My First Hurricane

Someone at work today remarked that I'd experienced my first hurricane (Gustav). We left Lafayette on Friday and were in Florence, AL for a week. Luckily our house didn't suffer damage. I really want Ike to stay away...

Now back to playing catch-up.

And the semester begins

Though I look forward to the fall weather (such as it is!), I am a little sad that my stay-at-home-mom summer is over. We don't have daycare for Henry yet, but we have him on waiting lists all over town. Some of the places don't take babies until they're six months old or a year old. Right now we're taking turns doing childcare, as we have alternating teaching/office hours schedules. We live very close to campus, so this is workable for the time being.

As one would expect, I didn't get as much research done over the summer as I'd hoped, but I did a decent amount of work. I had intended to do the following:

* submit book proposal
* write an article (from scratch, not based on a diss chapter)
* write a proposal for another article
* write a book review

What I actually did was:

* wrote an article (from scratch, not based on a diss chapter)
* wrote a proposal for another article
* wrote part of a book review

I also reviewed two manuscripts for journals, though that's not my research.

Now my research goals for fall:

* submit book proposal
* write an article (from scratch, not based on a diss chapter)
* finish the book review
* compose a conference presentation for LACC

And administrative goals:

* start a mentoring program pairing up new and experienced TAs
* create a web site for the first-year writing program here -- nothing fancy, just a page of text using the department's style sheet.

And teaching goals:

* find interesting and unexpected ways to teach Classical rhetoric and connect the theory to contemporary life
* use the experience teaching Classical rhetoric (a split undergraduate/graduate course) in the service of my research so that I produce something as a result of teaching it, even just a conference presentation

So, how's life with Henry?

Professing Mama wonders what I'm doing with Henry while she's hanging out with/blogging about her baby boy, Chico. Chico was born one day after Henry, but Henry was a couple of weeks early and Chico was a couple of weeks late. So Chico is technically about a month older than Henry, if that makes any sense. I'd expect Chico to be a little developmentally ahead of Henry.

Here are some cute facts about Henry:

1. He loves to "stand" on my and Jonathan's laps. We hold him up under his arms (just barely, only for balance), and he sort of surfs. I mean, he loves putting weight on his legs. Sometimes he'll be fussing and standing him up will calm him. I think he might be figuring balance out a little too, as he has started holding his arms straight out.

2. He doesn't have to be held quite so much anymore. He can sit for short periods in the Bumbo seat and observe what we're doing.

3. He still doesn't like tummy time. His upper body strength is getting a little better, but it doesn't compare to his lower body.

4. He can roll from his back to his side, then back to his back.

5. He's reaching for things. Toys still aren't that interesting to him, though.

6. We're making slow progress with the sleep training. Last night he barely fussed, and only for five minutes, when I put him in the crib. He's sleeping for very long stretches, and I'm working on getting him on a consistent nap schedule. He reliably gets sleepy two hours after waking, but the afternoon naps are harder to come by. Yesterday he took two 30-40 minute afternoon naps, which was good. I think that's why he didn't fuss so much last night; he wasn't overtired.

7. I put bibs on him to catch spit-up, and he somehow turns them around so that they're going down his back like superhero capes. You can see this in the video that follows.

8. Finally, he makes the cutest noises. Here's a sample:

Sleep Training very sad. I finally got to a point where co-sleeping, a.k.a. sleep sharing, a.k.a. letting a thrashing baby sleep next to me while I lay awake for hours and hours because of the thrashing, wasn't working anymore. This is night 5. When we started this, Henry wouldn't even let us put him down in his crib for one full minute without screaming.

From a 1992 edition of Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, regarding babies who put up a fuss when being put in the crib to sleep (p. 259):

The habit is usually easy to break once the parents realize that it is as bad for the baby as it is for them. The cure is simple: Put the baby to bed at a reasonable hour, say good night affectionately but firmly, walk out of the room, and don't go back. Most babies who have developed this pattern cry furiously for 20 or 30 minutes the first night, and then when they see that nothing happens, they suddenly fall asleep! The second night the crying is apt to last only 10 minutes. The third night there usually isn't any at all.

