I have a short piece in the newest issue of the Syracuse Peace Council’s Peace Newsletter recounting two moments from the Sixties when the SPC worked with CNY students toward social justice and peace. Check it out. Thanks to Ben Kuebrich for inviting me to write it.
In the afterward to A Counter-History of Composition, Byron Hawk articulates several conceptual starting places for constructing a “sub/versive history,” a methodology that opens up historiography, that “moves beyond the binary designations and teleology of revisionary history to produce multiple counter-histories” (260). That is, Hawk’s interest is not to replace one history with another as a revisionist historiographer might do (i.e. Kitzhaber, Berlin, Crowley, or Connors), but to multiply histories to open up possibilities for the field that respond to exigencies of his time. As far as Hawk’s is concerned, our present time requires ecological, vitalist theories of composition. His counter-history thus revisits how vitalism has been positioned in order to create pedagogies centered on environments over specific subjectivities that develop from tactics like hermeneutics or heuristics. In other words, Hawk’s perspective on history is that it always already fulfills a rhetorical purpose.
In theory, historiography in comp/rhet has consistently acknowledged this point — in various Octologs, essays on methodologies (especially feminist ones), or in other monographs. That said, the degree to which our histories have been framed as rhetorical has varied considerably. For example, throughout Invention in Rhetoric and Composition, Janice Lauer uses four pedagogies to stress the ways scholars and practitioners have traditionally approached invention: as natural ability pedagogies, imitation pedagogies, practice pedagogies, and art pedagogies. She revisits this typology throughout Invention, but doesn’t explain how or why this lens makes the most sense for her history. Though she admits that sometimes these pedagogies are integrated, this typology is found throughout her work (see “Instructional Issues: Toward an Integration” from 1988). Lauer is certainly aware of the limits of history; she calls her approach merely “illustrative” in the face of the long historical record; but she does not imply that Invention is a work of rhetoric itself.
A more complicated example perhaps is James Berlin’s Rhetoric & Reality. Berlin uses epistemology as a terministic screen (via Burke) to identify three theories — objective, subjective, and transactional — for understanding how the field has approached college writing instruction throughout the 20th century. This method, he argues, should not read as a totality; he notes in the introduction that his “taxonomy is not meant to be taken as exhaustive of the entire field of rhetoric, but is simply an attempt to make manageable the discussion of the major rhetorics I have encountered in examining this period” (6). Here Berlin admits that his method is limiting, but still claims to offer a “true,” albeit incomplete, history. Later in the introduction, Berlin reflects on his role as the historian, that it is up to each “to make every effort to be aware of the nature of her point of view and its interpretive strategies, and to be candid about them with her reader” (17). Berlin’s interpretive strategy, then, is that epistemology is a means to interpret reality and exposes the rhetorical values of the time. This is especially important with pedagogy if, as Berlin notes, the very act of teaching is to provide “students with guidance in seeing and structuring their experience, with a set of tacit rules about distinguishing truth from falsity, reality from illusion” (7). The remainder of Rhetoric & Reality then uses these three epistemologies (objective, subjective, transactional) to structure and define how composition instruction has morphed since the 19th century.
The issue between Hawk and Berlin is not so much that Berlin wouldn’t accept alternative histories, but that he does very little to situate his history rhetorically. The problem with this, as Sharon Crowley argued in her review of the book, is that the taxonomy is “driven by its own inner compulsion.” In other words, Berlin’s emphasis on rhetoric as the search for truth precludes other important possibilities in his 100-year history. How then, does one come to terms with the rhetoric of history? What makes certain histories better than others? Or is that even the right question? After all, although Lauer and Berlin’s do not claim to understand history as rhetorical, as introductions to the field, their books are instrumental.
Hawk’s afterward sketches some of the basic concepts necessary for a counter-history; moreover, he borrows these stances from Nietzsche to describe the rhetorical use of historiography: history as monumental, antiquarian, and critical. A monumental stance offers first-run, archetypal histories, where authors sketch narratives of important figures who might inspire or persuade readers. The problem with such histories is that they are hegemonic. Hence, the antiquarian stance is a necessary revision to fill the gaps or to write entirely new narratives of the past; they “go back in history and bring up forgotten details, to remember those people and events that were pushed aside by historical forces” (261). Whereas Connors’s Composition-Rhetoric: Backgrounds, Theory, and Pedagogy might be monumental, Royster’s Traces of a Stream might be seen as antiquarian because it attempts to recover a history of African-American women that monumental histories exclude. The problem with both approaches, however, is that they tend to be positivist and reinforce the present. Critical stances, by contrast, resist determinism and “remembers only to forget” (261). According to Nietzsche, whereas monumental and antiquarian stances provide narrative accounts of history, a critical stance is fundamentally argumentative and “invents an origin in the past” (261).
One such example of a critical history might be found in Crowley’s Composition in the University, a collection of polemical essays that trace composition’s marginalized status in the academy to the universal requirement of the writing course. Arguing that the roots of the course are found (unfortunately) in the humanist imperative set by literary studies, Crowley shows how English departments have made various cases for the universal requirement based on taste, correctness, “liberal education,” personal moral and ethical development, or textual analysis. Through a variety of (counter-)historical methods in Composition — including a close reading of recent lit debates in the field and case studies like that of Norman Foerster at Iowa in the 1940s — Crowley seeks to remember to forget. That is, in the coda of Composition, she explicitly proposes to abolish the universal requirement.
The point of all these histories isn’t to choose one, but to place them in a particular context — and ultimately in dialogue with each other to do as Hawk advises, multiply histories. The field can only be better for it.
In the first meeting of my contemporary rhetorics class this week, Kevin asked us to (1) describe rhetoric and illustrate our definition (as in literally draw it), and (2) describe our major limitations as rhetorical theorists and how we imagine negotiating them. For the first prompt I concluded (rather simply) that rhetoric is discourse in context. While unsure about the term “discourse” (fearing that a term like “knowledge,” “language” or even “literacy” might serve equally) I wanted to hang my definition especially on context because, as I put it, “it’s about who says what, where, when and why. Context is important for us if we want to respect the ability of knowledge to escape us, to shift, to reflect and awe.”
