Revolution Lullabye

January 31, 2013

Lang and Baehr, Data Mining

Lang, Susan and Craig Baehr. “Data Mining: A Hybrid Methodology for Complex and Dynamic Research.” College Composition and Communication 64.1 (September 2012): 172-194.

Lang and Baehr argue that data mining is a useful research methodology for researchers and administrators in composition and rhetoric because of its inductive nature and its ability to organize and use large sets of data.  Their article defines data mining, explains how current computer technologies make data mining an efficient and useful research tool, describes the process of data mining, gives an example of it in practice (from their work at Texas Tech), and names the limitation of the methodology.  They offer data mining as a tool for researchers to engage in a RAD research agenda, as called for by Richard Haswell and Chris Anson.  They believe that in this age of increased demand for accountability, data mining can help teachers and administrators develop better assessment techniques and argue for their programs.

Notable Notes

data mining allows for categorization, clustering, and the emergence of associations and patterns (178-179).

distinction: data mining is more inductive – the data comes first (not the hypothesis), and the findings emerge (179).

application of data mining to Chris Anson’s taxonomy of six types of research (research categories) (181-184).

example: why do students earn DFW in first-year writing? What are the factors? Data mining study at Texas Tech

limitations: the complexity and scope of the data; longitudinal studies are necessary to increase validity; it cannot completely substitute for other kinds of research methodology; quantitative methods aren’t as accepted in the field (190-191).

data mining process: (185-186)

  1. identify the problem(s)
  2. select raw source of data
  3. decide what measures or criteria to apply to the data
  4. develop a formal procedure (a repeatable process) for sifting through the data
  5. interpret the results

Quotable Quotes

“Data mining is the iterative process of systematically interpreting, organizing, and making meaning from data sources” (191).

“The increasingly accoutnability-focused climate of higher education demands that we at least begin to explore the use of data-mining technologies” (184).

“Data and text mining extend these activities beyond what is possible for us to do as individuals without the assistance of computer technology, as large amounts of numeric or textual data can be examined for various types of relationships, including classes, clusters, associations, and patterns” (178).


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)

February 7, 2009

Jarratt, Feminist Pedagogy

Jarratt, Susan. “Feminist Pedagogy.” 113-131.

Feminist pedagogy in composition is made manifest in several ways and rose out of the 1970s women’s movement (second wave feminism.) Some scholars in composition focus on the differences between men and women writers while others take a broader theoretical approach to feminism, looking at how gender is created and determined within society, through language and discourse, and to whose benefits and ends. Composition as a discipline is also interested in the work of feminism, as the field, populated by many women and heavily involved in both teaching and service, has faced difficulty in the larger, white, male-dominated academy. Feminist pedagogy is a practice, not a subject or content, that believes in decentering classroom authority, recognizing the knowledge of students, emphasizing process over product, viewing society as both sexist and partriarchal, and whose classroom practices include collaborative learning, discussion and talking, and dialogue between the teacher and students. It asks students to pay close attention to their words and style (their effects and meanings) and expands its study beyond gender to ask how race and class and other social differences affect a person’s language.

Quotable Quotes

Feminist pedagogy “is not about forcing all the students to subscribe to a particular political position but rather engaging with students on the terrain of language in the gendered world we all currently inhabit” (118).

Notable Notes

Important Sources for feminism: Betty Friedan; Angela Y Davies, Women, Race, and Class

Historical studies of feminism and women writers: Reclaiming Rhetorica (Lunsford), With Pen and Voice (Logan), Nineteenth-Century Women Learn to Write (Hobbes)

Composition field: Schell, Holbrook/Miller, Phelps/Emig, Fontaine/Hunter

Men teaching feminist pedagogy: Connors, Villanueva, Bleich, Kraemer, Schilb, Tobin

3rd wave feminism: bell hooks (Talking Back), Anzaldua (Borderlands), The Bridge Called Me Back (Morgan/Anzaldua)

Jarratt/Worsham, Feminism and Composition Studies; Culley/Portuges’ Linda Alcoff; Laura Brady; Elizabeth Flynn; Joy Ritchie; Pamela Annas (Style as Politics), Bauer (The Other ‘F’ Word); Faludi

gendered pronouns Spender Man-Made Language good for classroom exercise

student backlash against feminism

January 26, 2009

Bartholomae, “The Study of Error”

Bartholomae, David. “The Study of Error.” In The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 338-352.

