Friday, September 28, 2007


The second chapter--a megalo-chapter with probably too much conceptual hefting--is nearly drafted. Granted, it's a raw, rough draft, but I'm generally happy with it, happy, more than anything, with the paces I've been able to manage by writing on it each and every day (of the week). At close to 60 pages, it will almost certainly be the longest chapter in the diss. Sixty probably sounds like a long chapter, but it's not so much when you consider that it allows about 10-15 pages per concept, and it's difficult to imagine doing less with this conceptual groundwork than I have already. If anything, the chapter needs airing out, expansion, and more explanation where I've gone thin (including tired or lazy). I wouldn't be surprised at all if my committee encourages me to split it into two chapters to allow more breathing room. Rough though it is, it's a start. And it does, more or less effectively, what I promised in the prospectus that it would do. That much is reassuring.

I still have a couple of pages to go, and right now I have included just one image, although two or three more still need to be added. Based on the measure of 300 words to a page, I was thinking that at 15,000 words, it would be about 50 pages, but right now it's up around 15,700 words and 58 pages.

Chapter one is next. I think I've been every bit as prepared to write this one as the second one. I have a clear sense of what I will try to accomplish in the first chapter and how, approximately, it will move from point to point. It should last for maybe 35-40 pages, and to keep to this, I will have to be careful (i.e., highly controlled) in navigating a couple of the quagmires, such as the matter of diswamplinarity. I still have to make a couple of decisions about how to avoid sinking up to my knees in the "internal problematic" of diswamplinarity.

And then, and then, and then. I have been trying to switch between working the data and writing. The data still needs more work--painstaking (i.e., Oh merciful one, what have I done to deserve this?) coding, copying and pasting and sorting, looking up details, building XML files, and so on. It will neither kill me nor make me stronger, but the lines and lines of data will have to be well in hand before I can do much with chapters three through five. I guess those three chapters are what we could call methods chapters, but I've had to get used to the idea that this project doesn't follow the well-worn path when it comes to dissertations. I don't mind that it doesn't follow the distributive formulism of intro + lit. review + methodology + application + pedagogy or implications = Ph.D. I'm sort of doing some lit. reviewy stuff in the second chapter, but it's also concept reviewy--the defining of terms that often happens in the first chapter, so I've heard. And the diss doesn't offer a topical inquiry as much as scope and promote a new methodology, so the whole thing, you might say, is loaded up with chapters on methods.

Before the end of the semester, I'd like to draft the first two chapters and build a couple of the models for chapters three through five. For the next ten weeks, that means wrapping up the massaging of data and getting down chapter one. There's a rough plan for what will follow, but I won't bother rehashing that right now. I'm just trying to drop a buoy in the Sea-of-Diss so that when my head clears in a few months, I will have left a trail to help me retrace what happened.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


National Fooball League
Originally uploaded by ewidem

Try your own luck by adding the Pigskin Pick 'Em app in Facebook.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Door Opener

Water-based Circuit

For a second consecutive day, the scanner works.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ars Odonto

Limits of Odontology

Testing, testing...trying out a new scanner--a slim, modestly priced CanoScan LiDE 70. Figured I'd draw a few lines, scan them, and drop in a few paint buckets of color to see how everything works. Not too bad.

