Reflections on serving as a WPA

I have served as the director of composition at UB for seven years. Technically I’m still director for another month, but at this point, I’m basically done. In a way it was a strange job for me to do because I have always been and remain something of an abolitionist in relation to FYC, though…

tolerance in the late age of deliberation

I started this post about a month ago. Unsurprisingly, concerns with in/tolerance have not subsided. It was just two weeks ago that the shooting of Republicans during a baseball practice inspired a response that political rhetoric needed to change. As you probably recall, at the time Trump said “We may have our differences, but we…

academia’s weird pseudo-productivity: the summer edition

First off, what a bizarre intractable rhetorical situation this is! There is the broad cultural characterization that professors do little work because they teach so few classes, which even in itself is accurate characterization of many professors’ workloads. This is followed by a whole sub-genre of essays describing the intense demands placed on academics, how…

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…

teaching for democracy in first-year composition

Asao Inoue has a thoughtful post here revisiting James Berlin and the idea of composition as instruction in democratic citizenship. Undoubtedly there is a deep connection to classical rhetoric in this connection, though Berlin revitalized that link for the postmodern era. Like Inoue, I was also strongly affected by Berlin as a grad student in the…

identity and pedagogy in first-year composition

Two weeks ago I wrote a post about Mark Lilla’s NY Times op-ed, “The End of Identity Liberalism.” As I noted then, I did not imagine many of my colleagues would share his views (and neither do I, as I think that post made clear, though perhaps I had different objections than other academics). Chris Newfield offers…

pluralism and the nonmodern, nonliberal society

In a New York Times editorial, “The End of Identity Liberalism,” Mark Lilla, a Columbia history professor, makes an argument that runs against much of the discourse I hear from the academic left. I am curious what others think of it. In part I’m writing this to work through my own thoughts on the matter. All…

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…

populating threshold concepts in writing studies

In our Teaching Practicum, we’re reading Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s an interesting texts with many contributors that seeks to identify some of the threshold concepts of our discipline where “threshold concepts” have some specific, though unsurprising, characteristics: Learning them is generally transformative, involving “an ontological…

thinking with Manuel Delanda in rhetoric and composition

Perhaps you are familiar with the recent and excellent essay collection, Thinking with Bruno Latour in Rhetoric and Composition (edited by Paul Lynch and Nathaniel Rivers). If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it, but I’m not here to talk about it today. It’s just the inspiration for the title of this missive, where I…