Monday, September 3, 2012

becoming the book

yu-cheng chou,

Yesterday, i responded to one of Cheryl Ball's FB status updates regarding her current sabbatical and book project. i used the response as an opportunity to see with greater clarity how our driving concepts are (re)animated, (re)mediated within real and virtual spaces. Cheryl offers a perfect lens through which to read this possibility, her identity fluctuating luminously across a variety of screens, from all points (inter)national, and always radiating a sense of wonder and emerging possibilities for our rhetorical work, for our bodies, for our hopes, for our professional identity, and so on. 
So but when i read her post, in which she states her intentions for getting to work on that book, i can't resist seeing the obvi Cheryl truth, the one that we see in various live and virtual spaces in routinely delightful ways. Cheryl is her book. Book as ethos, as tool for encouraging creativity in others, for garnering interest from potential students, colleagues, and funding agencies, and so on (all the stuff a book "does" as an academic and professional function). i will read Cheryl's "book," but i wonder if i already do.

Some of the early responses to Cheryl's post encourage, along the lines of "just do it. shut off your 'life' and get it done," and this should seem like perfect advice.

And but full disclosure: My own single-authored book is struggling to breathe under the weight of a heavy teaching load, my role as the lead for UVU's ePortfolio work, and personal matters, among other things & to say the least. i keep hoping that a more reasonable workload will aid me in the process, and i do love the book. But i see it differently and worry less as time and uncertainty and etc., etc. keep pushing it around so that it keeps seeming quite far away. But so importantly, @ the same time (and supporting the quasi-claims i am making here), it feels very close and very true. See, each of my conference presentations and publications since 2004 
involve the subject of the book (what i've been calling "film-composition") ... and if i look carefully it's simple to see traces to the mid-to-late 1990's, to the dissertation, to my thinking about chaos and emergence. And but the live performances, audience exchanges, palpating experiences of watching as they watch, the publications that emerge from the encounters ... they all feel so terrifically vital (shout out to Byron Hawk!) , and but when i resettle into my routine teaching-and-being-on-campus life, "writing it up" is beyond destructive. Maybe i am simply not feeling generous with the affective intensities i've been so thrilled to experience in the work, but then, aren't such affects "unassimilable" (Massumi 27) in ways that assuage my convention-driven guilt? Am i simply (simplistically?) rationalizing? i don't know, but i do know that i read an awful lot (since grad school) about scholarship that deadens, publications for the sake of having published, and so on. So i can't help wonder if maybe it will be best (for me) to let the events have been the events, the live performances as sufficient. In my deepest bones, this beat is correct.

nb, one prominent Rhetoric colleague told me once that i should not be expected to publish, given my "teaching university" status, but she has been known to condescend, and her comment did nothing to lighten my load but instead simply galled me, fw that's w).

stand up straight & let me get a look at you

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