This was an ok start without having any foundation or reading to lean on, I thought, but as I mentioned in my response to the second prompt, I tend to be reductive in both my understanding and application of theory, feeling as though I sometimes selectively or deterministically use ideas for whatever agenda I’m pursuing. I tend to negotiate my misunderstanding by reading lots of head notes and secondary sources (which sometimes is the symptom and not the cause of such reduction). I attribute part of the problem to exposure — not actively reaching for theory in my own time and having a difficult time sustaining my attention as I slog through it.
It was comforting, then, to read the introduction to our course text — Lucaites, Condit and Caudill’s Contemporary Rhetorical Theory: A Reader — and know that perhaps I’ve retained more about rhetorical theory over the years than I realize. The introduction suggests that the most basic meaning of rhetoric would include “problems and possibilities of human communication” (1), a persecutive compatible with the volume’s disciplinary perspective, which comes from communication studies. Here’s a basic summary of the intro:
The intro starts at the beginning — with a discussion of the role classical rhetoric has played in shaping contemporary theory, arguing that “rhetoric typically emphasized the public, persuasive, and contextual characteristics of human discourse in situations governed by the problems of contingency” (2; emphasis in original). This aligns with the theories and histories we read in the fall for Ancient Rhetorics, especially the idea of contingency, that rhetoric helps us understand reality in terms of probabilities and not certainties. As the authors point out, however, classical rhetoric’s focus on public communication has meant the most to contemporary theory since “once a public or the citizenry is persuaded to endorse and act upon communally shared goals that history moves forward (or backward) in significant ways” (4). After discussing context and persuasiveness further and applying it (in typical comm studies fashion) to a famous speech (Churchill’s “War Situation I”), the introduction summarizes post-antiquity rhetorical study as having been replaced by more positivist approaches. While rhetoric still existed as “the Harlot of the Arts,” dominant thinkers did not consider rhetoric’s role on the thinking they were doing; in other words, rhetoric was as Plato had originally defined it, as dressing. In other words, rhetoric was too complex for the kinds of thinking that valued universal, grand narratives.
By the time the 1960s arrived, the authors argue, two events began to move rhetorical theory from its historical and pedagogical restrictions to accommodate more disruptive, refractive publics: television and grassroots social movements. This new focus became interested in “understanding the relationships between rhetoric and social theory” (8). A more social view of rhetoric helped question the knowledge/language problem in the field. For example, Robert Scott’s essay, “On Viewing Rhetoric as Epistemic” argued that rhetoric is not simply a means of making the truth effective, but it is quite literally a way of knowing, a means of production of truth and knowledge in a world where certainty is rare and yet action must be taken” (9). We’ll read this essay in a few weeks. His work and others in the late 60s helped pave the way for additional social perspectives, such as Lloyd Bitzer’s concept of the rhetorical situation (which has more recently been updated with rhetorical ecologies) and arguably rhetoric’s larger place in the humanities where “to be to rhetorical was a central and substantial dimension of many facets of the human social experience” (10).
Following this rhetorical turn in the 70s, our introduction notes, a debate between modernist and postmodernist perspectives ensued. Modernists were essentially neoclassicists who believed in knowable truths, while postmodernists believed that “struggle, not consensus is the defining characteristic of social life” (11). Rhetorical theory at this point was still concrete, not performative and thus, applied neo-Aristotelianism principles to rhetorical situations instead of calling into question the reliability of the reality being studied. Interestingly, however, the book notes that one of contemporary rhetorical theory’s major projects is to figure out what replaces modernist perspectives of rhetoric. Thus, theorists in the late 70s aimed at constructing more reflexive approaches to rhetoric, seeing, for example, audiences as “rhetorically material.” In short, postmodernity made rhetorical study theoretical by default.
When Kevin asked us to illustrate our definition of rhetoric I came up with that flow chart of sorts, which placed a generic subject in the center with arrows coming in and moving out, which represented rhetoric. Part of what’s valuable about this intro for me, then, is seeing just how my definition and perspective has been shaped by contemporary theory (regardless of how crude or reductive that perspective might be). Although I was trying to illustrate the role context plays in meaning by placing a generic subject at the center and placing basic influences on one side (parents, school, media) and tools, channels and audiences on the other (computer, friends, clothes), I was trying to get at the chaos of rhetoric. And in reflecting on my definition further here, I wonder what contemporary rhetorical theory offers us for dealing with that chaos, whether our goals are to foster social change, or to help our students understand when to talk and when to listen. More than anything, I’m looking forward to continuing to better understand a discipline I still feel outside of.
I’m resurrecting the blog this Halloween to think through some ideas on invention — and because having two kids means that I only have time to blog when I’m required to write short papers for my Ancient Rhetoric class (Hey guys!).
This week we’re pushing along, moving away from the Greeks and into the Romans by reading Rhetorica ad Herenium, which I’ve enthusiastically shorted to “RAH!” (exclamation point optional). RAH is essentially a handbook from 100 BC (late Antiquity, roughly 250-300 years after Isocrates and Aristotle). Along with Cicero’s De inventione (which contains several identical passages as RAH), it’s considered the first text from Rome on rhetoric. Despite this status, the book’s introduction in the Caplan translation characterizes the book as “a Greek art in Latin dress, combining a Roman spirit with Greek doctrine” (vii). I’m not entirely sure what this means since we’re only just beginning to learn about the cultural and geopolitical context for Roman rhetoric; however, it’s worth noting that the entire educational approach (enkyklios paideia, or “the rounded education”), and its formalist exercises in declamation (progymnasmata), emerged from the colonization and subsequent hellenization of Rome. According to Thomas Conley in Rhetoric in the European Tradition, ancient Roman rhetoric was learned from the Sophists and emulated Isoctates most of all, but standardized a curriculum for civic participation using enkyklios paideia and progymnasmata, essentially ancient skill-and-drill-style exercises.
The standardization of a curriculum especially in times of colonization is likely to lead any comp/rhet scholar, let alone anyone who took as few humanities classes in the last 20 years, to endless examples where language was used to limit, shape, control or contain groups based on race, class, or any other sociological category. Perhaps it was for this reason that Roman leaders initially resisted the enkyklios paideia, as it was meant to meet the “bureaucratic needs of Hellenistic governments” (Conley 31). However, learning rhetoric must have been seen as influencing cultural power as Latin speakers quickly learned that speech is what separated the Greeks from uncivilized barbarians in the hellenized world (Conley 32). In fact, RAH states from the outset that “[t]he task of the public speaker is to discuss capably those matters which law and custom have fixed for the uses of citizenship…” (5). In short, the eloquent orator — the good man speaking well — lives on via Cicero and RAH and invites citizens of Rome to join the ranks.
