Wednesday, December 13, 2006

helping out my brother

My brother is working on his MBA and created this mini-documentary with some of his peers: It chronicles the story of the Meheba Entrepreneur's Society & Institute (MESI), a micro-finance institute that three students put together at the Meheba Refugee Settlement in Zambia, Africa.

The site this is posted on will actually pay money once the video gets 20,000 views and is rated at 3+ stars. At 20,000 views, the site will pay $100 and then $5 for every 1,000 views after that. That means that if we can get this video to 2,000,000 viewers, $10,000 can be earned. The money paid from the site will be donated to MESI to help fund additional loans for even more refugees going forward.

So, please consider, visiting the site and viewing the video. Also, please rate the video 5 stars! The higher the rating, the more exposure the video will get on the site! If you have two computers, watch it on both!

Poverty Reduction Begins With ME! - video powered by Metacafe

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

dribs and drabs

Lately I've been completely avoiding my "scholarly" work life. I can never figure out what to call my "not teaching" work life. I hate the bizarre distinctions--as if teaching is not scholarly or academic or research-oriented.... Basically, I've just been avoiding revising my prospectus. Every time my "writing time" comes 'round, it makes me feel sick to my stomach, so I've been (understandably) putting it off. Today I *finally* finished revising the chapter two section!!! Since the intro and chapter two were the worst, I feel relieved. I now only have two more chapters and the conclusion to work through, but there are only about a total of sixteen comments from my director total, so I see a light. Yes, a light. But then again, I still have to go back and put some "finishing touches" on the introduction when. Today I finished chapter two with thirteen minutes left on my pester, so I decided to blog--something else I've been avoiding, since this is my "academic" life blog.

I need to keep reminding myself that when I finally am able to get myself to sit down, open my prospectus and focus on the revisions, it is not that bad--kind of exciting even--but overcoming the nausea to get to that point is always a difficult factor.

Part of my ongoing struggle in terms of this revision has been to articulate (more clearly) the reason that I see the University as a starting point in scrutinizing one's own critical position. Here is something I wrote a couple of weeks back that became in exercise in articulating that part of my argument:

I have been looking forward to getting this month's issue of College English and checking out William Thelin's latest article, "Student Investment in Political Topics." I figured the article would be closely related to my dissertation, but at the moment it resonates most strongly because the past couple of weeks of ENG105 have been devoted to my students choosing topics for their final paper, which will be a piece of cultural commentary/criticism. And I've been struggling with remaining a bit laissez-faire, while also guiding them toward actual cultural critique(s).

Thelin writes, "Our students have a better chance at financial comfort by developing an awareness of the cultural contradictions of capitalism and engaging in the concomitant political action than by competing against one another within the current system" (143). I agree with him and find myself making a similar argument when addressing the importance of looking at the corporate University as an object of study. I believe the "contradictions of capitalism" are alive and well in the University and that this localized context provides for an opportunity for students to look closely at issues of globalization and capitalism in a way/place that hits close to home. Thelin, however, sees a localized context as problematic (in agreeing with Donald Lazere), arguing that "having students focus exclusively on local issues does those students a disservice, as it denies them the opportunity to 'understand the political and economic forces to which they are captive'" (143). In terms of my own projcct's argument, I do not see the local context of the Universityas the "exclusive" focus of the classroom, and even so, I don't see it as doing a disservice because in my mind it does just what Lazere and Thelin fear a localized context and local issues fail to do: provide them with the opportunity to understand the political and economic forces that affect them daily (their education and their future). The University as corporate is the most immediate political economic force to which they are most certainly--in many ways--held "captive." And often "held captive" in ways that that don't even realize. After all, the food court is just where they get food, right? The fact that the are eating Sbarro's and Buger King for four years has no long term of extended effects, right? And those classes they take with a professor whose salary is in part funded by Pfizer? Those classes won't affect them beyond the scope of the University, right? Or the sweatshirts they buy their friends and families as gifts from the campus bookstore...? Part of Thelin's argument is based on the quote from Wayne Booth that opens his piece: "The most valuable political act any teacher can perform is not to impose particular political views but to teach students to see the words that society tries to inject into them unseen." And the University is certainly a part of that appartus that injects words and images into its students in an "unseen" manner. Teaching them to "read" the University seems to me as important as Thelin's project of teaching them to read Parade's list of the world's worst dictators. I'm not arguing that studying the purchasing habits and profit margin of the campus bookstore will necessarily be more enlightening to the students' understanding of global issues than Thelin's example, simply that it is as reasonable a context (if not more relevant to the students' daily lives) than any other we choose as the focus of critical pedagogy writing classroom.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

these days...

these days (a.k.a. the last four to five weeks of the semester)...

I eat twizzlers while grading to avoid taking up smoking.

I don't get my hair cut.

I don't go to the grocery store;

therefore, I don't cook;

therefore, I don't eat "real" food.

I lean on get me through each day. (It's gross).

I don't return phone calls.

I try to keep track of what the various stacks in my office actually mean.

I start thinking ahead to all of the things that I'm going to do "right" next semester.

I do the dishes (which really only consist of cereal bowls because there is no cooking going on) every few days.

I stare obsessively at the pages of my planner, as if suddenly an additional block of time will appear...or maybe a whole additional day of the week.

I see my exam date becoming further out of my reach (again).

I go back and forth on how many days I can actually allow myself to travel for thanksgiving.

I contemplate how I can get through to the next semester with my limited clothing supply, seeing as I can't seem to make it to the dry cleaners, and most my other laundry piles up while the occasional load I do manage to throw in often sits in the dryer for days at a time.

I write lists, thinking that will somehow make sense out of the chaos that is my life these days.

Monday, November 13, 2006

revising break-ups

A good friend of mine is going through a difficult break-up. I know she would do (and has done) the same for me/us, so D and I have been there for her quite a lot over the past week and a half--providing her with a bed to sleep in, a place to vent and ears to vent to, and substantial (if repetitive) advice. The only problem is that much of the hell that has broken lose in this slowly ending relationship has taken place in the middle of the night. For some reason, this break-up feels as though it is suddenly becoming my/our own. D and I wake up exhausted, having been up for many hours of the night. Time that I would have spent reading and prepping has now been given over to listening. Of course, I know this won't last, and any friend of mine who is in a heap on the floor (though this particular friend is much stronger than that...but close to it at times) is not going to stay there if I/we can do anything about it.

The interesting part of this for me is that it is one of the moments that causes me to be a bit more empathic toward my own students. I often get stories/excuses about lost sleep over helping a roommate or friend. My all too common reaction (though not the one I express to the student) is to let the friend or roommate take care of him/herself so that you can take care of you and your school work. But right now I'm seeing all too clearly the ways in which we do and can (and maybe even should at times) allow the problems of those close to us become our own problems as well.


I have really been struggling through this most recent revision of my prospectus. I've spent weeks simply (re)working the introduction, and trust me, the amount of time is not reflected in the quality of the introduction. I've now forced myself to momentarily move on to the first couple of chapters, but this morning alone I spent nearly an hour on a paragraph--a paragraph that still appears pretty weak to me.

One of the central questions plaguing chapter one is: How does the quest for disciplinarity work against the counterhegemonic potential of rhet/comp?

I make this claim that

Finally I will argue that composition’s quest for disciplinary recognition has been a distraction—a distraction from our classrooms, a distraction from the current conditions of the corporate University, and a distraction from the ways in which our potentially counterhegemonic position has been subsumed by the popularity of cultural studies/critical pedagogy, or at least when it is used as yet another step in achieving disciplinary recognition, which becomes another step into the corporate world of higher education.

This thought first occured to me while reading the WPA listserv. At times (this was a couple of years back) I felt that so much of the conversation was focused on achieving a certain status as a field that all talk of pedagogy was put on the back-burner. But overall, I'm not sure (yet) how I am going to go about supporting this claim. (Oh! Another moment of empathy for/with my students!)


On top of all this the coffee shop where I tend to accomplish a lot of my work is playing some mix that just happens to have ALL of my favorite songs on it. I'm not quite sure how they knew, but it is a little distracting.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I love Halloween

I just love Halloween.  It is such a festive holiday.  It is such a holiday of rebellion.  Very rarely are we given clearance to go out, look like somebody else, and wreak havoc.  Even if I'm occasionally sickened by the bags and bags of halloween candy stocked on store shelves--stuff that, as D puts it, "People shouldn't even be eating."  Oh, but what do I do?  Fill a plastic pumpkin with a mix of twizzlers and chocolates and bring it to school for my students.  Ah, yes, my ability to take a stand against corporate America seems to wane with each passing year.  Now that is frightening!

