Revolution Lullabye

June 19, 2009

Wiley, Gleason, and Phelps, Composition in Four Keys

Wiley, Mark, Barbara Gleason, and Louise Wetherbee Phelps. Composition in Four Keys. Mountain View, California: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1996.

This reader is designed to introduce beginning students and scholars to the field of composition and rhetoric, and unlike other sourcebooks, is organized to create a map through which the readers can begin to draw connections between studies and scholars and begin to understand the field as a whole. The heuristic used is that of keys (drawing on Suzanne Langer) or commonplaces that connect certain strands of research and practice in the field. The four keys used are nature, art, science, and politics, and reflect those strands the editors saw emerging in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s. The final fifth section of the book offers other ways of mapping and understanding the field. The keys are not exclusionary, and the editors invite readers to question how the keys were constructed and the connections between them. They keys are more than content: they show the readers how people talk about writing, what other disciplines, theories, fields, and values scholars draw on to form their understandings, and how people practice and teach writing.

Notable Notes

the hermeneutical circle – it’s hard to interpret something without a context, but you begin without any sense of position or map. The keys are supposed to help with that.

Nature – natural development of a writer, primacy of the writer, personal power and authority, writer’s voice, romanticisim and transcendental thought, study of students K-U, expressivist, Piaget, Vygotsky, internal expeirnece, self-consciousness, reflection, collaboration, personal responsibility, natural influence of a community on a writer. (Moffett, Britton, Bissex, Berthoff, Murray, Warnock, Elbow, Bruffee, Stewart, Phelps.)

Art – language as central concern, rhetoric, invention, transactional, form, style, craft of writing, choices, imitation, classical rhetoric, formal heuristics, discourse communities, discourse analysis, language can be examined as an artifact, grammar and errors as signifiers, New Rhetoric. (Corbett, Shaughnessy, Winterowd, Williams, Young, Halloran, Ede and Lunsford, Kinneavy, Porter, Coe, Lauer)

Science – inquiry, knowledge, scientific method, disciplinary identity and respect, research methods, protocol analysis, process theory, scientific studies, Cold War, federal funding for language research and education, need for a method for Open Admissions and basic writing, cognitive studies, assessment, empirical studies, ethnographies, rejection of writing products as the object of study – look at writing process instead, influence of computers and technology resaerch, cohesion research, case studies, students v. professionals writing. (Emig, Flower and Hayes, Freedman, Dyson, Hawshier, Hillocks, Haswell, Geisler, Moss, Sternglass)

Politics – a later key influenced by the social turn, postmodern, poststructuralist, neo-Marxist, feminist, literacy research, outside of the classroom, language differences, texts not separated from contexts, cultural studies, critical pedagogy, liberatory pedagogy, ESL, conditions of teaching writing, feminization of composition, liberal, materiality of writing, politics of basic writing, academic discourse as exclusion, no neutral rhetoric and language. (Rouse, Fiore and Elsasser, Rose, Bartholomae, Smitherman, Wyoming Resolution, Miller, Villanueva, Bizzell, Hairston (who critiqued the political turn))

May 18, 2009

Pugh, Instinctual Ballast

Pugh, Christina. “Instinctual Ballast: Imitation and Creative Writing.” In Originality, Imitation, and Plagiarism. Eds. Eisner and Vicinus. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2008. 114-121.

Pugh, a teacher of poets, explains how she structured a creative writing course around imitation, an approach widely discouraged in contemporary creative writing pedagogical practices. She cites the importance of writers being avid readers who can read as writers and claims that her students were able to expand their ability as writers in her course, in which students only read and did imitations. She argues for imitation and apprenticeship to become a more intregal part of writing curriculum, as mimesis is with other creative arts (dance, fine arts.)

Quotable Quotes

“An imitation course thus refines the boundaries of what we categorize as ‘the creative.’ It requires a student to do something more dangerous than to trust his own experience or to tell the story she thinks she wants to tell. Imitation unmoors the writer from her comfort zone.” (119).

