Revolution Lullabye

October 11, 2013

Bernhardt, Review Essay: Rhetorical Technologies, Technological Rhetorics

Bernhardt, Stephen A. “Review Essay: Rhetorical Technologies, Technological Rhetorics.” College Composition and Communication 64.4 (June 2013): 704-720. Print.

Bernhardt briefly summarizes and reviews five recently-published edited collections and single-authored monographs in the field that explore the recriprocal interaction between rhetoric and technology. Each book he reviews explores how different technologies – both “old world” technologies like the typewriter and new media technologies – have impacted how we understand rhetorical theory, analysis, and practice.

The five books included in the review:

Borrowman, Shane, ed. On the Blunt Edge: Technology in Composition’s History and Pedagogy. Anderson: Parlor P, 2012. Print.

The chapters included in Borrowman’s collection look at a wide range of technologies and their impact on the field and how we understand writing, rhetorical education, and rhetorical identity. Some of the technologies include Athenian graffiti (RIchard Enos), handwriting and penmenship, typewriters, moveable type, audiovisual aids, and codes and hidden messages. Though the collection does not specifically focus on new media technologies, its understanding of how specific technologies impact rhetoric and how we think about and express meaning offer one perspective through which to explore new digital technologies.

Kimme Hea, Amy C., ed. Going Wireless: A Critical Exploration of Wireless and Mobile Technologies for Composition Teachers and Scholars. Cresskill: Hampton P, 2009. Print.

Kimme Hea’s collection explores the impact wireless computing and our constantly connected, multi-tasking lives on our students, classrooms, communities, pedagogies, and understanding of communication, writing and rhetoric.

McCorkle, Ben. Rhetorical Delivery as Technological Discourse: A Cross-Historical Study. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2012. Print.

McCorkle, through a large historical review, argues for a reconsideration of the rhetorical canon of delivery. His chapters look at ancient oratory practice, medieval preaching, the 19th-century elocutionary movement, and then look forward to how new media technologies might change the reciprocal relationship between speech and writing, a central theme of his book. Bernhardt labels his argument as “conservative,” and argues that it lacks some theoretical coherence and overlooks a possible connection to the canons of arrangmeent and memory (711).

Rice, Jeff. Digital Detroit: Rhetoric and Space in the Age of the Network. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2012. Print.

Bernhardt lauds Rice’s cross-disciplinary text that brings together rhetoric and network studies to investigate how we can experience and understand the multiple dimensions of Detroit. Rice relies on association, network, juxtaposition, and contradiction to build and recover narratives that challenge the dominant understanding of Detroit as a place of urban decay and hopelessness.

“Rice’s networking of Detroit purposefully embodies the confusion, indeterminacy, and mixed messages of a heavily trafficked and overloaded web of connections. Detroit is more like the buzzing, blooming confusion of the Web than it is a resolved, understood, and constantly signifying city” (713).

Delagrange, Susan H. Technologies of Wonder: Rhetorical Practice in a Digital World. Logan: Utah State UP, 2011. Web.

Delagrange’s eBook – a free, downloadable PDF file, rich with images, embedded links, and videos, and designed with an Adobe interface – embodies digital technology in its deliver. Her central argument is that the visual and the embodied need to be considered viable alternatives to the printed, written word. She uses an extended metaphor of the Wunderkammer (the wonder cabinet, the cabinet of curiosities). Bernhardt critiques Delagrange’s argument as a little passé, arguing that there already is acceptance of scholarship as visual, embodied, and performative at the academy and within composition and rhetoric (719). He also points out that although her book argues for an alternative to logocentric arguments, her book relies on the verbal, not the visual, to make its claims.

December 31, 2010

Phelps, Telling a Writing Program Its Own Story

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Telling the Writing Program Its Own Story: A Tenth-Anniversary Speech.” The Writing Program Administrator as Researcher: Inquiry in Action and Reflection. Eds. Rose and Weiser. Boynton/Cook Heinemann, 1999. 168-84.

