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)

November 19, 2010

Cushman, Vertical Writing Programs in Departments of Rhetoric and Writing

Cushman, Ellen. “Vertical Writing Programs in Departments of Rhetoric and Writing.” Composition Studies in the New Millennium: Rereading the Past, Rewriting the Future. Ed. Lynn Z. Bloom, Donald A. Daiker, and Edward M. White. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2003. 121-128. Print.

Cushman distinguishes between composition (tied to the history and the problems of the required first-year course) and writing (a broader understanding that suggests the teaching of writing practices and histories and theories inside and outside of the university.) She argues for the field to embrace the term writing and use it to develop vertical curricula which could counteract the troubling labor, identity and institutional problems that seem to plague composition studies. Cushman, following others like Crowley and Porter et al (institutional critique), points out that implementing vertical writing programs is difficult because 1. there aren’t enough PhDs to staff these programs, 2. current faculty in English don’t pull their weight in teaching first-year writing, and 3. the attitude that writing is a contentless course is a difficult prejudice to overcome. Cushman argues that composition and rhetoric scholars, in order to gain the leverage to establish vertical writing curricula, need to “tap into the cachet that writing has in many university administrations” by going outside the English department and even outside the university, partnering with business, government, and community members, who highly value strong writing skills.

Notes and Quotes

“Writing will be taught in the vertical curriculum by fully enfranchised teachers only if our colleagues in literature understand and appreciate that writing, a practice, is also a knowledge base. A social capital. A profession.” (123).

vertical writing curricula won’t solve the labor issue.

Cushman is arguing for “vertical writing programs to be taugth in writing departments by fully enfranchised writing professors. We can no longer trust literature professors to do the right thing when deciding where composition will be taught and who will teach it” (125).

She’s at Colorado University, Denver

November 18, 2010

Parker, Where Do English Departments Come From

Parker, William Riley. “Where Do English Departments Come From?” College English 28 (1967): 339-351. Print.

Modern English departments are a phenomenon of the 20th century, born out of 19th century studies in oratory, rhetoric, and philology. Although the practice of literary criticism and research is old (16th, 17th, 18th examples are given by Parker), the job of teaching English literature at American colleges and universities is relatively new. He argues that the relationship between rhetoric/composition and literature is really historically accidental, literature emerging as a university discipline at the same time college attendance was growing in the late 19th century, developing a need for a universal composition requirement. English, Parker contends, has always been a “catchall,” and there is no logical reason why literary critics are more able than others to teach freshman composition. Parker argues that it was the association of rhetoric with 19th century elocation that led to the university’s abandonment of rhetoric, the ancient foundation of a liberal arts education. Parker warns English departments to reassess how they define their discipline and argue for the reintegration of rhetoric, speech communication, and linguistics as valued and necessary members of English departments.

Notes and Quotes

“To live intellectually in one’s own time is as provincial and misleading as to live intellectually only in one’s own culture” (339).

political upheaval in 18th, 19th century made rhetoric again a civic oratory art (public speakers, public debate,s, debating societies, amateur and informal attention to rhetoric); Boylston Professorship at Harvard in 1806, first held by John Quincy Adams

English departments are a paradox: the utilitarian composition (based on a pragmatic philosophy) and the specialized teaching of literature (based on the German research model).

argues that just because literature is in place doesn’t mean rhetoric should disappear (347)

“Thanks first to its academic origins, and then to the spirit of competition and aggressiveness engendered by departmentalization, “English” has never really defined itself as a discipline.” (348).

“I care a lot about liberal education, and I care a lot about the study of literature in English, but it seems to me that English departments have cared much less about liberal education and their own integrity than they have about their administrative power and prosperity” (350).

November 16, 2010

Hairston, Breaking Our Bonds and Reaffirming Our Connections

Hairston, Maxine. “Breaking Our Bonds and Reaffirming Our Connections.” College Composition and Communication 36 (1985): 272-82. Print.