Notable Notes

it’s perfectly OK to publish an imitation – it is still your own.

February 23, 2009

Phelps, Administration as Design Art

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Administration as Design Art.”

Writing program administrators should see themselves as designers, the programs and institutions they work in as designs and sites of design, and their work as WPAs as design art. Phelps draws on the work of the New London Group, Gunther Kress, and architects Karl Weith and Stewart Brand to offer a new lens to administrative work to not just see their work as design but to also challenge them to think of their programs as always designable, never concluding in a final design. Writing programs can be sites of institutional change if they continue designing and re-desigining after their initial structure is put into place, and writing programs have the unique complex, contradictory, and improvisational place in the academy to which enact change because they are a managable size with connections, like a sprawling network, across the campus. Phelps shows how crucial it is to reach out beyond one’s own discipline to find design inspiration in all different fields. Phelps also argues that a WPA does much more than design curriculum: the teaching staff, the physical space of the institution, the relationships with different deans and other departments and faculty – these all must be designed.

Quotable Quotes

Object: “to locate administration as design art at the juncture of the practical and productive arts” (7)

“This is the road I advocate for writing programs as transformers: design things that work, but are below the radar, friendly and sprawling, messy and temporary, constantly learning” (26)

“I suggest that it is a mistake to set up a writing program primarily as an instrument to critique or change an institution. It will do that as a consequence of your designing the program to meet the intrinsic goals of its situated design, because writing programs require institutional redesign to locate, support, and implement their characteristic purposes. But theprocess, or rather consequences, should be indirect and ordinary, not grandiose, direct, and instrumentalist.” (26)

Notable Notes

high road/low road of use

designs should not be fixed, they should never end

the challenge of administration is that you cannot design in a bubble: you must jump in and design something that you can’t have complete control, management, or knowledge of. That’s the downfall of the theories presented by Kress and the New London Group

the importance of the feedback loop: remaining sensitive to context, unpredictable, in the moment, temporary – like jazz improv

the importance of construction and building over analysis and critique

Questions: Why is this the way it is? Can it be designed better? Does it have to be this way?

January 28, 2009

Bramblett and Knoblauch, “What to Expect When You’re Expected to Teach”

Bramblett, Anne and Alison Knoblauch, eds. What to Expect When You’re Expected to Teach: The Anxious Craft of Teaching Composition. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 2002.

This edited collection, with an introduction by Thomas Newkirk, showcases the “silent narratives” of beginning composition instructors and teaching assistants, those stories of resitance and confusion that many new teachers are reluctant to talk about because they fear being deemed failures by their fellow teachers, their supervisors, and their students. The essays included, written by TAs and instructors in the University of New Hampshire composition program, are divided into three sections. The first, about the challenges of the first semester of teaching, includes essays about confronting student mediocracy in a required course and learning to adapt and teach “on the fly” when things don’t go as planned (teaching as a practical art.) The second centers around student and teacher relationships and includes pieces about how much a teacher should care about their students, how the personal lives of students often come up and must be dealt with in the writing classroom, and the difficulty of assigning students (who often aren’t much younger than you) grades as a new teacher. The last section deals specifically with different types of student resistance in the classroom, about students challenging a TA’s authority or expertise, about interpersonal problems with male and female students, and about privileged, intelligent students pressing an instructor to tell them exactly how to “fix” their paper. This collection of testimonials provides a space to tell these stories and air these concerns of new composition teachers, a space which Newkirk argues in his introduction that is needed in composition. In addition to telling failure stories, Newkirk believes composition teachers – both new and experienced – need to share “absurdity” teaching stores, visit the classrooms of their teaching colleagues to get ideas and to start pedagogical conversations, and to, in their research and professional writing, provide a more balanced view of the writing and work that happens in the classroom by using both excellent and not-so-excellent examples of student writing in their scholarship.