Usually? 20 or 30? 10 the next night? NO. That's all I'll say about that. Before you say anything, my pediatrician has said that no, Henry is not too young for this, and yes, he does weigh enough. My mom's parenting books from the 70s instruct parents to sleep train starting at two weeks old, actually. I may get flamed anyway, but oh well. I need sleep, and so does Henry. If I shifted to get comfortable in the bed while he was next to me, he'd wake up, so I was disturbing him. While he isn't sleeping through the night yet -- not even as the doctors define it, 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. -- he is sleeping for longer periods than he has been.

And my goals are modest: I just want him to sleep for most of the night in his crib. If he needs to sleep for thirty minutes next to me after a feeding before going back to the crib, that's fine. I'm also fine with rocking/nursing him to sleep.

And with that, I'll watch the opening ceremonies and hope that Henry stays asleep as he has been for the past 30 minutes.

Good Ol' Random Bullets

  • There's a profile of person in reality TV I just love: the control freak. Specifically I mean Kate Gosselin, Matt Roloff, and Jeff Lewis. It's been a pretty good summer for reality TV in general, actually; I've been loving Shear Genius, Project Runway, and Top Chef in addition to the prior three shows. I've found that my tastes have changed, though; while I used to watch the worst of the garbage, like Flavor of Love, Rock of Love, The Pick-Up Artist, Charm School, The Girls Next Door, etc., I don't find myself getting into those anymore.
  • I'm very happy for Bradley, Erin, and Madelyn.
  • There's that one meme about embarrassing music going around. I haven't been tagged, but it's just as well. I have such awful musical taste, for the most part, that any "random five" from my iTunes list (by the way, Laura McKenna and Daniel Drezner are NOT the only people who still don't have iPods; Jonathan and I have never owned them either) could be an embarrassing songs list. But I guess the question is, what are YOU embarrassed by, not what most people would be embarrassed by. I have "Lucas With the Lid Off" in my library. I have Tanya Tucker's "Some Kind of Trouble" and a bunch of Air Supply and "If I Know Me" by George Strait. No one can touch me on this one.
  • I've found that echoes of my dad have made their way into my parenting. Things I've said that he used to say when I was little:

    "Goodness gracious alive-us pivus!" I say this one when I change Henry's diaper and he's really filled it up.

    "Shoot-a-doodle!" I said this one when getting in a HOT car the other day in the grocery store parking lot to put Henry in his car seat.

    And then I call Henry the same nicknames Dad called me: "You worrywart!" "You mud puppy! You boll weevil!" Said affectionately, of course.

  • Henry laughed for the first time Wednesday night. He was in the bathtub and thrilled to be splashing. It was adorable.
  • Speaking of bathing Henry, I did so last night and sang "Splish Splash" to him. He seemed indifferent, but still loved the splashing.

Theory and Interdisciplinarity: Kopelson Part Two

The pedagogical imperative, Kopelson argues, is part of a problematic theory-practice relationship in rhetoric and composition studies. "Theory" comes with at least a couple of problems for rhetoric/composition. First, we end up doing hand-wringing over our anxieties that theory doesn't help people, and we ask, like Kopelson brings up, "whom does the theory serve?" Second, we fret over the argument that we only use other people's theory; we don't DO (our own) theory. I like what Kopelson says on 765: "Theory performs the invaluable service of tracing, often in order to fracture, the very consensus around 'reason.' This seems to me to be neither a 'mere' nor a 'sterile' exercise."

The material about theory/practice is most interesting to me insofar as it's connected to interdisciplinarity. Graduate students surveyed by Kopelson wanted the field to become a vibrant interdiscipline with cultural and political significance, but they expressed concern that we're not there yet. A couple of quotations:

[Survey respondents] defined theory, variously, as something we 'draw on,' 'borrow,' 'import' from other, 'different fields of knowledge' in order to 'apply' and 'use.'

