Rhetoric

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Clancy Ratliff :: Curriculum Vitae

64 Classroom Office Building | 1994 Buford Ave. | St. Paul, MN 55108

http://culturecat.net |
ratli008@umn.edu



Education

Research Interests

Weblogs, Feminist Rhetorics, Intellectual Property, Internet Studies, Genre Theory, Cultural Studies, Composition Theory, Technical Communication, Pedagogy

Publications

  • Editor, Into the Blogosphere: Rhetoric, Community, and Culture of Weblogs, 2004.
  • Contributor, Inman, James. Computers and Writing: The Cyborg Era. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc., 2003.
  • Contributing Editor, Literary Culture: Reading and Writing Literary Arguments. 2nd ed. Ed. L. Bensel-Meyers, Susan Giesemann North, and Jeremy W. Webster. Boston, MA: Pearson, 2002.

Courses Taught

  • University of Minnesota
    Rhetoric 1101: Writing to Inform, Convince, and Persuade
    Rhetoric 1223: Oral Presentations in Professional Settings
    Rhetoric 3562: Technical and Professional Writing
  • Roane State Community College
    English 1010: Composition I
  • University of Tennessee
    English 101: English Composition I
    English 102: English Composition II
    Interdisciplinary Studies 493: Technical Writing Module, Ronald McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program

Conference Presentations

Professional Activities

Excited about Fall Class

This fall, I've decided to take "Gender, Rhetoric(s), and Literacy: Historical Bedfellows," a class taught by Dr. Lillian Bridwell-Bowles. Here's the course description:


Participants in this seminar will explore the gendered, entertwined histories of literacy and rhetoric, as well contemporary figures and discourses, with special emphasis on gendered rhetorical practices. While the faculty leader of the seminar has more expertise in feminist interpretations of these histories and practices, other readings of gender (queer, masculinist, etc.) are welcome. The exploration will begin with two precursors to the western rhetorical tradition, the Sumerian high priestess Enheduanna (2350 BCE) and the poet Sappho of Lesbos, whose poetic fragments can be contrasted to one by Alcaeus, a male poet from the same era. We will examine contemporary debates over philosophy and epistemology of the Sophists and the gendered implications of the collaborations of Plato, Aspasia, and Pericles, central figures in the founding of western rhetoric. According to participants

Silence as a Feminist Rhetorical Strategy

Back in March, I did a presentation at CCCC titled "Looking to Lorde and Daly: When It's Not Okay to Be Silent in Feminist Rhetorical Theory." It was part of a panel titled "Actions Speak Louder Than Words? Using Feminist Rhetorical Theories to Rethink the Relationship Between Silence, Power, and Culture." I've provided the panel proposal below (proposal written by Merry Perry of the University of South Florida):

This session offers new ways of rhetorically conceptualizing silence as more than just the response of marginalized people to oppressive circumstances. Instead, each presenter uses feminist rhetorical theories to
analyze the interlocking relationships among language, power, knowledge, identity, and culture to argue that silence can serve as a rhetorically powerful tool. Moreover, because this panel is predicated on a belief in the intimate connections between theory and practice, each presenter explains the cultural implications and transformative possibilities of feminist rhetorics that acknowledge the power of silence.

In "The Rhetoric of Silence," Speaker #1 interweaves interpretations of classical rhetoric with marginalized theories of rhetoric in order to lay the groundwork for an understanding of women's silence as rhetoric. By
analyzing the assertive, active, and expressive qualities of silence, Speaker #1 argues that it may be a rhetoric of choice for women communicators. Thus, silence may be understood as a rhetorical strategy and the silent rhetor as an agent who actively participates in shared discourse.

In "Neither Seen Nor Heard: The Rhetoric of Birthmother Silence in Adoption Policy Debates," Speaker #2 uses the theories of Iris Marion Young and Kenneth Burke to explain how silence speaks louder than words in matters of public policy concerning birthmothers and adoption policy. By addressing the relationship between shame and secrecy in out-of-wedlock births, Speaker #2 explains how advocacy organizations appropriate this rhetoric of silence for their own purposes.

In "Looking to Lorde and Daly: When It's Not Okay to Be Silent in Feminist Rhetorical Theory," Speaker #3 analyzes how conflict and dialogue between feminist rhetors serves to erase the uncomfortable silence that may erupt over unexamined matters of identity such as race, class, sexuality, and so on. Using a debate between Audre Lorde and Mary Daly as a template, Speaker #3 considers contemporary feminist debates over voice and agency and offers useful theoretical alternatives to a rhetoric of silence.

In "Men Not Allowed: Silence About Masculinity in Feminist Composition Theory and Pedagogy," Speaker #4 argues that feminist compositionists have been conspicuously silent about masculinity studies. While many compositionists incorporate an analysis of femininity and of women's experiences into their scholarship and into their classrooms, discussions of masculinity remain largely ignored. In response, Speaker #4 argues for a move toward a feminist cultural studies approach to composition that centers on analyzing how cultural representations of women and men reinscribe power imbalances and reveal cultural assumptions about gendered identities.

By considering the unexamined theoretical implications of silence within multiple locations-rhetorical theory, public policy debates, feminist theory, and composition studies-this session offers new ways of envisioning feminist rhetorics that can transform relationships of power in theory, language, and culture.