On one hand if the goal of the Greeks were to colonize, then the style of RAH makes perfect sense. Its didactic approach proceeds as an outline (i.e. “First, I will talk about X and Y. Of X there are three features, A, B, C. Of A, there are four subfeatures: 1, 2, and 3…”); reading it persistently requires rote recursive maneuvers and echoes some of my least favorite, domesticating moments from school. At times, it was more prudent to study my edition’s Analysis section which simply summarized these points and frequently employed tree diagrams, like the one below, to do so.
One can imagine an ancient reader studying RAH and knowing it as the only way to speak and, therefore, think. In fact, we inherit from Aristotle that invention (which RAH dedicates more than half of its space to outlining) is thought.
On the other hand, a large portion of the book covers invention for judicial causes (as opposed to epideictic or deliberative which are briefly discussed in Book III) and should be read in that context. That is, RAH acknowledges other occasions for speaking, but privileges the judicial because it argues it is the most difficult (read: bureaucratic?) of the three causes. One could imagine that the power of RAH as a handbook might empower aspiring orators (sponsored or self taught, I’m not really certain) if they could only learn how the more advanced speakers of the colony (e.g. the Sophists) wielded their oratorical power.
Of course, I realize I’m reading as what Edward Schiappa might call a “rational reconstructionist,” looking at RAH too closely “within [my] own philosophical framework” (194). But, frankly, as an introduction to ancient Roman rhetoric, how else am I to read it? If we can’t read it as rational reconstructionists, of what use is the treatise to contemporary audiences? I’m finding this to be a pattern in my ancient rhetoric course, as it is my one and only primer for ancient rhetoric.
My sense, though, is that while using postcolonial theory or even simply good-old-fashioned historical reconstruction to unravel the complex relationship between the Greeks and Romans would be fruitful, it’s beyond the scope of this post. Rather, because RAH reminds me so vividly of prescriptive pedagogies, I think it’s an interesting challenge to consider the degree to which it is actually still like contemporary writing pedagogies. As RAH tells us more than once, invention is “the most important and the most difficult” of the canons (59). I agree — and I’d argue so does the field. We still have hundreds of contemporary composition handbooks to help students invent (They Say/I Say, for example) and many of our writing programs still prescribe, even when we obscure the prescription as “heuristic.” And, of course, we have multiple debates from our scholarship that posit prescriptive approaches against more subjective ones (Bartholomae v Elbow, Connors v Berlin, Flower v Bizzell, and more recently, Miller v Sirc). For the remainder of this post, then, I’d like to briefly consider the degree to which RAH’s methods of invention are compatible with contemporary perspectives.
Although RAH is laid out linearly, I imagine aspects of its use weren’t all that different from contemporary handbooks, in didactic and autodidactic situations alike. By didactic I mean a teacher probably helped explain certain theories and structures, modeled them frequently, and led the student through the exercises, with frequent guided practice (as with the traditional 14 progymnasmata). By autodidactic, I mean a learner maybe memorized the book’s precepts and perhaps practiced sections alone or with a peer (this probably more true in later periods when texts circulated more readily). In fact, Book I states that its canons are best learned through “three means: Theory, Imitation, and Practice” (7-9) — an approach inherited from Protagoras. What separates RAH from contemporary handbooks, however is the former’s centrality to the curriculum. That is, implicit in RAH’s three means is the notion that learners will imitate and practice the structures though constant speaking and listening. How many of us who require handbooks put them at the center of our courses (assuming we even use them)?
While RAH is arranged linearly, the approach obscures the sophistic influence that many feminist scholars (Crowley, Vitanza, Jarrett, etc.) have embraced so far in our ancient rhetoric course. That is, RAH actually reinforces a core value of composition: the idea that truth is slippery. We require a discourse that avoids “confus[ing] language with reality” (Crowley 328) — even if that discourse must be rigid, as is the case with something like legalese. We need such rhetoric, as Berlin argued in the first Octolog, because we frequently disagree on reality. Whether the speaker is a lawyer or historian, rhetoric leads to closure, as a “stay against chaos” (33). This is why arguments require disagreeing parties to enter into a structure that provides a stasis — “the basic issue in dispute resulting from the positions taken by adversaries in a debate” (Conley 32). Stasis is the starting point in argumentation and RAH’s treatment of invention is essentially a theory of stasis in such discourse. Speakers sort this out via the Division, Proof, and Refutation stages of invention and come to some kind of closure, “for when we have submitted our arguments and destroyed those of the opposition, we have, of course, completely fulfilled the speaker’s function” (33).
Violence aside, the contemporary pressure to invent is a similar pressure: to produce a text under a particular timeline, to win, and to move on. A rhetorical occasion, especially when it comes to the composition classroom, has a start and an end that is dictated largely by the exigence (and ghosts) of print genres. I am most comfortable with RAH when I reflect on my own teaching of business writing (WRT 307), for example. Although the course is rooted in rhetoric via audience, it’s accountable for a genre-based pedagogy. Students need to leave the class having learned short forms (memos, letters) and longer forms (instructions and reports). Although I try not to teach the class in this way, those genres lend themselves to more objective structures than, say, the academic essay. In other words, RAH is not altogether different from the superstructures listed in Anderson’s Technical Communication. In fact, its suggestions for deliberative causes echo the kinds of guidelines my students follow when writing a feasibility report. That said, more experienced, practiced writers invent by being immersed in what Collin Brooke calls (via LeFevre and Bawarshi) ecologies.
As Brooke argues in Lingua Fracta, “The question ‘how do I start?’ that dominates pedagogical considerations of invention is more precisely a question of getting to the right answer (“How do I write something that will meet with the approval of my evaluator?”)” (85). For this reason he envisions a “proairetic invention,” which is a more generative approach to invention that respects endless renewal of new media because it resists closure. This blog, as an example of new media, is endless by definition. And with it I am drawing from whatever is available in my current ecology, which, as a maturing graduate student will change significantly from now until, well, forever. Having just read Brooke last week, I use my current ecology to make meaning of RAH, which I also read last week. If I read Bartholomae, I would be writing a different blog post.