Hairston notes, in this, her 1985 CCCC Chair’s Address, how far the field of rhetoric and composition has come in terms of graduate programs, membership and attendance at CCCC, and disciplinary journals. She argues that it might be time for the field to break ties intellectually, psychologically, and, if necessary, physically, from English departments dominated by literature. She points out that often it is those in composition who are reaching out to bridge the gap between literature and composition studies and that it would be better for the field to stop trying to gain acceptance from a field that seems to undervalue the teaching and research of writing. Composition and literature have different value systems: literature largely Platonic; composition Aristotelian. She argues that the field must prioritize research and the publication of research, make connections to other fields outside of literature, and make connections to businesses and organizations in the community.

Notes and Quotes

“I think that as rhetoricians and writing teachers we will come of age and become autonomous professionals with a discipline of our own only if we can make a psychological break with the literary critics who today dominate the profession of English studies. Until we move out from behind their shadows and no longer accept their definition of what our profession should be, we are not going to have full confidence in our own mission and our own professionalism.” (274)

“In many institutions, it’s clear that a majority of the English department
faculty do not share our conviction that English departments have an obligation
to teach people to write. If students do not already know how to write
when they get to college, they hold, that is somebody else’s fault and we
shouldn’t have to deal with it. It’s much easier to invoke the magic phrase
“rigorous standards” and proclaim that since students should have learned to
write in high school, freshman English is a remedial course that we shouldn’t
have to teach.” (277)

We must listen to our different drummer and pay attention. For we are different. As writing teachers we are engaged in a dynamic and loosely-structured activity that involves intensive interaction with people. It is an activity that is tied to living language, that shifting and ambiguous medi-um that won’t stand still to be examined and is never pure, and it is an activity that focuses on teaching a process for which there are no fixed rules and no predictably precise outcomes. We are engaged in a messy business, and necessarily so. And it’s one that is essentially Aristotelian – pragmatic, concrete, situational, and personal” (278-279).

Chapman, Harris, and Hult, Agents for Change

Chapman, David, Jeanette Harris, and Christine Hult. “Agents for Change: Undergraduate Writing Programs in Departments of English.” Rhetoric Review 13.2 (Spring 1995): 421-34. Print.

The authors, who conducted a survey of English major programs (316 schools responded), found that there were an increase in the number of undergraduate major programs that offered a concentration or emphasis in some sort of writing (linguistics, creative writing, rhet/comp.) Their 1992 survey came five years after a smaller but similar survey conducted by Donald Stewart in 1987. They argue that this increase in course offerings in writing and rhet/comp puts pressure on the traditional, humanities-based literature curriculum that pervades English departments and ask whether or not this emergence of rhetoric and composition will result in either separation from English departments (like communication, English ed, theater) or a shift in the culture of English departments (to value more productive-based knowledge and learning.) They argue that undergraduate majors with more balanced offerings in literature and writing will better prepare students for future careers and offer alternative ways to learn and teach students critical analysis and thinking skills.

Notes and Quotes

“The challenge we face is not simply to replace the old hegemony of literature with a new hegemony of composition but to construct a new English department where reading and writing are mutually valued and mutually supportive activities. The achievement of this beatific vision may seem impossibly remote in some departments, but, on the whole, our survey showed movement toward a more balanced department that should ultimately best serve the needs of both students and faculty.” (429).

February 3, 2009

O’Neill, Crow, Burton, A Field of Dreams

O’Neill, Peggy, Angela Crow, and Larry W. Burton, eds. A Field of Dreams: Independent Writing Programs and the Future of Composition Studies. Logan, Utah: Utah State UP, 2002.

Royer, Daniel J. and Roger Gilles. “The Origins of a Department of Academic, Creative, and Professional Writing.”

This chapter explains the history of the gradual separation of writing and composition duties from the rest of an English department faculty and the subsequent creation of an independent department in academic, creative, and professional writing at Grand Valley State University. Over the course a of decade in the 1990s, the English department hired eight new tenure-track faculty in rhet/comp (in a large department of 40 full-time faculty), and with this cohort of writing specialists, teamed with part-time instructors and full-time, post-doc composition fellows, the literature faculty gradually opted out of teaching the required composition courses. When the administration discovered this imbalance, they told the English chair that until more faculty taught composition, there would be no new hires, as it was clear by their attitude that composition was low on the department’s hierarchy. The faculty then were faced with three choices: give up teaching elective speciality courses so everyone could teach a section of composition, hire new comp/rhet faculty into the department to teach it, or reduce the number of sections by allowing some students to opt out of the course. The faculty, realizing that none of these solutions was desirable, agreed to allow academic, creative, and professional writing become its own department, one completely focused on the discipline of writing studies, able to branch out and make partnerships across campus without having to be moderated by a large English department that wasn’t interested in rhetoric and composition as a legitimate field of study.

