noticing as closing in the constraints of time and purpose and what I’d supposed possible before really squaring with the script. Deck is drafted, talk is drafted, and still there isn’t quite enough explicit about this business of standing on shoulders–so much more I’d like to do with footing for newcomers, hospitality for initiates.
Decluttering email and here’s a missive I received as a reminder: purpose, audience, context, then analysis and practice, genres and texts, circulation. But the second paragraph (ensuring background) complicates the first, or at the very least positions the first set of fundamentals in relief–sharp contrast!–with professional development and meaningful experiences sustaining instructors of all rank. Even when the purpose (para. 1) is lucid and visible and constantly tended, the eidos in the second paragraph requires resources that too easily ebb and flow with the changing tide of administrator mindset and fiscal-budgetary conditions. Not at all meaning to be vague or inconclusive with this, nor suggestive hint-hint wink-wink with this, nor anything much other than reminded that re-reading principles’ statements is measures affirming and measures yes, difficulties and challenges remain.
10. Sound writing instruction extends from a knowledge of theories of writing (including, but not limited to, those theories developed in the field of composition and rhetoric).
The most fundamental purpose of classes devoted specifically to writing instruction (such as first-year or advanced composition courses) is to engage students in study of and practice with purposes, audiences, and contexts for writing. In practice, this means that writers engage in supported analysis of these purposes, audiences, and contexts and through supported practice with genres and texts that circulate within and among them.
Institutions and programs emphasize this purpose by ensuring that instructors have background in and experience with theories of writing. Ideally, instructors have ongoing access to and support for professional development, including (but not limited to) attendance at local, regional, or national Composition and Rhetoric conferences. Institutions employing graduate students from outside of the discipline of Composition and Rhetoric to teach writing courses support development of this background knowledge by ensuring students receive sufficient grounding in and practice/mentoring with regard to key concepts associated with theories of writing.
We invite proposals for the 2016 WIDE-EMU Conference, a free, one-day event on October 15, in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Please help us circulate the call widely. The complete call and details about the conference are online at https://sites.google.com/site/wideemu16/.
Phase 1–Propose–has just begun and continues through August 31. We are asking for proposals that will respond to the conference’s framing question: What does writing want?
As you will see on the web site and proposal submission form, we’re asking for titles/ideas for three kinds of presentations:
- Talk: much like a typical conference presentation, only short-form. Propose a brief paper, a roundtable discussion, a panel, etc. Individual talks should not exceed ten minutes.
- Do: a demonstration or a workshop. Propose a session focused on the “how to” related to a software application or pedagogical approach.
- Make: produce something (or the beginning of something). Propose a session in which participants will “make” a web site, a lesson plan, a manifesto, a syllabus, etc.
During Phase 2–Respond–we’ll be asking proposers to expand their proposed ideas with something online to share ahead of the face to face meeting on October 15. What exactly this “something online” looks like is highly flexible: a blog entry, a slidedeck, a podcast, a video, etc. You could also think of this as a teaser or a preview for your session and a few of its key provocations.
The face-to-face conference will be on October 15, 2016 at Eastern Michigan University. We will announce the featured plenary speaker/activity later this summer.
Please visit the site at https://sites.google.com/site/wideemu16/, submit a proposal, and plan to attend. If you have any questions about the proposal process or the conference itself, please reach out to Derek Mueller at firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope to see many of you of this fall.
I return to campus tomorrow, May 2, following a research leave that relieved me teaching and service responsibilities at EMU during Winter 2016. The four month leave allowed me to put the finishing touches on a collaborative monograph and to get the other book I have contracted with the WAC Clearinghouse #writing series substantially closer to a full draft. At the start of the sabbatical, the introduction and first chapter were already sent off, in the editor’s hands (these amount to 57 ms. pages). Over the past four months, I submitted three more chapters, which amounts to 129 ms. pages. I still have some work to do on Chapter Five, which I plan to send by the end of May, and Chapter Six, which I’ll turn over by the end of June. With that, a full draft of the monograph and then on to other things. I just turned off my email autoreply, and I’ll be in Pray-Harrold 613M tomorrow for most of the day, doling out numerous emails related to scheduling for this year’s first-year writing sections. Before the leave officially officially concludes, I wanted to capture a few impressions about the sabbatical, its accomplishments, and its occasional struggles.
