lots of talk about a new article on how we teach writing in first year courses in college. seems we've been working to move beyond this sort of limited contextual space for some time in order to greater reflect and enrich our work via interdisciplinary trajectories that coalesce, it seems, sometimes, in a vibrant and diverse first year course sequence. sure, it's not always vibrant and it's especially compressed when we view it macroscopically, via generalizations, and this means that it's available for critique on the basis of these abstractions. i wish i could see the critique (and sometimes do) in terms of micro-operational potential, but what i see is the question of disciplinary authority wanting to wall it/us in. not a vapid concern, exactly, but one that nearly always (already) -- sorry John M. -- leads to confusion in/of terms, confusion that enables the phantom notion of a "more realistic" idea about writing that we can teach (this "more realistic" -- in its *alternatively universalistic* . . . "the next big thing" . . . potential -- undoing the questionable critique of the universalism that we allegedly already bring to the teaching of writing). what we can't escape is that writing (literacy) changes . . . is contextualized differently even within the same contexts. i have for years now tried to think about our work through the concept . . . metaphor . . . reality of chaos and a dynamic systems approach to writing and the teaching of writing; rhetoric via rhetorical theory/practice as a sort of strange attractor that generates the fractal reality of an unstable and indeterminate yet discernable (over time) "coherence." but that work didn't really capture imaginations and as i read it now is certainly "problematic," to say that least (although i stand by it). and it did not capture imaginations as does this recent move to greater disciplinary authority (as i'm reading it). and that's fine. i understand it, given our investments, jobs, concerns for each other, moves to resituate writing as a complex and valuable skill rather than merely a gatekeeper. i get it, but i can't exactly get with it because of what it does to my ability to think about writing in complex terms (ironically, something i think that this new article wants to be after).
so but everyone is calling this article the harbinger of "the next big thing," and i'm just not seeing it (all that white noise disabling my ability to see the seeming certainty regarding our next big and most successful disciplinary move -- the article is being discussed in terms of a "seismic shift," recalling Hairston's "Winds of Change"). so that's nice for my colleagues, but it's difficult for me to see it in these terms. probably something to do with feeling jealous and neglected (can't deny that, or that the article is doing quite a bit for the authors and their status, which is nice, but there's François La Rochefoucauld). i hope it's more about how i see rather than jealousy or whatnot, which i must cop to. i hope it's more about how i imagine what writing is. or what it can be. or that i can only see it as potential rather than something we can name and know and own. and it seems that it's almost always trouble to talk with certain authority about what writing is. Frank D'Angelo once said to me that we have 3 trajectories determining FYC: 1.) those who claim to teach rhetoric, 2.) those who claim to teach composition, and 3.) those who claim to teach writing. the latter group, he said, is the "most dangerous." and i think it has to do with these generalizations that evolve through these discourses to the level of accepted truths; sure, you say, that's how disciplinary discourse operates, and that's fine, except that what i'm not seeing (yet) is anyone calling some of the article's major assumptions into question (i.e., a discourse of inquiry applied to this "next big thing"). i wish i could see that (i saw a hint in 2 recent WPA posts).
maybe it's that i've been vibing out on such sophisticated rhetorical work recently at PSU, that the resonance of so many localized pedagogical moves are playing back in my mind as forms of resistance to disambiguating discourses that seem to derive from thinking in terms of disciplinary authority. so, for example, i wish i could see/hear us talking about what i heard Michael Salvo discussing at PSU, a "waveform alphabet" that sees audio-text imagistically; it seems there's something there for us in terms of delivery (in a performance-culture, the space w/in which rhetorical efficacy manifests (?)). Or thinking in terms of the audio-scripted performances of analytical work regarding film and visual rhetorics that Karen Springsteen delivered so well. Or imagining the value of social networking sites that operate by visualizing the literate practices of participants as Madeleine Sorapure shared with her audience. these things feel more like something i want to invest in.
so i suppose what i'm writing about here is in many ways a path to my concerns (it is my web space, i guess), which are almost always articluated in terms of what they are not (mostly about disciplinary authority). it's fine that others are invested in these concerns . . . it's probably important that they are . . . and so i suppose i should withdraw my critique of the widely praised new article that forms the exigence for this post. but my concerns obtain, f/w/t're/w. i hope that's okay.
image (waveform frequency cartoon)