the rhetorical allure of smoking

kafkaz responded to an earlier post about my Pavlovian-anticipated desire to own a particular lighter i'd seen in a film. she gave me the language i was looking for, language that might aid my search. she told me that what i'm looking for is a "single-action ignition lighter."


SINGLE-ACTION IGNITION!!! holy freakish associative logic! now, i want that lighter more than ever, and i was never even a big fan of Westerns (one exception: Jim Jarmusch's brilliant Dead Man). so maybe it's more of a James Bond supergadget desire. one of my early and most beloved film experiences was going to see a James Bond film -- The Spy Who Loved Me, i think it was -- in a theater in Gainesville, Florida with a group of friends i was just then getting to know, a group very different from the punk crowd i usually hung with; i went with a few "art people," and there, in that theater, you could smoke while watching films. so we watched Bond do a lot of cool stuff. we smoked and flirted and laughed at the elaborate lives we both resisted and desperately wanted to adopt. taking on lifestyles of the Bond variety, we realized, would happen only within whatever imaginative spaces we might conjure. and so since it would be interiority driving the possibility, smoking helped because even for a harcore smoker, THAT much smoke (a theaterfull) was getting us all a little high.

yes, this association works. understanding it, even in small part, makes it even more fun, not less; and here is the question regarding our ethical responsibilities when we (claim to) teach rhetoric. maybe this is the work of my RSA project. i want to talk about our ethical repsonsibilities, but i can't help hearing (already) articulations of the traditional route (a perspective that may catch a break at RSA, but a view that obtains, generally speaking, for many teachers of writing and rhetoric). that is, "we are beholden to sort out for our students what are acceptable forms of participation in a particular rhetorical scene," which means, i think, a rejection of human desire, however interpellated -- or *because* it's so "obviously" constructed (for us). and this means, i think, that we invite people to live as though trapped in tiny spaces where their "morality" is overdetermined in ways that promote "questionable" or "undesirable" (i.e., violent, sexist . . .) thought, behavior, and being. i keep thinking that the cathartic route is far more valuable; it is for me (and, then, it's waaaaay more fun). we'll see.

Comments

Kafkaz said…
I was actually thinking very much along these lines as it relates to autoethnography. It occured to me that by far the most interesting and effective autoethnographies by definition cannot occur within the confines of the writing classroom, since there is something inherently disruptive about them. They can't be very authentic as assignments, since if they're really good, they'll likely not take too kindly to the whole notion of assignments written for teachers, due by a certain date, graded, and so forth. This is especially the case when we ask students to create autoethnographic pieces about writing. I don't think these assignments should be avoided, by the way, but I think they have to be approached with great sensitivity, humor, and a healthy sense of the absurd. After all, a student might well wish to critique the very writing culture the writing classroom rather forcibly places her in.

And when it comes to blogs, I expect that the reason I don't like or follow very many of them (though I clearly do like this one!) is that the blog at its best is autoethnographic in just this cathartic, disruptive fashion, but the blog as necessary accoutrement of the fashionably electronic academic is often too carefully tame to have that contact zonish wildness to it. Too many blogs are too cautious. They should be vigorously shaken, not quietly stirred.
there is so much to think about here, that i'm going to put off responding more fully.

i have to think carefully because
i have often advocated for, not autoethnography, exactly, but for engaging the personal/personal writing in our classrooms. i still maintain that it has great value (especially in a post-9/11 scene). so i'm trying to think about what you're saying regarding autoethnography (all of which makes sense and gives us reason to think carefully about the genres we produce and reproduce).

related but on a tangent . . .
i like writing at the blog because of the relative ease, sense of a real audience, quick feedback, and (lots of others things i can't imagine spelling out specifically) . . .

i do not at this point work w/ blogs w/ my students, but i know many students who blog *not* as part of the coursework, and we talk about their desires to write there. emerging from these conversations is a very lovely kind of identification (i find, anyhow) between me and my students; we ID in the context of thinking about our seemingly nameless rationale(s) for blogging. so that's good.

i have to think . . .

thanks for the kind words about my space, and i'll try to say something more on this later . . .

"vigorously shaken, not quietly stirred" :)!