- Winter 2016 was only the second semester in 18 years that I didn’t teach a class. And the summer ahead, which is filled with administrative responsibilities, will be only the second summer in 16 years that I won’t be teaching a class. These patterns crept up on me; as I counted them and as I write them here, it seems like too much. I understand better than ever before the risks of burnout (or call it boredom, disinterest, complacency, checking out, whatever), and I have realized this winter how precariously close I have been to shrugging off many of the priorities I held when I started began down this career path during doctoral work.
- As this was my first sabbatical, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect about work rhythms. The nearest I’ve come to having this kind of time to devote entirely to scholarship was all the way back in 2008 when I was working on the dissertation. A sabbatical takes some getting used to, and I suspect this is especially true when the leave is taken from a quasi-administrative post, such as directing a first-year writing program. The interim director and associate director did a fine job, as far as I can tell, but the hand off involved a fair amount of leading communication, pointers to where various documents were stored, how to handle everyday operations, and so on. Likewise, as the return from sabbatical approaches, there has been in uptick in email, requests for scheduling various things for the first half of May. I’m not sure I was especially well prepared for the fuzziness of transitioning onto sabbatical and back off again, particularly as relates to this administrative work. And the lessons about how to transition on and off more gracefully, although they are fresh with me now, probably won’t be especially helpful when my next sabbatical comes around.
- I’m reasonably pleased with my productivity on sabbatical. I didn’t travel much–only a couple of out of town trips, primarily for conferences and an invited talk and workshop. I asked around, and some colleagues said things like, “don’t expect to get anything done during the first month” and “remember to rest.” These were helpful reminders, and now looking back, I suppose I could have worked harder and gotten more done, but I am more or less still on track with the timeline for the book, and I don’t at all have the sense that I squandered huge chunks of time.
- Sabbaticals are isolating and on some days very strange. This much free time? I worked out. I read a few books that don’t have anything to do with my writing. I shitted around. Watched TV. Cooked. Dabbled at home improvement stuff. I regard most of this as run of the mill and routine–nothing here I would describe as radically transformative. The bouts of isolation got me thinking a lot more about social balance, about how much of my social world is constituted by work interactions, conversations with colleagues who are also friends. But sabbaticals are socially bizarre in that people want to leave you alone and respect your time, which is at the same time, of course, estranging from familiar routines and conversations that can prove supportive or generative. At one point I considered trying to convene some kind of writer’s group, but after talking to another colleague who was sabbaticalling at the same time as me, I decided better of it. No need to attempt to be a social leader at the same time my purest focus should be on the book’s development.
- I can’t say yet whether I am fully restored, recharged, rested, and ready for what’s ahead. I jump back into the directorship of the first-year writing program, and while I was away there were a handful of institutional changes that make my return cautious insofar as I can’t quite tell how some of these questions will settle out (most of them relate to labor; who teaches composition as well as how composition sections are weighted for equivalencies). I thought long and hard beforehand about extending the sabbatical for four months through September 1, the start of Fall 2016, and while I could have chosen this alternative, by returning early I am able to earn additional pay in the summer months and continue as director.
Now having listed these few notes, they re-read to me as banalities, though not as too banal to post, if only so I can return to them in a few years when I put in for another research leave. And I think I will. That is, I know people who swear they don’t want or need a sabbatical, but as I have been reflecting on this time for the past ten days or so (the reprieve window of repatriation and conserving effortfully to make the most of what remained), I regard this time as invaluable to my well-being, to my research and scholarship, and to my sense of reinvigorated responsibility as a tenured professor. It surprises me a little bit that I am both excited to return to campus and that I got as much done as I did. I suppose that in itself is as much conviction as anyone can have about a sabbatical’s worth.
Still on sabbatical. Thirty days. Work rhythms have been more predictable and disciplined lately. Up early enough, write until noon or so. Out of this, a chapter takes shape–the third chapter. I just sent it off to the editor. Just over 10,000 words. Fourty-eight references. Ten original figures plus the linked-clickable animated index. Something like 44 pages. Embedded notes about “could do more this this” and “could do more with that.” Threaded through is a realization that I’ve been working on this chapter for a few years. And then up next will be a hard revision of the second chapter, hacking away at its extralong bulk, then adding back another 3,500 words. It’s basically a concept review: three concepts. And two are done; one remains.