Phelps uses the metaphor of a “Great Group” to explain the heady, exciting first years of the Syracuse Writing Program. It wasn’t exactly a “Great Group” – Great Groups are usually elite, young, and self-selected, and at the Writing Program, the independent writing program grew from a very heterogeneous faculty and staff, diverse in age, experience, and in degree. Phelps explains that the Writing Program had a tension-filled dynamic, a thrilling roller-coaster ride oscillating between order and chaos. Phelps argues that this dynamic is central to the development of any complex system or organization. Phelps also describes the storytelling role of leaders, explaining why it is crucial for WPAs to use rhetoric through speech and through writing to communicate to their program and to the university at large.

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).

February 22, 2009

Phelps, Telling a Writing Program Its Own Story

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Telling a Writing Program Its Own Story: A Tenth Anniversary  Speech.” In The Writing Program Administrator as Researcher: Inquiry into Action and Reflection. Eds. Shirley K. Rose and Irwin Weiser. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook Heinemann, 1998.

 

This version that I am reading and taking notes on is the uncut version. The  speech was significantly cut in the collection.

 

This article combines the tenth anniversary speech Phelps gives to the Syracuse University Writing Program in 1997 with her analysis and reflection on speech as a form  of administrative rhetoric and highlights the intellectual work of both administration and leadership. The speech is divided into three sections – narrative, analysis, and reflection – which are based on the common moves taught in the Syracuse writing studios. Phelps shows how the Writing Program, founded in 1986, can be described as a sort of “Great Group,” who risked chaos in a outpouring of inventiveness and creativity in the early  years of the program. This complex open system became self-organizing, subcritical, and more orderly as the Program reached relatively high “fitness peaks.” However, in order to remain responsive and relevant to changing context, Phelps argues that the Program must be inventive still by bringing in new faculty and new leadership, developing new programs like the graduate program and a major, and by constantly searching out large and small opportunities to connect with other departments, colleges, and outside organizations that will allow the Program to grow, expand, and evolve. Phelps then steps outside her speech and analyzes it as a form of administrative rhetoric, arguing that WPAs, especially women, must not cede their authority as a leader. Rather, they should embrace the public form of administrative rhetoric in the form of speeches for they provide an opportunity to explain to the community that they lead the ideas and principles inherent in their organizing narrative. Strong reflective leadership is not coercive; it is necessary for the survival of a complex, dynamic organization like a writing program.

 

Quotable Quotes

 

“The Writing Program chose the Great Group model, where disparate people are drawn together by mutual commitment to a project and became energized by the power of collaboration, because we believed that it is a social structure more conducive to creativity and more successful in the long run.

In that choice, we risked chaos.”

 

“If the early development of the Writing Program represented the gamble of falling into chaos, after ten years one must imagine that we now risk the possibility of too much order. We are likely to find ourselves trapped on relatively high fitness peaks, where there is a big cost for coming down and trying another one that isn’t likely to prove that much better.” – reminds me of Jefferson/Adams, a  revolution every generation, tension and questioning whether the next wave is going to be as good as what you got already

 

“I came ever more strongly to believe that it is right for writing program administrators to aspire to leadership as an honorable role, to explore and analyze the role of rhetoric in administration, to make creative and ethical use of the rhetorical power their office (and their training) lends them.”

 

 

Notable Notes

 

Great Groups

 

Important sources: Bennis and Biderman (Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration); Gould (Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History); Kaufmann (At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity); Senge (The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization)

 

Reference to working on institutional invention piece

 

Used reflections from people who were in the early years of the program

 

WP wasn’t an  exact Great Group  because the people involved were so heterogeneous; not everyone bought into the idea, so that caused conflict and pain.

 

Ecological/systems  model

 

In a complex open system, there must be smaller, more local groups with autonomy that can grow and evolve, together creating a network to form the entire system

 

Evolution isn’t a linear path – there comes a point where there is an explosion of creativity (supracritical) that then is tamed by a learning or S-curve, when you reach high fitness peaks.

 

That “cascade of novelty in uncoordinated, chaotic interactions” was the fear of those who wanted a common text and curriculum.

 

Coevolving systems

 

Move from romance into a fruitful marriage

 

WPA is a “convenient euphemism” for administrators who don’t want to take on the name of leader – why are we so reluctant to use power wisely?

 

Speech as intellectual work of a writing program administrator

Blog at WordPress.com.