Monday, March 3, 2008

Keith Sawyer "Creative Teaching"

Keith Sawyer "Creative Teaching: Collaborative Discussion as Disciplined Improvisation"

This was a great read. Sawyer argues for a revision of the "teaching as performance" metaphor to guard against "teacher-proof" scripted interpretations and move toward an understanding of the metaphor as calling for improvisational teaching and classroom interaction. This piece was just filled with quote nuggets about facilitative, improvisational classroom management. If I am ever writing about participatory or engaged education again-- improv will likely come up and I will turn to Sawyer for a good quote to back me up. I'm totally convinced. Bring on the improv tomorrow night!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Anis Bawarshi Introduction

Anis Bawarshi's Genre and the Invention of  the Writer Chapter 1 "Introduction: A Meditation on Beginnings" p.1-15

I like the "in medias res (the 'into the midst of things') strategy" (2) very much. Haswell mentioned the same concept in Gaining Ground, and I was compelled by it. I encountered this idea through the work of Zillah Eisenstein's book Against Empire where she situates the current neo-liberal globalization trends in a context of what she calls "befores, alreadys, durings and afters." For example, she challenges the way naming of American wars in the Middle East fractures and shrinks the conception of the extent and duration of what could actually be considered one ongoing process or imperial project. In my way of looking at things, I see this recognition of historical, political, social and cultural contexts (and subtexts) as an attempt to make ones perspective and purpose transparent-- embrace subjectivity without wagering significance. 

It's self serving too: let me know where you stand and how you see the world so I can decide whether or not (and how) to read you.

Invention isn't my favorite part of writing to examine-- but I'm trying to be open minded. It sounds like Bawarshi has a thought-provoking Foucault-influenced understanding of how genre functions both to generate and to regulate (12).  If that confliction holds its significance in terms of invention-- then I'll try to get interested. 

One last question: Bawarshi refers to "writing in the disciplines (WID)" (14) instead of Writing Across the Curriculum. Is this a different argument? There seems to be a different implication to using one or the other name. 

Jarrett "Obbligato" Part Two

p77 "we know what improvisation is because we know what it isn't." I'm starting to think that this kind of negative-definition thinking prevents any actual exit from dualistic thinking in binary relationships. Jarrett comments on dualism hierarchies but uses them at the same time. I wonder if defining what something IS rather than what it is not could be considered a strategy to challenge dualistic logic (and the systems of power that it ideologically supports). 

p81 Jarrett suggests that heuretics = invention ; hermeneutics = imitation or interpretation

First of all: is this right? Secondly: why are imitation and interpretation lumped together?

can't stand the whole "hymen" metaphor. especially with the verb "breach." (82)

Not really sure what Jarrett is calling a writer's "signature." Form? Voice? Formvoiceargument? This needs clarification.... Jarrett's signature may be what is irking me so.

And then the names. Okiedokie. We like words now don't we? Although "the interdependence of jams and jars" (95) speaks clearly enough about dynamic relationships between form and argument, discourse and position. 

p101 Jarrett cites Fitzgerald saying that Jazz had "no interest in politics at all." True? Oversimplified? Misrepresentative? Commonly accepted notion? Yes to all?

Friday, February 22, 2008

venting during last week's class

Why does English make me so mad?

What is it about it that makes me feel personally wronged?

I mean, shit, I'm privileged and white, this should be my stuff, right?

First I feel nervous, then just plain uneasy.

Then I start grinding my teeth, chewing my lips, shifting in my chair.

Then the frown sets in, and a lump rises in my throat and the infuriating frustration consumes me.

Frustration of not knowing what's so wrong

and not knowing what to ask, or how to explain

that we are participating in and perpetuating violent ideologies of hate and ignorance that sustain a white-supremacist-capitalist-hetero-partiarchical system

When you tell me that Tom Romano invented multigenre,

I wonder what Harriet Jacobs (and her scholars) would say.

When you talk about "my story," I wonder why "her story" never comes up.

And when we study Jazz in a white college classroom without ever explicitly discussing racism or cultural appropriation,

I feel I have somehow failed myself as a conscious person.

My colors don't fit

This class's reading makes me so angry that I really should change the colors of my blog. Black and red seem like they would be better. The orange and yellow brightness just seems inappropriate. 