Sunday, September 23, 2007



Friday, September 21, 2007


I might be on the down slope in this second chapter. I've been writing about scale, aerating the idea of "textual altitude." I begin with conventional notions of scale, like those we find in traditional, basic cartography. Drawing on a couple of geography resources, I brush the term in two different directions: representational scale and conceptual scale. Next, I bring Latour on board so that he will help me account for the problems with the micro/macro debate. Latour urges a flattening out of the social so that associations are rendered traceable (without jumps up or down or the proliferation of tiny, temporary, bridges of convenience). Latour is especially on point for what I'm trying to set up where he distinguishes between the Orders of Magnitude, a variation of scale that is useful for measuring, and panoramic vistas, which are appropriate for traveling (186). Right, his replacement of panoptica with oligoptica pertains to scale, too, and I include it briefly, as well. I'm surprised (the sort of surprise that turns into: What now?) by the correspondences between what has shaped up in the section on scale and what shaped up in the section on abstraction. Both chunks scream certain unavoidable ideas at me that will return later in the diss as-conceived (esp. in C. 6). Can't worry about this yet. It doesn't have to be settled until, oh, March or April. One challenge of late is that in my quasi-outline I fancy holding to just ten pages on the concept of scale (same for the other three concepts I snake through in this second chapter). But ten pages won't be enough unless I discard a few citations, do away with some of the references I'd hoped to include. At nine pages into this section on scale, I have dealt only with the traditional cartography and Latour. I was also thinking I would bring aboard the network studies conversation about scale-free networks. I can't accomplish this and keep to ten pages, but I can attempt it while keeping the section down around fifteen pages. So that this seems like a good idea, I only need to remind myself that what I've been writing will be different later on, after the ruts and pockets are rolled smooth.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Monday Mana

As if you needed another reason to watch YouTube. Mah Nà Mah Nà. I like some things about this version better, but Is. is thrilled to watch either one of them.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Still Portrait


Friday, September 14, 2007

The Week That Was Blankety-Blank

No blog entries this week! Yet somehow, even without the oak beams that are my more-or-less-daily entries, the blogosphere did not collapse, did not implode, did not fold in on itself. I count this a miracle.

I've been writing elseblog. Pushing on through a draft. This dissertation is stubborn. It mocks me. It raises a skeptical eyebrow and smirks at these words I feed it, as if to say "They don't make any sense, grasshopper." Heh, gras shopper is right.

105ers turned in first essays and invention portfolios last night. I will read them and write responses this weekend. In last night's session, I was reminded of how much I appreciate the reflective (i.e., house of mirrors) piece that goes at the front of the three-week collected works. Make it a rant, if you must rant. Drum up some meta. Tell me what you want me to do with your writing. Why should these meta pieces be as interesting as the projects? Because they're pulsatile; something raw and honest in them that oftentimes has been tamped out of academic prose in the mill of conventionalism and purported needs--habits of schooling. Not that these are all evil. But there I go, back-peddling, too busy and tired to be pedagogically radical?

Which reminds me: to what extent are wiki textbook projects studium-like? I mean that I was looking at one the other day and thinking how it could only ever be the average effect. Then again, that's the textbook's appeal, isn't it? Textbooks are almost never about singular compositional production.

I self-censored an entry earlier this week--the only other entry of the week. Spotted a couple of frogs on my seven-tenths-of-a-mile walk along Colvin Avenue home from the bus stop late Tuesday. Thought of the un-performative Michigan J. and the snappy Rag. Looked up "One Froggy Evening" on YouTube, and I was having fun. But then I didn't post because I was struck by the uncanny correspondences between that silly cartoon (a commentary on greed, no doubt) and images of 9-11. See for yourself if you don't believe me. "Slide, ride, glide the Michigan..." straight to the cutting room floor.

Netflix sent Waking Life on Tuesday, and I haven't watched it yet.

Wow. Quite a heap of job ads piling up at the wiki.

Shipped an article to a journal this week (the emphatic gesture, after many choppy onmthmonsmonshtths of elliptical writing). And a panel proposal went off to the Rhetoric Society of America, as well. I don't know what on earth will fund RSA. Can and bottle refunds? A baked-goods sale? Auctioning off the collected dissertation Post-It notes on Ebay in late April? Ah, but the '08 RSA is in Seattle, and even though there are no easy or responsible routes from Syracuse to Seattle, we're planning (should the proposal be accepted by the Society) to make a family trip of it.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Moretti, "The Soul and the Harpy"

Moretti, Franco. "The Soul and the Harpy." Signs Taken For Wonders: On the Sociology of Literary Forms. 1983. Trans. David Forgacs. New York: Verso, 2005.

