Revolution Lullabye

August 20, 2012

Micciche, For Slow Agency

Micciche, Laura R. “For Slow Agency.” WPA 35.1 (Fall/Winter 2011): 73-90.

Micciche argues “for slow agency” for writing program administrators. She notes that in WPA scholarship and conversations, the emphasis is often on “big agency” activities: creating programs, drafting and implementing assessments and curricula, managing the hiring and training processes of new teachers. These “big agency” activities take a lot of effort and a lot of time, and the pace is often frenzied.  Micciche draws on the principle of hypermiling to suggest that the pace of WPA work could be slowed down without sacrificing the eventual attainment of goals. She argues that reaching for collaborative action, which takes more time but involves more stakeholders in decisions, is a more sustainable and healthy approach to administrative work.

Micciche uses several examples from her own WPA work (crafting a new curriculum, implementing a new placement procedure for first-year writing) to show how slowing down and allowing space for reflection and discussion works better than fast, top-down administrative decisions. Micciche suggests that WPAs who employ slow agency do so by splitting large projects into mutliple phases and publically documenting the progress of each stage to higher administration, which adds to an environment of transparency. Micciche contends that by slowing down, by changing the pace, resources – especially human resources – are preserved and protected, one of the primary jobs of a writing program administrator.

Notable Notes

WPAs are evaluated on measurable progress – leads to burnout sometimes

discussion of Jim Berlin’s doorstop – the artifacts that surround us and how they embody our program’s history and philosophies

productive stillness = reflection, thinking, collaboration, discussion

don’t abuse your resources

how is the teacher evaluation committee not a progress narrative?

this idea that we must do the impossible easily and quickly

we are in a network of relationships when we do WPA work; there is no straight linear path to race in order to get where you need to be.

economics of speed/fast capitalism, speed as a commodity

suspended agency = practicing vulnerability (80)

organizational time is slow – remember that and use that. In the business world, managers break projects into phases

Quotable Quotes

“I contend here that agency can be figured in myriad ways, including the counter-intuitive view of agency as action deferred. Deferral is not necessarily a sign of powerlessness, inactivity, or dereliction of duty. On the contrary, it creates much-needed space for becoming still and getting places, allowing for regnerative returns” (74).

“Among other effects, this scholarship provides us with (sometimes uneven) progress narratives that situate our everyday actions, in all of their incomplete, compromised, and ambivalent glory, within broad historical context, suggesting that the long haul provides hope for the sustainability of WPA work.” (77) – about WPA narratives

“Indeed, ever-depleting resources of all kinds – physical spaces, support services, teachers, good health, funding, patience – are heavy on one’s mind when directing a writing program” (78) – need for pacing and preservation of resources

“hypermiling does not compromise one’s ability to get anywhere; it merely slows the pace of arrival. This slight shift in priorities – from fast to gradual arrival…” (78)

“The speed of getting things done, along with the enormity of tasks involved, creates ideologies and practices that disrespect and dehumanize programs and people.” (79)

“This view of administration permits us to depict writing programs as a swirl of actors, things, structures, economics, and forms of matter always interacting to create effects.” (80) – “recognizing relationality as central to endurance, resourcefulness, and sustainability.” (80-81)

“But we should empower ourselves to slow down sometimes, grant ourselves enough agency to defer action in cases for which we need to be in the moment rather than racing against moments or believing that every request or problem requires an immediate response.” (87).

May 23, 2011

Micciche, Making a Case for Rhetorical Grammar

Micciche,  Laura. “Making a Case for Rhetorical Grammar.” CCC 55.4 (June 2004): 716-737.

Micciche argues that teaching grammar rhetorically prepares students to be effective rhetoricians and communicators, and that explicitly teaching students how language functions and constructs realities is in lines with the goals of liberating education. Micciche breaks down the binary between formal, overt grammatical instruction and inventive thinking and composing, arguing that grammar should not be a consideration for the final draft but one that spurs thinking and writing. Rhetorical grammar leads to questioning relationships between people and ideas and the cultural and ideological foundations upon which knowledge is made.

Micciche used Kolln’s Rhetorical Grammar and Crowley’s Ancient Rhetoric for Contemporary Students as anchor texts to teach her students rhetorical grammar.

Notes and Quotes

Rhetorical grammar underscores the purposeful use of language – that people’s grammatical choices do make a difference.

A closeness to language

“The chief reason for teaching rhetorical grammar in writing classes is that doing so is central to teaching thinking. The ability to develop sentences and form paragraphs that serve a particular purpose requires a conceptual ability to envision relationships between ideas. Such relationships involve processes of identification with an imagined or real reader and reflection on the way our language invites and/or alienates readers. The grammatical choices we make, including pronoun use, active or passive verb constructions, and sentence patterns- represent relations between writers and the world they live in. Word choice and sentence structure are an expression of the way we attend to the words of others, the way we position ourselves in relation to others. In this sense, writing involves cognitive skills at the level of idea development and at the sentence level. How we put our ideas into words and comprehensible forms is a dynamic process rather than one with clear boundaries between what we say and how we say it.” (719)

“When we broaden the goals of rhetorical grammar, it’s possible to see how the intimate study of language it encourages has enormous potential for studying language as central to constructions of identity and culture.” (721)

Sentence-level choices give clues to an author’s ideas about power, identity, culture

Pedagogy, commonplace books: “My course is based on the assumption that learning how to use grammar to best effect requires lots of practice and a good deal of exposure to varied writing styles. To this end, students maintain a commonplace book throughout the semester in which they imitate and record passages of their own choosing.” (723-724) Gives students the opportunity to reflect on the relationship between how something is said and what is said and also gives them the chance to practice identifying and using grammatical terms and structures. – gives students a framework and vocabulary

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