Thursday, July 31, 2008

Call: CCCarnival

 First posted July 14, 2008.

Related entries:
Splitting Images
Kopelson's "Sp(l)itting Images"
more thoughts on rhet/comp disciplinary futures
Response to Karen Kopelson's "Sp(l)itting Images; or, Back to the Future of (Rhetoric and?) Composition"
New Echo, New Narcissus
Pedagogy of Rhet/Comp Job Market Imperatives
Carnival on Kopelson: The Pedagogical Imperative and Borrowing Theory
Spitting Images
Joining the CCCarnival: Kopelson's "Sp(l)itting Images"
Kopelson's Back to the Wall: Resisting Responsibility
Inversion and Dissolution
Theory and Interdisciplinarity: Kopelson Part Two
Kopelson carnival - my first take
CCC Carnival: Sp(l)itting Images
Kopelson (1): Stuck on paragraph 4
The Pedagogical Imperative: Kopelson Part I

Anyone interested in a carnival? After glancing the latest CCC (59.4) at a coffee shop Saturday morning, I had the distinctive and lasting impression that "Sp(l)itting Images; or, Back to the Future of (Rhetoric and?) Composition" would be a good choice for a swarm of late July entries.  Kopelson's article covers a lot of ground, from a survey of grad students and faculty at two institutions, to three of the chasms in the field (pedagogical imperative, theory/practice split, and the brambles of identifying by varying ratios among those two terms, rhetoric and composition), to a call for concerning ourselves less with ourselves.  Ripe! because I endured a great range of responses while reading it.

Here's what I'm thinking: If you're in, do what you can to post some sort of response by one week from today--the 21st. I'll try to keep tabs on all of the links, but feel free to send a trackback. Then we can kick around spin-offs, interjections, and retractions through the end of the month.

Also, here is how I will measure the success of the carnival:

12-15 participants: Wow.  There really is living comp/rhet blogosphere.
9-12 participants: Terrific.  Something told me the article was carnival worthy.
6-8 participants: Just great.  There is a value in reading what others think (esp. while out to sea with the diss).
2-5 participants: Um, it's late July.  What are you, on vacation?
0-1 participant: Witness spikes in traffic at E.W.M.


Kopelson, Karen. "Sp(l)itting Images; or, Back to the Future of (Rhetoric and?) Composition." CCC 59.4 (2008): 750-780. [Carnival]

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Yellow Dressing

Is.'s favorite color is yellow. Sometimes when we ask her what she wants to eat, she answers "yellow." So I picked up a yellow-topped shaker bottle that will from now on hold whatever vinaigrette of the week I have concocted.

This week, it has been The Original Yellow. Put the following into a container:

1 c. salad oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 heaping tbsp. dill weed (fresh if you can get it, but dry will work as long as you have time--a few hours--to let everything loosen up before serving)
1 tbsp. sugar (I can't taste it; probably optional)
1/2 tsp salt (or not)
1/2 tsp black pepper (or not)

I know it breaks from the usual oil-acid ratio most good vinaigrettes strive for. That rule does not have jurisdiction here. Next you will stir it together, then transfer it to a jar or bottle of some sort for thorough shaking. Henceforth you will be tempted to eat it on everything, especially leafy greens. For the past three days, I have poured The Original Yellow over Two-pea Salad (summer greens, snow peas, regular old green peas (chilled), nectarine wedges, and crunchy chow mein noodles), submarine sandwiches, and chicken-hummus wraps.

The dressing, by the way, doesn't look yellow. But the ingredients--except for the dill--reflect or bear the resemblance of various hues not far removed from yellow.

If you are not impressed with the dressing, perhaps you will be impressed that this is the 1,000th entry at Earth Wide Moth. That's how fond I am of The Original Yellow.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Petroed Off

Last night I was at Ph.'s soccer match. They play in a park several miles from where we live. Was going to be a match between N'ham and Westhill, but there was as scheduling screw up, so N'ham played Westhill for a half, then Westill played Fowler for a half, then Fowler played N'ham for a half, round robin style and also precious-time-wasteful style. I was irritated because N'ham just played Fowler on Wednesday night with yours truly as the unsuspecting surrogate coach and the match between the two was the notoriously chippy clash everyone knew it would be. It ended prematurely, called due to an outbreak of shin-kicking and resulting kerfluffles, scuffles, and back shuffles. "We're done!," declared the field judge.