Jarret "Obbligato" part one

Michael Jarret Drifting on a Read Ch 2 "Obbligato: Required Listening"

So, I have made it through the first twenty pages of this chapter and I must stop to vent. I am having great difficulty getting through this chapter without feeling overwhelmingly lost (or misled) and fully dicked around. I find kernels of meaning lost amidst tons of other text (I don't even know what to call it but it's making me feel dumb). Why are we reading this? Why must it be so inaccessible for non-jazzographers? I can't stand this. At first, I was like, "oh, how interesting..." But now I'm like, "get it over with!" What are we talking about? Improvisation as a model for writing? This is way too big of a stretch to just dance around an explanation that is more of an exploration. I need an answer. How is Jarret making a claim that jazz can be a model for writing? Can I get a summary? I am becoming totally annoyed with the jazz metaphor at this point...

The parts that make sense:
p. 62 "Obbligato alludes to everything considered parergonal, supplemental, "hors d'oeuvre," or a matter of style. Within the verbal arts this includes prefaces, footnotes, marginalia, and illustrations..."
Simple point enshrouded in crazy vocabulary that pisses me off. What the hell does parergonal mean? And why use it if it's such an obscure word? And if what you're talking about is framing materials and illustrative additions, why don't you just talk about that??!!

p. 64 "Writing (recording technology) is not opposed to improvisation. It results from it. The term 'obbligato,' then, is useful because it makes explicit what's implied by other terms for ornamentation: namely, that any and all distinctions between composition and improvisation are socially constructed and ultimately incomplete." 

Ok, got it. But then the section is over and we launch back into the arguments about jazz being something to write about... and, why say that "improvisation as an artistic practice is rarely, even tacitly, examined" on pave 71 of a book doing just that?Hasn't that point already been established?

and then we're in the postmodernist scene where "this book only and always quotes" (74). And I am officially lost and have arguably built up enough resistance that I will never again be found in the work of this writer.

Will post more later. Will probably be more angry. So beware.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Haswell Ch. 2 and 3

Richard H. Haswell's Gaining Ground in College Writing: Tales of Development and Interpretation, Chapter 2 "Three Interpretive Tales of Growth," and Chapter 3 "Maturing."

Although it is most likely due to a loss of engagement after a whole day of reading, I was much less enthused with Hasswell in the two chapters for this week's reading than I was last week with Chapter 1. I do understand his point, that the supposed decline, or decay or writing skills in students beyond the freshman comp class is actually more of a misinterpretation on the part of writing assessors, and that a new conception of maturation, growth and mature writing should be embraced for a truly developmental pedagogy, but I don't understand why I read so many pages just get that. I mean, sorry, I guess it's not "just," it's a very interesting position than he thoroughly explains and backs up, but damn, I'll just take his word for it--that shit was long. Sometimes reading is just too much work. What does that say for the maturation process of a student?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Richard H. Haswell Ch. 1

Haswell's realistic attitude is refreshing. He writes clearly and purposefully. I dig it.

He holds onto a idealistic (and entirely possible) vision of student as learner and writer as always growing/adapting/changing. Distinguishing learning from recieving academic credit, Haswell reminds that "if learning continues, standards and status change" (17). He embraces change in his vision of education and encourages flexible pedagogical standards that can reach a range of student abilities. I think he is right on in addressing how "All students enter all courses in medias res, all are on alien ground" (17). 

He also brought me back to being surprised at myself for wanting to become a teacher after spending all thirteen years of my compulsory education terrorizing teachers. I never want to be a disciplinarian. It doesn't work. In fact, it's more fun for the trouble-maker. The way that Haswell looks at growth and learning, you could say that my high school teachers did succeed in teaching me: how to deal with boredom by causing trouble. It's true, no matter what the teacher's goals/aspirations are, the actual experience of the student-- the real student in the real class situated in a real contextual reality-- is the bottom line that determines what was taught and how successful it was. I bet it's easier to say now than to remember later, but I plan to try. 

 His perspective is realistic, purposeful and refreshing. He even reminds that shushing side conversations could be less productive than many teachers assume. "More often than we assume, as the ethnographer Robert Brooke found out by joining the back row, such talk is following up ideas introduced by the teacher: 'The students are developing their own stances towards class activity, not whispering about unrelated subjects like parties and dates'" (33). 

