Revolution Lullabye

October 5, 2013

Enoch and Bessette, Meaningful Engagements

Enoch, Jessica and Jean Bessette. “Meaningful Engagements: Feminist Historiography and the Digital Humanities.” College Composition and Communication 64.4 (June 2013): 634-660.

Enoch and Bessette, citing a disconnect between feminist rhetorical historiography and the digital humanities movement, explore what digital historiography could offer to feminist historians of rhetoric.  Their essay, which is organized around three terms used by Jacqueline Jones Royster and Gesa Kirsch to describe excellence in feminist research (strategic contemplation, social circulation, and critical imagination), explains the surface-level contradictions between feminist rhetorical historiography and digital historiography, argues for the deeper connections between the two kinds of research, and offers suggestions and/or hesitations about how the two might adapt and affect each other. In the end, they call on feminist rhetorical historiographers to explore and question what the digital humanities bring to (or subtract from) their work. 

Enoch and Bessette interrogate specific digital historiography methods, including distant reading, visualization, multimodal production, and open or interactive online history projects. Enoch and Bessette point out that digital humanities often rely on the construction of online archives, which can open up research opportunities for feminist rhetorical historians (though, they do point out that the contents of these archives (e.g. Google Books) leave out many documents and works of interest to feminist rhetorical historians.) They also address two main issues of concern about feminist rhetorical historians becoming multimodal digital humanities scholars: first, that there hasn’t been enough scholarly attention to the effects of digital histories on audiences (what the histories do) and second, that many feminist rhetorical historians lack the technological skills set to produce multimodal scholarship, and the “culture of code” surrounding the digital humanities prevents women from participating in this area of research.

 

Notable Notes

Google’s Ngram as a useful research tool for feminist rhetorical historiographers, a distant reading tool that searches for words and phrases over the entire Google Books corpus and generates a visual graph that shows when those words or phrases appear over 200+ years.  These tools allow researchers to incorporate evidence (and find new questions) that would have been impossible for a single scholar to aggregate. (643-645) example: Aspasia

interactive online histories like the Harvard Film Study Center and Laurel Ulrich’s site DoHistory, which invites readers to read an 18th-century American midwife’s journal (Martha Ballard) and “translate” her diary, read other contemporary documents next to it and come to their own historical conclusions about events, etc. (650).  These interactive histories, though, bring to light a “different dynamic of power” between audience and scholar (650).

digital archives aren’t necessarily “disembodied” and therefore counter to the principles underlying feminist research – certain digital archives allow for “virtual proximity” with their abundance of data that researchers can use to find new connections, patterns in their digital recovery efforts.

Subheadings: “Digital Archives, Strategic Contemplation, and Virtual Proximity”; “Social Circulation, Evidence, and Distant Reading”; “Critical Imagination, Dangerous Moves, and Multimodal Histories” – these subheadings correspond to Royster and Kersch’s principles.

 

Quotable Quotes

“Evidence here becomes pattern, repetition, and aggregation” (645) – the kind of evidence generated through distant reading methodologies (e.g. Moretti)

“We intend this essay to function as a springboard for feminist historians (and all historians, in fact) to consider their relationship to the digital humanities” (637).

“The work accomplished in Feminist Rhetorical Practices: New Horizons for Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy Studies” enables us to put feminist historiography in conversation with the digital humanities in general and digital historiography more particularly for the purpose of considering how the two fields of study may come together and invigorate one another, how they might complicate one another, and how they may run in contradistinction to one another” (636-37).

“Whereas we once confronted a seeming dearth of archival evidence, now it seems that opportunities for digital recovery are everywhere” (639).

“the culture of code is likely to be off-putting to women at best and discriminatory at worst” (652-653) – countered by local, smaller groups dedicated to teaching women scholars how to code.

“Since a great deal of feminist historiographic work hinges on the idea that women have been all but erased from rhetorical history and the rhetorical record, a marked characteristic of feminist research has been to recover forgotten figures whose rhetorical significance is often found in out-of-the-way places rather than institutional and federal archives with enormous holdings” (637-638).

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July 6, 2009

Gold, Rhetoric at the Margins

Gold, David. Rhetoric at the Margins: Revising the History of Writing Instruction in American Colleges, 1873-1947. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2008.

