Revolution Lullabye

December 16, 2010

Schell, Gypsy Academics and Mother-Teachers

Schell, Eileen E. Gypsy Academics and Mother-Teachers: Gender, Contingent Labor, and Writing Instruction. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1998.

Schell argues that there is a deliberate connection between the low status of women in the academy and in the workforce in general, the devaluing of the teaching of writing, and the part-time contingent status of those who teach college composition (who are overwhelmingly female.) She draws on feminist methodology and uses interviews, surveys, published narratives, and studies to try to represent the many perspectives of women who hold contingent faculty positions, to explain the social phenomenon of why so many women get tracked into contingent faculty positions, and to argue for collective feminist change, one that is grounded into modern economic, political, and historical realities. Schell argues that the thrust of change, which has been led and conducted in a “pragmatic professional context” through national organizations like AAUP, CCCC, and MLA, needs to be transformed to a strategy that specifically addresses the needs of women teaching in contingent faculty positions (81-82). In her final chapter, she identifies, through her research in the field’s literature and through her surveys, four of the popular solutions to the contingent labor problem and then explores their benefits and consequences: 1. the conversionist solution (converting part-time to full-time tenure-line positions); 2. the reformist solution (reforming the working conditions of non-tenure-line faculty); 3. the unionist/collectivist solution (organizing unions and building coalitions through professional organizations); and 4. the abolitionist solution (getting rid of the first-year course, which relies on exploitive contingent labor. Schell contends that change will only come from a deeper understanding of the forces that affect higher education – that the solutions batted about by those in the field and others outside will not work if the field’s higher education illiteracy – a responsibility to be aware academic citizens, literate in discourse and practices of higher education administration – is not addressed.

Notes and Quotes

teaching was one of the first acceptable professions for women – 19th century

naming: “Composition instructors are often described in gendered terms as handmaids, wives, mothers, and midwives, thus making women’s work as composition teachers a biological and social extension of unpaid, undervalued domestic labor” (62).

culled from her interviews of part-time instructors themes that many implied or talked about in reference to their contingent labor positions, teaching writing, and being a woman in a male-centered university system.

1995 Feminist Workshop at CCCC: “Women in the Academy: Can a Feminist Agenda Transform the Illusion of Equity into Reality” – to investigate the unique challenges of women juggling their professional and personal lives (82).

Other CCCC organizations that attended to women’s working lives and conditions: The Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession (1997) and the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition (1990, a caucus): goals to network, encourage mentorship, research the professional status of women in the field. (83-84)

Draws on Hansen’s “Face to Face with Part-Timers” to again argue that one way that WPAs can work towards improving the professional status and working conditions of women part-timers is by offering professional development and encouraging these part-timers to pursue professional and research opportunities (87)

need to challege, redefine the motherly caretaker teacher role that puts women at a professional disadvantage in the academy

“imperfect solutions to imperfect problems”: Schell’s subtitle to Chapter 5 (90).

“Fundamentally, though, a lack of knowledge of current labor trends and higher education management and economic policies is a form of crippling illiteracy” (119).


December 1, 2010

Forum: Newsletter of the Non-Tenure-Track Special Interest Group, 1999

Forum: Newsletter of the Non-Tenure-Track Special Interest Group 03.1. Insert in College Composition and Communication 50.1 (1999): Print.  

Forum  publishes articles, essays, and reflections written by non-tenure-track faculty members and pieces written in support of improving the working conditions of these contingent faculty. There is a focus on organizing, unionizing, and collective bargaining.

This edition of Forum commented on the activities surrounding the Non-Tenure-Track SIG at CCCC in Atlanta (March 1999), which was one of the most well-attended NTT SIGs. After the SIG meeting, Eileen Schell (co-chair of the Task Force on Improving the Working Conditions of Part-time/Adjunct Faculty) helped lead a rally focused on NTT faculty with invited speakers like Ira Shor, Karen Thompson, Leo Parascondola, and Steve Robinson. Forum and the NTT SIG and the Task Force are all working on a Press Kit for contingent faculty groups to gather support across their campuses and communities.

Bobbi Kirby-Werner is still the editor of Forum

Teresa M. Purvis, “Creating Equity for Non-Tenure-Track Faculty: Whose Responsibility Is It Anyway?” – Purvis is a past editor of Forum and past chair of the Part-Time Faculty Forum at CCCC.
NTT faculty cannot rely on the actions of large professional organizations to improve their lot (MLA, CCCC): “The solution, if any is to be found, must originate with the institutions themselves and with the individuals who accept non-tenure-track appointments, whether full- or part-time” (A3). Discusses responsibility on the part of professional organizations, colleges and institutions (to their students), department and program administrators, full-time tenure-track faculty, and NTT faculty themselves.

