Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Photo by rhet-eric. Congratulations to the DWRL and the Battles Lines team, winners of the 2014 Kairos Best Webtext Award for “Crossing Battle Lines: Teaching Multimodal Literacies through Alternate Reality Games”!

Photo by rhet-eric. Congratulations to the DWRL and the Battles Lines team, winners of the 2014 Kairos Best Webtext Award for “Crossing Battle Lines: Teaching Multimodal Literacies through Alternate Reality Games”!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Poststructuralist Luncheon Club

In ‘76, of course, Of Grammatology came out, and when Bryan came back he made us read it. It’s 1978 and we’re reading Of Grammatology together. We called ourselves the Poststructuralist Luncheon Club. … We met every Friday. There were four of us, and all of us published out of that experience. Our group which, lasted for about eight years, went on from Derrida and read other stuff. I saw right away the connection between deconstruction and sophistry. It isn’t exact, and of course you have to consider the historical distinctions. But it was like, Boom! … And I just couldn’t stop after that. Just couldn’t stop.

Sharon Crowley in Women’s Ways of Making It in Rhetoric and Composition, by Michelle Ballif, Diane Davis, and Roxanne Mountford, p. 224

Wednesday, June 18, 2014
The perspective I find I have developed over these years and in these practices of attending and attuning to things is akin to what Eve Sedgwick calls “weak theory” (1997). Theory that comes unstuck from its own line of thought to follow the objects it encounters, or becomes undone by its attention to things that don’t just add up but take on a life of their own as problems for thought….

It’s a mode of production through which something that feels like something throws itself together. An opening onto a something, it maps a thicket of connections between vague yet forceful and affecting elements (72).

Stewart, Kathleen. “Weak Theory in an Unfinished World.” Journal of Folklore Research 45.1 (2008): 71-82. (via rhetbit)

A thicket of connections.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Within a few decades, contemporary literature departments (e.g., English) will be largely extinct—they’ll be as large and vibrant as Classics departments are today, which is to say, not very active at all. Only wealthy institutions will be able to afford the luxury of faculty devoted to studying written and printed text. Communications, rhetoric/composition, and media studies will take English’s place.

Rhetoric/composition gets a mention in this underwhelming article, titled "In the Near Future, Only Very Wealthy Colleges Will Have English Departments" on the site but Advent of Digital Humanities Will Make English Departments Pointless | New Republic when shared on Tumblr. Hm.

Still: this is suddenly starting to sound like a familiar refrain.

Monday, June 16, 2014
This is the first time I have seen a publisher directly interfere with the autonomous work of academics and it is a very serious breach of the relationship,” he said. “We can only keep our freedom to publish what we like if we control the publishing process. Resignations threat over Taylor & Francis ‘censorship’ | Times Higher Education quoting Steffen Böhm, co-author of one of the articles about academic publishing that Taylor & Francis objected to and demanded alterations in before publishing here.
Friday, June 13, 2014
Isn’t it exactly this sort of hyper-competitive anti-logic that created the crisis of the humanities in the first place? Insistent warnings about the need for practicality—for sacrifices in the name of the job market—have filled students with a fearsome anxiety about their financial futures. Are you going to try and pay your electric bill with music, Susan? In other words, the humanities crisis is largely a positive feedback loop created by stressing out over economic outcomes. The Morbid Fascination With the Death of the Humanities - Benjamin Winterhalter - The Atlantic
Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"Melody of You" from Divine Discontent by Sixpence None the Richer.

Today I finished reading “The Conference Call: Weber—Fynsk—Borch-Jacobsen” in Avital Ronell’s The Telephone Book. Here’s my favorite passage, which I read yesterday right before this song came on shuffle. Call it the calling of being called.