Another example of a different approach to invention can be found in Jeff Rice’s “The 1963 Hip-Hop Machine: Hip-Hop Pedagogy As Composition,” where Rice brings juxtaposition to bear on sonic and alphabetic texts. Experimental arrangements of samples from more or less arbitrary texts can still yield interesting and productive meaning by way of syntheses. By reaching into whatever is available, composers can place these texts up against each other in order to look at patterns and relationships. This method helps address the common problem of invention for the novice and professional writer alike — just to get something to talk about and mess with. I’m paraphrasing Rice liberally here, but the point is that these more experimental, open approaches can be quite useful when writers can’t seem to get more prescriptive, dominant voices out of their heads.
Personally, when it comes to academic writing, I find Rice and Brooke’s approach to invention more in line with my own practices than I do RAH’s. Part of the reason for this is that invention is different in the 21st century not so much because we no longer require stasis or structures for our civic discourse (clearly we do!), but that the available means (information and modes/media) has grown and continues to grow exponentially. At the same time, I don’t fully discount the value of its approach in particular and specific scenarios. Stasis theory is important to civic discourse and argumentation. We need a stay against chaos. The question RAH reminds me of is not only when, but how to use more prescriptive, genre-based approaches to composition over the more experimental, open, endless maneuvers suggested by Brooke and Rice.
Questions for discussion:
How might we use elements of RAH in our classrooms? When is it appropriate to provide linear, didactic approaches versus more experimental ones?
RAH argues that invention is the most important canon and the most difficult part of rhetoric.” Why could we imagine this to be true in 100 BC and is it still the case today?
How is RAH relevant? Why should contemporary scholars and writing instructors read it beyond simply history for its own sake? If we were to image updating the arrangement of the treatise from a print text to a hypertext, how might that help us see its affordances?
Handbooks are central to an autodidactic pedagogy. But how do its users interpret, practice, and otherwise engage them effectively? How do our own students use handbooks, other than to copy and apply formatting (like MLA)? Can we embrace proairetic invention and hip-hop pedagogy as long as we have handbooks? How might we use them in the classroom in ways the Romans used RAH?
Last week in CCR 635, Advanced Research Methods, we read and discussed a few frames in which to view empirical research in the social sciences (and in particular, writing studies). As I mentioned here last week, Smagorinsky’s Written Communication piece (2009) on the Method section and Hayes, et al’s second chapter from Reading Empirical Research Studies (1992) were particularly grounded. Before discussing Emig, then, I wanted to jump back and outline some of the definitions that Hayes, et al use in Section B of their second chapter on types of empirical studies. I used Bubbl.us here to help break this down (see image).
It doesn’t take a masters degree to figure out that Emig’s The Composing Process of Twelfth Graders is a case study, a kind of descriptive study, but what’s interesting about it is why it had to be one. According to Hayes, et al, it’s because descriptive studies are necessary when “the researcher does not have specific hypotheses to test” because “the domain is not yet well explored” (23). As Nystrand points out in “The Social and Historical Context for Writing Research,” Emig’s study is often the first plot in sketching a history of composition research in North America, even though it wasn’t necessarily the first empirical study. In the preface to Composing Earl Buxton of NCTE notes that Emig’s method emerged from an “adaptation of the case-study method” from Braddock, Lloyd-Jones, and Schoer’s Research in Written Composition. What seems significant about “Composing,” however, is such studies continued sponsorship from NCTE. As Nystrand argues, previous studies “were isolated and unsupported by professional networks and support systems, including doctoral programs training writing researchers and overseeing dissertation studies, as well as refereed research journals and professional organization special interest groups devoted to such research” (11). Both Research in Written Composition (1963) and The Composing Processes of Twelfth Graders (1971) were published by NCTE.
If the “characteristic outcome” of descriptive studies is to “formulate hypotheses,” (Hayes, et al) it would explain why Emig lists four “hypotheses” in the introduction to the study. At first I interpreted “hypotheses” as a traditional definition: as theories as to how these writers might compose going into the study (pre-data collection). However, as I read on (and revisited Hayes, et al), I understood them more as outcomes of the study, formulations for further research. So if I’m reading this correctly, then, the idea is that future researchers might conduct additional descriptive correlational or experimental studies to follow up on some of Emig’s findings. Like what?
In Chapter 7: Implications, Emig outlines some of the possibilities, including a similar study with a larger sample size and wider range of abilities (one of the weaknesses of this study is that all but two writers are good to exceptional — see bottom of page 29); a study comparing the composing processes of high school writers versus adults, longitudinal studies throughout a sample’s schooling, cross-cultural studies and others. But according to her, “the most promising aspect” of the study is the composing aloud protocol, the 6th dimension of a more or less linear process she uses as her mode of analysis throughout the study (a dimension that is, interestingly, “recursive”). On this dimension she argues for techniques that would allow for “finer calibration,” including the use of time-lapse photography or a stylus to track the starting and stopping motions throughout a writer’s process (96). Emig’s wish to use other technologies to mark the nonverbal actions of the writer to better measure this dimension of the process speaks to the difficulty of relying on such data (as a classmate mentioned last week, composing aloud is hard). It made we wonder if other studies have been done with cameras and electronic devices since this one to see how writers compose. (I imagine so.) It also made me wonder if anyone has captured data with eye-tracking devices used in usability testing.
Having the chance to read Emig’s study after all these years of secondary and post-secondary teaching and training made me realize the effect this study had on the process movement, whose theories have dominated 2 of the 3 institutions I’ve taught at (can you guess which one isn’t included?). See the table there for a summary of findings.
If there’s a weakness to these findings it’s the linearity of the modes and the binary of school v self (as Nystrand notes, “the social 80s” shed light on the weakness of cognitive models and their inability to conceptualize audience with any complexity).
