Monday, February 12, 2007

more exam questions

Today D took the day off from work and cleaned the entire house. I tried my best to be okay with it and focus on working while she cleaned -- even though it is VERY VERY difficult for me to let her do stuff around the house without helping out. In fact, she's still cleaning the house now. Still, I've cleaned the house numerous times, so I'm trying to rationalize that it is okay this time for me to simply focus on getting work done -- not that I've achieved a whole lot.

I finished up writing questions for exam/list one (cultural studies and critical pedagogy). I have four full questions, which is what my director asked for, but I have the skeleton of two additional questions, which I want to return to and complete because I don't know that I was quite "spot on" with the first two.

Then it came time to begin tackling exam/list two (composition). Now this second list on comp theory is really the list that I am most "into" or interested in, yet I got stuck in such a rut when trying to craft questions. I have only one so far (lovely evidence of an entire day's worth of work), and it asks too many questions, but I'm not sure which one I want to get at:

1. There is an abundance of material out there on composition or the writing classroom’s disciplinary and normalizing functions; its role of turning students into “workers who are ‘compatible with the work environment’…” (“Cults of Culture” Hurlbert and Blitz 11); and its “gatekeeping” function. Sharon Crowley addresses this in her book Composition in the University and C. Mark Hurlbert and Michael Blitz as well in their essay “Cults of Culture” and in their edited collection, Composition and Resistance. In that collection, James Berlin states that in his effort, with a group of Purdue colleagues, to create a cultural studies writing course their primary goal is “to make students aware of the cultural codes – the various competing discourses – that attempt to influence who they are. Our larger purpose is to encourage our students to resist and to negotiate these codes – these hegemonic discourses – in order to bring about more personally humane and socially equitable economic and political arrangements” (“Composition and Cultural Studies” 50). In the same collection, Stephen North responds to Berlin (and to the ideas of cultural studies and critical pedagogy in general) by saying that he can’t and won’t “use this language of the Left…” (135). In doing so, he seems to help draw this divide within composition between Left and Right (obviously) and, therefore, between the discourse of current-traditional theories of composition and more recent moves to critical teaching, radical pedagogy and resistance. One of the points that Hurlbert and Blitz make in “Cults of Culture” is the way in which these debates surrounding the introduction of cultural critique into the writing classroom get played out in a type of “two-party” system, and thereby “reif[ies] one of the great failures of United States culture” (14). In a similar response to the teaching of resistance as pedagogical move, Joe Marshall Hardin notes that both views (the acculturation and normalization of students versus the liberalization and radicalization of them) “serve as two side of the same coin” (107). What kind of language or discourse might these two (supposed) sides share? What are the difficulties involved in an emancipatory classroom discourse that relies on the “illusion” of a “dichotomic dimension” (Laclau qtd. in Hardin 107) in order to operate? How might pedagogues who offer an alternative to oppositional discourses or pedagogies of resistance speak to what Bill Readings terms a community of dissensus, which "would seek to make its heteronomy, its differences, more complex. To put this another way, such a community would have to be understood on the model of dependency rather than emancipation" (University in Ruins190)?

So, it still needs some tweaking, but at least momentum is on my side (hopefully).

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