Instead of dismissing the writing of basic writers as illogical and/or meaningless, Bartholomae argues for using the linguistic strategy of error analysis (often used by second language learners research) to learn the patterns of langauge use that basic writers rely on to think and compose so that composition teachers can track their progress and know better how to help them with their writing. Error analysis isn’t a perfect fit for composition, however, because it was intended for speaking exercises, and many basic writers’ errors come from the actual physical work of writing, the performance of composition rather than the conceptualization of arguments and ideas. However, the technique, which involves students reading back and consciously correcting their own prose, has three positive outcomes for composition instructors: it can help diagnose the problems a student writer is having, it can teach students a method for reading and self-correcting their errors, and it can help teachers see how their students, over the course of a semester, are growing and developing as academic writers.

Quotable Quotes

“We need to refine our teaching to take into account the high percentage of error in written composition that is rooted in the difficultly of performance rather than in problems of general linguistic competence” (349).

Errors that come from the “physical and conceptual demands of writing” and “the requirements of manipulating the print code” (351).

Errors are “stylistic features, information about this writer and this language” (342).

“When a basic writer violates our expectations, however, there is a tendancy to dismiss the text as non-writing, as meaningless or imperfect writing” (339).

“We have read, rather, as policemen, examiners, gate-keepers” (339)

We need to “treat the language of basic writing as language and assume, as we do when writers violate our expectations in more conventional ways, that the unconventional features in the writing are evidence of intention and that they are, therefore, meaningful, then we can chart systematic choices, individual strategies, and characteristic processes of thought” (340)

Notable Notes

All language use is idiosyncratic. The distance between a text and the accepted convention is just greater with a basic writer.

interlanguage/ intermediate system

have a writer read his own text to see what the maning is.

problem with error analysis: people learn correct written English not just aurally, but also visually. Also, the difficulty of intention: written error analysis asks for interpretation and analysis of the reason behind the error. The analyst has to first interpret the text, not just describe what’s there.

Rose, “Remedial Writing Courses”

Rose, Mike. “Remedial Writing Courses: A Critique and a Proposal.” In The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 353-369.

Mike Rose points out five problems of the typical remedial writing course and suggests how basic writing courses can be changed to better serve the students in them. First, they are self-contained courses, not connected to larger writing contexts students will encounter at the university. Second, they rely on assignments based on simple, unmotivating topics that don’t produce academic prose. Third, they are not grounded in the writing process, rather focusing almost exclusively on error avoidance. Fourth, they do not expand their scope to include reading and thinking heuristics in conjunction with writing assignments. Finally, they stay in the realm of personal writing, never challenging students to write academic prose. Instead of this model of a remedial writing course, teachers need to give students real discourse patterns to write with and in, grounded in meaningful context. Those patterns should be taught as strategies, not structures, and be sequenced to build to more and more complex writing situations and assignments.

Quotable Quotes

We need to start “conceiving of composition as a highly complex thinking/learning/reading/writing skill that demands holistic, not neatly segmented and encapsulated, pedagogies” (362).

“The reflexive, exploratory possibilities of engaging in academic (vs. personal) topics are not exploited, and instruction in more complex patterns of discourse is delayed or soft-pedaled” (362).

“The nature of our programs is nearly synchronized with the narror reality created for them by our institutions” (369).

Notable Notes

reflexive writing tied to Emig

Blog at