Finally, I have to say I was relatively shocked by the tone of condemnation Emig takes toward teachers throughout the study and especially in the last section. For example, in the chapter about Lynn (her primo sample subject), she writes “there is the inescapable impression that Lynn is more sophisticated than her teachers, both as to the level of her stylistic concerns and to the accuracy and profundity of her analysis of herself as a writer” (73). On page 98 in the Implications chapter she also argues that a pervasive “teacher illiteracy” exists: that teachers don’t read contemporary work (a bunch of white dudes, plus Gloria Steinem is in her list), don’t write compositions, and, as a result, show students anachronistic models of writing and “truncate the process of composing”; teaching composition in America in the late 60s/early 70s “is essentially a neurotic activity” (99). As a result of this assessment, Emig argues for more reflexive (as opposed to extensive) writing, offering more generous opportunities for students to compose so that they spend more time prewriting and planning, reformulating, and talking with one another about their work. The implications, it seems, could be rewritten as tenets for the process movement.
Emig, Janet A. The Composing Processes of Twelfth Graders. NCTE, 1971. Print.
Nystrand, Martin. “The Social and Historical Context for Writing Research.” Handbook of Writing Research. Ed. Charles A. MacArthur, Steve Graham, & Jill Fitzgerald. New York: Guilford Press, 2008. 11-27. Print.
Thanks to Labor Day, this past Monday was the first time my digital humanities (DH) class met having to read something from the field beforehand; as one might assume, these essays sought to define DH, articulate some of the core problems DHers address, provide a brief history, and pose several methods that make DH important to the humanities, the academy, and knowledge production more generally.
Considering that Matt Kirschenbaum argues that the term “digital humanities” (DH) came at least partially from the process involved in titling the Blackwell Companion to Digital Humanities (CDH), it’s fitting that we not only read his short piece from the ADE Bulletin last January (originally based on address from the summer of 2010), but also bits and pieces from Part I of the CDH (freely available online, thank god). So this blog post is an attempt to outline some of the arguments in those pieces and maybe (maybe?) make sense of them.
Kirschenbaum answers the questions in his piece, “What Is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in English Departments?,” rather directly if not generally. In response to the former, (What is DH?) Kirschenbaum (appropriately, says me) relies on Wikipedia’s definition, but also adds that DH “is more akin to a common methodological outlook than an investment in any one specific set of texts or even technologies,” embracing approaches to common humanities texts using powerful analytical tools and archiving processes.
In terms of history, Kirschenbaum argues that the the creation of the Office of Digital Humanities at NEH — and all the grants and visibility that came with it — was the “tipping point for the branding of DH.” He likens the creation of DH to the Birmingham School and discusses general ways that a ADE crowd might have encountered (or missed) DH visibility, such as through tweets at conferences or articles in the Chronicle/Inside Higher Ed. After connecting DH interests to the academy at large, he then makes a case for why DH belongs in English departments. He gives six reasons: text is the primary data, the “long association between computers and composition,” the editorial theory that lead to digital archiving (curation?), the excitement and following of hypertext and e-lit, the inclusion of cultural studies in those departments, and finally the growth of e-reading and associated hardware. He ends his piece with a call to scholarship and pedagogy that is both “collaborative and depend on networks of people and that live an active 24/7 life online.”
The intro to the Blackwell Companion to Digital Humanities by Schreibman, Siemens and Unsworth argues that the collection, which was published in 2005, marks the first time scholars of DH, representing several disciplines, came together to share their perspectives on the purpose, functions, methods and tools of DH. According the authors, DH uses “information technology to illuminate the human record” — distant reading practices, for example — “and bringing an understanding of the human record to bear on the development and use of information technology,” with things like usability technologies and geographic information systems (GIS).
Aside from Susan Hockey’s chapter on the general history of DH, Part I of the book provides as survey of the various disciplines’ engagement with and contributions to DH. Archaeologists/historical geographers use GISes to reconstruct key historical sites; literary studies engage various computer-assisted tools to quantitatively (and controversially) detect patterns is large bodies of text (a later chapter by Martha Nell Smith talks about how these methods have assisted scholars in putting major debates — like Dickenson’s use of the dash — to rest); performance studies use CAD software to construct sets in virtual 3-D; multimedia theorists consider what should be digitized, how those objects will represent the original, and how media manipulation alters meaning. Based on these readings, some of the common tools used in DH include:
databases and archiving code (TEI and XML for records, images, or corpora)
database mining (searching and sorting)
Throughout all of this, though, as the introduction to CDH makes clear, representation — specifically how the digital environments alter artifacts’ meaning — is a fundamental concern for DHers. At the end of the introduction, Schreibman, Siemens and Unsworth puts it this way: “Ultimately, in computer-assisted analysis of large amounts of material that has been encoded and processed according to a rigorous, well thought-out system of knowledge representation, one is afforded opportunities for perceiving and analyzing patterns, conjunctions, connections, and absences that a human being, unaided by the computer, would not be likely to find.”
In order to do this, DHers must, as Hockey puts it in her history of humanities computing, “embrace the two cultures”: to use scientific and systemic analytical methods to reach new humanistic problems. As one might expect, a push away from hermeneutics and toward more objective, science and thus quantitative methods, received its fair or direct or indirect resistance.
A few questions came out of these readings in class. Questions, I’m sure, that don’t have definitive answers, but will become easier to approach as the semester goes on.
At the conclusion of the chapter on multimedia, Rockwell and Mactavish claim “There are two ways we can think through multimedia. The first is to think about multimedia through definitions, histories, examples, and theoretical problems. The second way is to use multimedia to think and to communicate thought.” This led us to ask if the same can be extended to DH approaches more generally. And so if that’s fair, how does comp/rhet as a discipline contribute or help define the activities of DH? What’s our place? What does a statement like this one from Hockey say about our influence outside of the classroom: “Gradually, certain application areas spun off from humanities computing and developed their own culture and dissemination routes.’Computers and writing‘ was one topic that disappeared fairly rapidly.” Say what?
Susan Hockey’s history goes back as early as 1949 to trace the evolution of “humanities computing” to the current moniker of “digital humanities.” Given the sales pitchiness of Kirschenbaum’s address (not necessarily a critique given his audience), I can’t help but wonder if there is an honest disciplinarity to DH or if it’s a buzzword. (Just previewing some of Wendell Piez’s piece in DHQ, part of our reading for next week, I’m led to believe I’m not the only one.)
Related: Can scholars arrive at a better understanding (or rhetoric, even) of the major tenets and purposes of the humanities via DH methods? That is, given some of the recent claims in the academy about the relevance and future of humanists’ work, is the invention of the term and concept “digital” useful as a heuristic for better defining our relevance in the academy?
