The end of the semester…

8 Dec

…Always feels like an awkward goodbye.

I am no good at them. I’m the person who always needs to hang up the phone first, so I don’t have to hear the “click” on the other end. I don’t want to shut any doors. Its that sinking feeling when you’re reading a book you love, there are only a few pages left, and you want to postpone the inevitable. 

I feel this graduate level class sparked in me a great, unyielding desire to continue my education after undergrad. Like some existential crisis, I have been consumed this semester with my future and my purpose in getting this Bachelors degree. I have so many dreams and aspirations and don’t know what path to take. Ten decisions shape your life– you’ll be aware of five, about. 

I learned a lot, and felt inspired, to spend time with everyone in e501. On a personal level, I got to see that I am smart enough and capable of keeping up with the debates in Composition. I also started to envision myself as a CO150 teacher and all the complex situations and objections the class entails. There is no way to really prepare for all the individual problems or circumstances that will come up in a class of 20 or so. There will always be a new obstacle to overcome. I think the debates on pedagogy have shown me how many different possibilities there are in teaching a course. I feel I will always personally lean toward an expressivist style. As Macrorie states, 

“Teachers don’ t want Engflsh, but they get it. Discouraged, they often try a different tack. Ask the students to write about sports; then maybe they’ll drop Engfish because they care about what they’re saying.” Telling Writing p. 298

To feel the voice and the enthusiasm of a given subject makes the writing better. Although I strongly believe that a professional writer can take any subject and sound enthusiastic and knowledgeable, when dealing with young freshman Composition students, the freedom of subject is important. While sports may not the that subject for every student, the freedom of subject matter, if nothing else, makes the student feel they are doing something that pertains to them. It shows the relevancy of writing in their lives. It even allows for subject choice closer in line with their major, which is always said in CO150. “What does this have to do with my major?” Hoping that the student doesn’t change this major, or even if they do, expressivist discourse allows for this decision with their writing.

I’m not sure where to go for my masters degree, and may stay at CSU. But I have never been so sure that the University is the place for me. I am an eternal student– I want to continue to learn and someday teach. To give a new generation the knowledge that I’ve accumulated throughout my academic career.

I always skip the words because all the pictures are so bright and loud.

1 Dec

I want to look at one of Takayoshi and Selfes claim in the chapter Thinking about Multimodality.

“The responsibility of introducing students to all available means of communicating effectively and productively, including words, images, sound- remains the purview of composition teachers.” Takayoshi Selfe

The term “all available means” actually stretches broader than any CO150 class could even begin to cover. I’m curious, to what extent does knowledge of these means of communication rely on the composition teachers shoulders. It seems, to me, that the use of these new modes may lead to less writing. More pictures, less text.

Yes these new modes come along with the new technological generation, but I believe the power and the meaning of composition lies with the writing. I don’t understand why everyone bad mouths academic writing. What is so bad about pen and paper? Actually, it’s not even pen anymore, or ink, but a computer and keyboard and Microsoft Word. What is so negative about relying solely on words?

Does the desire and modern graviatation toward new modes of text support a generation that is obsessed with pictures? Moving, bright, flashing, loud, singing text? Why is black and white on paper being shunned? I also believe the multimodal composition class lends itself to my “ADD” generation and our desire for excitement and entertainment. As attention spans are becoming shorter and shorter, it may be the only way to keep future students interested.

I think some multimodal forms take responsibility away from the words themselves. Although it is creative to use pictures, videos, etc to present our writing, it is chaotic. I want to know why everyone is so afraid to let their words sit alone. Just text on paper, naked, simple, raw. I suppose my question is, do pictures and sounds add to the meaning of text in a positive way? Or do they simply distract the audience from the words?

Sometimes when I come across multimodal forms of text, they are too complex. If given the opportunity to teach a composition class where we use multimodal forms, I would stress simplicity. We are already bombarded with enough colors, pictures, advertisements on a daily basis. We have TV, we have internet, all this hypertext and video. Would it be in our best interest to keep writing simple, untainted from the chaos of hypertext? Aesthetically, there is power in this simplicity. I don’t want to submit a 3D capstone requiring glasses, it just sounds wrong.

