Revolution Lullabye

June 24, 2015

Meyers, Power, Fear, and the Life of the Junior WPA: Directions for New Conversations

Meyers, Susan. “Power, Fear, and the Life of the Junior WPA: Directions for New Conversations.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 33.1-2 (Fall/Winter 2009): 152-162. Print.

A review of two books:

Dew, Debra Frank and Alice Horning, eds. Untenured Faculty as Writing Program Administrators: Institutional Practices and Politics. West Lafayette: Parlor P, 2007.

Enos, Theresa and Shane Borrowman, eds. The Promise and Perils of Writing Program Administration. West Lafayette: Parlor P, 2008.

In her review of these two collections, which focus on junior (untenured) WPAs, Meyers uses her own perspective (as someone who is about to start a jWPA job) to explore the current conversations around jWPA work. Meyers points out the contradiction apparent in these two collections and in other conversations about jWPA work: many senior scholars in the field (Horning, White, Roen) warn junior faculty against accepting a jWPA position, yet many new faculty take on these positions because of the realities of the job market and because they have administrative coursework and training in their doctoral programs. Meyers explains that there are two repeated (and inextricably related) ideas that come up in conversations about jWPA work: power and tenure. She argues that the fear that saturates the narratives about jWPA work needs to be “managed”: “otherwise,” she points out, “we may become immobilized by fear itself, rather than working to improve our situations” (154).

Meyers names five categories of warnings she saw repeated in the collection: “problems of resources, politics, market forces, job advancement, and job satisfaction” (156). The most often-cited resources that jWPAs lack are time, credibility, and authority.

Meyers makes a distinction between power that emerges from control and power that emerges from authority. She advocates for jWPAs to work towards increasing their power via increasing their authority within their own institution, and she offers five strategies for doing so: 1. Know your context; 2. Be realistic with program design; 3. Do not be alone; 4. Understand your value; and 5. Use your rhetorical tools (160-161).

Notable Notes

The idea of the “fourth dimension” of jWPA work – administration. Make sure that this is visible in tenure and promotion files.

The fear in jWPA scholarship emerges from 1. The idea that WPA work won’t be valued in tenure and promotion and 2. That my administrative work will take up so much time that I won’t be able to do the other things I need to do in order to get tenure.

Central argument of Promise and Perils: “these testimonials and reflections suggest that a central peril of WPA work is the inherent conflict of scholar-administrator identities. In response, they call for more tenure-line positions and more explicit promotion criteria.” (155)

Untenured Faculty as Writing Program Administrators is more theoretically-minded, practical – making an argument against jWPAs but giving recommendations about how to structure these jobs ethically

We can increase our authority by demonstrating our value and the value of our programs, by developing strategies to negotiate for things that are important.

Quotable Quotes

“This sounds indeed like a no-win situation: As jWPAs, we are commissioned to do work that is not valued and that jeopardizes our future. In this context, we are never blessed with power. And that is, indeed, the fear: we are powerless now, and powerless we will remain. Unless, of course, we can find ways both of making ourselves valuable and of managing the obstacles that administrative work always entails” (154).

“The general message of both books is clear: The dangers that jWPAs face are real, and we have not yet done enough to address the situation” (152).

“Without the requisite authority—or even a clear set of objectives—in their work, jWPAs are more prone to becoming involved in a variety of levels of conflict. In large part, this potential for political tensions results from the nature of WPA work itself, as well as jWPAs’ novice stature. Although they are usually members of English departments, writing divisions, or other institutional units, jWPAs typically cross institutional lines, finding themselves involved in—and sometimes at odds with—the interests of both their home departments and their institutions at large.” (157).

“I believe that what WPAs should seek is power-via-authority, rather than power-via-control.” (159). How can we work “within the boundaries our institutions,” knowing that we can’t control them?

“Focus on what you can change in order to improve your job conditions, and resist feeling defeated by what you cannot. Alongside these efforts, we are reminded to keep in mind all of the other facets of our work that we likewise do control. From the rhetorical choices that we make as we strategize program changes to the attitudes that we maintain about our roles and identities in our institutions, we actually do control many aspects related to professional success.” (159-160).

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October 29, 2014

Horning, Where to Put the Manicules

Horning, Alice S. “Where to Put the Manicules: A Theory of Expert Reading.” Across the Disciplines 8.2 (October 2011). Web. 29 October 2014.