So I didn't see any reason that the two clubs should be back at it just five days later, especially when it wasn't scheduled to be that way. I did my best to zen out on the sideline, chase down the mosquitoes sneaking off with bellies blimped round with my blood, etc.

One thing I noticed was an exchange between a high school student and an older, grandfatherly man. No telling whether they were related; maybe they were. But the older man snarled at the kid about leaving his car running. Something like, "What is your car running for? You should shut that thing off!" He was fired up. The kid obliged the elder's request, and as the younger walked to the parking lot, the older continued to vocalize his rant about gas prices, wastefulness, and gas prices. He even made his hand into a tight fist as he spoke. Memorable, that.

Then, on my walk to campus this morning--to campus so I could open shop in the Writing Center from 10 until 2--I was thinking about the intensity of the older man's reaction. He was really keyed up, fierce looking. Maybe this is the latest "rage"--petro rage--the sense of anger, frustration, and deep disgust someone experiences when they see another who seems to be wasting fuel. Is this the new road rage? The new cell...["Pump Up the Jams" ring tones]...hold on, I've got a call.

Nothing much. You?
Writing a blog entry.
Yeah, I heard. I don't know what they see in Kwame Brown.
I'll check in tomorrow.
Yep, later. You too.

Where was I? Cell phone rage. Will folks develop a new rage toward those they perceive to be extravagant with gasoline?

When I walked closer to my building, I saw one member of a lawn crew "sweeping" the sidewalk with one of those gas-powered blowers. Whirring along, pointing it to the left and then to the right, the sort of slow dance for which grass clippings enthusiastically clear a pathway. Only, there were none. The sidewalk was clean, as far as I could tell (I didn't bend down to check it more closely). But it seemed unnecessary, wasteful. I was somewhat relieved the fella from last night was nowhere in sight.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

House Concert

Just returned from a local house concert put on by Mark Cool (tonight was solo acoustic, in the house where he grew up). Snappy grooves, well played, and an eclectic mix of influences: Libba Cotten, Dylan, Cash, Van Zandt, Led Zeppelin, Springsteen, and some more I can't remember. I had to cut out early because Is. reached her bedtime, but the first half of the show was good enough that I would have liked to hear the rest. So: Once home, I tracked down sites due for a return to get a copy of last year's album (where we can find most of the stuff he played tonight) and more.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Do You Believe In Now?

Detroit Lions training camp begins today, and the title above--word has it--is the banner material leading their 2008-2009 charge toward the NFC playoffs. 

What, no playoffs, you say? In that case, "Do you believe in now?" will be their slogan as they surge to a week eight "pundit's mention" of a slim possibility that they will make the post-season. Right: like last year.

Sean Yuille of Pride of Detroit puts it this way:

Detroit undoubtedly could have come up with something that doesn't draw instant mocking, but that's exactly what happened with the slogan as most people answer the question with "no." To be specific, 77% of over 1000 people voted no in a poll on Pride of Detroit that featured the Lions' slogan. That means well over 800 people do not believe in now, which should come as no surprise.

Believe in now? I'm clinging to the response, "yes until no," which means that I, for one, believe in now about the same as I believed in any Lions' season since I was old enough to have beliefs (I can't pinpoint the date, but the very possibility of belief in the Lions' chances must've come about during the Chuck Long era).

Now? Not a whole lot more than then. Yet, sadly, I will persist in my Lions fandom, so, 'yes' for the duration of training camp at the very least.

Added: Also, there is this, which includes this:

Monday, July 21, 2008

New Echo, New Narcissus

Kopelson writes,

Yet, as composition studies is distinct in its penchant for 'borrowing,' we are also, in my opinion, unrivaled in our proclivity for self-examination. I am not arguing that this is an unimportant activity, but only that the costs are indeed high when self-scrutiny comes at the expense of taking up other critical concerns and of making other, more innovative and far-reaching forms of knowledge (775).

This appears in the final section of the essay, the part titled "Conclusion: Banishing Echo and Narcissus." Here, Kopelson takes exception with the field's self-reflexivity, the growing heap of self-interested and self-absorbed assessments of where we are or where we are heading. There is an unidentified villain here, and I wondered as I read whether Kopelson has any favorite 'misses', accounts that get it terribly wrong or that are built up on marsh-lands of mushy data.

