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.


talkin’ corporate university blues

From: Donoghue, Frank.  The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities.  New York: Fordham University Press, 2008.

135-6: In the face of the trends I have described here, it seems to me that professors of humanities can resist their extinction only by shifting the focus of their attention in two important ways.  First, rather than merely opposing the corporate assumptions that threaten their disciplines, humanists must challenge those assumptions along different lines.  If we constantly meet the corporate model of higher education with skepticism, we might keep its most precious tenets from becoming articles of faith for everyone: students, society at large, even disempowered humanists.  Central among these tenets is the assumption that a practical, occupation-oriented college education leads to a secure job and thus is crucial to improving one’s quality of life.

137-8: The second, corollary action that humanists will have to take in order to stave off their disappearance from the university of the future is to balance their commitment to the content of higher education with a thorough familiarity with how the university works.  That phrase . . . advocates a perspective on academic labor that most humanities professors have been reluctant to adopt.  Not only do we need to resist the tendency to romanticize our work, but we also need to locate that work in an assortment of unfamiliar contexts.  Many of the developments that I have discussed here—the hyperprofessionalization of academic careers, the rapid erosion of tenure, the rise of for-profit education, and the prestige race—seem to have caught professors by surprise, leaving them unprepared to deal with the very phenomena that directly affect their jobs.


oyez oyez

If alla y’all were wondering: Yes, I did get into C&W 2009.

La lal la, we are UCD students, la la la.

La la la, we are UCD students, la la la.

See everyone in June.

Time to start writing that paper, I guess.


I am happy to have discovered an online version of Deemer’s ’67 essay “Composition as a Happening.”  Below, my favorite passage–one easy to dismiss for seeming frankly silly, but it’s advice that I think is, at heart, well-taken:

Universities, though they often continue the unfortunate process rather than try to correct it, are continually plagued by the fact that students have been compulsorily miseducated for years prior to their university enrollment. Against this great handicap the reconstruction of English Composition after the model of the happening has certain advantages. Shock and surprise are essential features of the happening, and they should also be frequent moods in the composition course. Clear writing and clear thought follow only after clear experiences, yet the inspiration of such experiences has been virtually neglected by educators. But clear experiences never come easy. For the student who, in the classroom, is not used to participating in any experience at all, the clarity of shock will be quite dramatic when a real experience is presented to him. Let the “teacher” shock the student. Let him speak, not from behind a podium, but from the rear of the room or through the side window. Let him discuss theology to Ray Charles records. As long as there is reverence for the student and the process of education, no shock is too great.

Of course, when you’re on the third floor of State Hall, speaking through the side window is kind of difficult.

I also learn, by surfing through the site that Deemer was a pioneer in hyperdrama and is still teaching (screenwriting, no less)  at Portland State.  From what I can tell here, most of his work has been in literary genres (in which I include screenplays) and reviews.  Curious, then, that his work in comp (just the one essay, as far as I can tell) has been a part of such interesting work–Sirc, certainly, but I think Crowley namechecks Deemer and his essay in Composition in the University as well.

If I hadn’t switched to rhetcomp, interestingly enough, I probably would have ended up studying hyperfiction and similar genres, so I might have found my way to Deemer anyway through an almost completely different path–a certain irony, that: my various paths to Deemer might be rendered as a hypertextual journey.

movin’ on up

Looks like I’ll be teaching 3010 in Fall 2008. I like teaching 1020, but I’m looking forward to moving up and diversifying my teaching portfolio.

These guys were happy with the news too:

tho’ this be madness

A long-promised response to Crowley’s The Methodical Memory, written in response to, if not necessarily tribute to, the occasion of her retirement.

At first, I admit, I was taken aback by this book.  Where was the Crowley who wrote the history of composition in the university with such wit and nerve?  Who was this Crowley, prattling on about the history of outlines, interminably, with no purpose in sight?  Why had this been recommended to me?

But then I tried thinking through these questions, or, more accurately, tried to think around them.  As I am coming to learn, (especially in response to Crowley) an argument need not be written at the superficial level of the text itself–it can reside too in the metadiscourse around the text, and I think that that is a valuable lesson for me: that frustration with what may appear at first to be a difficult, dull, or uninviting text may be the fault not of the author or the text but of my own reading.  Or, to sing the death of the author a little louder, the text is not exclusively what is written but what is read.

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rsa preview

I’m compiling notes and getting ready to start writing the text of my RSA presentation. Some observations.

  • I have 35 pages of notes for what’s meant to be a 13-16 minute presentation. WTF?
  • Although I understand the problematics surrounding outlines (as noted by Crowley and Rice), I find that sometimes they help me to organize material. The problem they pose, perhaps, is when invention is made to serve outline rather than the reverse. That is, if the outline is presented as the 100%-surefire-guaranteed way to produce research work, that’s a problem. If (as I think I’m doing) the outline is more a question of arrangement–how do I associate this passage with another in a way that is productive–then maybe it can be made to serve in less problematic ways.
  • Until this past semester, I haven’t typically found it very hard to write. I am wont to chalk it up to events in my (im)personal life, but I think that, more realistically, I’m getting distracted more often while I write (by blogging for example–hahaha) and that the more I read composition the more conscious I am of my own writing processes . . . which in turn has made me very self-conscious about writing and the choices I make. Good, on one hand, since I find now I’m more likely to pay more attention to some details of my writing than I have been in the past, but bad because it takes me forever to produce anything.

This will be (barring the easily-forgotten Saturday morning Roundtable at C&W07) my first conference as a professional scholar. Cool. But I’d be lying if I said I was confident of the rhetorical situation here. I am reminded of something Rice has written on the matter of reading a conference presentation as opposed to giving a talk or performing a piece of scholarship (Rice provides the following links here, here, and here on the matter). The distinction is a subtle one but one that I’m not sure how to effect in my work. While I’ve been told that I am an effective reader, I also have been given feedback that my presentations are too much a “paper” and not enough a “talk.” Okay. So, another genre to learn. I’d be interested from my (I suspect) dwindling number of readers to see any suggestions or advice they have on making a paper into a talk. On one hand, I assume it’s a matter of diction, tone, style–see Rice’s comments on using humor in a 4Cs talk. But then, I am afraid that it’s a narrow bull’s-eye, and that trying to craft a talk (rather than a paper) might lead to a too casual, too informal approach to the work . . . and since my essay is about ethos (among other concerns) I’m very conscious of the way I/my work am/is being presented.

A preview of what might be the value of considering ethos in context with star studies:

  1. Star studies encourage us to understand a star’s persona has a de-naturalized construction rather than an essentialized subject. If ethos (as Corder has suggested) is troubled by poststruc versions of the subject, then star studies might offer a model methodology for understanding the way ethos works in public discourses.
  2. On a related note, we can learn from star studies’ emphasis on how star images reflect ideological concerns to understand how and why ethical appeals find traction, moving beyond Burke’s idea of identification or, at least, suggesting that identification as Burke understands it, and as it is key to understanding ethical appeals is an ideological question as much as it is a rhetorical question.
  3. I don’t have a number three yet, but I feel like just two points is kind of lame.