Yesterday I wore halloween socks to work and dressed in all black.  I had my students work collaboratively on writing "The Worst Ever Halloween Essay."  Then in the evening, D and I donned crazy wig/hat combos and painted our faces and took "the kids" (her niece and nephew) trick-or-treating.

Today though it is back to reality, and the truly scary piles of student papers awaiting my time and attention!!!!

Blogged with Flock

Monday, October 30, 2006


On Thursday night D and I attended the first Frequency North reading of the year. It was a fun, lively, and pleasant evening. My lovely friend Tara performed, and her boyfriend made an appearance as Captain Danger, frontman for the house band of the Million Poems Show Janice Erlbaum read from her new book, Girlbomb: A Halfway Homeless Memoir.   D bought the book, started reading it last night, and I don't think she has put it down since.  I have to say, in the almost four years we've been together, I've never seen my girl not be able to put down a book, nor have I seen her tear through a book at this rate of speed.  It's been lovely because we haven't had the TV on for two nights in a row!  I just don't know what will happen when that back flap hits the final page.  It will be a sad moment for both of us, I'm sure. 

On Saturday night we saw Ember Swift play at Caffe Lena.  Caffe Lena is truly one of my favorite places.  You go into this cozy little, cooperatively run venue, get a totally intimate show, eat warming vegetarian chile, and snack on freshly baked chocolate chip cookies while sipping chamomile tea.  It really doesn't get much better.

On Sunday I set up my laptop and my bag of books in the cafe at Borders.  Typically you'll find me in the various little independently owned coffee shops around the city.  And typically I bitch that the corporations have to charge their customers for wifi, but the independents offer it free.  BUT, I have found that working at Borders lends to my productivity because of the fact that they charge for wifi.  When I'm not knocking around the web, feeling sorry for myself and searching for some kind of answer about my project to fall out of the blogosphere, then I'm actually focusing on the document in front of me--my prospectus!  Currently in its eight hundredth revision (and coming soon to a committee near you--really!). 


Blogged with Flock

Foucault and the local (to the rescue?)

Q:  What can be gained from scrutinizing one's own critical position / contextuality? Why is the corporate University a starting point--not as an end?

I just have to rely on and align myself with Foucault on this one.

A:  "Intellectuals have got used to working, not in the modality of the 'universal', the 'examplary', the just-and-true-for-all', but within specific sectors, at the precsie points where their own conditions of life or work situate them (housing, the hospital, the asylum, the laboratory, the university, family and sexaul relations).  This has undoubtedly given them a much more immediate and concrete awareness of struggles.  And they have met here with problems which are specific, 'non-universal', and often different from those of the proletariat or the masses.  And yet I believe intellectuals have actually been drawn closer to the proletariat and the masses, for two reasons.   Firstly, because it has been a question of real, material, everday struggles, and secondly because  they have often been confronted, albeit in a different form, by the same adversary as the proletariat, namely the multinational corporations..." (Power/Knowledge 126). 

Blogged with Flock

Monday, October 23, 2006

owning marginality

In thinking about the practices that contribute to the corporatization of the University, I started thinking about Wesley Shumar's arguments in College for Sale:

Shumar points out the way in which academics resist being classified as temporary, part-time, adjunct, etc. because it delegitimizes them. At the same time, by not naming this delegitimization it allows it to continue. "Denial of power makes it possible to participate in commodifying processes unconsciously. I believe those processes must be brought to consciousness" (11). As much of critical pedagogy and cultural studies seeks to name the object of study and unmask or unveil anything that might be hidden from view, it seems that this consciousness of the power structures at play within the University should be a focal point for the critical pedagogy/cs writing classroom. A point even the most well-meaning of us might need to be reminded of....

I once had a student in a required course for the English major. Apparently it was her goal in life to become an adjunct instructor in an English department. I was not initially aware of this particular student's long-term goal, but when she was interviewing another adjunct instructor as part of an assignment for my class, she was made aware of the conditions in which we work. The adjunct whom she interviewed went into detail about the stress associated with the temporary nature of our positions, the little money we make, the way(s) in which our position leaves us out of decision making processes and can hinder what we might do and/or talk about in the classroom. The student was shocked, having had no idea about these conditions. And I was shocked too--shocked because I found it so brave that this part-time instructor (who also had this student in one of her classes) would step-up and own our marginality, rather than masking it, keeping it from students. She gave up the secret that I myself, even with my in-class discussions about unions, labor practices, and Marxism, had never broached with my students.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

square into a circle

There are days, with this project, that I feel I'm trying to force a square into a circle. And I fear that when I realize I can't do any such thing, then the whole foundation of the project will crumble, and I'll be left with nothing. Hopefully these are common feelings for this process.

So I've chosen a few comments from those that my director gave me on my revised prospectus, and I've been setting them up as kind of freewriting prompts and forcing myself to write on them:
The first comment I chose to focus on had to do with rhet/comp's adoption of critical pedagogy and cultural studies and the relative inattention paid to the university's structure. My director asked whether this lack of attention "speak to their assumption that the university's structure mirrors that of the larger society as a whole." So he wants to know why I argue for the specific context of the corporate University as so crucial--why I think it should be a starting point, not an end.
I set myself up with this prompt:
What might be gained in scrutinizing one's own critical position/contextuality? In particular that of the corporate University?

And I guess that it just is, isn't a good enough answer.

Comp Convo on blogging

At CSR we have a bi-weekly series called "Comp Conversations" organized by our WPA. Some weeks she presents on a specific topic, and other weeks various faculty members present. I'm using the term "present" loosely here, because as the name indicates, the sessions tend to be casual conversations shared by faculty and adjuncts alike. It's a chance to talk "shop," which for us is pedagogy.

This week, I'm up. My mission is to talk about blogging in the writing classroom. I put together a resource sheet for those who attend, but given the nature of the topic, it seems crucial that there is a place where they can actually click on all of the links I am providing. So here it is!

Various uses for Blogs:
List and explain class assignments; keep class news, announcements updated
Create a class blog with all of the students as the authors contributing to one blog
Continue with class conversation in writing
Use as a place for brainstorming and figuring out ideas
Create photo essays
Have students keep track of and link to current events or other material relevant to the course and/or their studies.
Post reading responses so that they can be shared with rest of class
Give students a forum that they may already be familiar and comfortable with (myspace, facebook users, etc.)
“Theme” blogs—student blogs on a single topic for the semester, creating connections (hyerlinks) between posts

Blogs allow for readership from the “outside” world, pushing the students to think about audience and rhetorical context, as well as creating an opportunity for dialogue that we so rarely get in other forms of writing.


edublogs: this site is a free source for hosting both your own blogs (as an educator as well as students blogs) using wordpress

flock: flock makes blogging easy as it integrates with programs like wordpress, blogger, livejournal, etc. Flock also provides an easy to use RSS reader.

AcademHacK: this is a blog about tech tools for academics. The site sets out to prove that technology should make teaching easier and more effective.

HigherEd BlogCon: “HigherEd BlogCon 2006 seeks to engage the Higher Education community in a conversation on the use of blogs, wikis, RSS, audio and video podcasts, social networks, and other digital tools in a range of areas in academe.”

Blogs For Learning: “Blogs for Learning is an online resource designed for students and instructors who are interested in instructional blogging. The goal of the site is to provide information and resources surrounding the technical, legal, and pedagogical aspects of blogging in the classroom.”

BlogBridge: essentially an RSS reader that helps you categorize and organize the blogs you read.

bloglines: allows you to subscribe to blogs (RSS), share your favorite blogs with friends, colleagues, etc., and publish your own blog as well.

Blogs on blogging:


Good Blog News

Nice article from a few days ago in The Seattle Times: Living: “Teachers are reaching out to students with a new class of blogs”

“Never in 25 years of teaching have I seen a more powerful motivator for writing than blogs,” [Mark] Ahlness said. “And that’s because of the audience. Writing is not just taped on the refrigerator and then put in the recycle bin. It’s out there for the world to see. Kids realize other people are reading what they write.”

Nice way to start the week…

incorporated subversion
      BlackBoard and Blogging

A colleague at an Australian University showed me some details about where they’re going with Blackboard and blogs and oh dearie dearie me… it’s not a pretty place!

Specifically their “blog journal… [&] e-portfolio for teaching in the Autumn semester” is somewhat limited by the fact that:

“each blog will be subject bound (and it even has less functions than Blogger back in 2001) so at the end of the subject it all vanishes…..there’s no publicly published works - all secured behind the limits of students enrolled in that subject… [and more]”

Dontya just love the fact that they’re using a ‘blog journal’. I’m surprised they frickin didn’t call it a ‘blogg journal’ or my alltime favourite ‘BLOGG’ like it’s an acronym ;)

As my contact also points out the University in question is also somewhat seriously strapped for cash, and yet evidently has no problem heaping it out for these tools rather than taking the lead of many other excellent institutions and using open source tools.