[end snip]

My presentation was greatly influenced by recent work by Cheryl Glenn and Krista Ratcliffe on silence as a rhetorical strategy. At first (and I said this in my presentation too) I was skeptical of silence as feminist. How can women's silence, in a patriarchal society, ever possibly be feminist? Glenn and Ratcliffe work showed me, though, and today in my reading of From Housewife to Heretic by Sonia Johnson, I saw a particular moment in which silence could have served a feminist purpose. Johnson was engaged in one of many debates she had with church officials on the church's subjugation of women:

[excerpt]

I touched on this issue of insensitivity to women in the church. They turned the full force of their scorn--and of their bottomless ignorance about women--upon me and launched into what I call 'the exalted woman rhetoric' of the church. Finally, as the grand slam of logic, intended to knock me over the brink once and for all into belief in the church's great love for women, [Gordon] Hinckley intoned, 'You know that [Mormon church] President Kimball has done more for women than any living man!'

'Such as what?' I asked quietly.

Taken completely by surprise--Hinckley is not accustomed to having to account for his information, to being challenged; he simply hands down such pomposities for the nodding, unquestioning acceptance of the obedient mass--he flushed, swiveled his chair completely around, picked at his tie, cleared his throat and, trying to maintain his confident authoritative tone, trying to disguise the dreadful, threadbare weakness of the anticlimax he was about to create, said, 'He treats his wife so well.'

At that, I should have left a large silence while this excrescence slowly dripped down the air between us and gathered in turgid blobs on his desk. In absolute silence I should have made him watch this disgusting mess congeal before his eyes. But afterthought being by definition always too late, instead I said, 'A good many living men treat their wives well.'

'Yes, yes, exactly, exactly!' he burbled triumphantly, as if he had actually scored a point.

[end excerpt, emphasis mine. p. 155 of From Housewife to Heretic.]

See how it works? Such a "click moment" for me...I wanted to share it with you too.

New Blog: Rhetsci

I got the heads-up for this new blog from the AARST listserv. It's maintained by McClain Watson, a Ph.D. candidate in Communication Studies at the University of Iowa. He also has a site about his dissertation called Dis My Diss, heehee. Worth a look!

Edited to correct the name of McClain's university! :-o

State of the Union of C&W blogs

Per Rich Rice's suggestion at the Computers & Writing conference, I'm going to compile a list of the people in Computers & Writing who are keeping blogs. It'll be part of the blogroll. If you know of anyone I haven't included, please tell me!

Other great C&W presentations

Here's Charlie Lowe's presentation, "Open Source Weblog CMS's: An Alternative to Blackboard." He did the most effective thing during his presentation: He showed a screen shot of the Blackboard site for Florida State next to a screen shot of his and Terra Williams' PostNuke class page. I could really see the institutional control mechanism of the Blackboard (WebCT too) site; it was quite a contrast to Charlie and Terra's public site. Charlie pointed out that the Blackboard login page "doesn't look like the Internet." That is so right! Those course sites are really pretty artificial and not real-world Web publishing.

Terra Williams presented in this same panel, as did I, but we won't go there. Her presentation, titled "Individual Student Blogs and Class-wide Blogs: What's it Like to Teach Using Only Blogs?" was an excellent complement to Charlie's presentation. She talked about her experience teaching an online class using only blogs and what a typical day was like, reading all those student blogs. :-) Charlie made a case for why open source content management systems are better than course management systems like Blackboard and WebCT (but then again I was the choir he was preaching to), but by the end of his presentation, I was left with a lot of questions about the course--just basic course design: What were their assignments, besides keeping a blog? What were the course objectives? Stuff like that. Terra's presentation clarified the questions I had. Oh, I just realized that I've been going on about this class they taught, but you can't see it. Now you can.

A great C&W panel I just attended

I just went to a very interesting panel here at the Computers & Writing conference. The title was "e-Racing Social Conditions: Technology and the (Dis)Appearance of Race and Ableness," and the presenters were from the University of Arizona: Ryan Moeller, Ken McAllister, Tracy Morse, and Sung Ohm. What made it great was the interactivity...they each talked for ten minutes and then put two prompts up on the screen having to do with each presentation. We, the audience, wrote for one minute in response to the prompts, and then we had a discussion about the questions.

Ken McAllister talked about how race and ableness are represented in computer gaming, and his questions were:

  • What do computer games teach players about race and ability?
  • How can we use computer games to teach students about race and ability?

Tracy Morse talked about her observation of classes consisting of hearing and deaf students. Some students had cochlear implants and used speech recognition technology in the classroom, and others had sign-language interpreters. She said that as more deaf children are mainstreamed in school systems (and 70% of deaf children are), we're going to see more classrooms of hearing and deaf students and as teachers, we need to meet the needs of all our students. Her questions were:

  • What does technology do to students?
  • What demands does technology make of writing teachers and students?

Sung Ohm's presentation was about racist representations of African American Vernacular English (AAVE). His questions were:

  • How do these representations of the Ebonics controversy work to maintain racial ideologies?
  • What does AAVE mean to composition teachers, especially with its emphasis on standardized English?

Ryan Moeller presented on techno-racial instrumentalism: in other words, how is the issue of race dealt with online? His questions were:

  • How does techno-racial instrumentalism play out in the computer-aided classroom?
  • As writing teachers, what activities can we employ that would help our students question the roles afforded identity by technology?

A great discussion followed...but it's time for dinner, so I must go! I'll write more about this later.

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