Reading this section and the quotation above in particular, I had the sense that Kopelson wasn't as interested in "banishing" Echo and Narcissus as in giving them overhauls, in renewing them, even in teaching them how to resonate and reflect less recklessly. In other words, what is wrong with many self-reflexive disciplinary accounts (or "discipliniographies" to lift and bend a term Maureen Daly Goggin introduces in Authoring a Discipline) is that they succumb to a localist impulse. That is, they un-self-conciously extrapolate from local experience and anecdotal evidence onto the field at large, projecting some local knowledge onto the expansive abstraction that is the discipline (however we imagine it to be). The localist impulse can take many different shapes; often it is akin to reading patterns through the course of an individual career (i.e., "in my thirty years at Whatsittoyou U.") or by cherry-picking from an exceedingly thin selection of data (titles of conference presentations or tables of contents for teacher training manuals). We all do this to some extent--making sense of the field at large through our local, immediate experiences, but it is dangerous to arrive at conclusions about the field (or world) at-large solely by examining one's own neighborhood.

What I'm getting at is that I don't have any beef with the disciplinary practice of self-examination. Perhaps there are more than a handful of fields in the academy that would benefit from more of it. I hold history (the calling of others who've navigated this canyon) and reflection in high regard (perhaps not to the ill-fated extremes of Echo and Narcissus). Resonanceresonanceresonance and reflection are valuable, especially for newcomers, for the "new converts" Kopelson mentions. But they will not be successful--or very useful--until they get beyond that localist impulse, until they involve earnest field-wide data collections and collaboratively built databases. I don't know how well this matches with Kopelson's "innovative and far-reaching forms of knowledge," but it is increasingly where my own interests lie. If those far-reaching forms of knowledge included disciplinary data (even simple stuff, like how many programs offer undergraduate writing majors), they could generate insights about disciplinarity. In the meantime those full-view insights will continue to elude us as long as we leap from local knowledge to widespread pattern, without addressing sufficiently the intermediary scales.

Kopelson, Karen. "Sp(l)itting Images; or, Back to the Future of (Rhetoric and?) Composition." CCC 59.4 (2008): 750-780. [Carnival]

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Spitting Images

A passing tribute to having wrapped up Dan Roam's The Back of the Napkin last night, I figured why not throw down a few images in the spirit of keeping things carnivalesque. Roam is a marker-carrying whiteboarder whose core premise is that we spark insights into complex problems by treating them to a simplified and illustrated version. I doubt that I have played strictly by the heuristics he introduces in the book; nevertheless, I do find some of the stark oversimplifications in these first four images helpful for thinking through some of what Kopelson sets up in the article.

Setting aside the pedagogical imperative for a moment, here's one way I've tried to come at the problem of lingering dichotomies in the field. In this mock up, I don't mean to imply that the axes are unchanging, but I do find it compelling to ask--at this abstract level--whether they are shifting or whether we are shifting or both. Both and then some, right? Over the course of study in any graduate program, we might expect that orientations would shift. Coursework often encourages this sort of dabbling for the sake of settling where to avoid and where to be, at least for now. How greatly these orientations shift depend on many variables, of course, but it stands to reason that they are determined partially by outside factors: the shape of the graduate curriculum, the training and expertise of faculty leading particular courses, and so on.

(Endlessly?) Shifting Orientations

Forgive for a second that I'm switching from when? to who? in the image below. I have done this simply to suggest that committees, too, probably do not crowd into any one box on this (admittedly problematic) grid. In fact, twenty years ago (even ten years ago?), few programs had an adequate number of rhet/comp faculty that a full committee could coexist on this grid. Why should this matter? Well, for one thing, it seems to me there is some value in having a committee whose perspectives, in a highly cooperative and professional manner, differ. This is not meant to characterize my committee or anyone's in particular, but it does suggest how the "pedagogical imperative" comes to roost: it can be summoned by just one question: application?

Committee Composition

Another way to split this out is to change "practice" to "application," and then to expect that any proposed project that gravitates in a corner risks seeming out of touch with the other areas. Does this matter? Perhaps and perhaps not. But I would think a project in which, let's say, every chapter is concerned with rhetorical analysis (as rhetoric applied) might be strengthened by certain careful gestures to other areas. This, by the way, doesn't run afoul of anything in Kopelson's article. Maybe--if it does anything at all--it helps explain how guiding questions come about, especially when a project is exceedingly committed to a narrowly focused "corner." Kopelson writes, "Yet, as my forthcoming analysis demonstrates, reductive though it is, this account of 'the battle' nonetheless reflects a disciplinary reality: after two decades of discussion, there are corners of the discipline in which the conversation remains stalled, where the theory/practice split remains entrenched, and where its resultant pedagogical imperative holds sway" (752). Yes. Still, I am not clear about how to reckon those corners and the specialization they imply with the more wholesome, middled stances that demand a generalist's wherewithal. This tension is sharper because of Kopelson's call for "developing our own brand of specialized knowledge" (751). Should we root that "specialized knowledge" at the crossroads (incidentally, where we find the most corners converging) or elsewhere?