And no, it’s not my place… As it happens some pretty exciting things are happening here in the OS social software sense… hope to be able to write more on that soon, it’s surprising where perseverance + time can sometimes get you!!!

Why Not Blog?
      Teaching Literature with Blogs
      The Urge to Link

(my blogs!): the most cake
      my blogging in ENG105 philosophy

(dan nester’s blogs): Daniel Nester’s Teaching
ENG105 blog Spring 2006

LCC2400 (thanks dave

Examples of a blogging portfolio:

4040 blog

My First Attempt

What some students have to say…

“Well okay I haven't released my name or anything, but now I'm more open to expressing myself andtalking about me and what's important to me. I have even decided to keep my blog after the class is over.” -- Pen and Ink

Monday, October 16, 2006


Yesterday I received a marked-up copy of my prospectus. I read the e-mail from my director, but have yet to open the actual document (that is what I'm supposed to be doing now). The e-mail refers to two "big-picture" revisions that I should be thinking about: 1) The intro: The intro should serve to introduce a coherent set of problems rather than duplicating the chapter sketches the come later, as I get to each individual chapter. 2) Unpack what I mean by "corporate University."

I actually thought my intro was the strongest part of my prospectus, so I'm a bit disappointed by the need for some major revision. At the same time, I can see his point and am willing to give it a go.

In addition, I need to make clear what I mean when I talk about the "ruins" (Bill Readings' term). How am I defining these ruins?

The rest of the bad news: The e-mail expresses concern the the amount and type of comments on the document might be overwhelming (hence the unopened attachment).

The good news: My ideas for qualitative research on the use of proprietary software by writing instructors sounds promising. And, finally, "To my mind, this version indicates that you're ready to schedule the exams."

In my mind I feel that I've done more revisions of this prospectus than the average person. Last night I had nightmares about the whole process. In the week that I haven't been working on this project and have only been focusing on my students/teaching, I have been quite happy. Now it's just all about over-coming fear and focusing on the the end of the tunnel, of course.
Okay, I'm going to go open it now.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

short growing season

I know that the Northeast has a short growing season, but in the three seasons that I've been gardening (pretty limited experience, but still...), I've never had such an abundance of green tomatoes. Yesterday we attempted to "rescue" these tomatoes from impending frost. Not sure what we'll so when they all turn (if they all turn) at once. Salsa anyone?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Call for Comments

In thinking further about the issues that have been cropping up with my students' blogs, I've decided that it might help if their blogs were able to gain more "outside" readership. While a couple of students have had the experience of readers who aren't their peers or teacher leaving comments, most have not, and I find that their sense of writing for a larger audience is dwindling. This is something I will address in class, as one of my original goals for the project was to have students think about a reading audience that extends beyond the immediate classroom. At midterm this point seems to need reiterating and further discussion. But in addition to talking with them in class, I would love it if anyone reading this post might consider browsing, reading, and possibly commenting on my students' blogs. You can find them listed under blog roll @ our class blog site: expos-i-story.

I also think that if students come to the realization that additional readers are actually reading their blogs, this realization could further their investment in this type of writing/this forum, rather than seeing it as merely an exercise to fulfill an ENG105 assignment. In addition, I think this will further illustrate and meet the goals of the open source model that this project is based upon.

While some might argue that this isn't the most "natural" way or that I'm "manipulating" the "open-sourceness" and goals of this project (or maybe these are my own arguments), this is often the way we find blogs to read--by cross-posting/referencing and following links. This is representative of how the sphere works. Something else that I believe iis important for my students to think about as they continue to produce entries and read around on the blogs of others.

Thanks to any and all who are willing to read/participate!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

what else? mid-term review continued

As I vowed earlier in the season, I really have been enjoying the Fall. We even decorated for Halloween!

I started a new vinyasa yoga class. This week was my second week. I took the class two days ago, and I'm still sore. It's been interesting for sure. I've been away from yoga for nearly two years and have only ever practiced ashtanga. This class's instructor talks about how part of yoga is breaking habit, so it has been effective in that sense, as I try to concentrate on this new style that is similar to ashtanga, but clearly not the same. It is much less flowing, and that for me is proving to be incredibly difficult. The difficulty comes in holding the poses for a lot longer than I'm accustomed to.

I've gone to see two movies in the theater. I have to admit that when I'm swamped with work, one of my favorite breaks is heading over to the Spectrum, getting a green tea and maybe a piece of banana bread, and sitting in the dark theater next to D, and getting lost in film. Unfortunately I would rather have been studying than watching The Black Dahlia. I'd read the reviews, but it still picqued my interest, and it was one of those films about which I just wanted to decide for myself. I thought that at the very least it would be a great escapist film--something I need between revisions of my prospectus and grading student papers. I won't bother to repeat too much of what all the scathing reviews have already said, but it was laughably bad. It is probably the only film in my life that I'd paid to see and wanted to walk out of mid-way through (my fellow movie-goers convinced me to stick it out to the end). I get what the film was trying to do, but it failed miserably at campy, at kitschy, at imitation 1940s film noir...and on and on....

The other film we saw was half nelson, which actually turned out to be much better than I expected--much less predictable than I thought it would be.

Today I just discovered yet another study break--watching the little dot that is Scotty and Fiddy travel across the country. Oooo...looks like they just made it through Montpelier VT. I'm jealous.

And saving the best for project. Well, my revised prospectus is in the hands of my director who happens to be falling behind on grading, commenting, responding, all of that. I'm not sure what that means for my proposed November exam dates, but for now it feels good that it is a little bit out of my hands. Although, this is also a weird space to be in. How to study between now and then? I plan to work on making sure my lists are completely accurate and in doing so figure out what I need to review, what notes might still need to be imported to devon, etc.. That is on the agenda for later today.

ten minute mid-term check-in

Can it really be nearly six weeks since I've blogged? Not that I haven't been completely wrapped up in the blogosphere, but it seems that reading through and commenting on three sections of student blogs has taken away from my own blogging time.

In the past week or so it seems that my students are really lagging behind with their posting. They are either not posting at all, or their posts are not as developed as they were in the beginning. I talked to them about this today in class. I also asked them for (anonymous...well except for the results of the handwriting analysis) feedback on the class in general. A few of the students say they are experiencing problems with Flock, so today in class I decided to have everyone post their freewrite to their blog, so I could double check these issues and try to help out. For the most part the issues seem to be either sporadic--as in, they can post *most* of the time, but not always and for seemingly no reason--or just inexplicable. I have one student running PocketFlock and has been since the second week of the semester, and suddenly now it is running incredibly slowly--not loading his RSS feeds properly, making it really difficult for him to comment on the blogs of his peers. Other students have had trouble with Flock freezing or not opening at all. Ultimately it seems as though I may have reconsider the use of Flock in future semesters.

Aside from Flock, the feedback about the blogging portion of the class has been really, really mixed. I'm trying to be okay with this, but I'm just not sure I'm reaching enough of the students with this one. I find it a valuable project and have tried to articulate that to them, though not all of them seem to see it that way. And I actually really enjoy reading what they have to say. Again, Dave has said that about 80% seem invested, and I want to be okay with that percentage. I want to say that with that percentage, I would do this all again. But the divide between those who LOVE it and are invested and those who HATE it and find it incredibly stressful is HUGE. This weekend I'm sending out e-mails to individual students who seem to be strugging, with the hope of offering advice to get everyone on track (again).

Other than that, I'm thrilled to say that I received numerous requests for MORE in-class freewriting. Not a problem. Coming right up!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

no time for anything...except to take this personality quiz

You Have A Type A- Personality

You are one of the most balanced people around
Motivated and focused, you are good at getting what you want
You rule at success, but success doesn't rule you.

When it's playtime, you really know how to kick back
Whether it's hanging out with friends or doing something you love!
You live life to the fullest - encorporating [sic] the best of both worlds

Saturday, September 23, 2006

balancing act

I found this post helpful in reminding me that it is possible to balance teaching, having a life, and writing a dissertation. I'm still pretty much in awe that people can throw (poor word choice) having a baby into the mix!!!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

fun home

I'm so psyched that Alison Bechdel of Dykes to Watch out For fame (or as much fame as you can get writing a lesbian comic strip) has a new book out. It's actually a memoir/graphic novel. Turns out that Bechdel grew up in a funeral home with a closeted gay dad. Though a dark tale it might be, I'm sure it is packed with Bechdel's incredibly smart humor. I'm a huge fan of Bechdel's, and as someone who has been missing Six Feet Under since that final episode, I'm hoping this will satiate my desire for quirky, dark, funeral parlor humor and gothic coming of age stories.