Quotable Quotes

“Silences in our narratives as teachers, the things we are reluctant to discuss” (1) what we think is not “normal” – Newkirk’s introduction

Notable Notes

edited by UNH PhD grad students (PhD in English with lit, rhet/comp, or linguistics track)

January 23, 2009

Weathers, “Teaching Style: A Possible Anatomy”

Note: For my major exam in composition pedagogy, history, and administration, I am surveying some of the popular texts used by beginning instructors and TAs. One of them is The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook, a collection that, over its four editions, has been edited by Gary Tate, Edward P.J. Corbett, and Nancy Myers. I reviewed the table of contents of all four editions and selected the essays and articles that were repeated across the editions. Only three – Weathers, Ohmann, and Lunsford/Ede – were in all three editions. I will read all the articles that appeared in 3 or 4 of the editions. The following essays appeared in the third edition:

Tate, Gary, Edward P.J. Corbett, and Nancy Myers, eds. The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford UP, 1994.

Weathers, Winston. “Teaching Style: A Possible Anatomy.” 294-299.

Weathers frames his essay around asking how composition teachers can make the teaching of style relevant, viable, and credible for students. He advocates three complimentary approaches for teaching style. First, he argues for explaining to students how style, which can be described as “the art of choice and option” is what allows people to be better communicators by allowing them to express themselves as individuals. This theoretical argument for the importance of style underpins, Weathers hopes, the relevancy of style as a way to exercise freedom of expression in a democratic society. Second, Weathers points out that ideological arguments about why style is important don’t help students enact stylistic techniques in their own writing, so he argues that instructors need to spend practical, hands-on time in the classroom teaching their students how to recognize, imitate, use, and adapt stylistic techniques. Third, Weathers encourages teachers to make a practice of composing in front of their students, such as on the blackboard. This intimate experience gives students an inside view of how writing happens – a perspective they need but don’t often see.

Quotable Quotes

“Style is the proof of a human being’s individuality; that style is a writer’s revelation of himself; that through style, attitudes and values are communicated; that indeed our manner is part of our message” (294).

“Style has something to do with better communication, adding as it does a certain technicolor to otherwise black-and-white language” (294).

“Style, by its very nature, is the art of selection” (294).

“We are an amazing lot of piano players refusing to play the piano” (298) – about not composing in front of our students.

“Believe me, the teacher’s struggle amidst the chalk dust can become the student’s education” (299).

Notable Notes

no reference to social context in constructing style; style as part of a social culture, not just an individual expression

refers to Corbett in discussion of imitation

writing and composition as a practical art

February 28, 2008

Lanham Economics of Attention

Lanham, Richard A. The Economics of Attention. Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 2006. Summary of Chapter 2, “Economists of Attention”            Lanham argues in Chapter 1, “Stuff and Fluff,” that “the most obvious economists of attention have been the visual artists” (15). His next chapter describes two twentieth-century artists who he believes fit this moniker, Andy Warhol and Christo Javacheff. Both artists’ masterpieces (Warhol’s famous Campbell Soup paintings and Marilyn Monroe screen-prints and Javacheff’s Running Fence) emphasized the “paradox of stuff”: that when attention is shifted toward style, design, and packaging, the substance underneath all of that gets reconsidered and more thoroughly understood. One does not replace the other; the attentive mind notices the object and oscillates between the “stuff” and the “fluff.” In his discussion about Warhol, Lanham points out that he made particular choices when creating his art to maximize the attention they would garner. Besides relying on the paradox of stuff, Warhol also was able to pick rich objects for his art by paying attention to the interests of audience and by keeping in mind the power of the centripetal gaze (the human tendency to focus attention on a few things, like celebrities.)In his explanation of Javacheff’s project, Lanham describes how Running Fence is not just a rhetorical object but the creation of a series of rhetorical acts. To get permission to create the 24-mile-long fence, Lanham had to persuade hundreds of people to share in his grand vision; he had to create collective action from the bottom up. Javacheff increased the attention paid to his project by purposefully taking it down after two weeks.Lanham cites the cultural movement of Dadaism as influential to the development of his thought about the economics of attention. Dadaism, he explains, was a rejection of oppositions in favor of a practice to consider binaries together by being able to consciously shift between them. 

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