A random assortments of thoughts.
Please welcome Clay (back) to the blogroll. The new blog, Borrego, can be reached via the link in this post or the link in the blogroll column.
I never read the Winnie the Pooh books by Milne, but I had some Pooh videos (of the various Disney cartoons) when I was younger. At times, I think that of all literary characters, Pooh is the one I most resemble:
The comparison is not flattering.
I was completing an online poll today, and I was asked whether I thought Obama’s inaugural address had too much rhetoric and too few specifics. As John sings in “A Day in the Life,” “I just had to laugh.” A dream project of mine would be to start a blog called “Mere Rhetoric” devoted to finding and cataloging the anti-rhetoric trope that continues to plague modern news reporting. Thanks a lot, Ramus.
So a person I know does not want to be my friend anymore. I hope it is temporary(despite the finality of her announcement) but I am terrified that it is not.
Here is what I have been billing as my (latest) “Way Too Early and Incredibly Vague Diss Idea:”
As you’ve noticed, one thing that I’ve been interested in in several ways is the
politics of composition, not just how comp does politics but how it works in
relationship to broader political phenomena and especially its relationship to
critical theory. My diss idea begins in the sixties, since I think it is important to
emphasize that composition (in its modern form) has its roots, in essence, as a
political discipline in that a lot of the early expressivist folks of the sixties
(Macrorie, early Elbow, early Coles) saw comp pedagogy as a way to engage the
rhetorics of the student rights movements of the era. Of course, the student
rights movement(s) are caught up in the larger concerns of the era, such as the
civil rights movement, women’s lib, and the antiwar movement. My M.A. work
has already tried to sow this field a little by asking some questions about how
the field understood protest as a rhetorical form (to be fair, they didn’t) and how
they ignored other forms of rhetorical action at the time (the bed-ins). As a starting point, we can look to
Joseph Harris (1997) who has written about some of this.
In the 70s and 80s, the field seem more concerned with professionalizing
itself and so we saw the emergence and widespread adoption of process
pedagogy. At the same time, basic writing and the CCCC Statement on Students
Rights’ to their Own Language emerge in the early and mid-70s, and though
each development is political in its own way they are so in ways that don’t have
as obvious a connection to larger political trends as did expressivist pedagogy
in the decade before. Faigley (1992) and Tobin (2005?) have written about
process and its relationship to the claims for comp’s disciplinarity in this period.
Into the 80s and 90s (the period here that I need to do more research on) comp
finds theory and sides are taken in the era’s culture wars. I won’t say more here
because I need to read more, but the point I’m interested in investigating is the
culture wars and how the 80s and 90s emergence of neoliberalism was felt in the
university in general and comp in particular.
So, looking back over these three periods (60s, 70s/80s, 80s/90s), to the
extent that comp has taken up the politics of the larger culture/society, it has
done so largely in terms of politics relevant to the modernist democratic nation-
state: who has the right to speak, who has power, how can power be
redistributed in more democratic ways through discursive intervention. What
comp hasn’t really accounted for then is how to react to changes in power in the
post-nation-state global economy, or, we might say, under Empire. (This is
especially true in terms of, say critical pedagogy, but this isn’t really my focus.)
So, a lot of this is background and now we come to the really comp part of my
idea. To the extent that comp’s politics have traditionally been tied to political
forms native to the nation-state, so too have its ideas of political efficacy and
pedagogy. What comp needs then is a new sense of political form , both in
terms of what is taught (does an essay make sense under Empire? I don’t
know, but that’s kind of the point at this phase) and in how it is taught.
I realize this is a mad jumble at present, so here is a somewhat more
schematic breakdown of these things might get broken down by chapters:
1) 60s comp: emergence of rhetcomp as (in part) a political intervention into
the students’ rights movement
2) 70s/80s: professionalization of the field and (to some extent) a
depoliticization of its mission in the rise of Reagan republicanism and a focus
on standards and “back to basics” teaching (see Faigley on this, and I think
Crowley has addressed it as well).
3) 80s/90s/00s: theory, culture wars, neo-liberalism, neo-conservatism,
decline of the nation-state. What is comp to do now?
4) What are the rhetorical forms appropriate for the nation-state? For Empire?
How has comp historically and in contemporary ways understood the
relationship of rhetorical form to political struggle?
5) What are the pedagogical forms appropriate for the nation-state and for
Empire? How has comp seen pedagogy as a political tool and has it changed
that conception as the form and structure of power has changed? (A loaded
question – – I imply it has not adequately done so.)
There are caveats aplenty in there, but this rough sketch has found some love from a couple of faculty members who would be likely to be on my committee.
I have been reading Postman and Weingartner’s Teaching as a Subversive Activity. It has something in common with comp scholars of 68/69/70 like Deemer and Lutz who wanted to (re)make the scene of teaching/learning as something capable of being other job training or rote memorization. I image it has some overlap with critical pedagogical tactics, but it does so with less emphasis on promoting a specific politics (that is, it is less about being anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-capitalist, than it is about reforming teaching–but in ways that sound familiar from the little critical pedagogy I’ve read). Their key intervention is to read the classroom space as McLuhan might, as a medium, and to argue for a new idea about how teaching and learning should be conducted. Good stuff, and I am looking forward to reading their later book, The Soft Revolution, as well. What I find promising about that book (from what I’ve skimmed fo far) is that it puts much of the responsibility for educational reform on the students themselves. In that sense, it is very 60s/early-70s, but it does so in a way that is not about coming to “critical consciousness” (or not just about it) but actually doing things about educational injustices and whatnot.
Pooh Bear. Really?