Revolution Lullabye

June 6, 2009

Drucker, Figuring the Word

Drucker, Johanna. Figuring the Word: Essays on Books, Writing, and Visual Poetics. New York: Granary Books, 1998.

This is a collection of Drucker’s essays from the 1980s and 1990s that focus on her central scholarly, artistic, and literary investigation: the importance of understanding and being aware of the materiality of writing, of mark-making. She explains in some of these essays how electronic, digital writing is changing her understanding of the physical materiality of writing and printing: it loses some of the historical and identification certainty of a handwritten, signed, physical text since it is vulnerable to change and feels alienated because computerized text loses some human individuality. For Drucker, physical materiality encodes history and identity in a text.

Quotable Quotes

“It is clear that significance inheres in the written form of language as much on account of the properties of physical materials as throguh a text’s linguistic content.” (57).

“In the world and of it, written language materializes thought into form and form into history, culture, and record” (74) both these from “The Art of the Written Image”

“The forms in which language occurs adherese more or less to norms which enable messages to be recognized” (87) “Hypergraphy” – connections with genre theory?

“The word is made flesh not as a voice, not as a score, an image, an icon, or an event but as a text whose visual properties and idiosyncracies enact themselves for the eye, upon the page.” (109) from “The Interior Eye”

“My interest is in extending the communicative potential of writing, not in eliminating or negating it” (146) from “Letterpress Language” – use the constraints of typography, letterpress, structure of the page

The materiality of signification: how “material substrates and visual/typographic/written (and, by extension, verbal) styles encode history, identity, and cultural value at the primary level of the mark/letter/physical support )and in non-written form, the qualities of voice, tone, tenor, rhythm, inflection, etc.)” from “Language as Information: Intimations of Immateriality”

Notable Notes

writing as both noun and verb, process and performance, visual and verbal, text and the work of the hand, individual and social

programming language as rules, not codes – describe, not embody language

writing as a form, image of the self

linked to Morris, Blake – stretches the bounds of the book


Kaufer and Butler, Rhetoric and the Arts of Design

Kaufer, David S. and Brian S. Butler. Rhetoric and the Arts of Design. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1996.

Instead of trying to squeeze itself in the confines of an analytical discipline, rhetoric should deliberately define itself as a design art, belonging to the family of production-driven design arts including architecture, engineering, programming, and graphics. Kaufer and Butler’s book traces two streams of inquiry: first, their claim that written argument – words in themselves – are original design and second, their explanation of their theory and argument of rhetoric as design. All design knowledge from the family of design arts has three characteristics: it is modular, it is cohesive (can relate in a working whole), and is problem-focused. They use the Lincoln/Douglas debates as their extended example to expalin the parts of their Architecture of Rhetorical Design. At the end of the book, they argue for the tight connection between criticism and production as the foundation for rhetorical design theory, a rhetorical education that includes multimedia and multigenre writing and production, and finally, challenge the reader to create a simpler architecture for rhetoric as a design art.

Quotable Quotes

“The powerful rhetors of today and tomorrow know words, but they also know film, photography, typography, music, sound, animation, and video production” (297).

Rhetoricians “design the social world around them and bring it to the here and now” – they are the architects of the social world, draw on Burke. It’s not all about persuasion

“A design art is a production process that involves the interdependent development of goals and a material artifact, relying on knowledge about the nature of the artifact to be produced” ( 32).

“Rhetoric is based on a flexibility in the representation of complex social situations, a flexibility required if the individuals in the situation are ever to accomplish practical goals” (23).

Definitions of rhetoric: “the control of events for an audience” and “the strategic organization and communication of a speaker’s version of events within a situation in order to affect the here and now of audience decision making” (12).