Friday, September 15, 2006

dream about Blackboard: a.k.a. avoiding some tough revisions

Last night I had a dream...or was it a nightmare... about Blackboard. I don't remember it clearly, but I do know that in the dream I was *forced* to log into CSR's blackboard site for some documents that I absolutely needed and there no other way to get them. I remember I was very confused because it had been awhile since I'd been on there, and I could not navigate with ease. I was very frustrated and hated blackboard.

Translation = scary stuff.

the project runway life hack: a.k.a "make it work"

I am going to apply what I'm calling "the project runway life hack" to my draft/revision that I must have done by tomorrow evening.

When the contestants on Project Runway get their challenge assigned to them, they often need to have it done in two days (just like my critical pedagogy chapter/outline draft!). They spend the first day looking at fabric, buying fabric, changing their minds, draping the fabric in different ways, maybe changing their minds again, receiving feedback from Tim and occasionally their peers. But on day two comes "make it work time." The runway show is upon them and no matter how much they want to add, subtract, rework their project, they can't. They have to take what is there and "make it work."

That is my plan. Today I'm allowing myself to get caught up in discussions related to my project that aren't necessarily part of my lists. I'm taking notes, adding things to the draft, rethinking what I've added, reading some more...maybe the reading makes me change my mind.... But tomorrow. Tomorrow is "make it work" time. Take that draft, focus on that draft, and make it suitable for its runway walk... or a read through by my diss director.

(Oh yeah...the key here is...whether or not it is perfect. If I need to tape a seam for now, then I'll have to tape a seam for now...).

Thursday, September 14, 2006


I vowed to *really* notice fall this year--to notice the color of the leaves, to feel the chill in the air, to breathe in the wood stoves and fireplaces. So often it all slips past me, as I launch myself into the new school year.

The past few weeks of Ultimate frisbee have been cut short, as darkness falls a few minutes earlier each day. The players seem to be dropping off as well.

Tonight it is raining. Rain makes me feel cozy. But also lazy. I try not to fight against the dwindling hours of daylight, but my productivity seems to drop off drastically. Most noticeably--I have not been very active this week. Tomorrow we'll hit the gym (for the first time this week). I hope to mountain bike over the weekend (Sunday). And I really should find a yoga class to join. I'll probably have to wait for my second "real" paycheck for that though. I got my first one today. It's amazing how fast the government can burst *that* bubble.

Today I bought a new paper journal. It has been a long time since I've journaled on paper. I spend so much time writing in other forms that it has come to seem like an additional task, but I think that my anxiety (and crabbiness) rises in relation to the amount of time that I spend away from pen and paper.

The garden is abundant, but sometimes I miss the farmers market. Every Tuesday from 4-7 is the farmer's market in my neighborhood. Each week I pass it on my way home from work. My instinct is always to stop, but then I think--what will I buy there? Tomatoes? I'm giving those away myself. Leafy greeens? We've been eating lovely mixures of broccoli and swiss chard. The only thing I could really purchase there are the sweets, and considering the fact that I baked both chocolate chip cookies and banana bread over the weekend, it seems that we don't need more of that either. (Especially not more of that!!).

Tonight I spent far too much time in front of the TV--avoiding working on my revision that I have to send to my committee director my Saturday night. But, I tell myself, it's the rain and the darkness, and I haven't yet settled into my "new" routine. But I did put on water for Mint Magic tea. And tomorrow night our Friday night "date" will involve going for coffee and reading. This is what we do in the fall. It's starting...again.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

nudity, community art, and composition

My students recently posted freewrites about lies in response to the epigraph from Mary Karr's memoir The Liar's Club. After looking at what some of them chose to expose in this particular genre/medium, Dave reminded me of this community art project--postsecret. Today I opted to show them this website as a lead-in to having them write about what it means to write in a particular rhetorical situation and what that means for what they decide to include and/or exclude in their writing. In other words, I wanted them to reflect upon the context(s) in which people choose to share secrets and lies in writing and why these choices are made.

So I explain to them the concept of this postsecret project (which has also resulted in a couple of books, not just the blog site) and I scroll through a few of the online "secrets." Of course the first one turns out to be about having cyber sex with dad. I don't know what to do and consider not actually looking at the posts--just leaving it at the concept, but I want to show them a little about the types of secrets that come out in this venue, so I carry on. I see a picture of a woman's naked breasts coming, and I abruptly stop (though I know they too saw what was coming) and have them freewrite. It's fine and all, but I wonder at myself. I mean most of these students have probably seen full frontal nudity (at least of women) in movies. They should be old enough to handle looking at art, and yet I stop before showing them this part of a community art project. I feel like I just encouraged a double-standard somehow. Or I acted like a naked woman is an image we should not view.
As far as the blogging goes: One section has a particularly HUGE computer literacy gap that--today--has become very difficult to manage. While some students don't know how to copy and paste (for example how to copy a URL to create a link to it within their blogs), others have already completed the assignment at hand. This is a tough classroom situation to navigate. I can't really move ahead when there are some who are behind and frantically trying to catch up. But, at the same time, those who understand are sitting there bored, half asleep--in short, feelingl like they are not getting their money's worth. The situation gets much more complicated when you take into account that fact that maybe only a portion of the "bored" contingency truly understand, while others have simply shut down.

Today I was talking with a colleague who likened it to her experience teaching in classes that had large population of ESL students. It comes down to a language/literacy gap.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

my project makes sense!!!

Yesterday I met with my dissertation committee chair. When he summarized my project it made sense to me. It sounded really promising. It sounded cohesive. It felt--in short--like a miracle! I wanted to try to capture here that summary, but already--in my head--it doesn't sound nearly as well put together as when he articulated it.

"Radical change will not be negotiated by governments; it can only be enforced by people." --Arundhati Roy

I want this to be the epigraph to my dissertation, or at least to one of the chapters....

Okay, it makes sense, but maybe not yet to me...?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

technology...or my life as of late

Lots of problems with technology in the classroom today. Today I dislike technology. It feels like it is making life more difficult rather than easier. And I'm the moment...feeling the payoffs. Right now I'm blogging along with my ENG105 class. We are doing this in lieu of in-class freewriting. For the first section I actually followed along with the prompt I gave them and posted by freewrite over at expos-i-story.

The main problem today has been with laptop users who downloaded Flock on Tuesday and at the time subscribed to the blogs of their peers. Today, however, I had at least four users so far whose feeds only gave them an error message. None of the feeds were working properly!!! It slowed class down tremendously, as the only way I could get it to work was to have them clear out all of the feeds; save the OPML file for their class to their desktop and import the feeds to Flock. They're working now, but I fear it will happen again.

In the first section I was really into demonstrating the "magic" that is RSS, but after they all posted their in-class writing, many of them couldn't get their reader to update, so they couldn't see the new articles magically load. That was a frustrating disappointment as well. And they kept asking me when will it update, when will it update. For PocketFlock users we tried closing out of PocketFlock and going back in again. That worked to an extent, but many of the blogs still hadn't updated. For Flock users I told them to hit refresh, but it only worked for one person. I can't make sense of any of this.

Two minutes to post time.... Back into teaching mode.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

youtubing teachers

Yesterday's Inside Higher Ed has an article about students putting up videos of their professors and teachers on YouTube. I just find it bizarre that this article about the potential for rights being violated--intellectual property rights, privacy, etc.-- included links to the videos. Not that I didn't click on the links and waste many minutes of my morning in the time-suck that is YouTube.... Still, I thought the article could have done more to explore the "other side," but all it had was this one overly simplified comment:
Among the issues being raised are whether this form of expression — however upsetting to faculty members — is an example of students acting on their feelings and expressing themselves, something composition instructors in particular tend to encourage.

And this idea is taken from discussion of this issue over at the blog digital digs. But again, these blogs that say they don't want to give too much attention to the issue (or the actual videos themselves), give the links to them. We are, after all, the reality show culture, so we want to see "the reality." Show me this stuff really is happenin'. And I am a product of this as well.

Jeff Rice in his blog Yellow Dog provides an interesting perspective on this genre of YouTube videos by exploring the conditions within which the teachers are situated. This perspective seems relevant then to the series of comments left under one of the videos where the teacher is screaming at his students during "the pledge." A number of comments are all about how and why this video represents why teachers should be hated and should *not* be respected, but the last comment questions the previous ones, asking what the problem is with a teacher trying to make "a bunch of arrogant jerkoff kids stand during their country's national anthem." And while I'm not sure about making anyone stand during the national anthem--that seems to be missing the point--this comment seems the only one with even minimal awareness of the teacher's situation.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

the technology sweat

In the past I've tended to avoid a lot of technology use in the classroom. I have done some small projects like having students edit and write articles for wikipedia, but wikipedia, of course, is already set-up for us. Today's class, however, involved one hundred minutes of computer use that included downloading, posting blog entries, creating links, subscribing to and reading RSS feeds, etc. (For more complete coverage see Dave's posts on classroom blogging over at academhack).