Mike Evces, “Review of Gypsy Academics and Mother-Teachers: Gender, Contingent Labor, and Writing Instruction by Eileen Schell”
Schell’s book argues that labor issues in teaching and administering composition (contingent labor) need to be taken up more widely and seriously by the field because to not do so is to be illiterate about higher education’s professional and institutional world. We, as a discipline, understand the importance of teaching our students to be literate in multiple ways – we, too, need to be literate about the constraints and structures of our own working environments. Schell’s book also shows how composition is a field that exploits women and looks at the shortcomings of feminist theory and pedagogy in composition. She argues for the adoption of collectivism, unionization as social feminist principles and gives concrete ideas for change: full-time positions, professionalizing working conditions, organizing unions, and restructuring the first-year composition requirement.

Patrick Kavanagh, “Creating a More Perfect Union: Cultivating Academic Citizenship in the Face of Higher Education Restructuring.”
The move to a corporate university involves restructuring the university to both improve productivity and cut costs. This has led to, in part, a move to rely more on part-time labor and graduate students to teach undergraduate students. Kavanagh argues that the best way to correct some of the workplace problems in the corporate university is collective bargaining. Shows that the problem is beyond composition – calls for an effort for writing teachers to join the ranks of other non-tenure-track faculty across the university through organizations like AAUP.

Thomas J. Ernster, “Restoring the Spirit in Academe.”
Ernster argues that the only way to start solving the labor problem in the academy (and in composition) is for tenured and tenure-track faculty and NTT faculty to join ranks as “co-participants.” The rise in PhDs in rhetoric and composition has squeezed out jobs for those with MAs.

November 16, 2010

Howard, Power Revisited

Howard, Rebecca Moore. “Power Revisited; Or, How We Became a Department.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 16.3 (Spring 1993): 37-49. Print.

Howard explains that to create change at an institution, the agent of change must have power, and those who want change must propose the change as if they were equals to those they are proposing to (even if they are not equals.) She positions her non-adversarial approach to gaining power opposite Ed White’s more miltaristic view (in “Use It or Lose It”), characterizing the Colgate University Department of Interdisciplinary Writing as one that runs and teaches through collective, democratic power. She argues that this approach is a way for composition as a field to gain institutionally-changing power. She offers other WPAs advice for creating and cultivating power for their writing programs and departments based on her experience of creating the stand-alone department of writing at Colgate through the mid-1980s to early 1990s.

Notes and Quotes

Advice: 1. don’t rely only on written communications: talk to people face-to-face. 2. always write up and send follow-ups after meetings 3. write down what you do each day as an administratror 4. know that you must “hound” people (nicely) to do tasks for you 5. make sure your program is known for its scholarly work as well as its adminsitartive work on campus 6. get an external review of your program done

opportunism = method; collectivism = mode (46)

building political capital for things you want by doing things for others

everything is done by a vote, together, collaborative development and administration even in the midst of a hierarchal university structure.

department is made entirely of women.

March 10, 2009

Latour, Reassembling the Social

Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005.

Latour, a French sociologist, gives in Reassembling the Social a guidebook for actor-network-theory (abbreviated ANT), a way of approaching sociology that is markedly different than most “science of the social” sociology studies, including critical sociology. ANT looks at the “tracing of associations” and has three moves that must be done in succession: first, deploying contraversies about the social work; second, rendering associations traceable again; and third, reassembling the social. This way of approaching sociology ends with society instead of beginning with it, seeing the collective built from networks of associations, associations and ties that can only be traced if they are dynamic and have movement. In this way, there is no such thing as a monolith, invisible force in society that makes people (or actors) act in a certain way – if it is invisible, it can’t be traced, and it can’t be studied. Rather, Latour argues that the sociology that can change the politics in society is a sociology that is grounded in the shifting sands of relativism and uncertainty, that sees actors as mediators of change, that goes slow and keeps flat the connections between actors and sites. It’s a move from the global to the local, and he uses metaphors from cartography to explain how he is trying to keep the social flat – in 2-D – so that the traces can be easily seen, traces that would be lost in 3-D. The implications of Latour’s explanation of actor-network-theory is that he argues that there is no such thing as a stable society: societies, collectives, are fluid, constantly being arranged and re-arranged, and any study that tries to look at society (using “social” as a all-encompassing modifier) is missing the point; disciplines must become sensitive to the very dynamic, complex nature of the collectives, socieites, and systems they are studying.

