Peeples, “‘Seeing’ the WPA With/Through Postmodern Mapping”

Peeples, Tim. “‘Seeing’ the WPA With/Through Postmodern Mapping.” The Writing Program Administrator as Researcher. Shirley K. Rose and Irwin Weiser, eds. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1999. 153-167.

Peeples devises a set of maps in an effort to “capture a sense of spatial positioning and the fragmentation of [Wedy] Bishop’s position” as the WPA at Florida State in the late 1990’s. Postmodern geography influences Peeples’ project, allowing him to combine experimental maps and narrative accounts that together present the complex and multiply implicated subjectivities of a WPA whose organizational role is entangled with disciplinary, administrative, and organizational discourses.

In the end, it’s not entirely clear where Peeples finds a useful distinction between subjectivities entangled in (and constructed from) discourse and those wrapped up in the material locale itself. The progression of maps tend to highlight the ways Bishop’s WPA subjectivity is discursive, and a footnote backs this impression, but elsewhere Peeples seems also to recognize the implicatedness of the material site, such as when he says that “[e]thnographies would help our field better understand the details and complexities of these local spaces” (159) and also when he invokes Porter and Sullivan’s Opening Spaces and “Institutional Critique” article–both of which foreground the local and material.

Three of Peeples’ strategies here are especially significant for me:

  1. He doesn’t establish a correspondence between maps and models, but he does present the maps as partial isomorphs (in the way Pemberton discusses them): “One of the ways we attempt to see something that is fragmented and dynamic is to place it against a relatively stable background, whereby we can at least mark its movements across space” (154).
  2. Peeples presents multiple maps: “This approach encourages the development of an expanding set of maps that begin to capture the complexities of WPA organizational subjectivities, rather than leading to a grand, unified image or Theory represented in a single map” (155). Map as monolith is out.
  3. Finally, he comments on what the map-text complementarity (text, here, not as symbol system or legend): “The text surrounding these multiple maps should, then, comment on what is privileged and obscured in the maps and even suggest what other maps might be possible” (155). The text might also address the limitations of the map, although Peeples doesn’t bring this up explicitly.

On subjectivity, Peeples cites Faigley’s Fragments of Rationality and Janangelo’s 1995 essay, “Theorizing Difference and Negotiating Differends.” The maps themselves evoke a number of questions about choices for shading (a gradient backshadow represents something less fixed than an outlined oval) and positioning (cycles giving way to intersections giving way to a periphery of “ideals”).

“Rather than use terms such as ‘role’ and ‘identity’ that signify stable, unified positions, ‘subjectivity‘ has become a key term because it signifies the dynamism, multiplicity, and fragmentation of people/positions” (153). Here, aligning with terms–subjectivity is preferable to roles and identities because it clicks with the theoretical orientation that ascribes some value to postmodern mapping.