Horning argues that expert readers are “meta-readers”: they have a specific set of awarenesses and skills that distinguish them from novice readers. She presents this meta-cognitive theory of expert readers and argues that in order to be successful, students need to acquire the particular abilities and skills of expert readers through direct modeling and scaffolded instruction. Knowing what expert readers do as they read helps faculty develop specific instructional methods and goals for the needs of novice-reader students. Horning draws on research in education, literacy, and writing studies as well as specific examples from her own teaching, when she asked students to complete reading guides and do a book review assignment.

Quotable Quotes

“Part of what makes me a good reader is that I know what to mark and where to put the little hands. It is this ability and related skills in text processing, analysis, evaluation and application that distinguish expert from novice readers. A theory of readers’ awarenesses and skills accounts for experts’ appropriate placement of their manacles; the theory reveals the abilities student novices lack and urgently need to develop in order to be successful in any major in college and in their personal and professional lives” (1).

“The theory proposes that expert readers are meta-readers, drawing on the meta-cognitive view for its base. The prefix ‘meta’ is drawn from the Greek, according to the dictionary (‘meta,’ def. 1, 1966). It means after, along with, beyond, among, behind. Experts are able to do things with texts as they read, among the ideas presented and beyond them, so that behind, after, and beyond the reading, they are abel to get the essential meaning of a text. They can then analyze, synthesize, evaluate and apply, that is, engage with the text as expert readers.”

“Most faculty don’t aim to help students become expert readers, at least not in introductory or general education courses. Instead, to achieve ordinary instructional goals, most faculty want students to DO the reading and get concepts and content that connect with the rest of their learning in the course.”

“Expert readers, then, have both awareness and skill that allows them to read informational prose quickly and efficiently.”

Notable Notes

the awarenesses of meta-readers

  1. meta-textual awareness (organization, structure of a text)
  2. meta-contextual awareness (how the text is part of a larger conversation in the field, how it fits into a topic, influence of author/time/place)
  3. meta-linguistic awareness (the language of a text, including disciplinary jargon, diction, tone, structure)

the skills of meta-readers

  1. skills in analysis (reading quickly, selectively, able to pick out important information, depends on strong vocabulary knowledge in that discipline)
  2. skills in synthesis (can see the relationships between the text being read and other texts, these readers read widely and often, draw inferences, see larger concepts)
  3. skills in evaluation (can critically evaluate the texts they read – authority, currency, bias, relevancy, accuracy)
  4. skills in application (know when and how to use the information that they read – whole arguments, specific facts or evidence – can use texts for their own purposes)

manicules are little hands used in medieval text marking to note passages that are interesting/important – what was important or interesting depended on the individual reader (readers read differently)

focus on reading informational prose text

uses her own definition (Horning, 2007) of expert literacy: “Expert literacy is best defined as the psycholinguistic processes of getting meaning from or putting meaning into print and/or sound, images, and movement, on a page or screen, used for the purposes of analysis, synthesis, evaluation and application; these process develop through formal schooling and beyond it, at home and at work, in childhood and across the lifespan and are essential to human functioning in a democratic society”

Harold Herber, Teaching Reading in the Content Areas (1978)

uses an example about how she taught her students to read an experimental research report – understanding the goals and information presented in each section, how the report follows APA

Linda Nilson, Teaching at its Best (2010) – argues that students don’t do the reading that’s assigned to them not because they don’t want to but because they don’t know how too. Nilson argues that teachers need to help students develop strategies for reading the texts that are assigned, marking texts, etc.

David Jolliffe and Allison Harl’s 2008 study published in College English on how novice readers read and what they need to help them be better readers

Charles Bazerman’s 1985 study published in Written Communication of how expert readers read – “Physicists Reading Physics”, argues for the importance of context in expert reading

October 11, 2013

Bernhardt, Review Essay: Rhetorical Technologies, Technological Rhetorics

Bernhardt, Stephen A. “Review Essay: Rhetorical Technologies, Technological Rhetorics.” College Composition and Communication 64.4 (June 2013): 704-720. Print.

Bernhardt briefly summarizes and reviews five recently-published edited collections and single-authored monographs in the field that explore the recriprocal interaction between rhetoric and technology. Each book he reviews explores how different technologies – both “old world” technologies like the typewriter and new media technologies – have impacted how we understand rhetorical theory, analysis, and practice.