Gold researches the rhetorical education that took place at three Texas institutions during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to challenge and complicate master narratives of current-traditional pedagogy and the history of rhetorical education, hoping to draw connections between past the past and present to develop pedagogies to serve underrepresented student populations. The three colleges – Wiley College (an classics-oriented HBCU), Texas Women’s University (residential college for women with vocational training), and East Texas Normal College (independent teacher-training school) – each employed a rhetorical education that was nuanced and spoke directly to the liberatory needs of their marginalized student populations. Gold’s introduction and conclusion explains his methodology of historiography and archival research, arguing that the future of the discipline lies in understanding its diverse pedagogical and theoretical (progressive movement) past. American higher education is decentralized, so local histories are necessary for understanding what happened in rhetorical education.

Quotable Quotes

“We cannot make broad claims about the development of rhetorical education without examining the diverse range of student bodies and institutions that participated in such education” … “It is often in provincial regions where demographic and social changes are first felt and where innovation and progressive change may first take place” (7).

“When it comes to rhetoric and composition studies, schools that have traditionally formed the basis for historical study may be among the least productive places to look” (7)

Current-traditional pedagogy is actually a collection of many practices: “both conservative and radical, liberatory and disciplining, and subject to wide-ranging local and institutional variation” (5).

Notable Notes

his study validates vocational, practical education – it is liberatory for some students

April 25, 2009

Varnum, Fencing with Words

Varnum, Robin. Fencing with Words: A History of Writing Instruction at Amherst College during the Era of Theodore Baird, 1938-1966. Urbana: NCTE, 1996.

Varnum presents a counternarrative to the mainstream history of 20th century composition instruction through her archival investigation of the Amherst freshman writing program directed by Theodore Baird from 1938 to 1966. Her history, unlike other histories written in the field, has three distinct differences: first, she spends much time looking at how outside social and political forces (institutional, national, and global) affected the pedagogy in Amherst’s writing courses; second, she depends on the archives of the program (assignments, student papers, memos, reports, as well as interviews) instead of textbooks and journals to sketch a picture of what was happening in the classrooms; and third, she brings to light a much-misunderstood era of American composition, one that is usually conflated and simplified to be “current-traditional.” Baird’s first-year writing courses were designed by the entire team of teachers (everyone used the same collaboratively-written assignment sequence), and student writing, not textbooks, were the centerpiece of the course. Baird believed that writing was a process of self-discovery, a process through which unexpressible (and unknown) truths could be expressed. Varnum’s history does not sugarcoat or reify Baird’s administration or pedagogy, pointing out that his high-priest attitude was decidedly masculine and top-down, perceived by some students and fellow faculty to be a bully who ran a “boot camp” course.

Quotable Quotes

“The tendancy among composition historians has been to look at practice in the classroom, or at the materials and ideas presented there, without acknowledging the larger forces that created the classroom itself” (7).

Notable Notes

great model for dissertation

Baird’s constant metaphor of running orders through chaos (taken from The Education of Henry Adams and science, philosophy, Burke, Richards that he read)

the Amherst course was taken by all freshman at the same time with the same assignments so that each assignment was a campus-wide event.

focused on conflict, constant questioning and revision

saw student writer as individual who possessed his own voice, the goal was to free that voice and the imagination; break them of writing what he dubbed “the Perfect Theme” (41) influenced heavily by The Education of Henry Adams

Baird’s ideal was to create a community of teachers

all the work that went into teaching and planning the course (assignments were re-invented each year) took away the time the instructors and professors could do their own research

how do policies and politics outside the classroom affect what is being taught?

impact of WWII, GI Bill, co-education, change in American university system, Civil Rights, move towards general education requirements

Varnum interviews professors who taught with Baird, 7 alumni of the program, looks at student papers, essay contest winners, uses letters she writes to Baird and recieves from him, assignment sequences (in appendix)

February 23, 2009

McBeth, Memoranda of Fragile Machinery

McBeth, Mark. “Memoranda of Fragile Machinery: A Portrait of Shaughnessy as Intellectual-Bureaucrat.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 31:1-2, 2007.

McBeth, the WPA for ten years at the City College of New York, reconstructs Shaughnessy’s role as an administrator through both the archived material of the program, containing her published and unpublished administrative documents, and interviews with teachers and administrators who worked with her at CUNY. In this recovery project, McBeth presents an alternate perspective on the work of Shaughnessy, explicitly showing how her administrative work informed her ideas about basic writing, development of writers, and literacy, and how her work in managing a large writing program gave her a place where she could conduct and gather data for her research. McBeth describes the work of WPAs positively, contesting the pessamistic attitude that WPAs are just managers over a large system marked by unfair labor practices. McBeth argues that WPAs are more than just managers: they are intellectual-bureaucrats who use their knowledge and expertise in rhetoric and their understanding of the production of writing to lead effective, educationally sound, and progressive programs.