If I’m going to pursue a major project on fanzine history (something I’m interested in), how can DH approaches support that project? How can the technologies, but also the methods, help me develop a better understanding of the transition, for example, in the mid-90s from print-based subcultural zines to e-zines. What work has already been done here? What would such a study tell us about other forms of writing? Remix culture?
Kirschenbaum, Matthew. “What Is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in English Departments?” ADE Bulletin. 150 (2010). : n. pag. 31 Aug. 2011.
Schreibman, Susan, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth, eds. A Companion to Digital Humanities. Wiley-Blackwell, 2005.
In the first few weeks of Studies in Writing Pedagogy, Steve is trying to establish a context for the current problems in the field by having us dip back into the late 50s/early 60s to see what tensions were mounting composition studies. It’s an interesting an unexpected choice (for me, anyway) and led to a great discussion last week in class about how the field positions itself among its own members, to the academy, and to its students.
We started by reading “The National Interest and the Teaching of English” (NITE), a report from NCTE in 1961 that articulates a crisis in English pedagogy including:
a major shortage of English teachers (as much as a 27% deficit),
a lack of properly trained teachers (25% of elementary teachers were not college grads and 40-60% of English teachers didn’t major in the subject in college),
a lack of state or national standards necessary for an improvement in student writing
The paper argues that since high school students were in enrolled in English more than any other subject (92.9%, as compared to 55% in math), there was much at stake in the report’s findings.
As we discussed in class, the Cold War, specifically the launch of Sputnik in 1957, fueled much of the underlying anxiety in the report. Take statements like the following for example: “…simple literacy is not enough. Today industrial firms are spending millions of dollars each year for men, modern counterparts of the ancient scribes, who can rewrite the repots of research engineers into clear and grammatical English. Business are employing the graduates of liberal arts colleges in order to secure executives who can bing a sense of human values to the transactions of the marketplace.” In other words, literacy was a fundamental economic utility and we the field of English wasn’t taking that seriously enough (J. Elspeth Stuckey provides an interesting counterpoint 30 years later).
Alongside the NITE document, Steve paired readings from first SDS president Al Haber, C Wright Mills‘s seminal letter to the New Left, a recently edited collection called Listening to Our Elders, which chronicles a (mostly) oral history of the caucuses in NCTE/CCC, as well as Marianna White Davis’s history of the Black Caucus, in order to show the kinds of responses the NITE document got from the radical left at the time — and ever since.
Haber and Haber’s piece is particularly interesting as it summarized the Radicals in the Professions Conference, held in 1967 in Ann Arbor, a conference that brought together leftist professionals who struggled with their ideals outside of their schooling, where they became increasingly isolated, alienated, and professionalized or conformed. The frustration became a “shared, articulated experience” at the Conference and identified two barriers living professional, radical lives: (1) the language of the movement and (2) the strategies of the movement. In a sense the conference asked “how do you be a professional and a radical?” In class this led us back into the caucus readings, but also into discussions of basic comp pedagogy. Should we teach ESWE or academic writing, for example, when it subverts and undermines some of the values that radicals/critical pedagogues espouse?
This week we’re continuing our explorations of the 50s/60s by reading David Fleming’s recent book From Form to Meaning, a history of composition in UW-Madison in that era. His case study connects the events at Madison to the larger national trends and problems in composition at the time. We’re also reading selections from The Black Panthers Speak and some primary sources from the New University Conference, a radical organization based in Chicago and mid-west.
Blackmon, Samantha, Cristina Kirklighter, and Steve Parks, eds. Listening to Our Elders: Working and Writing for Change. Utah State University Press, 2011. Print.
Davis, Marianna White. History of the Black Caucus. Urbana, Ill: NCTE, 1994. Print.
Haber, Barbara, and Alan Haber. “Getting By With a Little Help From Our Friends.” The New Left: A Collection of Essays. Ed. Priscilla Long. Porter Sargent Publishers, 1969. 289-309. Print.
Kampf, Louis. “Notes Toward a Radical Culture.” The New Left: A Collection of Essays. Ed. Priscilla Long. Porter Sargent Publishers, 1969. 420-434. Print.
Mills, C Wright. “Letter to the New Left.” The New Left: A Collection of Essays. Ed. Priscilla Long. Porter Sargent Publishers, 1969. 14-25. Print.
National Council of Teachers of English. The National Interest and the Teaching of English; a Report on the Status of the Profession. Campaign, Ill: National Council of Teachers of English, 1961. Print.
Stuckey, J. Elspeth. The Violence of Literacy. Boynton/Cook, 1990. Print.
Ceruzzi traces the development of commercial computing by narrating its history in relation to the most influential machine birthed from that era, the UNIVAC, “Universal Automatic Computer,” completed in 1951 by J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly. The UNIVAC was designed as a system with an internal design that allowed users to manipulate it based on the problems to be solved. Its internal memory and use of tape for input/output made for a much faster machine, which helped with sorting data as an “information processing system,” fulfilling a growing need for businesses. The UNIVAC’s ability to automate functions, saved companies time and labor, helped its assent and influence on subsequent computers, such as IBM’s 701. Although Ceruzzi touches on other technology, including the drum, the purpose of this chapter is to explain how the UNIVAC’s design made it the first true electronic computer.
Computing after 1945 is a story of people who at critical moments redefined the nature of the technology itself. In doing so they opened up computing to new markets, new applications, and a new place in the social order. (14)
The acronym came from “Universal Automatic Computer,” a name that they chose carefully. “Universal” implied that it could solve problems encountered by scientists, engineers, and businesses. “Automatic” implied that it could solve complex problems without requiring constant human intervention or judgment, as existing techniques required. (15)
No one who saw a UNIVAC failed to see how much it differed from existing calculators and punched card equipment. It used vacuum tubes – thousands of them. It stored data on tape, not cards. It was a large and expensive system, not a collection of different devices. The biggest difference was its internal design, not visible to the casual observer. The UNIVAC was a “stored program” computer, one of the first. More than anything, that made it different from the machines it was designed to replace. (20)
Many design features that alter became commonplace first appeared in the UNIVAC: among them were alphanumeric as well as numeric processing, an extensive use of extra bits for checking, magnetic tapes for bulk memory, and circuits called “buffers” that allowed high-speed transfers between the fast delay line and slow tape storage units. (29)
To the extent that its customers perceived the UNIVAC as an “electronic brain,” it was because it “knew” where to find the desired data on a tape, could wind or rewind a tape to that place, and could extract (or record) data automatically. Customers regarded the UNIVAC as an information process system, not a calculator. As such, it replaced not only existing calculating machines, but also the people who tended them. (30)
How does this chapter – and the UNIVAC specifically – factor into the focus of this week theme, “what the web was built for”? That is, what role did these computers play in the development of the web?