This chapter offers much that deserves a slower, more careful going-over than my notes here attempt. Moretti's aim is to position literary criticism and historiography squarely within rhetoric and, by doing so, to carve out a space for a sociology of literary forms in which everything (i.e., mass literature) is counted. This counting, it would seem, runs very close to a scientific imperative complete with empirical rationalism. But it's not quite that simple. What Moretti calls for here comes more as a blend between "genre as social action" and a Latourian sociology of associations--an examination of the ways select literary genres "secure consent" (27).

Moretti is in favor of literary historiography that, rather than working with what real historians would call "an imaginary object, " works instead with "critical interpretations" that are testable and also falsifiable (21). He writes, "an extra-literary phenomenon is never more or less important as a possible 'object' or 'content' of a text, but because of its impact on systems of evaluation and, therewith, on rhetorical strategies" (20). Still, this is not set up to trivialize the explanatory power of extra-literary phenomenon; the sociology of literary forms offers a restorative gesture that wrenches form from a pure, organic association with nature, and repositions it in the rhetorical middle--between reality (scientism and strict referentiality) and poetry (pleasure, imagination)--I'm drawing on Kinneavy's categories to make sense of this.

Form, after all (drawing on Lukacs) is evaluation, judgment, and above all, ideology (10). The two can hardly be separated (without toppling the whole house of cards). Moretti says that "literary criticism has for too long kept the terms of Lukacs's dilemma: to save the warmth of life and the purity of form" (12). Here Moretti explains his reason for treating form as sociological--as telling of certain larger events. Form, then, must not be lumped together as commonplace or cliche, but instead studied as a sociological phenomenon: "A 'slower' literary history; and a more 'discontinuous' one. At present, criticism relies on too many and too varied criteria in order to slice up the continuum of history" (16) as anyone from a periodized program of study can appreciate. A sociology of literary forms would result, instead, greater historical clarity "towards hardening the edges of historical research" (16).

Moretti's final illustration to suggest the agreeability of "so undeconstructive and unliberating a notion of literature" is the carving of the soul and the harpy on a Greek tomb. The harpy--a bird-human hybrid--tows the complacent soul to Hades. The soul appears to be at peace; it does not fight. Is the soul, form? Is the harpy a historiographer enlightened by Moretti's sociology of literary forms? Or the opposite? Perhaps the soul is analogous to literary criticism.

Excerpts: "I am unable to consider my work as something complete; that no methodological or historiographic framework wholly convinces me; and that every change I have made has been prompted by the unfashionable and banal conviction that the main task of criticism is to provide the best possible explanation of the phenomena it discusses" (2).

The future of a text--the conventions and the world views it will help to form and consolidate--is just as much a part of its history and its contribution to history" (7).

"True isomorphisms never occur, and from this categorical discrepancy stems the set of problems that characterizes literary history" (9).

"First, how far has empirical research borne out the antithesis between norm and masterpiece on which literary historiography continues to rest?" (13). Extend this question to disciplinary hits and misses--the matter of celebrated and award-winning articles and their ne'er-again-heard-of contemporaries. What can empirical research do to help explain this? Williams' article grammars might have bearing here, too.

See p. 22 on "strengthening these connections..."

"Historians know how to use computers; they will have no difficulty learning the difference between metaphor and metonymy--assuming, naturally, that one is able to demonstrate that the choice between these two figures entails cultural differences of some significance" (24).

See p. 40 on "new content, which is not reducible to the sum of its parts" and "all-embracing, as something that guarantees a modus vivendi, an adjustment between conflicting thrusts" (40).

Friday, September 7, 2007

Swimming a Little

On this, the Barthes of September (so occasioned), I am left with no choice but to post an excerpt. But which one? Something apropos to this afternoon's mood (any respite from Why does this over-warm office where I sit working on my dissertation smell like shit? It's 94F--record-setting heat in CNY. A dead squirrel in the eaves? I refuse to climb in the small, hot, unlit nooks to inspect them. Tactic: wait it out--in the office, curious, resting on hope alone that the unbearable stink resolves itself).

