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,…

On the future openness of the MLA

I’m writing today about two unrelated events–unrelated that is except in that they both concern the MLA. The first is the election of Anne Ruggles Gere, a rhetorician, as second vice-president (which means she will rise in two years to the position of president). The second is an open letter from Eileen Joy, medievalist and…

on the value of being a WPA for research

I think it’s easy to say there’s little or no scholarly value in the administrative burdens of running a writing program for a rhetorician, like me, whose area of research is not related to program administration or assessment or even really composition studies. That’s what we would likely say of the many administrative jobs academics…

Yancey, teaching for transfer, and a theory of writing

I saw Kathleen Yancey speak last week at RIT about her latest research on teaching for transfer. I find the focus on transfer is a little curious but important to discuss. Fundamentally, almost tautologically, the purpose of teaching and learning would be to acquire knowledge and skills that have value in contexts beyond the one in…

writing in the post-disciplines

Or, the disorientation of rhetoric toward English Studies… In her 2014 PMLA article “Composition, English, and the University,” Jean Ferguson Carr makes a strong argument for the value of rhetoric and composition for literary studies in building the future of English Studies. She pays particular attention to composition’s interests in “reading and revising student writing,” “public writing,”…

what to do when a professional organization tries to embrace you

Yesterday, at least in my disciplinary corner of the online world, there was a fair amount of discussion about the Chronicle of Higher Education report of the Modern Language Association’s upcoming officer elections, which will ultimately result in someone from the field of rhetoric becoming MLA president. I was interviewed and briefly quoted for the article, so…

rhetorical organization and Latourian modes of existence

Organization is a common topic of discussion in writing instruction. Often, students are asked to produce “well-organized” essays and organization is a familiar criteria for assessment. Organization generally refers to the rhetorical cannon of arrangement, but somehow it makes more sense to say to students that their essays should be well-organized instead of well-arranged. Organization also…

Star Wars, empires, WPAs, and postcomposition

I’m working on the fourth chapter of my monograph, where the focus will be more on pedagogy, and I’ve been reading Sid Dobrin’s Postcomposition, which is a great book in my view. Basically I agree with Dobrin. Our discipline has defined itself, and the study of writing, in terms of subjectivity, and more specifically in terms…

The empiricist-idealist divide in composition studies (and the role of realists)

I’ve been thinking about this big picture disciplinary issues primarily in terms of my Teaching Practicum, but maybe it is useful to share this here as well. Manuel DeLanda has a helpful brief piece on “Ontological Commitments” (PDF) in which he identifies three familiar categories of philosophical positions on ontology: idealism, empiricism, and realism. I…