Revolution Lullabye

January 25, 2013

Moretti, Graphs, Maps, Trees

Moretti, Franco. Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History. London: Verso, 2005.

Moretti uses three distant reading approaches, borrowed from the social and natural sciences (graphs, maps, trees) as an way to investigate literary history on a large scale.  He argues that the corpus of literature is so large that it is necessary, in order to understand its evolution, to use quantitative approaches, like maps, graphs, and trees, which place emphasis not on individual texts but on larger movements in the field.

His book is divided into three main chapters – Graphs; Maps; Trees.  In each chapter, he demonstrates how the particular distant reading approach helps him see patterns that are not discernable on the level of the individual text.  He is interested in the history of the book, and his work builds off of other literary historians.  He argues that his quantitative approach is a more methodical or “rational” way to approach literary history, and he argues that the forms that emerge in the process illustrate the forces that shape the texts and the field.

Moretti asks how his graphs, trees, and models work as a theories to change how literary scholars think about their work and the distinctions that have been made in the literary corpus – do they still hold true?

Notable Notes

Graphs – looks at the rise and fall of the novel in both Britain and in Japan, Italy, Spain, and Nigeria over 300 years.  The number of books published a year seems to intersect with political and social movements, revolutions and wars

Maps – focuses on the mapping of locations, characters, events, in the five volumes of Mary Mitford’s five volumes Our Village (1824-1832)  The novels map onto concentric circles, but over the course of the five volumes, the activity becomes more and more distant from the village at the center

Trees – draws on Darwin’s evolutionary tree, shows the divergence, emergence, and divergence again of syntax-specific constructions (free indirect style in modern narrative 1800-2000)

Trees have horizontal and vertical movement, space and time

Quotable Quotes

“The models I have presented also share a clear preference for explanation over interpretation; or perhaps, better, for the explanation of general structures over the interpretation of individual texts” (91).

His name for the what his graphs, maps, and trees have in common: “a materialist conception of form” (92)

Maps – they help us understand and see forces that shape texts: “form as a diagram of forces” (64)

“Each pattern is a clue” (57)

“What do literary maps do…First, they are a good way to prepare a text for analysis. You choose a unit – walks, lawsuits, luxury goods, whatever – find its occurrences, place them in space…or in other words: you reduce the text to a few elements, and abstract them from the narrative flow, and construct a new, artificial object like the maps that I have been discussing. And, with a little luck, these maps will be more than the sum of their parts: they will possess ‘emerging’ qualities, which were not visible at the lower level” (53)

“Not that the map is itself an explanation, of course: but at least, it offers a model of the narrative universe which rearranges its components in a non-trivial way, and may bring some hidden patterns to the surface” (54).

“I began this chapter by saying that quantitative data are useful because they are independent of interpretation; then, that they are challenging because they often demand an interpretation that transcends the quantitative realm” (30).

**Important point: quantitative models and research “provides data, not interpretation” (9).

“A field this large cannot be understood by stitching together separate bits of knowledge about individual cases, because it isn’t a sum of individual cases: it’s a collective system, that should be grasped as such, as a whole” (4)

Purpose: “A more rational literary history. That is the idea.” (4) – “a quantitative approach to literature.” – methodical, patterns, groups.

“From texts to models, then; and models drawn from three disciplines with which literary studies have had little or no interaction: graphs from quantitative history, maps from geography, and trees from evolutionary theory” (1-2)

“‘Distant reading,’ I have once called this type of approach; where distance is however not an obstacle, but a specific form of knowledge: fewer elements, hence a sharper sense of their overall interconnection. Shapes, relations, structures. Forms. Models.” (1)

June 19, 2009

Berlin and Vivion, Cultural Studies in the English Classroom

Berlin, James A. and Michael J. Vivion. Cultural Studies in the English Classroom. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1992.