Ceruzzi primarily focuses on the technical innovations of commercial computing, but does indicate a few of the social and cultural effects of them, such as the effect the tape system had on labor in companies. What might be some others? How would a more complete understanding of the history of computing, or perhaps of business, help to understand this?
Bizzell, Patricia. “Opportunities for Feminist Research in the History of Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Review. 2.1 (1992): 50-58.
Patricia Bizzell begins “Opportunities for Feminist Research in the History of Rhetoric” – the oldest selection from this week’s set of readings (1992) – by reflecting on her and Bruce Herzberg’s selections for the (then) first edition of The Rhetorical Tradition. She describes how they were “surprised to find that research in rhetoric was so traditional” (50). They were surprised, she claimed, because there was so much “canon-busting” going on over there in English studies. I found this claim – and their use of words like “surprised” and “dismayed” – curiously passive. Were Bizzell and Herzberg not part of the discipline of English? And how did they define “traditional”? As knowledgeable historians hired to choose appropriate selections for this anthology, how could this have been a discovery for them? The women authors recovered or referenced in the articles by Campbell, Mattingly, and Sutherland – who contributed to the special issue of Rhetoric Society Quarterly twelve years later in 2002 – were exhaustive. I was interested to learn that Bizzell and Herzberg couldn’t find anything, especially when the other authors found so much. A few questions came from this observation: Where were they looking? Did they, in actuality, find stuff but were just too anxious to include them? Was this article actually a rebuttal to accusations that the editors themselves were complicit in such elitist practices? Or were the methods proposed in this piece essential to “open up spaces” for feminist historiography in rhetoric?
While the other questions are worth weighing, the last one renders them more or less moot. Bizzell does not come right out and say it, but her main point in “Opportunities” is to argue that she and Herzberg could not contest the tradition because the real problem was the lack of method for recovering such work – not the lack of extant texts. In response, she outlines three approaches that would prove useful to feminist historiography in rhetoric. The more recent articles we read this week either took up these approaches (especially the second and third) or actually added to them by contributing new approaches themselves. Ultimately, those texts responded to Bizzell’s call for more research, more work – the “let’s do it!” passion that must have made the text so inspiring.
Bizzell’s first approach asks revisionists to become “resisting readers,” a term borrowed from literary critics that requires historiographers to “notice aspects of the canonical texts that the reader is not supposed to notice, but that disturb, when the reader is a woman, and create resistance to the view of reality the work seems to want to purvey” (51). Her idea is to appropriate these texts – to resignify – the traditional canon by using feminist perspectives. Bizzell acknowledges, however, that critics might see this kind of work as not quite far enough away from the tradition (51) – and she might be right. None of the authors we read for today employed this strategy explicitly. Still, some of the authors did encourage re-readings of certain narratives (such as the Lorena Bobbitt story), which could be seen as resistant.
The second approach Bizzell recommends requires scholars to do more recovery work by finding female rhetors similar to those men traditionally canonized. The purpose of this approach, of course, is inclusion, but it is also to “[set] their work in dialogue with the canon” (51), to use them as potential foils for the established rhetors. Each article in the special issue of Rhetoric Society Quarterly agrees with Bizzell that more recovery needs to be done via primary research. Carol Mattingly, for example, begins her article by summarizing how thousands of years of masculine scholarship cannot compare to few decades’ worth of feminist study. Karlyn Kohrs Campbell provides a brief history of recovered texts in the U.S. (perhaps in an attempt to rewrite this canon). And Christine Mason Sutherland suggests that the act of primary research is preferable because is avoids the adversarial/masculine tendency of working with only secondary research.
Bizzell predicted, however, that this second approach would be criticized for borrowing the same criteria as used for men’s inclusion in the canon and thus suggested an alternative third approach that requires scholars to redefine or broaden terms of rhetoric so that previously unchecked areas of history might be recovered. One way to do this, she suggests, is to avoid looking for names and authors, but instead looking for issues. “If women are not represented in the traditional history of rhetoric,” she argues, “we might look for the issues that throw into relief the social practices that resulted in this exclusion, thus also highlighting where women are, as well as where they are not” (54). Examining schooling and literacy, or how women gained the right to speak in public on certain issues would get feminists away from the masculine “counting match” that the study of authors tends to encourage.
Most of the women writing in 2002 agreed that applying masculine criteria to women’s rhetoric would be a step back and thus strove to advance recovery work by becoming more theoretical. Mattingly asks historiographers to reconsider what counts as evidence when looking at how women used rhetoric “since many of the traditional tools of rhetoric were denied to them” (106). Similarly, Campbell reminds us that the criterion used to revere traditional masculine rhetoric is why alternative rhetorics have been excluded in the first place. Instead, she argues feminists need to link recovery with recuperation to theorize about women’s discursive practices.
While Bizzell’s article looks outdated when compared to the feminist texts from 2002, its explicit, innovative approaches clearly had a lasting impact on the discipline; however, I also wonder if it oversimplifies the gender dynamic by reinforcing gender binaries that I assume queer rhetorics have subsequently complicated. I wonder how the male/female dichotomy, for example, actually damages or at least reinforces some of what these methods seeks to subvert.
So rather than write one long response at the end this time, I decided to type up notes as I read to see how this would be more or less helpful. Though I don’t always synthesize the texts, this format does help to remember the texts. I guess it’s weird being a students again — experimenting with different ways of response and such…
As Graff/Leff provide their meta-history of revisionist historiography, they fall into the same trap as their predecessors in comments like “…Charles Sears Baldwin established the standard pattern for twentieth-century studies of the history of rhetoric” and “[Carole Blair’s] essay ‘Contested Histories of Rhetoric: The Politics of Preservation, Progress, and Change’ represents the last major entry in the wave of revisionism…” because they never explain how they’re coming to these conclusions.
