The Reanimation Library
in Brooklyn (via)
offers a collection of discarded and found books not likely to be held elsewhere:
curios, out-of-print, wonders. Here librarianship is inflected with an art
aesthetic (perhaps more outwardly or radically than in the common case). There seems to be more than rarity justifying the in-status of the
books; but it is a sort of rare collection, one inflected with the idiosyncratic
impulses and tastes of the collector. The 600-book collection raises the question of whether it is
simply an installation called by the name of library. The mission

The Reanimation Library seeks to assemble an inspiring collection of
resources that will facilitate the production of new creative work and
promote reflection and research into the historical, legal, and
methodological questions surrounding the adaptive reuse of found materials.
It strives to provide the necessary space and tools to allow these
activities to flourish, and to foster a climate of spirited collaboration.

"Adaptive reuse of found materials" and so on: sounds like ideas that would
serve well as the guiding impetuses for a composition course–one I’d like to
teach, anyway. The Thingology entry refers to
this recent
report from the Minneapolis City Pages
; both of them mention
Dewey’s Nightmare, a
playwriting experiment tied to the Reanimation Library in which seven writers
wear blindfolds and pick one book each randomly from the stacks. Their
challenge, then, is to shape the random sample into something for the stage.
Quite a methodology, and one not unlike the stuff Sirc discusses in "Box-Logic":
the found collection, the interplay of contingent samples and selections,
renewal in re-coordinating affinities, pulsion, etc.

Don’t miss the
or the pile of

‘Golden Age’ Reference

Off and on for the past few weeks I have been sleuthing around for reference
to "the golden age of composition studies." The phrase appears in quotation
marks in Lee Odell’s "Afterword" to his 1986 CCCC address in Roen’s collection,
Views from the Center. But those reflective afterwords are somewhat
informal; the phrase is not attributed to any source. What to do? I Googled
around and didn’t find anything promising (how I overlooked it, I cannot be
sure, although I bet ‘the’ article threw me off), but I didn’t give up. Instead,
I emailed Professor Odell. Research in Y2K08, yeah? He got
back to me the same day and said that the phrase, he thought, was credited to
Jack Selzer.

Tonight, I located the ‘golden age’ reference in an English Journal
article by Elizabeth Blackburn-Brockman (whose mother-in-law, you might be
surprised to learn, was middle school civics teacher and high school Spanish
teacher for D. and me both; in the civics class we had to memorize all of
Michigan’s 83 counties; I will not recite them for you here). That
article: "Prewriting, Planning, and Professional Communication," 91.2 (Nov.
2001). In the article, Blackburn-Brockman mentions almost the exact
phrase, "a golden age of composition studies," and attributes it not to Selzer,
but to Bob Root. She also cites Selzer’s 1983 CCC article, "The
Composing Process of An Engineer," which offered a processual analysis of
engineer Kenneth Nelson, much in the same spirit as Emig’s The Composing
Process of Twelfth Graders
from 1971. Could this be the golden age?

The phrase from Root (whom I never met, but who taught in the English Dept.
where I took Freshman Composition in 1992 from his colleague, Phillip Dillman)
shows up in the Introduction to a collection of non-fiction he edited with
Michael Steinberg,
Those Who Do, Can: Teachers Writing, Writers Teaching: A
(1996). Is there a copy in our Bird Library at Syracuse?
No, of course not. Seems it’s one of the few books we don’t have.

I considered emailing my program’s listserv to ask whether anyone had a copy
I could borrow, but rather than bother the list with a request, I figured I
would try the library’s interlibrary loan system, ILLiad. I haven’t used
ILLiad since 2005, so, of course, I couldn’t remember my password. I tried
to reset the password, and when I did, the system sent me a blank email message.
Here’s what was in the message: . Thus, here ends the
trail for tonight. I know where the "golden age" reference comes from, and
the source, to my surprise, is not quite as middle-of-the-road as I expected it
would be. That said, I do think Root knows composition studies, or at
least certain veins of it, very well, even if I couldn’t begin to speculate how
many CCCC’s he’s attended (more and more often, I tend to think of disciplinary
centrality in terms of trips to the flagship conference, whether verifiable or
guessed at; and yes, I know this is just one of many possible metrics).

Why, after all, am I questing for the golden age reference? Well, for one
thing, my own research has lately gotten me thinking more about the implicit
disciplinary prototypes underlying suggestions of disciplinary fragmentation
(viz., Smit’s endism or Fulkerson’s "new theory wars"). And so, if there has
been a golden age of composition studies, I’m curious about it, curious as well
about the idea of disciplinary ages (and whatever it is that makes them
seem plausible).

Writing Feverlets*

Curious about her critique of Derrida’s Archive Fever, I picked up a
copy of Carolyn Steedman’s Dust: The Archive and Cultural History from
Bird Library, recalling it from another patron who had checked it out (v. sorry
about that). I deal briefly with AF in Chapter Three. Steedman
makes the point that AF is less about archives than about Derrida’s
concern for the slippage of origins (a theme in his other work) and the
inseparability of psychoanalysis from Freud (and also Judaism). She
writes, "The Foreword [to AF] carried the main argument, about Freud’s
Jewish-ness, and the contribution of Jewish thought to the idea of the archive,
via psycho-analysis" (7). Basically, Steedman is suspicious of Derrida’s
characterization of the fever (as a frenzied pursuit of origins which do not
properly exist). She complains that the concept of the fever is degraded in
translation from Mal d’Archive, and then she enthusiastically claims the
sickness Derrida mocks: "Archive fever, indeed? I can tell you all about
Archive Fever!" (17). Dust undertakes this "all about-ness" at fever’s pitch;
Steedman, all the while, works to correct (or tune, at the very least) Derrida’s
glancing consideration of the archive left behind in his treatment of other
concerns (psychoanalysis, Freud, and so on).

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In Action

Just before the fall semester convenes one month from now, my graduate
program will hold its annual Community Day event. The day-long event
includes faculty and grad student symposia, a lunch, a conversation with the new cohort of students,
and, in the evening, a potluck. The theme for this year’s event is
"Scholarship In Action," one of the hinge phrases in SU’s mission
statement. Scholarship In Action, as I understand it, is a positive
designation for scholarly activity undertaken in such a way that it circulates
broadly, intervening in the
world beyond the academy. Community engagement, boundary-spanning
initiatives, and participatory dynamics are entered into play. SIA complicates
traditional models of research. I’ve been asked to talk for ten minutes
about how the research I’m doing matches up with SIA, and so, largely because I
agreed to do it, I’ve been walking the perimeter, getting bearings on the phrase, tracing it back
through some of the references to it in recent campus discourse, keeping on the lookout for a eureka or

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