Back to my rant on purpose (

If the purpose of education is to provoke learning, authority is only one perspective on how to achieve it. There are many others.

Jarrett Ch. 1 ~ Gumbo

Jarrett's discussion of satura as mixing of distinct sounds in jazz, like ingredients in gumbo,  compliments his use of "composting" as an analogy for composing. Very interesting. 

I was a bit concerned about the problematic use of the "melting pot" metaphor for American society that is most certainly not "melting together" but retaining institutionally, ideologically ingrained systems of privilege and oppression. Jazz as rooted in the African American experience through slavery, lynching, segregation and institutionalized racism seems to be a problematic topic for discussion in white academia. This doesn't mean that it doesn't warrant study, as it obviously does, but it was unsettling for me to read the word "Negroid" (as an adjective describing more improvisational jazz quoted on page 36) before Jarrett had addressed issues of race, racism and cultural appropriation in jazzography. I was somewhat relieved to read about authors like Jones and Walton on page 45 who "argued that the cultural codes that made normative judgments possible were, by definition, inaccessible to white writers whose criticism never ceased to be informed by racialism...[and who also] questioned the musicological methods endorsed by white jazzographers, revealing that so-called 'objective analysis' always functioned as 'criticism' (raising and resolving issues of meaning and value)" (45).

I also really want to know more about this Hebdige guy (paraphrased on page 37 and 39). Specifically, I would like to know what intersectional feminists have to say about his analyses of "subcultures" that "scandalize" "offend" and "emanate in part from" the "dominant culture." 

Monday, February 4, 2008

Jarrett p.1-23

Michael Jarrett's (1999) Drifting on a Read: Jazz as a Model for Writing 

What an interesting project Michael Jarrett has set himself up here in this book. He is definitely pushing the boundaries of how we conceptualize writing. I was happy to read that Jarrett would "jump at the chance to see dancing about architecture" (2), because I would too. Especially if it is as illuminating as is writing about music. 

I wonder if musicians and non-musicians (what is that? i'm not sure, just stick with me here) read writing about music differently. Do writers read writing about writing differently than others who would not consider themselves writers? In a way it seems that the "non"s would have an easier time pulling insight from the writing about a practice with which they are not familiar. 

See, this is why I have been so frustrated by the bad rap that is given to poststructuralism (at least in this program). Jarrett says that "poststructuralism is fond of pointing out, blindness enables insight" (22). I agree. Not all encompassing, Truth insight, but unique and useful insight nonetheless.  I need to study this whole "postie" region.

Now, where was I? Jarrett's book is interesting and intellectually creative. His play with Louis Armstrong's quote (would we call that play "troping?") was amusing--although his representation of feminism is wrong. Feminism is not all about gender. Write it on the walls--do what you have to do--just please please realize that feminine absolutely does not equal feminist and feminism is not all about gender. But the activity itself was very amusing... hey, maybe I am unable to gain insight from his playful "Louie Armstrong the Feminist" game because I am too experienced in feminism... hmmm.... interesting....

Sunday, February 3, 2008

I have now been introduced to Burke

The Elements of Dramatism, by David Blakesley, Chapters 1 and 2 

I have been chomping at the bit to finally read Burke after all the references that have been made throughout my short involvement in English/Rhetoric/Composition/Whatever-the-hell-it-is-I-just-don't-know-anymore (by Rob Pope, Dr. Stacey and my friend Amanda...). I think it's funny that the timing worked out perfectly--right when I have decided I am a Serious Person and dead-set against ever calling myself Rhetorical-with-a-capital-R. I fear that I have rhetoric poisoning. 

That being said, though, I found the first two chapters to this book to be easy to read, engaging, relevant and fast-moving. Blakesley's representation of dramatism and dramatistic analysis using the Burkean pentad ties an understanding of rhetoric to material reality with current relevancy. 