I want to stress the importance of having every single word count, of being able to paint pictures without pictures. The magic of composition is that it enables one imagination to create any image possible. Every word must count. We don’t need youtube to imagine great things.

The role of Literacy

16 Nov

“A performative theory of class asserts that classed habitus is not continually present, an unchanging way of seeing and valuing; instead, classed positions are continually iterated in response to specific social space.” LeCourt

I love this idea of perfomativity in classes as well as other places in our culture.  I wonder what compositions role is in perpetuating our class differences. Its interesting to think there is, and never was, an “essential” difference between upper and lower class- the labeling, the repition and acknowledgement of these structure made them real. In other words, we “perform” these ideas into existence. There are no “gifted and talented” children in the lower class breaking boundaries— the narrative implies the lower class as “lesser”, negative, etc. We have created this “gifted” idea to further instill our structure of class differences. It pushes the binary of upper and lower.

In this narrative, a child “breaks away” from the constraints of their socioeconomic class. Is it just me, or is this label of “lower class” is like some sort of chains tying you to the linoleum tile floor at the 7-11? It is not a death sentence to have less materials, the problem exists when we apply money to success in academia. Lecourt explains one issue with pedagogys aimed toward working class students  is that one must “lose” or “replace” their identity in order to succeed.

I reject the idea that some children are “gifted and talented” over others. We tend to value the individual, simply because we can blame them for “not trying hard enough”. The gifted and talented program in schools further instills this idea, that individuality makes one stand out from the pack. I think just the terminology of  these programs alienates the “other” and reinstills the differences. And then, those who are “gifted” receive the praise of the individual for breaking out of their economic base. I believe there is no inherent quality to determine a smart kid in a “dumb” socioeconomic class.

a marathon Race, and no one wins.

3 Nov

When I was a kid, I had no prejudice nor thoughts toward any race of people. Maybe it was the area I grew up in. Maybe it was the Disney movies and my young acquirement to Jasmine, Mulan, and Ariel. I assumed everyone was equal, that’s what they pound into our minds throughout grade school. They fail to mention, however, that when we get older we will find structures of authority everywhere. The ultimate binary oppositions, defining the individual by what they are “not”. We always desire our opposite, the elusive other to be versed against. There is division between the haves and the have-nots, the conquerers and the conquered, masculine and feminine, east and west, and finally, divisions between black and white.

When I was young, I was so emotional and so sympathetic I would cry learning about slavery, injustices, and the prejudiced side of history. I am the extreme example of guilt. I felt really bad, and I felt anger toward European/Caucasian race that was my own. Like a weight on my shoulders, I found myself having to accept my “race”. Even as my grandpa would remind me… “In New York City, in the 1940’s, Italians were discriminated against. Irish, Catholics, anyone who wasn’t protestant was discriminated against.” It seems that, no matter where you look in american history, we search for the “other” anywhere we can.

The most discrimination I felt came when realizing I was a girl, and I had to fit in to our cultures ideology of what a “girl’ ought to be. The illusion of equality that I had wrapped myself in like a warm blanket was suddenly ripped off.

I love how Carrie put it in her last blog post story “I grew up in the U.S.and had passively learned the racial politics of my country. It is just that until that moment I had been on the privileged side of history.”

It is extremely important to make students aware of this “status quo” of great literature coming from old, dead white guys. Delpit accurately states that this authority is persasive and exists, “to ensure that power, the culture of power, remains in the hands of those who already have it.” (286)

Society wishes it were colorblind. If we want this colorblind subjectivity in the field of composition, we need to start practicing what we preach. There are so many inconsistencies with how race and ethnicity are treated in our composition. The truth is, as Prendergrast finally admits, it is a highly complex and tricky area. One that is almost entirely gray area, not simply “black and white”.