The five books included in the review:

Borrowman, Shane, ed. On the Blunt Edge: Technology in Composition’s History and Pedagogy. Anderson: Parlor P, 2012. Print.

The chapters included in Borrowman’s collection look at a wide range of technologies and their impact on the field and how we understand writing, rhetorical education, and rhetorical identity. Some of the technologies include Athenian graffiti (RIchard Enos), handwriting and penmenship, typewriters, moveable type, audiovisual aids, and codes and hidden messages. Though the collection does not specifically focus on new media technologies, its understanding of how specific technologies impact rhetoric and how we think about and express meaning offer one perspective through which to explore new digital technologies.

Kimme Hea, Amy C., ed. Going Wireless: A Critical Exploration of Wireless and Mobile Technologies for Composition Teachers and Scholars. Cresskill: Hampton P, 2009. Print.

Kimme Hea’s collection explores the impact wireless computing and our constantly connected, multi-tasking lives on our students, classrooms, communities, pedagogies, and understanding of communication, writing and rhetoric.

McCorkle, Ben. Rhetorical Delivery as Technological Discourse: A Cross-Historical Study. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2012. Print.

McCorkle, through a large historical review, argues for a reconsideration of the rhetorical canon of delivery. His chapters look at ancient oratory practice, medieval preaching, the 19th-century elocutionary movement, and then look forward to how new media technologies might change the reciprocal relationship between speech and writing, a central theme of his book. Bernhardt labels his argument as “conservative,” and argues that it lacks some theoretical coherence and overlooks a possible connection to the canons of arrangmeent and memory (711).

Rice, Jeff. Digital Detroit: Rhetoric and Space in the Age of the Network. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2012. Print.

Bernhardt lauds Rice’s cross-disciplinary text that brings together rhetoric and network studies to investigate how we can experience and understand the multiple dimensions of Detroit. Rice relies on association, network, juxtaposition, and contradiction to build and recover narratives that challenge the dominant understanding of Detroit as a place of urban decay and hopelessness.

“Rice’s networking of Detroit purposefully embodies the confusion, indeterminacy, and mixed messages of a heavily trafficked and overloaded web of connections. Detroit is more like the buzzing, blooming confusion of the Web than it is a resolved, understood, and constantly signifying city” (713).

Delagrange, Susan H. Technologies of Wonder: Rhetorical Practice in a Digital World. Logan: Utah State UP, 2011. Web.

Delagrange’s eBook – a free, downloadable PDF file, rich with images, embedded links, and videos, and designed with an Adobe interface – embodies digital technology in its deliver. Her central argument is that the visual and the embodied need to be considered viable alternatives to the printed, written word. She uses an extended metaphor of the Wunderkammer (the wonder cabinet, the cabinet of curiosities). Bernhardt critiques Delagrange’s argument as a little passé, arguing that there already is acceptance of scholarship as visual, embodied, and performative at the academy and within composition and rhetoric (719). He also points out that although her book argues for an alternative to logocentric arguments, her book relies on the verbal, not the visual, to make its claims.

January 7, 2013

Gere, Review Essay: Making Our Brains

Gere, Anne Ruggles. “Review Essay: Making Our Brains.” WPA 36.1 (Fall/Winter 2012): 214-219.

Review of three texts:

Davidson, Cathy N. Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn. New York: Viking, 2011. Print.

Hayles, N. Katherine. How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2012. Print.

Malabou, Catherine. What Should We Do with Our Brain? Trans Sebastian Rand. New York: Fordham UP, 2008. Print.

Gere reviews three recently published books, targeted to both scholarly and popular audiences, that address the relationship between the development and functioning of the brain and emerging digital technologies.  All three texts Gere reviews rest on the assumption that the brain is plastic, not hardwired: that the brain can adapt and transform to meet shifting environmental circumstances, like the widespread adoption and use of digital tools.

Gere argues that WPAs and those in writing studies need to pay attention to this research because emerging cognitive research has implications for teaching, learning, and the assessment of writing (like machine-scored tests.)  She also contends that digital technologies don’t have to have a negative effect on teaching and learning, a claim made by many popular and scholarly texts recently published.  Instead, Gere points out (through the arguments made especially by Davidson) that WPAs and writing teachers can help students manage digital tools positively – that current cognitive research suggests that people can take a proactive, conscious approach in remaking and transforming how they think and process information.