The call makes you come to Being, which throws up another question: how can you hear anything, since you are nothing and you do not as such exist prior to the call? The call befalls you, and you cannot prevent the “falling” which you are: it throws you. You are thrown (geworfen)—thrown off before any “I” can constitute itself or any subject can be thrown together. “You are called to come to the world and answer for yourself. You consequently are no ‘I’ hearing itself say ‘you’ within a present situation of enunciation or an ‘intersubjective’ relationship or even a ‘dialogic’ rapport… . Neither are addressee nor allocutor nor receiver of some message, ‘you’ are emitted, dispatched, and given—which also means destined (geschickt)” (E, 93). Being “Called” is your most proper name, prior to any nomination, any baptism. This is why the call concerns only you, calling none other than you, arriving from no person other than you, all the while coming on to you. The call: it’s you, and this is how you are called ……………………………………..

……………

From what I’m reading, p. 66. Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about (and browsing the tumblr tag for) Myst. And I found this great reflection on what the author learned from playing Myst, most fitting: “that sometimes you’re going to feel Called to something, and you won’t have an explanation" (capitalization in original).

Friday, June 6, 2014

What counts as language

Too much weight has been loaded on to questions and idioms of language in considering the doings of the great variety of animals and people alike. Especially for thinking about world making and intelligent intra-action among beings like dogs and donkeys, to ask if their cognitive, communicative skills do or do not qualify for the imprimatur of language is to fall into a dangerous trap. People always end up better at language than animals, no matter how latitudinarian the framework for thinking about the matter. The history of philosophy and of science is crisscrossed with lines drawn between Human and Animal on the basis of what counts as language.

Donna Haraway, in When Species Meet, p. 234

Rhetoric has the bigger tent, anyway.

Thursday, June 5, 2014 Monday, June 2, 2014

Repeated blows to the reading ego

But no matter how witty or presumably witless one may be (the polarity always breaks down when the stupids arrive on the scene of reading), the battle of wits is a losing one, able to boast only provisional and recognizably pyrrhic victories. It is not long before it becomes evident that one has necessarily been outwitted (that is, outed as stupid) by the brazen betrayals of linguistic positing. Given the law of language’s outwitting nature, it is somewhat surprising that de Man maintains “the dull-witted reader” in its depreciated place, as if one could hope to sharpen one’s wits on subjective mastery, which language precisely disallows. One can only be dulled by repeated blows to the reading ego so that the sharpest become the dullest, the cutting edge the most blunt. Language smarts; the subject necessarily dulls.

From what I’ve been reading: “The Rhetoric of Testing” in Stupidity by Avital Ronell, p. 100

Friday, May 30, 2014

Once this protocol is established, the form of this question changes everything. It no longer simply concerns the logos, the disposition and whole configuration of the logos, having it or not, nor does it concern, more radically, a dynamis or hexis, this having or manner of being, this habitus that one calls a faculty or “capability,” this can-have or the power one possesses (as in the power to reason, to speak, and everything that that implies). The question is disturbed by a certain passivity. It bears witness, manifesting already, as question, the response that testifies to a sufferance, a passion, a not-being-able. The word can [pouvoir] changes sense and sign here once one asks, “Can they suffer?” Henceforth it wavers. What counts at the origin of such a question is not only the idea of what transitivity or activity (being able to speak, to reason, etc.) refer to; what counts is rather what impels it toward this self-contradiction, something we will later relate back to auto-biography. “Can they suffer?” amounts to asking “Can they not be able?” And what of this inability [impouvoir]? What of the vulnerability felt on the basis of this inability? What is this nonpower at the heart of power? What is its quality or modality? How should one take it into account? What right should be accorded it? To what extent does it concern us? Being able to suffer is no longer a power; it is a possibility without power, a possibility of the impossible. Mortality resides there, as the most radical means of thinking the finitude that we share with animals, the mortality that belongs to the very finitude of life, to the experience of compassion, to the possibility of sharing the possibility of this nonpower, the possibility of this impossibility, the anguish of this vulnerability, and the vulnerability of this anguish.