This collection aims to show those in English studies (composition and literature) how the cultural studies movement, begun in England through the Birmingham Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies, has affected the teaching of writing and literature in American college classrooms. The book is divided into two sections. The first discusses cultural studies programs, how cultural studies has affected the large-scale programmatic work of English studies, especially that of composition. The second section explains specific cultural studies courses, pedagogies, and practices that have been developed in English studies. Cultural studies helped drive the “social turn” in composition, and it studies how social practices, imbedded with history, politics, ideology, and culture, have affected the formation of meaning and langauge. Cultural studies affected the study and practice of writing in a number of ways: it is based on a poststructural idea of multiple identities and subjectivities; it positions writing as a negotiation and a culturally-coded act; it treats all acts of language, private and public, as interested and affected by cultures and situations; and it sees writing as a meaning-making act of compliance or resistance to the cultural hegemony, not just as transcribing information or knowledge. Cultural studies, the editors claim, is not a content to teach in English studies but rather a method defined by a diversity of pedagogies and practices, but students and teachers who engage in cultural studies often critique culture and explore how meaning is made, understood, and distributed.

Quotable Quotes

cultural studies is not a content but a method “of making meaning and exploring how meaning is made.” (xiv)

Notable Notes

goal: critical readers and understand notion of subjectivity

Zebroski’s critique of the Syracuse Writing studios that privilege development (of teachers, students, writing ability) without connecting it to larger social and economic forces that drive, shape, or prevent that development. The Syracuse writing curriculum, he contends, forwards individual, a-cultural notions of writing that don’t critique the ends of particular kinds of writing instruction. He warns, though, that cultural studies cannot turn into another way to indoctrinate students, a throwback to the banking model. How students are positioned in the classroom – as producers or recievers of knowledge (93) – is of key importance

See Maxine Hairston’s critique of cultural studies in composition (in Composition in Four Keys)

Delores K. Schriner: explains the Northern Arizona University composition curriculum informed by cultural studies: “one person, many worlds” (98) – can’t simplify experiences into one group; Native American. Challenge of teaching the TAs and instructors how to implement this curriculum and why it’s important

Christine Farris “Giving Religion, Taking Gold” – talks about cultural studies in the context of disciplinary cultures. Too often WAC programs try to colonize other departments by enforcing our ideas of writing and inquiry on them. Need for more discussion, see other classrooms in other disciplines as specific cultural and interpretative communities

Linda Brodkey “Writing about Difference” UT Austin course that got so much flack; using law cases to talk about issues of difference, looking at the rhetoric and argument in these legal decisions

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

January 29, 2009

Newkirk, To Compose

Newkirk, Thomas. To Compose: Teaching Writing in High School and College. 2nd ed. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1990.

This, an expanded edition, contains essays by both compositionists and teacher-practicioners (high school and college) about teaching the writing process. It focuses on seeing students as writers and working as teachers to give them latitude to work as writers do, experimenting with style, finding entry points for starting to write, using journals to practice and learn knowledge, and developing their own critical lens through which they can revisit and revise their own writing.

Here’s an overview of the sections and the notable (to me) essays in each one:

1. Prologue: Arthur Daigon, comparing the writing process to current-traditionalist model of writing instruction (product-based)

2. Getting Started
2 essays about writers and their own individual writing process, emphasizing trusting your own instincts (Stafford and Cormier)
Donald Murray – the forces that help a writer get started: finding more information, caring more about the subject, having a audience waiting, and having a deadline
Sondra Perl – the recursive nature of writing, how writers negotiate through the forces of retrospection and projection, moving by felt-sense between the two

3. Responding
Donald Murray – the teacher’s job is to help students devleop the “other self,” teaching them how to critically analyze and understand their writing from outside themselves. We model this through our own writing and by responding to students in conferences, in class, and in discussions.
Linda Flower – the importance of writer-based prose at the beginning of the writing process, allowing an intimate personal connection to the writing and opportunities for invention and conscious thinking about writing. The shift then must happen to reader-based prose, as writers must concern themselves with how their writing is received and understood by the audience.

4. Writing and Literature – four essays about using writing as a driving force in teaching literature, making the learning of literature not just about reading texts.

5. WAC
Bryant Fillion – Canadian school survey that showed skills like reading and listening are emphasized over productive activities like speaking and writing in classrooms, the need for a shift to using language for productive ends – learning through writing across the curriculum
Toby Fulwiler – how student journals can be used across the curriculum as a commonplace notebook for students to gather and mine ideas for both personal and academic growth.

6. Style and Grammar
Tom Romano – a unit about teaching students to explictily break “Grammar A” (referencing Winston Weathers) rules and encourage the conscious development of style through innovation and experimentation.

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