I am a strong believer that these conversations are touchy, hard, painful, etc, for a reason. We get the most extreme reactions from subjects when they hit close to home. By working through these in a safe environment, we can begin to deal with them. It is ideal to imagine a classroom that is open to opinions and to race discourse, but it is easier said than done. And I believe our classroom discussion on Wednesday proved that the safe environment does exist for this discourse. But, an extreme paper about re-segregation is enough to put this ideological “hate-free” vision in its place.

There are many ways which writing can separate us from our subject, making us step out of our cultural comfort zones. Prendergrast points to fantasy/fiction pieces such as those written by Bell, where race is addressed, but it is applied to an unfamiliar world. This act creates distance from the subject and the readers. Writing stories, reading stories, and participating in a college level composition class is a great area for this discussion because of the distance. Then, the judgement and the criticism is less personal and more educational.

Judith Butler, Performativity, and Queer Theory

29 Oct

 

In Literary Criticism, I’ve been reading a lot of critical theorists and my favorite that we’ve recently brought up is Judith Butler. She is inspired by decontruction, and focuses on cultural criticism, gender criticism, sumatic criticism (the notion of self) and most prominently, Queer Theory. Butler attempts to show how a lot of our normative views of sexuality and gender are actually quite strange. 

Foucault and Butler both are famous for stating that sexuality is new recent invention. Sexualitys purpose is monitor and judge pleasure. How did these labels of gender become invented on the level of representation? Butler argues that you cannot talk about sexuality without “gendering” us first. We need gender in order to judge sexuality and monitor it. Performativity explains that meaning is performative and it is not reducable to logic. Meanings are generated by the way we speak, think, our actions and our language. Meaning only exists in the use. Butler then applies this to sexual difference.

Is it not essential, but a performance?

Gender is so deeply manifested in our culture, we dont even notice the representations. The catagory of man and woman do not exist prior to the representation. In Baudrillardian terms, the signifier (gender as the costume we use to dress up sex) proceeds the signified (sex, our biological differences). Our world is a compulsory heterosexualist one. We apply our representations of a “heterosexual” identity on everyone. Even when we are born, the simple shouting of “Its a Girl,” or “Its a Boy,” contains us in a catagory. The performance lies in our repition of these male and female represenations. If I live in a society that has genders, I am affected by these representations, I begin to “do” it.  Our sense of identity comes from repeating and performing these roles. In this sense, our gender is not something that we are but something that we “do”. Even if a child is sitting, passive, or an adult sits and watched TV, they are still being affected by the gender representations. Simply by acknowledging two genders, we perform them.

This brings me to Queer Theory. The term “queer” in Butlers usage is not derogitory, even though the term is dated. It means “abnormal” from the structure of heterosexual compulsions. In this structure, gay is wrong and straight is right. One is normal and one is strange. When a homophobis person encounters a transvestite, they feel uncomfortable. This discomfort may even translate into hate and extreme anxiety. The reason the homophobic person feels so uncomfortable is because they realize that their own gender is just as gratutous as the transvestites. “I am no more natural than the cross-dressor, I myself am queer.” Their own sexuality is ungrounded by realizing that we are all in drag. 

So, is there even a solution? Do we raise children as “its” and paint their bedrooms yellow? Or do we seriously need the distinction between blue and pink?

The reason people find it hard to raise a child without gender is because it doesn’t fit into our culture. It would be even more difficult for the child than anyone else. People enjoy performing their genders. We do it because we feel attachment, on an essential level, to the representation. The things we hold so dearly to our identity are simply performative categories. If you begin to notice the hundreds of times these genders are repeated in our daily lives, then Butler has showed you too how arbitrary is our gender.

