carving cognition at its joints

I’ve started reading Katherine Hayles’ Unthought: The Power of the Cognitive Nonconscious. I have to say that I recognize (and am sympathetic toward) the difficult gyrations this topic demands in the humanities as one is called upon the establish various boundaries. In the first chapter, she creates a three-step pyramid comprised by (from top to bottom) conscious/unconscious…

partisan politics and the rhetorical capacities of media ecologies

Here’s an idea I’m thinking about developing into something article-length if I can find the right angle. It’s certainly been on my mind a fair bit. Basically it’s about the role of emerging media in the articulation of political identities and communities. At that level, it’s a longstanding topic. I mean we regularly talk about…

interpretation, tarot cards, and the power of truth

Long ago, when I was an undergrad, I learned how to read Tarot cards. (Hey, stop rolling your eyes; I saw that.) I haven’t done it in years, though when I was a professor at Cortland we’d go on writing retreats to this Adirondack camp with our students and my colleague, Vicky Boynton, and I…

The fantasies and limits of experts and elites

I went to see Arrival last night. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that it fits into the subgenre of science fiction where scientists save the world in the face of aliens, panicked citizens, paranoid politicians, and trigger-happy soldiers. To be sure there are other kinds of contact movies (E.T. for example) where friendly…

one new materialist rhetoric and its relation to object-oriented ontology

There have been some “conversations” on social media and apparently on a panel at the Cultural Rhetorics conference going on this weekend regarding object-oriented ontology and rhetoric. I’m not at that conference, but I have read some of the online discussion on Twitter and Facebook. I’m not interested in rehashing that here, but I thought…

risk, reward, and revolution in an object-oriented democracy

If you happen to go back and look at my posts from a decade ago (though why would you?), you’d find some very strongly-worded political commentary. Maybe it’s because I’m older or maybe it’s because social media is such a morass of political invective that it just doesn’t interest me anymore as a writer.  That…

paleorhetoric and the media ecology of flint knapping

The feature article in Scientific American (subscription required) this month addresses the role that flint knapping (the practice/art of making Stone Age tools by striking one rock against another) might have played in the development of the human brain, language, and even teaching. (And here’s a related article in Nature if you prefer more academic prose.) Here’s the…

what if wolves and elephants were writing students?

Despite the title, this isn’t really about animal rhetoric, instead a video and a recent article about evolution. The video below explains how the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone Park not only altered the ecosystem but the physical geography. (Spoiler: wolves chased the deer out of certain areas of the park, allowing for trees and…

Slavoj Žižek on Objects

Slavoj Žižek offers the following recent critique of Levi Bryant and object-oriented ontology, which evoked a single question for me: What are we arguing about again? I think I get Žižek’s argument. I don’t think there’s really anything new or unexpected in terms of an argument made from an idealist, Lacanian viewpoint. I understand he…

What would a new materialist composition program be?

Sure, there are many possible answers, which is why this is “a,” as in one of many, rather than “the.” That said, we’re familiar with plenty of other kinds of programs, classes, and pedagogies as they take the shape of particular theories, the strands that Fulkerson identifies: critical cultural studies, expressivism, various “rhetorical approaches” (argument-based,…