Rhetoric

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Prelims Are Up

I finally finished coding my prelims into HTML, so they're available if you want to look at them. I confess, I haven't been in a big rush to do it. I don't think I've recovered from them yet; I'm not ready to look back on the whole experience and laugh, that's for sure.

The Unfolding of the Discourse

A couple of friends and I are putting together a panel on technology and new models of authorship and intellectual property for Computers and Writing 2005. The deadline is October 28, but one person on the panel emailed us suggesting we get started with the panel and added, "I know Clancy likes to get started early." :D This is my reputation now? All because I'm paranoid that my proposals for CCCC won't get accepted, so I always try to goad people into getting a draft ready by the coaching deadline? Okay, I guess I do like to get an early start. Here's the nascent idea -- a feminist analysis of weblog authorship -- which has been floating around in my mind off-and-on for a few months now. Because of said nascence, I'll do much meandering before I get to the point, if I even have one yet.

In "Rhetoric, feminism, and the politics of textual ownership," Andrea Lunsford critiques the solitary, originary, proprietary model of authorship and warns readers of the implications of the appropriation of authorship by corporate entities such as Disney and Microsoft (for a preliminary exploration of these ideas, see her 1997 keynote at Feminisms and Rhetorics). The article first appeared in College English in 1999, and much of it is a review of debates within postmodern theory about authorship and recent changes in U.S. copyright legislation. Postmodern/poststructuralist and feminist theorists, most notably Barthes and Foucault, have de-reified the Authorial Genius, showing him to be an historical construction and yielding two significant insights:

  1. Authors do not exist outside a social and historical context; social and material conditions enable and constrain authorship. "Men of letters" are, historically speaking, usually men, usually white, and usually economically privileged enough to afford the leisure time it takes to write.
  2. A text is not the product of a sole author. As Barthes writes, "a text is made of multiple writings, drawn from many cultures and entering into mutual relations of dialogue, parody, contestation." The act of composition is exposed as a weaving together of other texts the writer has read and voices he or she has heard in conversation.

Lunsford juxtaposes these theoretical claims with large-scale efforts on the part of corporations to assume the role of author and hyperprotect content, e.g. Mickey Mouse and the Windows source code, and she rightly insists that in practice, the author is alive and well, so well that fair use (including for educational purposes) and the sharing of knowledge are threatened. This review is intended as a wake-up call for scholars in rhetoric and composition; five years ago, these issues were not discussed as often as they are now. (I'd still argue that intellectual property debates aren't as high a priority as they should be on the discipline's scholarly agenda; what do others think? Colleagues sometimes say to me, "I still don't understand why I should care about intellectual property." How can the stakes be better communicated? Does one have to have a direct encounter with "permission culture" before he or she fully understands?)

Rhetoric 1101 Weblog

Some of you might have already seen it, but in case not, here's the course weblog for my Rhetoric 1101 class this semester. As you can see, it's a pretty free-form, open writing space. I distribute weekly topics, but the students don't necessarily have to write on those topics if they want to raise other issues instead. If you'd like to comment there, please don't hesitate to do so.

Mosaic

Via What It Is Today, a mosaic of the soldiers who have been killed in Iraq. I might bring it into class when we talk about visual arguments. It's a provocative image, raising such obvious questions as: Is it too simplistic? Is it exploitative? Is it ethical to use all of these soldiers' faces? Many of them were likely earnest supporters of the war. What questions at issue and arguments does it raise about why we're at war?

Edited to move image to the "read more" area.

Reforming CCCC

In the last few days, there's been some good, thought-provoking discussion of the CCCC review process. The posts, in order: Jeff, Jenny, Jenny, Collin, Jenny, Jeff. Jenny, Jeff, and Collin are critiquing the conference for its tendency to accept panels on the same topics every year (service learning, plagiarism, "what I do in my classroom"), and while CCCC still presents a good opportunity to socialize, it lacks intellectual force and vitality, due in part to the review process. I agree, and I've heard others express similar frustration. I've been thinking about the panels I attend at Cs, and as one would expect, I attend panels based on my interests: technology (especially blogs and wikis), feminist rhetorics, and intellectual property. During blocks of time when no panels on these topics are offered, I usually attend the Featured Session with Great Big Name or a history of rhetoric panel or sessions on subjects I don't know much about, such as high-stakes testing or environmental rhetoric. Sometimes I attend friends' presentations just to be a friendly face in the audience, but it's rare (I know! I'm terrible!).