Teaching something that you're not incredibly certain of and comfortable with is tough. Technology, of course, always runs the risk of not quite doing what you want it to do (or maybe a server goes down something...). Anyway, as I'm working on maintaining this open source model of ENG105, I can't say that BB wouldn't have made life a *little* easier, BUT the added pedagogical benefits of doing it this way are worth it. And, as Dave has reminded me, it's the first run-through. We're still working out the quirks. In terms of the pedagogical benefits for the students, I find that BB simply acts as a mask--it obscures real life writing conditions. Writing, as we might tell our students, does not happen in a vacuum, particularly writing that is done online; however, BB is a vacuum--closed off from the rest of the campus community and the rest of the world. It's kind of like buying vegetables at Price Chopper as opposed to getting them from your backyard...or at least the farmer's market.

Today was mostly successful--except for the fact that PocketFlock doesn't allow the option of importing feeds. I had collected and saved the feed for each student's blog in an OPML file with the hope of passing that file along to each student to import to her/his version of Flock, but anyone using PocketFlock wasn't able to do this. In the second section we had everyone (as the majority in that class are using PocketFlock) manually add the blogs to their Flock news reader. This was quite time consuming, however, and we've now decided to build specific versions of PocketFlock that already contain that appropriate feeds.

More importantly though is the fact that students appeared to be "into it"--truly invested in gathering the feeds for their peers' blogs and launching their first couple of practice posts. I'm looking forward to maintaining this energy and exploring the rhetorical situation that is...blogging!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

inside higher ed.

Here is a rather disturbing article about the report from the Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education, which was approved by the members of the American Council on Education in early August. That is, until last week when Gerri Elliott, corporate vice president at Microsoft’s Worldwide Public Sector division, decided she didn't like the inclusion of references to open source software and open content projects in higher education.

The report's original paragraph (with which Elliott took issue):
The commission encourages the creation of incentives to promote the development of open-source and open-content projects at universities and colleges across the United States, enabling the open sharing of educational materials from a variety of institutions, disciplines, and educational perspectives. Such a portal could stimulate innovation, and serve as the leading resource for teaching and learning. New initiatives such as OpenCourseWare, the Open Learning Initiative, the Sakai Project, and the Google Book project hold out the potential of providing universal access both to general knowledge and to higher education.


In terms of local news...that is, my project. I've decided that I want to create more of a two-way street. So far I've mainly been criticizing critical pedaogy for its relative ignorance of/toward the corporatized University as discussed by many scholars including Bill Readings (his specific rendition of the corporate U as University of Excellence is key to my project), Wesley Shumar, Stanley Aronowitz, Michael Apple, and Leslie and Slaughter (to name a few). But in thinking more about this I find it interesting that Readings so clearly wants to distance himself from both critical pedaogy and cultural studies, and yet I think he may have had a rather narrow view of what critical pedaogy does and can do. There are critical pedaogogues out there doing work much like the work Readings wants to see in his "scene of teaching." Joe Marshall Hardin seems to me one example. At the end of Opening Spaces, Hardin spends a good deal of time rejecting oppositional, resistant, and emancipatory discourses and pedagogical approaches, claiming they only serve "to support the hegemony of dominant ideology in a perpetual dialogue of left versus right" (113). To me this seems quite relevant and similar to Readings' idea of 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" (190). This gets a little confusing here because Readings' idea of "dependency" could be mistaken with Hardin's (and Laclau's) formulation of right and left as "dependent on each other; they serve as two sides of the same coin" (107). But all in all, I feel that if Readings had the opportunity to read and/or interact with Hardin (and others like him), he might have a slightly different view of critical pedaogy and cultural studies.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

worried? or just plain paranoid?

My students' first blogging assignment is simply to create their blog. The assignment is now posted. I'm hoping it is not too rudimentary, but of my sixty students only around three or four of them have ever blogged before.


Today at the end of class I was talking to a student about blogging, while the next class was coming in (not sure what class it was). The instructor overheard me and asked if I am using the new blogging feature in Blackboard. I told him no, that we're using wordpress. He proceeded to tell me a bit about the new BB feature. I told him that I am familiar with it, and that it is "quite nice." Why did I say that? I don't think it's "quite nice." I think it limits student creativity and that the money could be better spent elsewhere. Finally I said to him, in barely a whisper, that I'm opposed to Blackboard/proprietary software in general. I whispered as if I have to keep my class plans and pedagogical philosophies on the "down-low." But when I read things like this, I can't help but worry. I mean I've never received explicit instructions from CSR to use only their server/software, but then again it just seems to be assumed that EVERYONE at CSR uses BB. The entire campus community uses it to communicate. Using BB has just become so naturalized. It's frustrating. And it's ridiculous to feel like I need to sneak around to give my students an open source model of education and to simply give them some amount of creative control over their blogs (which BB gives them none).

Monday, August 28, 2006

first day of school

Not a lot to report. Completed one (of three) section of ENG105. My first time teaching in a computer lab, but I'm excited about adding technology to my courses, so it makes sense to have this kind of access. I asked the students to indicate on their questionnaires if they blog--only two out of twenty do, so for most of them this will be an entirely new experience.

I've already caught the start-of-semester-cold, which made it rough to talk at length today, but with three-quarters of the class new to college, I wanted to be particularly thorough in my explanation(s).

I still think wordpress was a solid choice for student blogging, but I'm having my own difficulties with it in that it won't really allow me use code or HTML of any sort. It will only allow me to modify and create using its tools, so I'm having trouble embedding google calendar into my sidebar. I've created the class schedule for the year at google calendar so that they'll have an online version that they can access. For now I've provided links on a separate page. I also need to figure out the best way of posting PDF files.

On Wednesday and Thursday I'll be assigning the students to set-up their wordpress blogs, so I'll have more of an update then.

Tonight it is all exhaustion...and it is deceivingly hot outside, but still I have Dar Williams' "End of the Summer" in my head. It seems that every year at this time I walk around humming this song to myself (hopefully just myself):

The summer ends and we wonder where we are
And there you go, my friends, with your boxes in your car
And you both look so young
And last night was hard, you said
You packed up every room
And then you cried and went to bed
But today you closed the door and said
"We have to get a move on.
It's just that time of year when we push ourselves ahead,
We push ourselves ahead."

Monday, August 14, 2006


I guess I am in what could be described as triage mode in terms of studying for exams. I've tossed the strict text/day study shedules and now keep referring to this map, which I keep playing with, altering, updating, etc. I am using it as a "kind of" outline to writing the second and third chapter sections of my prospectus--trying to ensure that I adequatetly provide the history of critical pedaogy and the connections between critical pedaogy and composition that will be crucial for my dissertation. I'm also using it as a guide to the texts that I need to quickly review, read through, harvest quotes from, etc.

For this revision/studying/review task I am also using a combination of what my friend Tara has dubbed "Tasks Not Time" and the use of an alarm/timer to take breaks that don't extend into long projects. 43folders has suggested this life hack called (10+2)*5. It has seemingly worked for many folk, but for me it is a little too ADHD/manic for me...or at least for this particular task. I can't possibly work on writing my prospectus in ten minutes increments and expect to produce break-through thoughts and any amount of sustained, serious inquiry, so instead I implement Tara's "TNT." I'm sure she could explain it better, but essentially it involves covering up the clock and focusing on the task at hand, getting in the "zone," and spending a seemingly unknown amount of time working on that. As I start to get tired, I set a last minute goal for myself (this is my addition to TNT)--something like getting a particular thought down on paper or reading one more paragraph or page. Then I allow myself my "break." This is where the ever-helpful timer comes in. In fact, I downloaded Pester, which has proved invaluable. My "breaks" involve still working, but not working on my prospectus--so I might deal with email for ten minutes or blog (as I'm doing now).