“By insisting that rhetoric be treated as design, we are also insisting that the appropriate way to approach rhetoric is to seek the minimal and general in an art of overwhelming complexity” (11)

Notable Notes

good rhetoric is both predictable and adaptive

production without criticism is “hollow and uninformed,” the opposite is “armchair and wishful” (298).

rhetorical design includes

  • plans – how the speaker builds and understands his world, predictiveness
  • tactics – how the speaker will deal with disruptions of their vision, anticipate different perspectives, responsiveness
  • events – moment-by-moment interaction with the audience, language performatives (anecdotes, wit, irnoy, sayings, regionalizing, promises, threats), identifying with the audience – humanness

Knowledge and Goals → Rhetoric Strategies and Rhetorical Design Space (Plans, Tactics, Events) → Presentation Actions (graphic on page 72).

their book focuses just on words – to see how just words can do on their own as design

productive, not practical, art

Trimbur, Composition and the Circulation of Writing

Trimbur, John. “Composition and the Circulation of Writing.” CCC (Dec 2000) 188-219.

Trimbur argues that compositionists need to focus on and teach about the materiality of production, delivery, and circulation. Without an understanding of how writing circulates, composition courses and their students stay isolated from society, either in a strange father-child in loco parentis relationship with their teacher or investigating cultural artifacts in a cultural studies classroom, but remaining a reader, reporter, and consumer of culture rather than a producer or active participant. Trimbur uses Marx’s Grundrisse to explain Marx’s term circulation (which Trimbur uses interchangably with rhetorical canon of delivery after he explains the terms), which understands the circulation as a dialectic hierarchal power move, a deliberate distribution of knowledge and information, a relationship between labor and those in charge. Trimbur shows how he teaches about the circulation of writing in his “Writing about Disease and Public Health,” when he asks students to transform medical journal information to public news stories, which shows them how information gets changed and presented (in specific, political ways) in circulation.

Quotable Quotes

“Marx wanted to explian the various moments in the circulation of commodities – the cycle of production, distribution, exchange, and consumption – not as a series of separate events taking place in a predetermined order over time but dialectically, as mediation in mutual and coterminous relations that constitute the capitalist mode of production as a total system” (206).

“The process of production determines – and distributes – a hierarchy of knowledge and information that is tied to the cultural authorization of expertise, professionalism, and respectability.” (210)

“We cannot understand what is entailed when people encounter written texts without taking into account how the labor power embodied in the commodity form articulates a mode of production and its prevailing social relations” (210).

“Negating delivery has led to writing teachers to equate the activity of composing with writing itself and to miss altogether the complex delivery systems through which writing circulates” (190).

Notable Notes

delivery isn’t just technical (document design, Trimbur says) – it is political and ethical, can be used to democratize and circulate ideas, expand public forums (190).

exchange value v. use value – academic work in public channels

Yancey, Made Not Only in Words

Yancey, Kathleen. “Made Not Only in Words: Composition in a New Key.” CCC 56.2 (Dec 2004) 297-328.

This is Yancey’s 2004 CCCC Chair’s address, which was billed more as a multimedia, multivocal “performance” because, in conjunction with her speech, she had a slideshow that displayed images and quotes that did not directly illustrate her speech but rather interpreted her thoughts in a new way.

Her address asks compositionists to reimagine the content, structure, and location of the field of rhetoric and composition. Pointing out that digital technology has created a writing public in the same way a reading public was created in the late 19th century, she argues for changing composition curriculum that more accurately reflects the kinds of writing students are already doing on their own, the kinds of writing that are requried for 21st century lives. In order to teach students how to write and develop multimedia, multigenre literacies, a vertical undergraduate major must be developed, one in which courses focus on the intertextual, dialogic circulation of composition, the interrelatedness of the canons of rhetoric, and the effect and the deicity of technology on literacy. Finially, this “new key” of composition requires faculty to be willing to change their curriculum structure and embrace this new literacy space to live and work in.

Quotable Qutotes

“Composition in this school context, and in direct contrast to the world context, remains chiefly focused on the writer qua writer, sequestered from the means of production” (309) – solitary, tutorial model vs. social, productive model.

“Never before has the proliferation of writings outside the academy so counterpointed the compositions inside. Never before have the technologies of writing contributed so quickly to the creation of new genres” (298)

“Literacy today is in the midst of a tectonic change” (298)

Notable Notes

problem….training teachers

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