My point is, I, too, flip through the program and see many sessions that elicit the response, "absolutely not." And that's a problem. The proposal Jenny, Jeff, and Geoff had submitted sounds very exciting to me: writing the city, and each person had planned to talk about his or her city (Austin, Detroit, Minneapolis) and their students' engagement with these cities. This is important work, intersecting with geography and cultural studies, scholarship that not only presents a challenge to the ways writing is being taught, but also challenges disciplinary boundaries. Perhaps that's one problem with Cs; for a long time, scholars in rhetoric and composition have struggled to establish rhetoric and composition as a discipline, to procure legitimacy for it, and now that rhet/comp enjoys a status above fledgling (or does it? Taking the long view, I must admit it's no psychology, sociology, or anthropology.), the program chairs and reviewers want to hold our position? I'm not trying to suggest that program chairs and reviewers consciously think this, only that the impulse toward disciplinary coherence is strong, and proposals on new, unfamiliar topics might be at a disadvantage for this reason.

My view here is informed by Berkenkotter and Huckin's (1995) research; Collin, Jeff, and Jenny's posts inspired me to pull my copy of Genre Knowledge off the shelf and re-read the "Gatekeeping at an Academic Convention" chapter, which is all about 4Cs. In the chapter, Berkenkotter and Huckin interpret data from a longitudinal corpus study of a total of 441 4Cs abstracts from 1988, 1989, 1990, and 1992. They've got a lot to say, as you might expect, and I'm not going to go over it all in detail here. They comment on rhet/comp's status as a discipline:

Rhetoric and composition is a highly interdisciplinary field, not yet a true discipline unto itself, and the theme statements from recent CCCC conventions, including some we have not covered in this study, all reflect this fact. It is a field made up of diverse elements and interests, held together in an ever-changing constellation. But there seem to be at least three constants in the field: training in literary/humanistic studies, a commitment to pedagogy, and an interest in grounded (situated) research. (p. 114)

They provide some history of the conference, specifically that it started in 1949 and instituted blind review in 1992, and some details about the review process. They corroborate John's comments on Jeff's first post that the program chair has a great deal of authority and can not only, as John says, accept a proposal rejected by the reviewers, but also reject a proposal accepted by the reviewers. At the time of the study, reviewers were required to give each abstract a 1 (Weak), 2 (Adequate), 3 (Good), or 4 (Excellent). Berkenkotter and Huckin add, "A high score makes it likely that the paper will be included in the program, but does not guarantee it: Other factors, such as a balance of topics, broad geographical representation, and the program chair's particular interests, can intervene" (p. 97). The procedure may not be the same now, but Berkenkotter and Huckin's analysis of the criteria for acceptance stands. They point out that the reviewers look for topics "of current interest to active, experienced members of the rhetoric and composition community," a clearly defined problem, a framing of the problem "in a way that would be seen by experienced insiders as novel and therefore interesting," and "an insider ethos through the use of terminology, special topoi, and/or explicit or implicit references to the scholarly literature" (p. 102).