Updated "map":

Exercise in mapping and classifying:

Lineage of Cultural Studies: Hoggart – Williams – (rereadings of/with/through Gramsci and Althusser) – Hall (slightly more marginal figures: Grossberg, Cary Nelson, Angela McRobbie, Jorge Larrain, Stanley Aronowitz)

Compositionists working with Cultural Studies: James Berlin, Richard Ohmann (kinda), Michael Blitz and C. Mark Hurlbert, Alan France, Mas’ud Zavarzadeh, Donald Morton, Bruce Horner (?), John Trimbur

Lineage of critical pedagogy: Freire – Shor – Giroux – Ann E. Berthoff (compositionist) – McLaren – bell hooks

Compositionists in critical pedagogy: Amy Lee, William Thelin, Michael Blitz and C. Mark Hurlbert, Andrea Greenbaum, Joe Marshall Hardin, Mas’ud Zavarzadeh, Donald Morton, Richard Miller, Russell Durst

Texts to review/read through:

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum, 2003.
Fitts, Karen and Alan W. France. Left Margins: Cultural Studies and Composition Pedagogy. Albany: SUNY Press, 1995.
Giroux, Henry and Peter McLaren. “Radical Pedagogy as Cultural Politics: Beyond the Discourse of Critique and Anti-Utopianism.”

Saturday, August 12, 2006

organization obsession

So I've been playing around with flock's blogging option because I'm probably going to have my students utilize flock for both RSS reader and blogging. It feels strange to launch my posts from this unfamiliar text window--strangely, makes me feel like I'm going to forget something, but it is surprisingly clean and easy.


Lately I've become obsessed with "life hacker" stuff, getting things done, etc., reading sites like 43 folders, but as I think often happens with these organizational techniques, I start to spend more time looking at options to become more efficient than I do actually doing things. I get on the computer and all I want to do is clean, sort, file, see how fast I can read through my RSS reads, download programs, interrupt myself by figuring out how to deal with interruptions, etc. It's bad. Instead of streamlining my reading, I seem to be adding more and more sites that will "help" me get things done more quickly and efficiently. But is is working I wonder?

Still, as the fall semester rapidly approaches I find it important to get organized. So now I'm thinking about the kinds of folders I will need to purchase...maybe today?

So far I have yet to find any suggestions for what to do on those days when you just *cannot* concentrate. Those days when your mind wanders repeatedly, when you've been on the same line of text since for an hour. My approach is to generally set a very short period of time for myself. Yesterday it was fifteen minutes. I told myself that if I simply read for fifteen more minutes I could leave and take the rest of the day off!!! I ended up reading for about twenty-five minutes.

My BIG distraction is biking. I've become obsessed with biking...and...of course...thinking about biking. I'm in the market for a mountain bike, as I'm increasingly frustrated with riding in traffic and think that unless I'm commuting or doing a long ride somewhere without a lot of cars, I should be off-road.

So I've added some bike blogs to my reading as well, and oil is for sissies is my favorite so far.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

blogging project for fall

I am busy experimenting--getting ready to finally use blogs as a part of the first-year writing courses that I'll be teaching this Fall. I am trying to decide between hosting these blogs directly through wordpress or hosting them through edublogs, so I've set up two blogs to play with, experiment with:


an exposition of writing

I will be documenting the experience--getting set-up, logistics, the pedagogy, etc.

Monday, August 07, 2006

more testing

Chicken Family Green Beans
here is blah blah blah

testing flock

After the bloodiest day for Israel in the Middle East Conflict, the Israeli death toll has topped 75. Twelve soldiers were killed Sunday in the town of Kfar Giladi and three civilians were killed in Haifa. As the world awaits an official comment from Tel Aviv on a long-awaited UN ceasefire proposal, we go to Haifa to speak to Erez Gellar of the Israeli relief service Magen David Adom. [includes rush transcript]

Democracy Now!: radio and TV news

Friday, August 04, 2006

Friday dog blogging

the picture we don't see

Read this haunting, beautiful piece from
How Lebanon rescued me by Alia Malek.

I think it does a wonderful job of counteracting the images we are so often given by the media. Even without photos, it paints the picuture we don't often get to see of the Middle East.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

in praise of thought as material/action/activism

Interestingly, after, earlier today, struggling with alix olson's definition of an activist, I returned to an article by Eric J. Weiner, which I'd forgotten all about: "Beyond Doing Cultural Studies," and he reminded me:
Unfortunately, thinking theoretically as a political practice has been denigrated by those on the right and the left and must be re-legitimized as a form of pedagogical praxis. On the right, the logic of the bottom line encourages thought primarily as it applies to accumulating capital. On the left, the production of theory is seen as both a luxury of privilege and an excuse for not engaging in 'real' political work.... Common sense tells both that meaningful 'work' is constituted by the production of material things and is essentially pragmatic. (59)

How susceptible I am to this line of thought--the naturalization of theory as not "real" of thought as not "work"...even when I think I'm not.

alix olson--on the one hand--mac specific programs on the other

I have designated this morning as play around with the computer and try to increase productivity morning. This of course came after watching an episode of work out.

So far I've downloaded: text expander; quicksilver; flock; and net news wire. I think that is all...well, in addition to DevonThink of course. I maybe went a little overboard, setting myself up for frustration in terms of the learning curve, but so far I am quite enamoured TextExpander. It's pretty magical. For example, I get so tired of typing out critical pedaogy and cultural studies over and over in my work. Now I need only type the abbreviation CP or CS and voila out comes critical pedaogy and cultural studies. Flock and NetNewsWire are programs I'm playing around with in order to potentially utilize them in the Fall when I start using blogs in my classes. All of these programs are mac specific, and this all is thanks to my friend Dave over at academHacK (and he has some references to PC equivalents as well).

On the other side of all this computer use and my great enthusiasm for the ways in which it could/can make life easier, is the fact that it also makes me feel a bit ADD, raises my anxiety, and might contribute to depression...? Sometimes I have so many applications running that I forget what I'm doing. Sometimes I surf in haphazard fashion when I should be doing something else entirely. I feel like the fragmented individual that so many have written about. Two mornings ago I went to the library--sans computer--I just read, stayed focused. It felt nice.

Technology offers so many overwhelming possibilities, and I feel the need/want to take advantage of them all--until things like uploading photos to flickr stays on my "to do" list for weeks at a time. Blogging ends up there often as well. Each day it seems I have more little post-its in various places that say "blog this."

In other news...

We went to Brattleboro this weekend and saw alix olson. She was wonderful, as always--even funnier than I've seen her before. I think this is because she is really striving to find happiness, joy, laughter amidst the anger and frustration that art and activism can embody. She had this great metaphor about having a duplex inside of us. In one side is that activist--angry, enraged, paying attention, and frustrated. On the other side of the duplex is the happy, nature-lover, who says lets go canoeing, life is great and wonderful. Often the duplexes are in conflict, but we are the landlord--they have to work it out...somehow.

She also defines an activist as anyone who even *thinks* about what is happening the world today. I struggle with this definition, because I don't know that I agree with it, though I'd like to, as I constantly struggle between the academic/activist parts of myself. I feel like academe is a much safer haven than "actual activism," but again, Olson would disagree with this split--maybe I should take that to heart a little bit.

Exercise in mapping and classifying

Lineage of Cultural Studies: Hoggart – Williams – (rereadings of/with/through Gramsci and Althusser) – Hall (slightly more marginal figures: Grossberg, Cary Nelson, Angela McRobbie, Jorge Larrain, Stanley Aronowitz)

Lineage of critical pedagogy: Freire – Shor – Giroux – Ann E. Berthoff (compositionist) – McLaren

Compositionists in Cultural Studies: James Berlin, Richard Ohmann (kinda), Michael Blitz and C. Mark Hurlbert, Alan France, Mas’ud Zavarzadeh, Donald Morton, Bruce Horner (?), John Trimbur

Compositionists in critical pedagogy: Amy Lee, William Thelin, Michael Blitz and C. Mark Hurlbert, Andrea Greenbaum, Joe Marshall Hardin, Mas’ud Zavarzadeh, Donald Morton, Richard Miller, Russell Durst

This is not so much a comprehensive mapping, but rather an attempt to organize the scholars, theorists, pedagogues whom I will be most often addressing. Still, am I missing anyone? Other versions of these maps/histories?

Now, the difficult part is to revise my prospectus so as to incorporate these histories and make clear the relationship(s) between cultural studies and critical pedagogy and composition.

Monday, July 24, 2006

quote of the day

This is my favorite quote that I read today. Taken from "The Writing Class" by John Carlos Rowe.

The rhetorical power of postmodern capitalism is its capacity to translate its products into different discursive registers and achieve even a limited proliferation that opens markets for yet other acts of representation. In this context, the traditionally defined proletariat is defined less by the theft of its physical power [ala traditional Marxism]—labor power per se—than by its exclusion from the diverse media through which the economy produces its effects. The primary basis for formulating class interests and articulating class consciousness would thus have to begin with redefining what we mean by rights to the mass media and the technologies they embody. Such rights or competencies would have to be understood today as the political and economic refunctioning of the narrowly educational rights to cultural literacy.

I love the way Rowe manages to pack into one powerful punch—the debate around cultural literacy, the debate over theories of class, a reformulation of class theories, and a critique of mass/corporate media control. Rather than simply falling into the trap of seeing cultural literacy issues as purely social issues, Rowe ties them to the economic.

