Friday, February 16, 2007

there's hope for me yet!

Today I met with a member of my committee who agreed to help me with what at first seemed a potentially overwhelming idea to create a survey for faculty and students regarding use of proprietary software. The logistics still seem a bit overwhelming, but the support will help a lot. The results will become part of my third chapter addressing proprietary software as clearly representative of the corporatization of the University. Not only did she help me with that, we just had some really productive conversation and brainstorming around my project that helped to clarify pieces of it for both us (I think; I hope). In addition(!), I’ve completed more than the asked for number of exam questions. Not only that(!)—but I’ve completed them before the agreed upon send-out to committee date set by my chair. Granted I still need to spend tomorrow going back over them, tweaking and such. I also still want to get a question in there that addresses the difficulty of a strictly materialist theory in a classroom that is devoted to creating the written word, which then, undeniably (at least in mind) needs to be treated as material. Discourse as material. Somehow I need to work in a question that deals with these issues around discursivity and materiality (and their seeming or alleged inability to meet).

Other than that, I feel like I might be coming down with some dreaded cold or flu type thing. Hopefully it doesn’t turn into anything as I have a “big” poker game scheduled for tomorrow night. Or maybe I’m just exhausted from the exhilarating nature of my day. Let’s hope.


chris said...

"a question" "that addresses the difficulty of a strictly materialist theory in a classroom that is devoted to creating the written word" ... that sounds really freakin interesting!

what are you thinking about materiality? i mean, Wysocki, in Writing New Media uses a pretty broad definition of materiality (citing Bruce Horner), one that includes everything from class, socioeconomics, material classroom conditions, teacher experiences, available suppport, etc...

i aks in part b/c i think i've only recently started maintaining a conscious awareness of "materiality." so, then, what does "Discourse as material" mean? for Horner and Wysocki materiality is almost like rhetoric - i.e., what isn't material??

just wonderin :)

VTmtngrrl said...

hi chris, thanks for your interest and seeming enthusiasm:)

when i say materialist i am thinking more a historical materialist definition that assumes a causal relationship between the mode of production and reproduction and the development of human history. i think that in a traditional marxist sense things are independent from thought -- reality is found only in the discovery or uncovering of ones material conditions, which comes back to modes of re/production. so in this way, thought and discourse aren't viewed as material.

while i haven't read wysocki's collection (though i now want to check it out), it seems that you might be pointing to is a discursive materialism or a materialism as (re)defined by some feminists and cultural studies scholars and poststructuralists for that matter who see things like text and thought and discourse as material.

your question: what isn't material? is the question i struggle with often. and that is what gets tricky for me about materiality and the writing classroom. obviously i see text as material, but do i also see it all coming back to the more strict economic sense of a traditional marxist? back to re/production and classroom conditions etc.? in some ways, yes.

ultimately, the question i came up with was this:
6. In “On Literature as an Ideological Form,” Etienne Balibar and Pierre Macherey describe the literary effect as “socially produced in a determined material process. This is the process of constitution, i.e. the making and composing of texts, the ‘work’ of literature” (49). They go on to say that the creator of the text “is a material agent” writing or ‘working’ in “conditions he has not created” and that s/he cannot control, and they describe the outcome—the text itself—as “a material outcome stamped with a particular ideological effect which marks it ineradicably” (49). Because they see text production as “not only itself the effect of material causes, but is also an effect on socially determined individuals…it sets up a process itself”(50) – that of the consumption of text. How does this view of writing as material practice influence the production (and consumption) of student texts in a classroom setting? And how does the claim made by John Carlos Rowe (many years after the work of scholars like Althusser, Balibar and Macherey) in his essay “The Writing Class” that “in these postmodern economies, the means of production are no longer primarily material but discursive” relate to a classroom in which the central mode of production is that of text?

chris said...

my off-the-top-of-my-head definition goes something like this:
"(discursive) materialism: matter; a (usuaully) physiologically experienceable substance, sound, object, etc.; an ideology of the production/consumption of human (language) materials and how they shape being."

it seems that the -ism of "materialism" makes this notion too abstract (at least in terms of how i think it could be useful/instructive/pedagogically applicable). "socioeconomic", "feminists", "Marxist", etc. aren't tangible, "material" things in the sense that i can experience them physiologically. and i want/need/exploring concepts that allows me to move the moving, feeling, experiencing body to the the center of a conversation about language and discourse. that is, i'm working from (or think i'm working from) a position wherein there is a body before there is thought and where once there is thought the body remains central to thought development/evolution.

maybe i'm trying to appropriate the term "materialism" for a very too-specific purpose - to talk about the role of the body in the process of production (specifically knowledge production in a composition classroom)? maybe i don't need to do this. however, right now it seems important useful, if not important.

i'm reading Sue Wells's book Sweet Reason wherein she discusses materialism in relation to human bodies. i'm only about 30 pages into it, so i'm not totally sure how she uses or develops it. maybe she will prove helpful.

VTmtngrrl said...

I'd be interested in knowing what she ends up saying about materialism in relation to human bodies.

As I know it -- materialism--in its broadest, most general sense, before we add any of those descriptors on before it (cultural, historical, discursive, dialectic = all kinds of materialism) refers, as you've written here, to matter.

it seems to me that in your work with the body, you are working from a Marxist conception of materialism. In The German Ideology Marx talks about consciousness as only arising "from the need, the necessity, of intercourse with other men" (49) (he is saying the same about language). Consciousness, says Marx, is determined by the human's production of his/her life. So that it would seem, yes, there is first this body, as you are saying, but once there is thought--that consciousness continues to develop "through increased productivity" (GI 50).

I guess that for me it seems important to assert a materiality to the product (text) that gets produced in the writing classroom, as opposed to strictly seeing materialism as labor process itself. But your focus on the body seems to ground you in the mode of production "which is as old as men themselves" (49).