Tuesday, April 11, 2006


The Dialogic Writing Classroom

In University in Ruins, Bill Readings calls for a “teaching scene” based on dialogism as opposed to dialogue. This idea of dialogism, borrowed from Mikail Bakhtin, has potential to open up space for, what I call, a critical critical pedagogy and for responding to Amy Lee’s assertion that “critical pedagogy foregrounds the teacher or educator…. The students’ role is largely ignored” (Composing Critical Pedagogies 7). What if composition studies were to take seriously Readings’ concept of Thought, which is “thinking together” as a “dissensual process”? If critical pedagogy devotes itself to a liberatory classroom space that works to recognize and read critically the social and material conditions out of which its work is produced, it might do well to consider these “ruins” Readings describes as the University in which the critical pedagogue’s writing classroom is situated.

um...now i just have to write the paper. i feel clueless as to how to even begin.

In other news...
I have a job interview at a community college on the 28th. My first interview. I'm nervous as hell, but trying to see it as simply gaining experience, as I'm not even "on the market" yet (officially). It's for a full-time tenure track position. I'd certainly be thrilled to get it, as I wouldn't have to leave the area, and therefore wouldn't have to leave my partner. The thought of a future long-distance relationship is simply scary to me, though I know there is a good chance we'll end up in that predicament. Ah...the life of an academic is simply so glamorous:)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

if things weren't bad enough...

So I am going through this really rough patch in my life. *Really rough*

So this morning--on the verge of tears and little sleep--I go to the Dunkin' Donuts to get a coffee and a bagel to force feed myself, as I have a tennis match at noon and need some sustenance but really do NOT feel like eating. As usual it is a mob scene. I'm trying to turn left off of Lark Street and into the parking lot. I let two cars out and then decide it should be my turn to pull in. I get about a quarter of D's car pulled into the opening of the lot (with the other 3/4 hanging out into Lark St.), and this guy in an enormous red truck (I know NOTHING about cars) pulls through the parking lot and cuts me off, blocks my way, and nearly hits the front end of Ds car (if I thought things were bad now...). So I say, "What the f--k? Did you not see me here? F--ker." And then neatly flip him off. As I pull into the parking spot, I see him back up in his big ole red truck...and I'm like uh-oh. When emerge from the car, he says, "Why do you have to go flipping people the bird?" I can't remember what my answer was. He then goes on to explain that it was a big cluster in the parking lot and he was simply trying to "do the right thing" and get out of the way (only--I did not add--he moved directly into MY way). Then he says, "It's Sunday." And for a moment I feel horrible. He's right. I was not raised to flip people off on Sundays. But then I thought, well if it was Thursday would that really be better? I mean, come on, buddy. So then he tells me that he wasn't even getting coffee, and there I go flipping him the bird. And I'm wondering WHY is he in the flipping Dunkin' Donuts' parking lot that is a huge cluster f--k on a Sunday morning, if he doesn't need coffee!?!? THEN he informs me that he's a minister and I just flipped him off on a Sunday. So, I say, "I'm sorry." Then I say, "I guess I'm going to straight to hell now." Then he tells me I just need to calm down. Just calm down he says. I think he is trying to say go in peace and don't be mean to people. I tell him that if he had my life, he would not be calm. Then, I just say, "Sorry." And leave.

But the whole episode is following me around. I have this strange compulsion to drive around town and look for his truck, and ask him a bunch of questions and fight with him some more. Because I *always* have to be right. And that problem is what got my life in such a mess, so I shouldn't drive around town looking for that "minister." But, if he's a minister, why did he have orange cones in the back of his truck? And, just because he's minister, does he get the special privilege of not getting flipped off when he cuts someone off? And, why, am I spending my time wondering these things???

Friday, April 07, 2006

getting on a blogging-roll?

What?? I cannot have had this blog since 2004. It's embarrassing. What little and ill use I've made of it. But I'm scared of commitment. So to sit here and say I'm going to start blogging voraciously and with great consistency is an impossibility.

Goals for "Spring" Break:
1. Write my paper for the UAlbany Graduate Student Conference
2. Grade three stacks of papers.
3. Revise my prospectus.
4. Take care of my summer textbook order.

Can this really be my life???

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

the political as expressivism

It is interesting that on the day I left Laura’s office reconsidering the use of personal writing (in the classroom) as political, I opened up the latest College English to find Timothy Barnett’s article ” “Politicizing the Personal: Frederick Douglass, Richard Wright, and Some Thoughts on the Limits of Critical Literacy”. Although I must admit that it did not renew my hope in personal writing in the way I was hoping for. It is funny because I keep thinking to write “expressivism” in all the places where I’ve written personal writing. And it’s funny that Barnett rarely, if ever, uses the word expressivism in his piece. Instead he equates personal writing (as political) with the tenets of critical pedagogy. I don’t understand this as one of the goals of critical pedagogy per se.

He begins the article: “The idea that ‘the personal is political’ is both a commonplace in composition studies and something we have not yet fully theorized” (356). I am all for fully—or even partially--theorizing the idea of personal/political writing in composition, but I don’t see Barnett as having achieved this goal by the end of this essay. Instead, it seems to be a standard, overused defense of personal writing as valuable in a political way. Granted, he does suggest that both critiques of and arguments for the personal seem to miss “the deep links between personal writing and social critique” (356). And he acknowledges the critique of the personal as being too focused on the individual. Barnett responds to these arguments by saying they undermine “some basic tenets of critical pedagogy” (356). And then writes, “From the viewpoint of critical pedagogy then, personal writing can help students understand personal lives as linked to and reflective of social and political norms.” He accuses critical pedagogues as not fully exploring “a critical pedagogy tied to personal experience.” I guess that this then accounts for my confusion over whether or not this is part of a critical pedagogy, but to me it seems as though Barnett is forcing critical pedagogy to merge with expressivism in order to create an argument in favor of expressivism that somehow fits into “today’s” composition theory after a number of years of critique of expressivism.

Barnett does seem to make a critical pedagogy “move” when he compares/equates his students to Richard Wright and Frederick Douglass (instead of Brazilian peasants—let’s say).

The center of Barnett’s argument is that we need to understand the personal “as necessarily linked to the political” (357), and I tend to agree that it is. But, in my mind, the goal of critical pedagogy would be to have students make that move—that connection to the political within or maybe in response to (analysis of) their own/personal writing. With Barnett’s student, “Heather,” we never see this move. It begins and ends on “Heather” in a seeming celebration of the therapeutic effects of writing, which only further fuels the critiques of the personal as focused on the individual with a romanticized notion of individuality/subjectivity—the autonomous subject. I get that all of Heather’s writing, as a part of Heather herself, is socially constructed. But without the “unveiling” of that construction, I’m not sure I see how this fits into the framework of critical pedagogy.

I am left thinking that maybe Barnett is right—maybe critical pedagogues haven’t given enough thought to personal writing—but maybe that isn’t their goal.