Monday, September 15, 2008

back in the day . . .

. . . i know people don't really say that any more, but it fits. you see, i'm reading some very early scholarship (starting in the late 1930's) from the emerging field of Rhetoric and Composition (well, i don't believe that the authors i'm reading recognized themselves as members of the field, but i see traces moving back to them and will make all of that clear in the book, the very thing about which i am now writing). and so much of what i'm reading is sort of from all over English departments everywhere. i had originally narrowed my research domain so that i'd only be looking at CCC and CE publications, seeing these venues as capable of supporting my claim that the scholarly works i would be reviewing could constitute a kind of valid "history" (of the field's engagement with film), and that argument obtains. still, i've now included Rhetoric Review, and i've found that English Journal is a goldmine for kitschy, old-timey "wisdom" (in the best and most hopeful way, albeit with an occasionally tight bit of moralistic whining and posturing and whatnot).

so but i love reading old scholarly articles aimed at improving students' writing and reading skills and all around appreciation for All Things Worthy (early scholarship *really* goes on about the latter). what i think i love most is that style is an option. a real, true, serious option. i'd even go so far as to say that there is a kind of urgency about style in the scholarly works i'm reading. a competition. i mean, evolving out of the Literary traditions is no small accomplishment, and it's done with traces of its primordial material(s). so. style. some of what i am reading, in its style and lax rhetorical standards (is there a causal relationship here?) is downright h-i-l-a-r-i-o-u-s, but most all of it is purposeful and seemingly compelled into print by a sense of urgency that we still find in contemporary scholarly texts. actually, they are the same arguments (relatively speaking):

* keep up with the world
* compel our work to radiate beyond an elitist domain
* try the new, even if it scares or seems beneath you
* problematize the high/low binary, especially regarding academic/popular culture
* kill -- or at least problematize -- your idols, esp if they block production (essentially, this is about the hermeneutic/generative binary)

so it's the same series of arguments, but it's done with a greater concern for style and a less-than-ideally emphatic concern for reasons, evidence, qualification, and etc., etc.

in many ways, i want to say that this stylish concern is a symptom or rhetorical manifestation of affect. essentially, it is this -- i'm working on working this out in my book. it's key, central, my attention to affect(s) in discourses on film in the field. still, the book takes up other concepts as it manifests a dialogue between historical discourses and more contemporary theories and practices regarding film in Rhetoric and Composition.

so there's your bookish update. voilĂ .

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