Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A Comp-landia Itinerary

Encouraged by C.'s comment at cgbvb and entries by Jeff and Donna, I'm in on the carnival; flipped through Fulkerson's essay in the latest CCC (56.4) this afternoon.  My general impression is that it's an interesting overview of the discipline--engaging for the divisions he suggests and for the grim note that caps the essay.  Good carnival entries (jus' sharpening the axiology), I think, keep it to a few points, raise questions or pull on knots, puzzles and so on. Right?  So, on:

1.  I prefer to think of the pedagogy volumes Fulkerson selects more as itineraries than maps (was also leafing in Jameson this morning for a short minute).  The itinerary anticipates the venturing out--into an actual teaching situation, let's say.  And while my experience as a beginning teacher in the winter of '98 might be idiosyncratic, the teacher training never neatly matches the course.  First courses (and later ones?) are grubbier--responsive, gut-following performances that often map quite differently than even the most keen plotter could exact.  And because Fulkerson's essay closes with an eye on the impending "new theory wars," I'm more content with the notion of itinerary than map.  In one sense, then, I'm trying to raise the question of the correspondence between edited collections arranged for teacher training and what shapes up in practice.  If we could map the enactment of the scholarship at a practical level, how completely would the taxonomy correspond?    

2. Fulkerson acknowledges that the chart (658) is inexact.  He suggests the fluidity of the categories, especially those defining the vertical columns (evaluative theory, views of process, views of pedagogy, epistemology assumed).  The rows, however, also reflect four positions: current-traditional, expressivism, cultural studies, and procedural rhetoric. Only the last three get sections unto themselves; current-traditional formalists, Fulkerson says in the endnote, "you shall have always with you" (682).  And so the current-traditional model doesn't warrant any reconsideration in "Composition at the Turn of the Century."  I wondered why current-traditionalism stands as the rock-solid camp of the bunch (a foregone conclusion, comma-splice menders?), whereas expressivism, cultural studies and rhetoric-oriented comp are the divergent axiologies--the less fixed models threatening to jeopardize the discipline's stability.

3.  As I understand it, Fulkerson's concern about the (in-different-directions) march of disunity in the field would be well served by some agreement about what constitutes good writing.  And yet that the field is somewhat more fragmented (after processual commonality) than it was twenty years ago isn't a ticket to a desolate future, is it? Or a prediction of even more dissolution in the days ahead?  What else might disunity say about the wellness of the field--the vibrancy of multiple, differing strains?  Productive contestations?  Needed specializations?  Flip it over: One counterpart claim--an expression of grave concern because of too much like-mindedness, too much agreement is even less encouraging from my perspective.  Even more worrisome.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at June 28, 2005 9:52 PM to Reading Notes

Yeah, Derek, your #3 speaks to what I was wondering over in my #2. What's this disturbance in the force he's talking about? Isn't disagreement kind of a good thing? Good esp. for someone, like Fulkerson, who values argumentation? What're we gonna argue over if we all agree? Strange.

Posted by: Donna at June 28, 2005 11:32 PM

I really like the notion of thinking about these kinds of teacher-grad student intros as "itineraries." I'll have to think about this shift in terminology a little bit more. Your question about mapping to actual practice is an interesting one. And I was trying to get at that same question in my post's point about Broad's suggestion.

Posted by: Jenny Edbauer at June 29, 2005 4:28 PM

I don't recall how or if Jameson uses itinerary, but the term seems to presume mapping. I take it you're suggesting these anthologies and courses prescribe and proscribe more than perhaps they should?

Posted by: cbd at June 29, 2005 6:10 PM

I don't get the impression that there's much room for productive dissonance or healthy disagreement at the end of the essay. Maybe it's understood in F.'s acknowledgement that the grid's borders are bendable-blurry.

I haven't read Broad's stuff on assessment and "dynamic mapping." Sure presents an interesting set of problems. In some ways, our programs--simply in the course offerings, material environs (offices, tech spaces, etc.), and emphases in hires--already suggest value schemes or axiologies. How fully cognizant of these arrangements are we already? Are students already?

Jameson's brief bit on iternaries comes at the end of the first chapter in Postmodernism. He brings it up in the discussion of Kevin Lynch's The Image of the City. I ran across it yesterday when I was trying to put a finger on his discussion of cognitive mapping. But the bits on itineraries clicked with Fulkerson. And so I guess I am--in suggesting itinerary rather than map--trying to get at the inadequacy of the anthologies to serve as evidence for what, in practice, must be more situated, more hybrid, more difficult to present.

Didn't realize it when I put these notes together yesterday, but as Jeff mentions, it's a lot like what Collin gets at in his discussion of fallacies of scale.

Posted by: Derek at June 29, 2005 10:22 PM

Thanks for the citation; no presumption of mapping, but it's perfect: "precartographic [...] diagrams organized around the still subject-centered or existential body of the traveler, along which various key features are marked" (52).

Fulkerson makes a few comments about the anthologies as he works through their contents, and especially when he deals with rhetoric. But I couldn't help but thinking that his view of the field through their lens would mirror learning to teach the field by reading only anthologies. Yeah, Fulkerson has clearly gone to other sources, but his failure to deal at all with new media and technology is a serious one, and as Jeff writes, perhaps the result of their relative absence from his sources.

I've latched onto the chart as well, and am currently wondering what other categories should go on it. Or how many folks it can't account for---those who are hybrids, who have developed courses and pedagogies in exactly the Bluto-in-the-cafeteria method Fulkerson describes on 679.

Posted by: cbd at June 29, 2005 11:29 PM

The Bluto image is terrific. Reminds me of Shor's turn in Critical Teaching & Everyday Life where he gives us "The World's Biggest Hamburger: An Extended Conceptual Paradigm": "One day, I walked into the college cafeteria, and was surrounded by the hot grease smell of frying burgers. My search ended" (162). I have some reservations about going the whole distance with Shor's academi-sizing the burger, but this might be the very sort of grab-move Fulkerson would like us to reject. Of course, in his metaphor for bad mixing, I have to ask what F.'s got against a lunch of egg rolls, pizza and refried beans.

Posted by: Derek at July 2, 2005 1:03 PM