Today I ended up getting wrapped up in this article, and while I had difficulty getting through it, ended up taking almost three pages of notes. I didn't get to the other two scheduled article/essay. And I have to get ready for tonight's tennis match. Hopefully I'll have enough energy when I get home to cover the Bizzell piece.

debate: student blogging: proprietary vs. open/free

On Wednesday I attended a workshop at the institution where I will be employed full-time this coming year. The workshop was a Blackboardtraining, focused specifically on some new additions that CSR has purchased for this software (though these additions were purchased from a different company—Learning Optics (?)): “journals” and “team sites.” “Team sites” are supposed to be the equivalent of wikis, and “journals” are supposed to emulate blogs.

While I am philosophically opposed to using proprietary software, I have been using Blackboard and WebCT over the past few semesters, because with teaching four courses/semester and working toward exams, I had little time to construct an alternative. This coming semester I want to begin having students blog and assumed I would use wordpress or blogger for this purpose, but thought I should check out this workshop anyway. Unfortunately, the lure of using Blackboard is strong once again—the “journals” option is so eeeaasyyy. There is very little “set-up” time involved. No teaching students how to use RSS feeds in order to easily read each other’s blogs. Etc.

Here is what I am wondering/thinking about: If the students don’t know the difference between keeping their blogs on blogger versus keeping their “journals” on blackboard, does it really make a difference in terms of where they keep them? The way this question is worded is kind of a cop-out—a kind of “what they don’t know won’t hurt them” concept. I guess the more important question should then be—do we make explicit our choice and explain the difference to them?

Overall, I believe all of this sounds a bit weak on my part—like I am trying to rationalize the easier route. I’m not. I just want to know a bit more about how or if we should involve—in a pedagogical way—the debate around proprietary vs. open source/free source/open knowledge. And also to get the views of others on the differences between using University sanctioned (but closed/privatized) software and other open/free versions.

In other news...
Yesterday: did 31.3 miles on the bike--Lake George, NY

Saturday, July 22, 2006

plan of study--two more weeks

Week Three 7.24 – 7.30

Monday 7.24
France, Alan “Assigning Places: The Function of Introductory Composition as Cultural Discourse”
Rowe, John Carlos “The Writing Class” from Politics, Theory, and Contemporary Culture ed. Mark Poster
Bizzell, Patricia “Marxist Ideas in Composition Studies”
(also finish notes on Judith Goleman’s Work Theory)

Tuesday 7.
Crowley, Sharon Composition in the University

Wednesday 7.26
Ohmann, Richard The Politics of Letters

Thursday 7.27
Grossberg, Lawrence “Formations of Cultural Studies”
Althusser, Louis “Ideology and Ideological State Apparastuses”
Adorno, Theodor “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception”

Friday 7.28
Williams, Raymond Marxism and Literature

**Saturday = catch-up, catch-all day—finishing notes, organizing lists, etc.
also, go see alix olson at the Hooker-Dunham Theater in Brattleboro, VT
**Sunday hit my old stomping grounds--The Brattleboro Food Coop on our way back home…. And back to work.

Week Four 7.31 – 8.6

Monday 7.31
Marx: Capital

Tuesday 8.1
Marx: German Ideology

Wednesday 8.2
Eagleton day
“Base and Superstructure Revisited”
“The Contradictions of Postmodernism”
“The Rise of English”

Thursday 8.3
Jameson, Fredric “On ‘Cultural Studies’” from Social Text no. 34 (1993)
--- “Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism”
Williams, Raymond “The Future of Cultural Studies”

Friday 8.4
Morley, et. al Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues….

**daily goal of 2-3 pages single spaced summary and integration of other notes, blog entries, etc.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

brief update

Stayed at parents' house an extra day--so difficult to leave the water in a heat wave--so I've really thrown myself off in terms of my study schedule.

Yesterday after traveling back home, I did twelve miles on the bike.

Today I will devote myself to Amy Lee's Composing Critical Pedagogies. Plus at some point I'd like to read the latest College English cover to cover.

Oh...and I thought that while I was visiting the 'rents, I would be able to finish House of Leaves. No such luck. I still have to read it in spurts, which is not ideal for this particular novel, but regardless, it really messes with a person. I swear the book writes itself while I'm sleeping or something.

Friday, July 14, 2006

call for a critical critical pedagogy

As Berlin argues in Rhetorics, Poetics, and Cultures, no category of investigation can ever “be given an unquestioned first place in analysis” (76). Here he is borrowing from Teresa Ebert’s idea of “resistance postmodernism”—meaning that even modes of investigation (and my interest is primarily those of composition pedagogies) need to realize their situatedness; that their methods are never transhistorical/universal, but historically specific. My fear for much of composition theory/pedagogy is disciplinary/intellectual stasis. It is not enough just to examine and offer critique, which is what, I contend, too much of cultural studies and critical pedagogy does, but instead it is necessary “to inquire into the power relations requiring such suppression” in the first place” (Ebert qtd. in Berlin 75). In this instance Ebert is referring the suppression caused by/created by hierarchy and binaries (the focus of much postmodern inquiry), but I believe this can be extended to the work that cultural studies and critical pedagogy attempt to do when in their “unveiling” mode—the uncovering of social injustice. The goals of critical pedagogy are, according to Amy Lee, to do this kind of rewriting that Ebert points to in her rendition of “resistant postmodernism.” Lee writes, “Critical pedagogy does not propose that we tell students about democratic possibilities or espouse radical empowerment. Rather, it proposes that we work toward these goals with our students, reflecting on and working to alter the conditions that impede them” (106). This is also what Ebert insists “resistant postmodernism” can do—work for “equal access for all to social resources and for an end to the explitative exercise of power” (75). But too often, I’ve found, cultural studies and critical pedagogy get caught up in mere ideology critique; thereby inadvertently (I believe) avoiding the conditions of the historical moment. Because I believe that the University as TNC would certainly impede both “democratic possibilities” and “radical empowerment,” I hold critical pedagogy, particularly that critical pedagogy of the writing classroom, as responsible to and as in need of responding to the bureaucratic University that Readings lays out for us. And instead critical pedagogy, with its explicit reference to the act of critique and/or critical thinking and/or analysis, ends up adding to the vocabulary that is, what I describe as the “vocabulary of ‘excellence.’” That is, “critical,” has become empty in much the same way that Readings has described “excellence” as empty—lacking a referent or signified. “Critical” and “excellence” are both terms we, particularly in academia, assume to be uncontestable ground. But “excellence” is the language of accounting, which is the language of businesses and corporations—pointing to critical pedagogy’s complicity in the University in “ruins.”

But all of this also points to the ability of critical pedagogy and cultural studies to help us read and respond to the “ruins.” As Berlin puts it, “resistance is always possible, since the contradiction between signified and signifier…continually provoke opposition to hegemonic ideologies” (75). It is this continual opposition that we can see as a possibility for Readings’ idea of the open-ended dialogue and community of dissensus. For example we have our signifiers—“excellence” and “critical” let’s say—and then we have the actual conditions of the University as corporatized—and possibly in the conflict and struggle between these signifiers and the actuality of the University’s contemporary situation we can create the resistance to excellence that Readings so strongly calls for.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


In going over all of these Berlin texts for the past few days it is interesting to note that while I often feel resistant to reviewing the history of English Studies, rhtetoric, composition, and their relationships (because I feel like I'm missing out on the pulse of what is currently happening), it is so important (and often scary) to remember the ways in which history repeats itself in our field. Frightening to note the lack of change in attitudes and the debates.

i hate disclaimers

So I’ve spent a day and half (yesterday and today) getting off track/schedule. Yesterday I hardly made a dent in the coverage of Cultural Studies in the English Classroom that I wanted to accomplish. I did spend a lot of time reading blogs and writing. The night before, I had sat up reading my new book, and in it she talks a lot about simply accumulating pages (much in the vein of freewriting); she encourages a lot of writing in order to think and putting down on paper (or screen) every glimmer of an idea. These are all things I know, of course, but sometimes reading a book like this is like giving yourself permission to actually do these things. My committee members have also given me this advice/permission, but it seems that for much of this experience I’ve remained paralyzed by the thought of writing.