The call to interpret our interpretations is brilliant. Blakesley's model of the pentad in action analyzing the Colmbine school shootings is very interesting. I'm not sure how it is supposed to move toward any clarity though; I guess it is more a technique for finding all the possible ways to look at a situation or action, exploring for new, unexamined perspectives or terrain. In that way I see it as broadening the scope of investigation-- looking for the most holistic means of solving/understanding/learning from a situation rather than finding the path of least resistance. In that sense I think the pentad is a tool for writing teachers that gets at a very different aspect of writing than most prewriting and revision strategies. While it may take more "work" on the part of the writer and make the process of finding an argument on a given issue more complicated, it could lead to more thought-out, solid and profound ideas. Way to go Burke; and now I understand why I never used the pentad once with a student in my five years working in the Writing Lab. (not to say that I wouldn't ever use it-- just that I didn't have the knowledge to frame it correctly, and I'm usually working with students who want to demystify the writing process rather than explore the endless possibilities...)

Chapter 2 was also quite engaging. The "Parlor" explanation of discourse (52) is the clearest representation I have encountered and the way that Burke was analyzing Hitler's rhetoric was commendable. Burke's got my vote. This dramatistic analysis of his is incredibly powerful for political awareness-building. Many of the components of Hitler's rhetorical strategy that Burke outlines can be seen in nationalist rhetoric surrounding wars of today. Scary shit--but if Burke was already publishing work about the danger of rhetorical skill like Hitler's, why are we living today in a world where the skill doesn't even have to be that of the leader, just his speech writers??  

Burke's whole identification thing is really interesting too. I think it's a good way to explain rhetoric in terms and concepts that are less evasive than, say, Houdini. He had a different way of looking at things, it seems, and I think his explanations work for me. The discussion of form as a rhetorical function involving "the manipulation of expectations and their subsequent gratification" (55) is very interesting.

That's my response in a nutshell: I find Burke's take on things to be very, very interesting. This should have been a preface, but if you have made it this far it can now be a reward: I'm very sick right now and my head it just not working right. I know this is all scattered and may only make sense to me--but hey, it's my blog.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Keith Sawyer, "Improvisational Creativity: An Analysis of Jazz Performance"

I thought this piece was quite interesting! I am often annoyed by assignments that I feel have no relevance to my life and goals as a teacher/writer/academic-- but this piece about jazz improvisational performance was fresh, new and totally engaging! I wonder if other jam bands and groups of musicians that have played together for long periods of time also use a similar form of sub/conscious ideation, interaction and balance of structure and innovation when they play together to come up with new material? At any rate, I thought Sawyer's analysis of jazz performance was intriguing and educational. I should have read that before listening to the mix-tape Dr. Stacey made for us.... I feel like I know a lot more about what is meant by the very word "jazz" after reading this piece. And, more importantly, I can call my dad now and tell him I finally know why I should appreciate jazz music and will never complain or call it noise again.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Ramage ch 1 and 2

Ok, so here goes an odd and unnatural attempt at blogging... as a required class activity for English 612: Developing Writing Abilities with Dr. David Stacey, whom I trust wholly whenever he requests a task that seems oddly directionless and surely prone to misinterpretation.

So, again, here goes:

The reading I completed first for this class was the first Ramage assignment in Rhetoric: A User's Guide, referred to from here as RUG. In the first two chapters I was annoyed by the extreme binaries constructed and relied upon in the process of defining rhetoric in a way that is seemingly both/and.

The "Serious person"? What's going on there? Why are we demonizing folks who "strive for clarity and simplicity of language" (8)? Because it is the counterpart in an effective binary association between Rhetorical People and Serious People. If this book is on rhetoric, and we could therefore consider the author at least a skilled scholar of rhetoric, why can't they use a different rhetorical strategy than oppositional arguments and dualistic associations? Isn't their definition of rhetoric itself a negative one? Why not attempt a positive definition... it has been how many centuries? 

I guess the binary bugs me because I am not exactly the common audience for this book. I am amazed at how desperately I clutch at my Women's Studies background, but moments like this are another example of it. Where do I fall? In the simple definitions of Serious People, I find myself! But then the book goes on to demonize this simplification so as to construct Rhetorical People as so very superior intellectually. 

Aside from the dualism, I totally dug the slow-food analogy and the analysis of legal rhetoric was thought-provoking. This illustration of rhetoric, though still vague and evasive, is much more digestible for me (as an almost hostile skeptic) than many I have encountered.