That is, James seems to find our import-and-apply approach a testament to the very interdisciplinarity that he and so many other of our 'new converts' desire for the field. And in a way it is. But this approach attests to a certain, limited kind of interdisciplinarity only; to what Ellen Barton calls a 'one-way interdisciplinarity' (245), and also to a formulaic mode of inquiry that has for too long characterized composition’s relationship to other fields of study (p. 766).

Okay, fine. I want to make two points here. First, with all the articles, books, reviews, etc. being published, most people do well to read all the scholarship in their own fields. So if people in other fields aren't reading rhet-comp, maybe we shouldn't take it personally. Second, as a corollary, reception of our work in other fields isn't the kind of thing we can control.

This next quotation is a kicker, in my opinion (p. 768):

Though we have long foraged about in other bodies of knowledge—and, yes, to some innovative and crucial ends—we are still primarily importers only, consumers, an 'interdisciplinary' field, if it can be said that we are one, with little to no interdisciplinary influence. (Exceptions to this trend are perhaps our influence on assessment as a field and, in some locales at least, on secondary English education.) As Spellmeyer reminds us in 'Marginal Prospects,' even within the confines of the academy, 'College English and CCC cannot truthfully be said to circulate in the same universe as Critical Inquiry or Cultural Critique' (163).

Critical Inquiry? This is what we're going for? Is it that we want as many people to read our journals as these journals, or that we want to write the same kind of articles as Critical Inquiry and Cultural Critique? In either case, this seems like an "I wish I were taller" kind of goal -- not that they're tall and we're short, but that our scholarship is different, and that's okay. I want to raise another couple of points about interdisciplinarity. First, from Kopelson (p. 768):

Indeed, our field’s discussions of teaching—in the very journals mentioned by Spellmeyer—are not only what have helped define us, for better or worse, but are what should have positioned us perfectly to be an interdisciplinary exporter with, as James says, “much to offer . . . teachers and students throughout the academy.” In short, then, it is by no means only a testament to our own limitations, or to the potential interdisciplinary value of our work, that College English and College Composition and Communication do not circulate in other universes, but a testament to the perpetual devaluation of pedagogy itself.

Unfortunate, but a sensible point. And now what I want to say most vociferously: we can go back and forth about the nebulous notion of "impact," but I utterly disagree that we are just "consumers" of other disciplines and that the interdisciplinarity is just "one-way" (not that Kopelson is saying this). Do you think people in social studies of science, history of science, and philosophy of science don't read and cite Alan Gross and Jeanne Fahnestock? Do you think people in medical anthropology and women's studies don't read and cite Susan Wells and Mary Lay Schuster? And hello, Stanley Fish? Even my work has been cited in related fields. There are plenty of other examples.

Finally, I want to note the terms "rhetoric" and "composition," as well as several recent programs' alternative terms, such as "writing studies." Does "writing studies" succeed in reconciling the rhet-comp history, theory/professionalization, practice conflict?

The Pedagogical Imperative: Kopelson Part One

Derek has chosen Karen Kopelson's "Sp(l)itting Images; or, Back to the Future of (Rhetoric and?) Composition" for our most recent rhet-comp blog seminar. I think it's a great choice, and here's the first part of my response:

Kopelson's article is a much-needed, frank discussion of the pedagogical imperative, the idea that any rhetoric and composition research project must necessarily have a "pedagogy hook," or a section about implications of the project for college composition. The pedagogical imperative, Kopelson points out, is for many a matter of ethics: our field's mission, and I use that word with all the evangelical valence it has, is to teach college students how to write. Kopelson brings up the argument that "our research is funded with student dollars," not that she agrees with it or says it's valid -- I don't think it's that simple by any means.