 

Argumentation is the persuasion

21 Oct

“Some theorists condemn conventional academic discourse a s the product of a hierarchical, maledominated system of logic and learning that is oppressive to women” (p. 264) Susan C. Jarratt

I am unsure if I’ve ever noticed the patriarchal system of logic that exists in our classrooms. Maybe this is because, since I can remember, most of my teachers have been female. Not even just English classes, because I have had chemistry and trigonometry teachers who were women as well. Maybe it’s because of my generation, but I never felt oppressed by male dominated discourse. Jarratt is explaining that the combative nature of debate is “violent”. How can we have arguments or discussions without feeling this heavy air of anger? And is this “violence” that is found in discourse inherently male?

I have the same problem as Gearhart, whom Jarratt cites in her article, that the definition of violence is confusing. Where do we draw the line between violent attack, and persuasive metaphor? It seems convoluted to me, and I am unsure if other teachers feel the same. As a student, I have always loved debate. I enjoy the argumentative part, the drama that exists when opposing views challenge one another. I think this argumentation aids in the learning process.

But perhaps the reason I don’t see the “violence” in argumentation is because I am so used to the structure. The gender ideologies are too deeply ingrained in my mind, I have blinders the see the patriarch for what it is. When something seems “obvious”, that is the deep ideology or structure at work. And in my mind, debate is an “obvious” piece of the discourse that is always found in composition classes. This love of argumentation, or the “violence” inside of me, is perhaps the strongest and most persuasive form of my rhetoric.

I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME sit quietly and behave myself

19 Oct

There is no doubt that dichotomies exist in composition. Cognitive versus expressionism, cultural studies versus non political, rational versus subjective. Composition naturally lends itself to an authoritative opposition. Male versus female.

The train that is feminist pedagogy first started rolling in the 1970’s, as a result of the womens rights movements of the 1960’s. All of a sudden, there was an exciting and new branch growing from the tree of composition. The 1960’s was also the first time when college enrollement was equal between men and women. This lead us on a search for what feminist pedagogy is, and how to define it. Jarratt explains that the utility of feminism in composition classes benefits both sexes.

“We are all shaped by gender processes of our culture– messages telling us very powerfully how to talk, walk, play, work, and love” (p.116).

I agree with Jarratt and feel strongly that the teaching of feminist ideals will help every student. Just as the teaching of race studies and cultural studies has benefited every race. We have to be open minded to having men in feminist classes, and men even teaching feminism in composition, just as any other specific feild of ethics.

I’m still curious why there has been a decline in the relevance of feminism since the 1990’s. It is no longer in style? Have we passed the point of “a la mode” and reached true equality in writing? Or has feminist pedagogy been reduced and catagorized under the all encompasing subject of cultural studies?

I believe one reason for the drop off in texts about feminist approach is because we are no longer the minority. The division of men and women, when it was once black and white, has become an area of gray. For hundreds of years, university was a patriarch that reflected into rhetoric and composition. I believe the long standing binary opposition of men and women is falling apart, and that it only hurts pedagogy. There are intimate pieces of text that should be written from the point of view of women (or men) or whatever, but it should be limited. I don’t want to be patronized, and I don’t like the category of “feminism” being tied to the offensive and stereotypical structures. One negative structure seen in literature, for example, is “emotional” being a trait of women and “rational” to men.

I also feel the competition of the two would alienate men from learning approaches and reading texts that are very important. There are not forms of writing that are masculine or feminine. For example, our design scholar Robin Williams who’s book “Design for non-Designers” has been referenced to in our aesthetics discussions, could have been a male. I thought it was, actually, until I stumbled upon the word “her”. With a name like Robin, or J.K. Rowling, the reader has literally no idea what gender produced the text in front of them. Its almost silly for me to imagine an article being judged as particularly male or female.

These and many more deep concerns of critical thinking are found within feminist literature. Writing is everywhere now, and in terms of any cultural topic, language is extremely powerful. Feminist pedagogy doesn’t force any ideology nor political view on the students, but instead motivates them to be critical participants in our gendered world.

Perhaps this has lead to a smaller focus on feminist composition in the last decade. It’s not that we have completely abolished the difference, but that it has slowly integrated into all composition. Like my example of J.K. Rowling or Robin Williams, female authors and texts thrive, without them being overtly “feminist”.