Quotable Quotes

“The oft-tedious bureaucratic labors we will inevitably face may not deter us from the publish-or-perish work we need to complete, but on the contrary, may lead us to it. Applying our scholarly scrutiny and creativity to the administrative positions we hold may prove to make the WPA’s labors both more fruitful and possibly more rewarding (perhaps even pleasurable.)” (62).

The records “show the intersection between her academic life as a scholar, teacher, and administrator and, additionally, how those roles necessarily coexist and inform one another.” (62).

Notable Notes

shows how Errors and Expectations is more than a pedagogy manual – it is an administrative argument about how to teach basic writing students and structure a program that will meet their needs.

mid-term and end-of-term evaluations were a key resource and research pool for Errors and Expectations

February 10, 2009

L’Eplattenier and Mastrangelo, Historical Studies of Writing Program Administration

L’Eplattenier, Barbara and Lisa Mastrangelo. “Why Administrative Histories?” In Historical Studies of Writing Program Administration: Individuals, Communities, and the Formation of a Discipline. Eds. Barbara L’Eplattenier and Lisa Mastrangelo. West Lafayette, Indiana: Parlor Press, 2004. xvii-xxvi.

This collection of histories of early writing program administrators, their communities, and the fledging WPA discipline and community casts a new light on the history of composition: it places it in a larger, political institutional context and shows how composition programs were developed, run, and seen by the rest of the university. Administrative histories are often lost: administrators, burdened by the pressing immediate day-to-day tasks they must do, often did not publish about their work, and their administrative documents are either stored in an inaccessible place or have been lost/destroyed because they do not seem, at the surface, to have any scholarly value. The collection is divided into three parts. The first, individuals, traces the history of the development of the WPA position through the careers of individual people in the early 20th century who served as de-facto WPAs at their institution. The second, communities, shows how communities of early WPAs and their teaching  communities came together to form support and intellectual networks. The final, discipline, explains how the WPA community worked to professionalize and gain recognition and rewards from the university administration and faculty.

Quotable Quotes

“Recognized or ignored, titled or untitled, appreciated or unappreciated, paid or unpaid – someone classified students, assigned teachers, worried about standards, and did all the other administrative tasks inherent to writing programs. Someone, much earlier than 1976, functioned as a WPA.” (xix)

Notable Notes

many early WPAs were women, untenured, did not have advanced degrees, learned on the job, made significant reforms at their institutions about teacher workload and class sizes

19th and 20th century, Gertrude Buck

February 9, 2009

Rose and Weiser, The WPA as Researcher and Archivist

Rose, Shirley and Irwin Weiser. “The WPA as Researcher and Archivist.” In The Writing Program Administrator’s Resource. Eds. Stuart C. Brown and Theresa Enos. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2002. 275-302.

Writing program administrators need to see archiving the program’s records as an intregral and necessary part of their job, for it provides a rich source for future WPAs to understand the history and development of the specific program, and it invites questions that result in further WPA-led research in the program. Archiving takes more than just scanning documents and saving them or throwing them in a file cabinet; every writing program needs to develop documentation strategies that create systems in which to evaluate, analyze, and store records so that they can be both a usable and accessible archive. It is vital that the WPA oversees the archival process, for only she has the disciplinary knowledge through which to understand the potential rhetorical importance of a document (both currently and for future WPAs.) Futhermore, creating an archive of WPA documents demonstrates that WPA work is important knowledge that should be kept and looked at in the future.

Quotable Quotes

“Records become an archiveand thus a potential resource for research when intellectual control has been exercised over them; that is, they must be organized and accessible to use. Thus, archiving, like research, is a deliberate activity, one requiring the exercise of agency” (277).

“Writing program research and writing program records management are essential and interdependent responsbilities of every WPA” (276).

WPA work “merits documentation, preservation, and subsequent investigation” (284).

Notable Notes

work with professional archivist, but take responsibility of record storage and documentation strategy in your own hands

document-event relationship; shifting significance of a document with different audiences over time

importance of collaboration with document creators to create a dynamic documentation system that retains records as they are being made

the outcome of WPA research (through archiving) is immediate with obvious impact

difficulty of carving out the time with all other more immediate WPA duties to go about creating and maintaining an archive, requires long-range vision for the future of the program

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