Notable Notes

technogenesis – N. Katherine Hayles – “the idea that humans and machines are co-evolving.” (215) That evolution is happening even more rapidly with digital tools.

building “cognitive reserves” – Cathy N. Davidson – “neural pathways developed by learning” which can be used to build new pathways if the brain is injured (216).

Quotable Quotes

“Most of the books published by the popular press frame the relationship between brain plasticity and digital technologies in negative terms, and together they can serve as a caution against seeing digital technologies as the solution to any number of teaching and learning challenges” (217).

“Plasticity is sometimes erroneously equated with flexibilty, but it is important to maintain a distinctiion between the two because flexibility connotes acquiescence and adaptation while plasticity – in its developmental, modulational, and reparative manifestations – refers to transformative ability. In Malabou’s view, we need to become more self-conscious about our own roles in ‘making’ our brains, and in recognizing their transformative capacities. Sounds like an agenda for WPAs” (218).

August 13, 2012

Dobrin, Ecology and Concepts of Technology

Dobrin, Sidney I. “Ecology and Concepts of Technology.” WPA 35.1 (Fall/Winter 2011): 175-198

This is a review of four recently published books:

Baron, Dennis. A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers, and the Digital Revolution. New York: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.

Blair, Kristine, Radhika Gajjalaand, and Christine Tulley. Webbing Cyberfeminist Practice: Communities, Pedagogies, and Social Action. Cresskill: Hampton Press, 2008. Print.

DeVoss, Dànielle Nicole, Heidi A.McKee, and Richard (Dickie) Selfe, eds. Technological Ecologies and Sustainability. Computers and Composition Digital Press. 2009. http://ccdigitalpress.org/tes/

Selber, Stuart, ed. Rhetorics and Technologies: New Directions in Writing and Communication. Colubmia: U of South Carolina P, 2010. Print.

 

In his WPA book review, Dobrin argues that the conversations in the field about writing (especially digital) technologies need to move past the idea of “writing technology as tool or apparatus” that can either improve or inhibit writing or writing instruction. Instead, Dobrin points to these four recently published books and collections to argue for technology as a concept and a way to do and think about writing, as inseparable from a larger local and global ecology. He emphasizes at several points in his book review that writing has always been and will always be inseparable from technology. He challenges scholars, administrators, and teachers to push the bounds of what they mean by ecology by considering (drawn from the books he reviews) the environmental impact of technology and e-waste, the spaces in which people write their lives outside of the classroom, the global human justice issues of writing and technology, and the gender bias in the computing languages and platforms we use to write.

Notable Notes

4 threads: ecology, cyberfeminism, rhetoric, history

need to understand the constraints and institutional limitations in the ecologies we write and work in

complex ecologies are fluctuating ones

importance of historical context for understanding how a writing ecology works – the technology doesn’t just appear out of a box

Quotable Quotes

“We have to acknowledge that the instituational limits, the environmental oppressions, and the human oppressions are themselves ecologically bound.” (184)

“The study of writing cannot be separated from the study of technology.” (195)

May 28, 2009

Pflugfelder, Review

Pflugfelder, Ehren Helmut. Review. Composition Forum 19 (Spring 2009).

Review of three recent books on plagiarism: Eisner/Vicinus Originality, Imitation, and Plagiarism; Howard/Robillard Pluralizing Plagiarism; March Plagiarism: Alchemy and Remedy.

Pflugfelder announces a subfield of “plagiarism studies” and looks to how three recently published texts in rhetoric and composition are moving beyond blaming and criminalizing the student and looking for “plagiarism-proof assignments” to considering plagiarism’s relationship to writing practices and its economic, cultural, institutional, and ideological frames. There has been a critical shift in how the field sees and defines plagiarism, one that refuses to see incidents as local crimes or mistakes, but instead tries to understand the entire global situation. 

Quotable Quotes

no longer “treating incidents of plagiarism like a crime or a symptom. They discuss it like it is – a constructed authorship practice lamented as a crisis and perpetuated by political, economic, and cultural paradigms.”

“change what defines and produces the problem”

Notable Notes

is it a shift the public will adopt?

postmodern, remix culture

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