Jacques Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am, pp. 27-28, bold mine

Once this protocol is established, the form of this question changes everything. It no longer simply concerns the logos, the disposition and whole configuration of the logos, having it or not, nor does it concern, more radically, a dynamis or hexis, this having or manner of being, this habitus that one calls a faculty or “capability,” this can-have or the power one possesses (as in the power to reason, to speak, and everything that that implies). The question is disturbed by a certain passivity. It bears witness, manifesting already, as question, the response that testifies to a sufferance, a passion, a not-being-able. The word can [pouvoir] changes sense and sign here once one asks, “Can they suffer?” Henceforth it wavers. What counts at the origin of such a question is not only the idea of what transitivity or activity (being able to speak, to reason, etc.) refer to; what counts is rather what impels it toward this self-contradiction, something we will later relate back to auto-biography. “Can they suffer?” amounts to asking “Can they not be able?” And what of this inability [impouvoir]? What of the vulnerability felt on the basis of this inability? What is this nonpower at the heart of power? What is its quality or modality? How should one take it into account? What right should be accorded it? To what extent does it concern us? Being able to suffer is no longer a power; it is a possibility without power, a possibility of the impossible. Mortality resides there, as the most radical means of thinking the finitude that we share with animals, the mortality that belongs to the very finitude of life, to the experience of compassion, to the possibility of sharing the possibility of this nonpower, the possibility of this impossibility, the anguish of this vulnerability, and the vulnerability of this anguish.

Jacques Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am, pp. 27-28, bold mine

Thursday, May 29, 2014
What we’d be talking about is the end of English departments at research universities as we know them in the next decade. Don’t get me wrong. Those departments would still exist. They might even thrive on a new set of terms. They just wouldn’t look the way they do now.

why five years for a Phd is both too short and too long | digital digs

An interesting dictum in the conversation about the MLA report on doctoral study.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014
After a while, the whole thing starts to feel like one of those Scared Straight seminars where ex-cons show off their tattoos and talk about how rough prison is, except that in this case no one can agree what prison is for and some of them want to tell you how to succeed at crime.

The Secret Scandal of Grad School - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education

This is a kind of beautiful article getting passed around right now. I like that it acknowledges as a scandal the open contradiction grad students frequently find they have committed themselves to in pursuit of something almost indescribable. The premise seems accepted here that for most of the time, we end up with so much less. But for all the publicity attaching to people who leave and the reasons they give for leaving, it can feel like a secret, the reasons others stay. ”David Velasco holds a séance with Avital Ronell.” I want to read this book. I want to succeed at crime. I want to stay. Already this decision has altered my life on a tectonic scale, multiple times. Freshly back from #rsa14, I’m still feeling overcome with a certain gratitude.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

See you in San Antonio, #rsa14!

Monday, May 19, 2014

"Inappropriate" Critique v. Cultural Appropriation

I really enjoyed this article, Fashion’s Cultural Appropriation Debate: Pointless by Minh-Ha T. Pham (via lazz) — although the headline is a bit of an oversell. It’s not pointless, but Pham does suggest we shift the terms of the debate over cultural appropriation to what remains inappropriable (or “inappropriate”):

This rich aesthetic and social history of the plaid design is entirely left out of the discussions about its appropriation. That’s because the terms of the appropriation debate block this history from view. … This is the problem with cultural-appropriation critiques. They depend on reductive binaries—“high culture” and “low culture,” and oftentimes, “first world” and “third world”—that preserve the hierarchical relations between the fashion industry and the cultures being appropriated.

Pham argues that by looking outside of the frame of appropriation, which remains focused on the dominant culture/appropriator, we can steer toward the specific histories and textures that acts of appropriation always mute and smooth over.

Instead of the appropriation discourse, I suggest that critics and designers engage in an “inappropriate” discourse, one that reframes the debate to include all the things that are not carried over when white Western creators swipe from elsewhere. Rather than obsess over whether certain practices and forms of cultural appropriation are “good” or “bad,” “racist” or “post-racial,” respectful or not, inappropriate discourse asks what is not appropriate-able, what cannot be integrated into and continue to maintain the existing power structure of the high fashion system, and why. In doing so, we truly challenge the idea of the absolute power and authority of the West to control how the world sees, knows, and talks about fashion.

Instead of trying to enforce a moralizing view in which all appropriation is treated like theft, we ought to ask, what remains inappropriable, and why, and what does that tell us about the relations of power and force between the (many) cultures cited, we might say, or left uncited, by acts of appropriation.