Kopelson's concern is that graduate students are too constrained by the pedagogical imperative and that it will overdetermine the future of the field. She also goes through a number of concerns about how the field of rhetoric and composition has gone about attempts at interdisciplinary scholarship as well as the creation and use of theory, which I'll get to in a later post.

Now, though, I need to explain how I came to the field of rhetoric and composition. I'll tell you why you should care about this a little later.

I got my B.A. having had courses in literature and linguistics. I was prepared very well in those areas, but I never took a rhetoric course. One was offered, but for whatever reason I didn't take it. When I set out to get an M.A., I wanted to study rhetoric simply because it was a gap in my knowledge. I said as much in my statement of purpose when applying to programs.

At Tennessee, my first semester in graduate school, I took a Classical Rhetoric course. It was like someone had taken me over to a big pile of wood, brick, sheetrock, and shingles and said, "okay, now build a house." That is to say, I was submerged in unfamiliar material and ways of thinking. The way I was taught composition had nothing to do with rhetoric but consisted of the modes.

Anyway, sometimes when I'm in this kind of situation, I think, eh, who needs it? But other times, I buckle down and stubbornly think, I MUST MASTER THIS. Rhetoric was one of those instances. I went on to get really into it, and you can see where that led me.

Kopelson's research is based on a survey of graduate students and professors at two universities. On pages 753-54, she writes:

When asked if they encouraged dissertating graduate students to do work that makes direct connections to pedagogy, the vast majority of our faculty respondents (over 80 percent) claimed to do so only when “appropriate”—that is, when a student’s “project calls for it by its very nature,” or when there are “clear pedagogical implications” to the work. Interestingly, however, the majority of students in our sample revealed feelings of intense pressure to create clear pedagogical implications and applications whether their projects led them in that direction or not, and, most tellingly I think, whether they experienced such pressure firsthand and directly or only as some vague sense of what is required by the field.

When I was at Minnesota doing my PhD, my professors never issued the pedagogical imperative. Still, like the students surveyed, I got the sense that I'd never succeed unless I could answer the "implications for pedagogy" question in a job interview and an article manuscript. My dissertation didn't have to do with pedagogy, but I put in a section in the conclusion about pedagogy anyway, as I wanted to align myself explicitly with composition, and I was coming out of a program that (at the time) was more known for technical communication.

“It’s not necessary,” [a faculty respondent writes], “to write five chapters about Heideggerian philosophy’s importance for broadening our conception of the rhetorical basis of epistemology only to turn to the last chapter and talk about teaching Heidegger to first-year students. I have seen people try similar moves, [and] have heard colleagues make such demands.

Like this faculty member, my committee members didn't think it was necessary, and I suspect that they felt it was a little tacked-on. But they didn't make me take it out. All this being said, I have four thoughts about the pedagogical imperative:

1. A pedagogical implications section is not necessary, but it's impressive if the researcher can explain implications for pedagogy. Along the lines of the argument that you don't really understand something unless you can explain it in clear, simple terms to a non-expert, it would really be something if the person in the Heidegger example COULD connect that research to first-year writing.

2. Not all rhet/comp people are passionate about teaching (and that's okay!). Those who are passionate about it, particularly the early leaders in the field whose cross-over from literature to composition due to love of teaching is described by Kopelson as a religious conversion narrative, have put the pedagogical imperative in place. Now you know why I explained how I came to the field. It's not that I don't enjoy teaching or don't think it's important, but I came to the field another way.

3. So much of this issue has to do with gatekeeping -- for jobs, grant funding, publications. I'd like to know this: how often does it actually occur that manuscripts are conditionally accepted pending insertion of pedagogical implications or rejected due to their absence?

4. Sometimes it takes TIME to figure out the connections of research and theory to pedagogy. A lot of time, years. Perhaps graduate students just want to be trusted to take that time.

More later on the use of theory and the terms "rhetoric" and "composition" (and new alternative terms).

Michelle Obama Coverage on Fox News

A media composition for those of us who are into that sort of thing:


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