Oddly, when discussing the new scholarship that has emerged in com/rhet since the first wave, the authors do acknowledge that they do not “have space in this chapter to review all of the different perspectives featured in the early stages of the discussion but can identify some of the basic tenets as well as characteristic assumptions and motives animating the broader revisionist projects within the field of composition-rhetoric.” Again, no real discussion here about how these “basic tenets” were generalized. To what degree, then, do historians need to be explicit about who/what they’re including/excluding and their reasons for doing so? As an outsider (someone just now learning about this discourse community), it seems that the risk in not being explicit is unchecked canonization of certain authors – more on this below.
In outlining a chronology of first and second wave revisionists, are Graff and Leff contributing to the traditional view of history as a linear enterprise and in turn, canonizing certain historiographers and theorists (names that I now recognize as important)? We have more taxonomies (“critical historiography”). Interesting to have read this after Octlog and after last week’s readings. How would I have framed those authors if I had read Graff/Leff’s account of them first?
What’s also suspect is Graff/Leff’s four-page interrogation of Carole Blair. Seems like she being used for a set up, though it’s difficult to tell without knowing more about revisionist approaches. I also wonder if she is attacked because of some disciplinary distortion – as the authors admit, her speech background “contrasts sharply” with comp/rhet’s.
Argument for why we should look at pedagogy moves a bit quickly for me, though I like their suggestion to study the pedagogy of rhetoric since teaching is my most viable and rewarding reason to study histories of rhetoric (as opposed to other ways of viewing it, which so far seem more interested in its philosophical, textual, and therefore abstract consequences).
Carol Mattingly’s “Telling Evidence: Rethinking What Counts in Rhetoric” (2002)
Agrees with Bizzell that more needs to be done to “explore the broad range of texts that can contribute a vibrant understanding and appreciation of women’s role in rhetoric.”
Outlines early recovery efforts and uses the example of Cady Stanton and Anthony to argue that this early work has been guilty of canonizing certain women rhetors (admittedly, to establish ethos) at the expense of ignoring other important ones. The problem is that those canonized “become deeply imbedded in our cultural narratives,” initially chosen from rhetorical criteria “established in the masculine tradition.”
By reading a wide range of primary sources, Mattingly discovered that more women were more publicly active as rhetors in the 19th century than scholars initially thought. A resistance to study women outside of the suffrage movement (i.e. women in the temperance movement) prevented scholars from coming to this understanding sooner and is the result of not reading locally (contextually) enough – an argument made by several of Mattingly’s contemporaries (so-called second wave revisionists) – since contemporary scholars have equated temperance with conservativism. More focused study, she argues, opens up possibilities for more interpretations. Without this additional work, she implies, she would have never discovered that Amelia Bloomer was more influential than Anthony or Cady Stanton or that the temperance movement was really a call for better conditions for women.
In arguing for a more accurate understanding of rhetorical traditions Mattingly ultimately wants scholars to rethink the ways they measure rhetoric by redefining evidence. “Since traditional definition of rhetoric have been constructed around notions of masculine rhetoric,” she argues, “many rhetorically sophisticated women simply do not fit neatly into the rhetorical tradition. What has counted for evidence fails to recognize women’s excellence.” Mattingly’s example is women’s clothing in the 19th century played an essential role in establishing ethos, though we wouldn’t consider that if we went with the traditional measures of rhetoric.
Karlyn Kohrs Campbell’s “Consciousness-Raising: Linking Theory, Criticism, and Practice” (2002)
Campbell’s overarching argument can be captured in her pithy quote in the intro: “as a form of discursive practice, consciousness-raising is the thread that links the recovery of texts, their recuperation through criticism, and the extraction of theoretical principles that underlie women’s ways of persuading.”
She begins by tracing a few ways women’s histories have been recovered, even before the U.S. woman’s rights movement, from speeches in the 19th century to dissertations in the 1930s through the 1950s to the emergence of women’s studies programs to new anthologies of women’s histories. She acknowledges, however, that no matter what historians try to do, “the historical record will remain profoundly distorted, skewed toward those lucky enough to be literate, educated, and middle or upper class and whose works appeared in mainstream outlets with wider circulation.”
In the spirit of recovery, Campbell then analyzes how women’s rhetoric and its history have been “lost” in the first place – or how certain obstacles and criticisms (“formal prohibitions,” “denial of agency,” “unsexing,” “attacks on character,” “aesthetic”) are fixed by traditional rhetoric to make it impossible to analyze justly.
In order to overcome these obstacles – and to protest them – women spoke or wrote in ways that both met traditional expectations of the rhetor “while incorporating stylistic elements that projected femininity” such as inductive structures, narrating personal experience, dialogism, etc. According to Campbell, these alternative rhetorics can only be recuperated through critical analysis.
Barrowing from Krista Radcliff’s efforts to theorize from analyses, Campbell argues that feminist critical analysis of the discursive practices that are recovered should be used to extract larger rhetorical theories: “the task of recovery is unending; recuperation, however, requires the analytical and interpretive work of critics.” It’s not clear to me, though, how these all link together. What would these new theories do? How might they help with current issues facing feminism? How might they help historiography of rhetoric?
Christine Mason Sutherland’s “Feminist Historiography: Research Methods in Rhetoric” (2002)
She starts by comparing how she learned to conduct historical research to how she learned to write – it just became second nature – which doesn’t seem to be very self-reflective. Her privileged background reinforces this for me.
The article is feminist in that it’s autobiographical – the most personal we’ve read so far – yet sometimes I can’t help but feel she abuses the notion by not discussing evidence enough. She brings up multiple issues but tends to dismisses them and move on (postmodernism being one of the biggies).
Agrees with Enos that more attention needs to be paid to primary texts since interpreting them makes her “feel more like a benefactor” than “taking the adversarial stance typical of so much secondary research.” This really provoked me – I never thought of this distinction and the idea that primary research could be considered a “feminist” move is powerful. I’m surprised more attention wasn’t paid to it. Instead she makes grander claims about the trouble with argumentive discourse.
Notes that she sides with “the authority of the writer, and the importance of seeing the text in the historical context,” which, she argues, characterizes traditional scholarship. But many feminists and scholars (who’d probably be calssified as po-mo) agree that all historical scholarship needs to be localized. I thought Campbell made a more nuanced argument in this regard and that Sutherland gets confused because she tries to claim too much.