please update . . . eventually! [UPDATED]


I’ve decided to shell out for my own doman name and webhost (thank you Bluehost!).  While the transition is not yet complete – – I’m still figuring out how to get all my links from my sites over to the new one – – I will soon be retiring the blogs and running the new ones exclusively.

This means, of course, that you will have to update your links.  Please update below as you see fit.

For the new home site, please update using this link’s URL.

To update the FoolsCap blog URL only, please update using this link’s URL.

As noted, both sites are in a state of transition at the moment, so please forgive any wonkiness due to that state of affairs.  Like, say, the fact that FoolsCap no longer has my blogroll links.  Yeesh.


Readers I have finished the transition to the new site.  Please update your links as requested above, at least if you are interested in continuing to follow my mad scribblings. See you there!  MLM


Wake Up World

Wake Up World

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oh, bother

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?

on the brink

Mild Sauce, my intermittently updated online limited-character-set comic strip blog, has been updated once again.  For your reading (dis)pleasure, please find and use the link to your right to see the newest addition.

candidate visits

I can’t be bothered to invent a clever post title tonight.  Oh well.

Some thoughts on our first candidate visit.  Well, more about the process than the candidate, because it wouldn’t really be apropos to say anything about the candidate (who will remain anonymous here), especially since at least one of the other candidates coming through has been known to peek at scribblings here.  In that case, the process and the itinerary comments might be revealing, but since I don’t think I’m writing anything that gives anyone an advantage (or disadvantage) I should be okay.

Here is roughly what the itinerary was like for Candidate I; our other two candidates will have similar (but not identical) itineraries:

9:00 am: Composition Selection Committee interview

The candidate has an interview with the CSC, meaning select members of the rhet-comp faculty and myself, the grad representative on the committee.  I was interested to hear the kinds of questions and reponses in this interview.  I already knew that the academic job interview wasn’t exactly the same as a private-sector interview, but this was my first chance to see one in action.  It was much more of a conversation than private-sector interviews are (at least in my experience) and I found myself noting not just what kinds of questions were being asked but also what stategies the candidate used to respond.  Here is where I learned the most, I think, for in listening to Candidate I’s answers I found myself finding places where I might respond differently, given my different research and pedagogical interests.  I won’t reveal here particular questions (although from the question-drafting meeting early in the week I think maybe they are not questions unprecedented in the history of academia) but I will observe that, although my answers would probably be a bit rougher than our Candidate’s, I think I could probably at least hold my own with the majority of the questions being raised.

10:30 am: Meeting with dean of CLAS

I wasn’t privy to the meeting with Dean Thomas, so I sat in the lobby area and read some magazines.  Anyone know why Wayne State’s CLAS offices have such a large backlog of the Stanford alumni magazine?

11:15 am: Campus tour with yours truly

The meeting with the dean ran long, so my half-hour tour was crammed in to 15 minutes.  I gave Candidate I a quick tour of State Hall, the Gullen Mall area, and back to Barnes & Noble at Candidate’s request so that coffee could be purchased from Starbucks.  Sadly, the line was rather long and we were by that point running late for the meeting with the Interim Dept Chair.

11:30 am: Meeting with dept chair

Also not privy.  I think I slammed a Pepsi during this break and then started roaming the halls to rustle up wayward grads for the . . .

12:00 pm: Lunch with grad students

A nice little deli spread (I was glad we were spared the dreaded mini-quiches).  We had a decent number of grads show up for the lunch, I think maybe a dozen or so.  I was pleased that this included at least a solid number of those of who I think of as the “core” body of rhet-comp students (myself, of course, Clay, Cara, Jared, Mary) and several lit or film/media studies folks.  the Candidate was quite kind and asked each of us about our current research and we also had a discussion about the differences between the Candidate’s grad program and our own.  Ken Jackson stopped by toward the end of it and regaled us with stories of his pre-academic life working in a hospital.  After lunch, I walked with Candidate to the B&N where the line proved more feasible this time.  We got back to the dept  with a small amount of time for the dept-level interview.

1:30 pm: Appointments Committee interview

By far, seeing (and participating in) the two interviews has been the most revealing part of my involvement so far.  (Well, the initial selection process, in which we read through various applicants CVs and writing samples and other docs, is a close second, since it offered some practical exposure to the genre of the job letter and I got to see some various teaching portfolios and things.)  Here, much of what I wrote about the earlier interview remains true, but I will also note that I particularly enjoyed hearing questions about the rhet-comp field  from those faculty members whose work is outside the field.  Something to remember for my own eventual interviews, then, is to practice answering questions from such scholars in a way that explains not just my answers and the context of those answers in the field but also how those answers might be of interest to broader concerns to scholars outside the field as well.  In this, I might find I have a tiny advantage over candidates whose grad work has been in writing and rhetoric depts over more traditional English depts as I encounter more work outside of rhet-comp than other candidates might (for this I also have to thank JR, especially, for insisting on the relevance of Derrida and Barthes among others to rhetoricians).  I am also thankful for the members of the Appointments Committee who (in the little time we chatted before the interview started) made plain to me (at least I thought they did) that my presence was not a mere sop to Dept bylaws but that I was a valued participant in the day’s precedings.  The interview ran an hour, which left the Candidate roughly a half hour to prepare for . . .

3:00 pm: Job talk

If I were not serving on the committee and thus had no role in deciding which candidate would be offered a post, I would say more here about the actual talk itself.  As it is, I am hyper-aware of my responsibilities to the committee and to the department so I don’t want to bias the process in any way–I am very greatful to be asked to serve in this role by Dr. Barton and Dr. Jackson, and I don’t want them to have any reason to think their trust in me was misplaced.  So I won’t say anything about the talk, other than that it was better attended than I thought a rhetcomp talk was going to be, and I was pleased to see so many of colleagues (meaning both grads and faculty) in attendance.  But dang does the 10th floor conference room get hot when it is crowded.  After the talk, a small reception followed in the faculty lounge–I’d spent much of the day with the Candidate already so I didn’t say much to the Candidate as other members of the department used the opportunity to get to know a possible future colleague.

In all, a considerably busy day – – something Candidate and I talked about a little during our campus tour.  Candidate said that although the process was the source of some anxiety, it was also an exciting experience to meet people outside of the candidate’s program and to see what colleagues in other institutions were working on.  I endorse that sentiment heartily and look forward to meeting with Candidates II and III.

welcome to the jungle

Hey all!

Please welcome Mike Garcia (U of New Hampshire) and his blog Ungrading to the FoolsCap blogroll.  Also, my thanks to Mike for his congratulations on the previous post.

the new me

It is official (at long bloody last):

Michael L. McGinnis, Master of Arts

Of course, now I need all new stationery.  Sigh.

Thanks again to everyone whose encouragement, help, advice, and guidance got me this far.