Out of Whack?

Below I have turned from the hypothetical dissertation-in-a-corner to my own. Chs. 1-4 are well-enough drafted that I can justify their positions. Ch. 5 is underway, and these few pages into it, I can see it moving through matters of the rhetoricity of maps to the limits of representationalism as a cartographic imperative (What? You can tell just by that line that I haven't written the whole thing yet?!). Chapter Six will do everything that remains, and so I have centered it up: bullseye. But again, beyond indulging in my own reflective moment, I am trying to get traction on the ways in which these orientations co-exist and play out with considerably more refinement in specific cases than they do for something as abstract and unwieldy as the field-at-large. Further, I anticipate questions that will ask me to explain my choices, given that my committee's orientations will not precisely overlap the orientations of these chapters (or: this is some of what happens throughout revisions; or: this is how a candidate does or does not become the spitting image of a committee).

Restoring Order to the Universe in C. 6

Finally, because by now you are impatient with the grid, one more sp(l)it image.

Will We?

Kopelson, Karen. "Sp(l)itting Images; or, Back to the Future of (Rhetoric and?) Composition." CCC 59.4 (2008): 750-780. [Carnival]

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Inversion and Dissolution

Obviously I am interested Kopelson's revisitation of ages old and still going tensions for the field of rhetoric and composition. The margins of my copy bear out busy strings of alternating yesses and questions; I suppose I'll focus this entry on a couple of the questions.

Any time I come across suggestions of the field's dissolution, I want to go as directly as I can to the evidence. What are the forms of evidence supporting this or that impression that the field is gradually changing toward some state of (presumably undesirable, even disastrous) dissolution? Also: What idyllic disciplinary model is lurking as the milk and honey benchmark against which judgments of dissolution are alleged? I mean that the suggestion of a trend toward dissolution conjures up an idealized state of the discipline. From when? Where? And just how abstract is it? (I have monkeyed with this idea in the diss, but also in some of the material on the side that won't make it into the diss, like the stuff on the Golden Age).

Kopelson puts it like this in one spot:

But whatever your particular vision of the divide [between theory and practice], and wherever you lay blame (or praise) for it--with the elitist, ponderous, past-dwelling rhetoricians, or the professionalizing, pragmatic, present-dwelling compositionists--there is evidence that the seeds of dissolution are indeed being sown. (770)

About the evidence: In this article, it amounts to (x? number) of survey responses from graduate students at two institutions--programs in the Consortium, I would guess, and a sampling of sources that have dealt more or less directly in reflections upon or critiques of disciplinarity: Dobrin, Spellmeyer, North, Swearingen, Mulderig, among others. Perhaps this is adequate for establishing dissolution, perhaps not. This is not to cast doubts on Kopelson's evidence (it is, after all, reflective of pocketed perceptions of dissolution), as much as it is to say that the change is more of situated (daresay anecdotal?) degree than of field-wide kind. And so I wonder how new this perceived sowing of "the seeds of dissolution" is, and just what does it put at risk? Following this evidence--surveys and selected sources, the next line carries the claim further: "the field of rhetoric and composition is, in the most extreme cases, gradually evacuating itself of its first term (if not explicitly in name, then implicitly in institutional practice) or, in other cases, is undergoing an interesting inversion of its titular terms" (770). The possibility of evacuation and inversion calls to mind the necessary ratios between theory and practice. Is the target ratio 50:50? Might be, depending on whether we are talking topical focus (i.e., research motivated by theory or practice) or activity itself (i.e., time spent theorizing versus time spent teaching). For graduate students, of course, these ratios vary, too. In our program, we have fellowships designed to relieve students of their teaching appointment so that they might devote greater time and energy to reading and writing (if executed well, the ratio becomes 100:0). But there are also program-level constraints on these ratios, right? Some places prefer a 70:30 split. Others, 80:20. We do not always determine them independently, nor are they constant over the arc of an appointment (through a graduate program of study or otherwise).