I also know that many of the blogs I read are comprised of seemingly well thought-out and carefully constructed entries containing bits and pieces of that particular writer’s project, and maybe that will come, as I’m further along in my own process and have accumulated all of these pages of text that Bolker talks about, but for the moment, yes, this is my disclaimer; this is that start of glimmering ideas and following them no matter how seemingly silly and/or irrelevant; and this is what I thought about yesterday:

At this point much of the argument that I want to be making about cultural studies and critical pedagogy (within composition studies) is, that even with their Marxist roots, they seem primarily interested in ideology critique (the idea of “unveiling”) as opposed to focusing on the present conditions of the corporate University within which they are working. But what does the classroom in ruins—the classroom that acknowledges those ruins—actually look like? What does it mean to have a classroom that creates present value in writing? Maybe it is that the text is no longer a reader or writing handbook, but the campus and its policies—the construction of the campus itself—or a study of NAFTA, or of corporations and their increasingly trans-national tendencies. I’m just not sure…. Does picking some sort of social investigation equate to a cultural studies approach? But what about giving that investigation value in the present? This seems to be the point at which publishing student texts comes into play, but that also has its own ties to capitalism and the system that is the corporate University. Another aspect of acknowledging the “ruins” would be to work toward changing the immediately oppressive circumstances within which we work and teach: “such as the way part-time faculty and students are successfully silenced within our own departments” (CS in Eng Class 21).

I also have this idea that creating a composition classroom in keeping with a Marxist/materialist philosophy would be to have (harken back to) a current-traditional approach (and this is not a positive/answer). Here are some similiarities between Marxist though and current-traditional rhetoric:

  • the “real” is located in the material world and truth exists prior to language
  • rhetoric as science
  • truth is to be discovered through “correct” perception, through an objective examination of the material world

Here really is the problem with notions of Marxism within rhet/comp theories: Current-traditional rhetoric does seem to share these philosophies with Marxism, but of course the outcome, as Berlin tells it in Rhetoric and Reality is that “the doctors or lawyers or engineers or business managers—having been certified as experts, as trained observers, in their disciplines—felt they were surely correct in discovering that economic and political arrangements that benefited them were indeed in the nature of things” (37). Then we have the expressivist rhetoric, which could potentially be looked at as resisting the corporate structure of higher education, but which ultimately is complicit in it through its focus on “rugged individualism,” autonomy, and the private. These are two of the approaches to writing that have withstood the test of time and are the basis for much of what is thought within composition studies even today. Though there have been the alternatives: social/poststructuralist/rhetoric of pubic discourse, cultural studies, and critical pedagogy. These alternatives have come along to say—hey, what about the cultural and the social, and with CS and CP’s ties to Marxism, I expect them to say—hey, what about the economic? Only, they often fail to acknowledge the most immediate economic structure within which they are located, and that is the corporate University.

The similarities too between the social constructionist/poststructuralist/rhet of public discourse that Berlin describes in Rhetoric and Reality and his definition of cultural studies in Cultural Studies in the English Classroom are also striking:

  • preparation of students for participation in the democratic process
  • “While social reality is bound by the material, it is everywhere immersed in language…. [Reality] is the result of the interaction between the experience of the external world and what the perceiver brings to this experience” (R&R 47).
  • While subjectivity is understood differently than this (last bullet) within CS (where the subject is comprised of multiple constructions shaped by myriad signifying practices), CS is described as the “study of the ways social formations and practices are involved in the shaping of consciousness, and this shaping is seen to be mediated by language and situated in concrete historical conditions. Signifying practices then intercede in the relations among material conditions, social arrangements, and the formation of consciousness” (CS in English Classroom ix).

So ultimately the social turn of the 80s with its poststructuralist bent (e.g. Bartholomae, Bizzell) is entirely relevant to the social turn that can be described through the rise of cultural studies and critical pedagogy. Yes, CS may use the vocabulary of Marxism, but it has a particularly poststructuralist slant, which might be part of why it has been taken on by composition studies (and probably also explains why I am drawn to studying/working with it).

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Today I came up slightly short of my goals; yesterday I was right on:

--three articles
--three pages single spaced notes/musings
--tennis match

--3/4 of Rhetoric and Reality
--1 1/4 pages of notes
--threw frisbee ("disc") for about an hour

I am leaving Friday morning open as a kind of "catch-up"/"catch-all" time.

For my birthday I received a Barnes & Noble gift certificate (online purchases only) from two of my friends. I went ahead and purchased myself a copy of Writing your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day, as recommended by culture cat, who gives a number of helpful tips for the dissertation writing process.

TVland: Very, very excited tomorrow kicks off Project Runway

reading/study schedule

I've set up a two week schedule of readings/texts for my comps. I guess this week is Berlin week...

Week One 7.10 – 7.16

Monday 7.10
Bartholomae Day
“Inventing the U”
“Writing with Teachers…”

Tuesday 7.11
Berlin, James Rhetoric/Reality

Wednesday 7.12
Berlin, James CS in English Classroom

Thursday 7.13
Berlin, James Rhetorics, Poetics, and Cultures

**go home for mom’s b-day Fri.-Sun.

Week Two 7.17 – 7.23

Monday 7.17
Lee, Amy Composing Critical Pedagogies

Tuesday 7.18
Durst, Russell Collision Course….

Wednesday 7.19
Fitts and France Left Margins….

Thursday 7.20
Crowley, Sharon Composition in the University

Friday 7.21
Greenbaum, Andrea. Insurrections

Saturday 7.22
Hardin, Joe Marshall Critical Pedagogy and Resistance Theory in Composition

Sunday 7.23: bike ride

**daily goal of 2-3 pages single spaced summary and integration of other notes, blog entries, etc.

So far it is proving more difficult than the way I had romanticized it. This is actually the first time--since I began studying for exams (a long, long time ago)--that I've had a block of time when I'm not teaching and able to dedicate myself completely to my research/exam/diss project.

I find that I start each text with a burst of energy, taking copious notes, finding a good amount of useful (relevant to my work) information to highlight, think about, comment upon. And then, I am not sure if it is me...or just every text I have on my reading lists, but about half way through, I am completely uninterested and/or lost and/or falling asleep. This happens much too often with my reading, and I have way too many half read texts lying around my home. I am not sure if it is simply burn-out, or is it that most texts of this kind are strongest in their first and last quarter?

In other news, I’ve taken up Ultimate Frisbee…or, rather, Ultimate, as those true Ultimate players call it. I’ve been biking, playing tennis and Ultimate, and lifting quite a bit. My “down days” are spent mowing the lawn, gardening, etc. I hope to keep this up and avoid running all together.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

no phone, no computer

I just spent a glorious four days disconnected. We were in Provincetown--biking, dancing, ocean swimming, football throwing, walking, people watching, Spiritus Pizza eating, etc.. At the bottom of the street that our B&B was on is the Wired Puppy-- Ptown's free wifi coffee shop. When I'd go in for my "hair of the dog" coffee, the thought crossed my mind to check my email, but I was able to resist. It felt amazing.

Now I'm back. The garden is monstrous. Pics to follow.... Looking at the garden, it is hard to believe that it was only four days.

I'm back to work now too. The piles of student writing are monstrous. My goal though is to get through the grading by Monday, and then embark on a whirlwind study schedule for the next two months. I will post a weekly schedule/reading list--"public" accountability might do me some good. I will also use DevonThink to get myself outlined by academHacK.

I've just been informed that my blog does not format properly in Internet Explorer for PC. I apologize for those of you using such a browser. I really don't know how to correct the moment...but I'll work on figuring that out. Though I am slightly amused and entertained to realize that I've never opened up a Internet Explorer PC window in order to come to this realization myself.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

struggling to make the connections

As I work on the rewrite of my prospectus, I 1) see how many holes existed in the first draft and 2) struggle to close those holes. In my head, I can make sense of the movement from chapter one to chapter two, but on paper it doesn't connect. I thought maybe using a new medium, clean slate I could quickly move through the "steps":

Chapter 1: Will focus on the material conditions of compositionist labor in the contemporary corporate University.
Okay--so within that concept I want to include
--the "basement"/marginalized status of composition
--argue that we are not "exempt" from--or somehow outside of--what Ohmann describes as English Studies’ place within
“the long, historical crisis of capitalism”
--our marginalized status has caused a lot of focus on gaining disciplinary recognition (including making ourselves into or
out to be a "science")
--this focus on gaining status, recognition as a field, etc. has only served to be a distraction from our classrooms, our
students, and--as I intend to argue it--from the ways in which our potentially counterhegemonic position has been
subsumed by the popularity of cultural studies/critical pedagogy

I guess that, in part, this is where I get stuck. I am not sure whether I even believe that argument. I know that eventually I will argue that CS and crit. ped. have distracted us from the corporatization of the U. and that they haven't been as self-aware of their place within this corp. U as a "un-veiling"-type pedagogy should be, but I am not sure that our quest for disciplinary recognition has anything to do with CS and crit. ped. and their shortcomings within the writing classroom.

So it seems I have solved one problem, but created another. How to get from chapter one to chapter two???