Quotable Quotes

“Indeed, separate from English, writing can finally begin to see itself once again within the context of the liberal arts more generally – rather than as a ‘basic skill’ relegated to preliberal education. It can now exist alongside other parts of the liberal-arts whole, rather than beneath them, servicing them, holding them up.” (36).

Notable Notes

A rhet/comp PhD is trained to teach more than first-year composition; advertising for a job that only teaches first-year (because the rest of the faculty don’t want to teach it) isn’t going to attract quality candidates.

Developing the culture of the program – valuing writing as the central organizing concept – is essential for new departments

confidence for making an independent department worked came from developing a successful university-wide writing program and writing assessment/evaluation system.

Agnew, Eleanor and Phyllis Surrency Dallas. “Internal Friction in a New Independent Department of Writing and What the External Conflict Resolution Consultants Recommended.” 38-49.

This chapter shows the problems of a top-down administrative decision to create an independent writing and linguistics department at Georgia Southern University in 1997. The administration decided that the large, 75-faculty member department of English and Philosophy needed restructuring, and the faculty submitted three models for consideration: stay a single department with three program directors (writing, literature, graduate studies); become two separate departments (philosophy and literature, writing and linguistics); become two separate departments under a new school. The administration picked the second model, thus divorcing the faculty from each other and withholding any collaboration and collection that would have come from being part of the same school. The faculty were not consulted about what department they would be placed in, so the department of writing and linguistics inherited several literature instructors with their MAs along with new rhet/comp hires. The diversity of viewpoints about pedagogy, content, research expectations, compounded by different salaries and degrees (PhDs and MAs) created a department rife with internal conflict. An external conflict resolution team came in and suggested structural changes, such as developing two associate chair positions, and joint projects, like the National Writing Project and a new BA in writing and linguistics have united the department somewhat since.

Quotable Quotes

“The faculty in our department were polarized based largely on degree and background – Ph.D’s versus master’s, composition-rhetoric background versus literature background, new hires versus veterans. But we wonder if it is possible that the fighting and one-upping were exacerbated because of the low status, low salaries, and perception as a service department, which both groups have in the whole academic system” (47).

Notable Notes

Warning – don’t go with restructuring just because administration pushes for it. Faculty need to be on board and know what is happening, understand the identities and cultures being made and reinforced.

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.

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.

January 26, 2009

Carpini, “Re-Writing the Humanities”

Carpini, Dominic Delli. “Re-Writing the Humanities: The Writing Major’s Effect upon Undergraduate Studies in English Departments.” Composition Studies 35:1 (Spring 2007) 15-36.

Beginning with a classification of the three main types of undergraduate writing majors – professional, liberal arts, and hybrid – Carpini shows how one writing major, the Professional Writing Major at York College of Pennsylvania, has redefined what writing studies means to students and to the discipline. The major has returned rhetoric to the humanities, informing students’ work in literary studies and philosophy by increasing the topics and discussions they can draw on and write about and making them more careful readers and writers. It also has revitalized and added a new area of inquiry to those students in pre-professional tracks, like English education. This was in the special edition of Composition Studies about the writing major, and Carpini includes several institutions’ own writing major descriptions.

Quotable Quotes

“the potential that writing majors have to influence the disciplines with which we share institutional homes and to introduce undergraduate students to areas of research that, until recently, were reserved for graduate studies” (15)

the writing major is on “a continuum moving from praxis to gnosis.” (16)

Notable Notes

English secondary teachers learning tutoring in the writing center

abolition and Crowley arguments cited

extensive (15 or so) descriptions of writing majors from the college or university’s catalogues

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