Kopelson, Karen. "Sp(l)itting Images; or, Back to the Future of (Rhetoric and?) Composition." CCC 59.4 (2008): 750-780. [Carnival]

Endless Summer

Here's a delayed release video clip from our stop at Hershey Park two weeks ago. Noteworthy not only because I tuned it using the new version of iMovie, but also because I discovered just how easy YouTube has made it to add annotations to video clips (which, I'm sorry to see, don't seem to be showing up on this embedded version of the clip). If that's not enough, there's body surfing, too, much of which Ph. is quite proud.

Reminds me of the rocket-boat scene from the 1:43-1:57 mark below, only longer.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Summer Soccer

Ph. (far left) knocked in the opening goal in Monday night's summer league match versus West Genesee. I'm fairly sure W.G. brought their younger group; it ended with Ph. & Co. up, despite fielding a squad two players short of the usual eleven.


Not quite as intriguing, but almost: during the match the coach turned to me and asked, "Did Ph. tell you?"  He hadn't--not yet, anyway--but they need a sub (i.e., a warm body) to fill in as the adult at practice Sunday and to pace the sidelines during Monday evening's match. Sure, give me the whistle; I'll do it. Just this once.

Float On

Before our trip to Pa. early in July, "paint" was the only "daren't mention" in the house. Since then, we've added "swim" to the growing list.  From morning (not before dawn if we are lucky; then again, any topic of conversation is possible in the pre-dawn light during those super early wake-ups) until night, all other requested activities are a good distance behind painting and swimming. 


Thursday, July 10, 2008

'Stache Day

Yankee-loving friends from Michigan arrived at our house on Tuesday; yesterday we got on the highway at an early hour for the drive to the Bronx where we watched from the bleachers as the Yankees eeked out a 2-1 win over the Rays in 10 innings. The first 25,000 fans received complimentary wire moustaches (ones that clip with a wire washer directly onto the narrow bit of nostril-separating flesh) in a promotion of Jason Giambi's final push for All-Star status. If he doesn't get it, it won't be for our lack of enthusiasm: Ph., like the rest of us, put on our 'staches each time he batted, and he drove in the first run of the game in the opening inning.

Ph. Giambi

A rain shower waited to do its thing until the game ended, so we were lucky on that count. Less lucky: Driving into rush hour traffic in a rain show and thus missing the turn onto Jerome Ave. that would have headed us N on I-87; alt. route took us across Macombs Dam Bridge, into Harlem, and eventually back again. If I had any motorist's innocence remaining after the move from KC to Syracuse four years ago that had me riding over curbs and hogging two lanes in the largest available Penske moving truck, it is now gone. Which also means I'd happily (and perhaps with some numbness in my legs lingering from the hours on the road) go again--and drive a few of those miles--if any EWM-reading CNYers are considering such an excursion.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Night Watch

Back to work: after last week's vacation in southern Pennsylvania, I've returned to the summer work regimen, earlier today holding five consultation hours in the Writing Center. It's just the second week of the Summer II session, so the scene was still. Two high school seniors-to-be came through mid-day working on one-page summaries for a Summer Bridge course they are taking on campus.

Now, again tonight I'm on the clock with a consulting experiment using iChat. Our Writing Center is pushing for a couple of online options by the fall. I'm on board with testing them out and fine-tuning them before the fall semester. Two-and-a-half hours on hand for drop-in IMing. Temporarily this is aimed at lending support to SU writing courses taught in Manhattan this term. Within a week or so, the IM consultations will be scheduled in advance, so the timing will be somewhat more structured. I'm on until 11:30 p.m., so while it is quiet, why not blog?

The other online offering through the Writing Center is asynchronous. Students complete a form and submit a work-in-progress to a list of consultants who respond in rotations. I responded to one last week while in PA. I have many more apprehensions about drop-off consultations, largely because the threshold for engagement drops away for the student (some have called this the dry cleaning model of WC work). The consultant addresses the student's questions or concerns with due diligence, but the dialogue is scaled way back. There is no conversation, usually, just more 'sending' an hour's worth of comments into the abyss.

I'm sure I will have more to say about how it goes in the weeks to come. My appointment runs another five weeks, two weeks longer than my other summer stints teaching an online intro to the humanities course and guiding four new online instructors through their first terms teaching via computer alone.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Amusement Park

"Look, no hands" on the Lady Bug, Hershey Park, Pa.

Risk Taker

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Last of the Meses


We're hanging out near Carlisle, Pa., today celebrating Is.'s 23rd month-day, tomorrow celebrating my nephew's seventh birthday with a day at Hershey Park. Later this week, some other local stuff, including Gettysburg on the Fourth.