I find the "novelty" criterion to be the most germane to the critique being made here. It would seem the reviewers don't want groundbreaking research; they only want analysis that slightly extends existing scholarship and maintains disciplinary cohesion. The example Berkenkotter and Huckin provide is a high-rated proposal from 1990 on the concept of voice, which Berkenkotter and Huckin call "a timeworn topic familiar to all compositionists" (p. 110). The author of the proposal addresses the Derridean critique (and the critics) of "voice" and attempts to reconcile it with the position of those who are invested in "voice" as a pedagogically useful concept. She makes a distinction between using the term "voice" warily, which is good, and nervously, which is undesirable and unnecessary. Basically, they want novelty with a little n, not a big N. :)

I hope to find out what others think about the 4Cs review process. Do you think the review process is in need of reform? Collin, in his post, offers what I think is a superb idea: Establish a database of reviewers who truly are experts in their particular areas, instead of simply being friends with the program chair. It's a no-brainer, really; it would make the program chair's job easier, it would make the process fairer for the applicants, and it would improve the overall quality of the scholarship at the conference. Should we go even further and rethink the whole conference? Jenny reflects,

I almost like the idea of making it a huge conference of SIGs and letting the paper/panel model die. Maybe we could just propose and add our names to four or five SIGs and attend those. Everyone and anyone could participate in at least one SIG (thereby getting that all important "name on the program") and attend all the others you want.

You know, that's the way they did it at last year's BloggerCon, and by all accounts, it was great. Daisy might have some comments on this model, having attended BloggerCon.

UPDATE: Collin and Steve have follow-up posts well worth reading.

Portal

Scholarly Journals

The following are links to peer-reviewed online scholarly journals having to do with rhetoric and feminism.

Basic Writing e-Journal
Cerebration
Classics @
Computers and Composition Online
Ctheory
Enculturation
Essays in Philosophy
First Monday
Forum: Qualitative Social Research
Genders
Gnovis
Innovate: Journal of Online Education
Inventio
JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies
Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication
Kairos
KB Journal (Kenneth Burke)
Lore: An E-Journal for Teachers of Writing
Meow Power
n.paradoxa
Philosophers' Imprint
Rhizomes.net
Slayage
The Stanford Undergraduate Research Journal
thirdspace
Women in Judaism
The History Cooperative
The Writing Instructor


Wikiroll

Blogs and Wikis Course
Disinfopedia
Ethical Public Domain
Free Culture Wiki
GrammarWiki
Joi Ito Wiki
Matt Barton's Tikiwiki
The Metaweb
Wikibooks
Wikipedia
Wikiquote
Wikisource
Wiki Syllabus: Course on Blogs
Wiktionary
Wikitravel


Podcasting

the podcast network
PodcastAlley.com
Podcast.net


Miscellaneous

Authorama: Public Domain Books
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
The Literary Encyclopedia
M/Cyclopedia of New Media
Silva Rhetoricae
The Writing Centers Research Project
Expository Magazine
Girlbomb
The Dictionary of Sensibility
Eighteenth-century sites
Resources on Kenneth Burke
Resources on Michel Foucault
Marxists
RAWA
Academe
Sexing the Political
BUST magazine
Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture
Rhetoric and Composition
Rhetcomp.com
Sigla Magazine
The EServer Tech Comm Library
The Alliance of Rhetoric Societies: This site contains position papers addressing the following questions:
  1. How ought we to understand the concept of rhetorical agency?
  2. Do we have a “rhetorical tradition”?  Are we better advised to think of traditions rather than a single tradition?  If we do recognize a tradition or several traditions, how do we identify and characterize it (or them)? 
  3. What should be the institutional and social goals for academic rhetoric in the twenty-first century?  How can rhetoric best contribute to the social, political, and cultural environment that extends beyond the University? 
  4. What does it mean to teach rhetoric?  What does it mean to teach composition and performance seriously?  What is the relationship between rhetoric and composition?  Should they be distinguished?


My Amazon Wish List

Str-r-r-u-u-u-u-u-u-ggling...

Am I going to make it?

On Friday morning, I got my last two preliminary exam questions, and my answers are due Monday morning. The first essay is basically done, but I still have some work to do on it. I plan to mobilize for the second essay late tonight, get up in the morning, and write all day, yet again. I want to do anything but this right now. Things I'd rather do include:

  • Knit
  • Watch Farscape
  • Go to my friend Brooke's show tonight at First Ave.
  • Work on my syllabus for this fall's class
  • Oh yeah, did I happen to mention, anything but these prelims?

I know, I know, this will be over soon and I'll look back and laugh.

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