RB (from RB) on "My Head is Confused":

On a certain kind of work, on a certain kind of subject (usually the ones dissertations are made of), on a certain day of life itself, he would like to be able to post as a motto the old-wives' remark: My head is confused (let us imagine a language in which the set of grammatical categories would sometimes force the subject to speak in the aspect of an old woman).

And yet: at the level of his body, his head never gets confused. It is a curse: no value, lost, secondary state: always consciousness: drugs excluded, yet he dreams of them: dreams of being able to intoxicate himself (instead of getting sick right away); anticipating from a surgical operation for at least once in his life an absence, which was denied him for a general anesthesia; recovering every morning, upon waking, a head swimming a little, but whose interior remains fixed (sometimes, falling to sleep with something worrying me, upon first waking it has disappeared; a white minute, miraculously stripped of meaning; but the worry rushes upon me, like a bird of prey, and I find myself altogether back where I was, just as I was the day before).

Sometimes he feels like letting all this language rest--this language which is in his head, in his work, in other people, as if language itself were an exhausted limb of the human body; it seems to him that if he could take a rest from language, he could just rest altogether, dismissing all crises, echoes, exaltations, injuries, reasonings, etc. He sees language in the figure of an exhausted old woman (something like an antique cleaning woman with worn hands) who sighs for a certain retirement.... (176)

Why not this? While there is no relief from the odor (decomposing flesh, I am sure of it), there is a little relief for my head. It is a couple of pages less confused than it was yesterday.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Bringing Legibility Back

For the first time in '07, I am writing by hand on student work. In the spring and summer, I taught exclusively online. Today, after penning notes on a short stack of two-paragraph summaries, I feel like Mark Cuban (fine, Cuban as a broke grad student)--able only to scratch together an unreadable Rorschach blot when I put the pen to the paper. My handwriting is embarrassing! I already knew I couldn't draw; now I can't even draw letters. When committee members at Prospective U. (it's the season of market preparations) say something like, "I noticed that all of your materials are typewritten. How is your handwriting?," I will resort to an end-around, by-passing the subject of handwriting (as a basic literacy andprequalifier for the professoriate?) altogether, and getting right to an answer that begins, "I can qwerty like the breeze...."

Sunday, September 2, 2007


Ph. picked up a lawn-cutting gig yesterday morning. I dropped him off and proceeded to Starbucks, where I grabbed a venti Joya, doctored it up with sugar and cream, and then wandered out to a table in the sun along University Ave. Wasn't any chair at the table, so I interrupted somebody reading a newspaper--"Mind if I take that chair?"--carried the chair to the table, and sat alone with Signs Taken for Wonders, awaiting Ph.'s call for a ride home again in, say, an hour or so.

I sat next to the table where four people were meeting about forming a band. The luck! And then I tried to read, swooping in on the text momentarily only to be seduced back into unintended eaves-dropping.

The meeting involved two established members of the band--a manager (mother) and musician (daughter), and two new prospects. They were interviewing or recruiting (Concentrating on the reading: "Rather, it will be treated as a legitimate act only if it contributes towards improving the total knowledge of the text..."), engaging in cross-talk about who makes decisions, how the gigs work, how the future is wide open. Something fascinating about the pre-band, the probing and speculation, will we be famous?

I've never been in a band.

Elliptical conversation: around and around it went, and then it tightened. One of the prospects said he wanted to be on the road a year from now, whether with this band or another, didn't matter. Tension. After that, the manager asked, "If God wants you to move to Binghamton, will you?"

Spiritual rock, I guess. I didn't hear the prospects' answers. Ph. called to say that mower was leaking oil. After just 20 minutes of mowing, a moat of dark oil encircled the mower engine. And then I left with the sweet coffee, having only read a few lines, gone to pick him up again from where he'd cut half of a lawn.