Quotable Quotes

“redefining sociology not as the ‘science of the social’, but as the tracing of associations. In this menaing of the adjective, social does not designate a thing among other things, like a black sheep among other white sheep, but a type of connnection between things that are not themselves social” (5)

“the work of connection and collection” – what reassembling the social is (8)

“The laws of the social world may exist, but they occupy a very different position from what the tradition had first thought. They are not behind the scene, above our heads and before the action, but after the action, below the participants and smack in the foreground. They don’t cover, nor encompass, nor gather, nor explain; they circulate, they format, they standardize, they coordinate, they have to be explained. There is no society, or rather, society is not the name of the whole terrain….For sociology the era of exploration may start again, provided we keep reminding ourselves of this motto: don’t fill in the blanks.” (246)

“The social is but a moment in the long history of assemblages, suspended between the search for the body politic and the exploration of the collective” (247)

“At every corner, science, religion, politics, law, economics, organizations, etc, offer phenomena that we have to find puzzling again if we want to understand the types of entities collectives may be composed of in the future.” (248)

Notable Notes

the move of the modern is creating two binaries that can’t be reconciled, they are two camps that must be distinct. (10) This moderninst construction makes postmodern hybrids, which deny that purification move to separate what is human and what is natural (10-11) People want to try to avoid the messy hybrids and do so by creating these binaries.

move to description – it is enough (time-consuming if you do a good job, difficult and complex) to describe what you see. There’s too often a push to jump to evaluations, conclusions, as if the people or systems you are studying weren’t critical or self-reflexive before you came on the scene (from the conversation between the professor (Latour) and the PhD student) 141-156

everything that acts leaves a trace – follow the traces

Gabriel Tarde – the social is a “circulating fluid,” “not a specific type of organism” (13)

five contraversies – the nature of 1. groups, 2. actions, 3. objects, 4. facts, and 5. the type of studies done under the label of sociology

contradictorary group enrollment – look at hte forming and unravelling of groups – social groups are performative definitions (34)

actors are not passive intermediatories, the are their own mediators (153)

three moves of the second part – regender associations traceable again: 1. localizing the global 2. redistrubiting the local 3. connecting sites

third move of political epistemology

February 3, 2009

McComiskey, English Studies

McComiskey, Bruce. English Studies: An Introduction to the Discipline(s). Urbana, Illinois: NCTE, 2006. 12-53.

Through an overview of the history of English studies and its increasing specialization, McComiskey argues against the decisiveness that specialization creates and puts forth a new model, integration, that will transform all the disciplines housed within English studies (rhet/comp, linguistics, English education, literacy criticism, critical theory, and creative writing) through the development of large, common goals created through both identification (Burke) and articulation (Stuart Hall.) He cites four major problems with splintered, specialized English departments: 1. they do not appear coherent to administrators or to students 2. the marginalized disciplines (non-literature) are gaining more attention and financial resources, causing more strife 3. the scholarship that emerges from specialization only speaks to itself, giving up on any attempt to make cross-disciplinary connections and create interdisciplinary methodologies and 4. the faculty pour their energy into upper-division speciality electives, depriving the lower-division courses of resources and relegating them to service status. McComiskey draws on Stephen North’s assessment of the discipline of English and points out the problems with his three proposed solutions (secession, corporate compromise (organize under a new term, like cultural studies or literacy), or fusion (intergrate all disciplines into one major and in all courses.)) McComiskey’s solution, integration, is to reorganize English studies as the discipline that studies the analysis, critique, and production of discourse. His book (this is the introduction to it) features six chapters, each about one of the disciplines housed within English studies: linguistics, rhetoric and composition, English education, creative writing, literature and literacy criticism, and cultural studies and critical theory. His goals are to educate scholars on the other fields so that they might come to identify (Burkean term) with their fellow faculty members in order to collaborate on productive, functional projects and build true relationships by working on common problems, showing that English is a useful, important discipline in society.

Quotable Quotes

“English studies can move from being a set of unrelated subdisciplines to a powerful collection of integrated (structurally separate but fundamentally interrelated) disciplines with a coherent and collective goal that does not compromise each discipline’s unique integrity. I propose that the goal of this integrated English studies should be the analysis, the critique, and the production of discourse in social context” (43).

New attitude: “English is useful.” (49)

“The history of English is the history of academic specialization” (26).

“For with radical specialization, as English studies has experienced in the last half century, we are no longer able to represent ourselves to university administrators as having coherent goals (other than the material fact that we work side by side)” (30).

Notable Notes

reimagine ourselves as a larger community of English studies – use Burke

great overview and history of the specialization and splintering of English studies from mid-1900s onward.

Cold War grants skipped over the humanities, led to the decrease in importance of humanities. English was “saved” by the service, practical discipline of rhet/comp.

New generation of rhet/comp scholars in 1960s and 1970s embraced composition and made it their object of critical study and rhetoric the foundation.

Dewey calling for the dissolution of knowledge and praxis in The Educational Situation (1901)

Secession leads to small, competing departments that are scruntinized by administration and more likely to be cut in budgets.

Those departments that already had secession happen must reintegrate into one large department.

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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