Sunday, March 23, 2014

On Friday it was in the sixties but today it's fallen back into the high twenties. When I went out this morning to move my clothes from the washer to the dryer (having forgotten to do it last night) I thought I saw a few errant snow flakes flittering around and on Monday night it's supposed to officially snow. Today is the last day of Spring Break, a break from classes spent catching up on work, sleep, and attending the College Composition and Communication Conference (the 4C's or CCCC when one speaks the lingo) in Indianapolis. Six more weeks left in the semester and tomorrow I'm subbing for a friend all week long. His class begins at 7:30 in the morning so I'm going to have to get up earlier this week. I'm not looking forward to that but am looking forward to subbing for a 106i section, a composition course for international students that I was thinking of teaching at some point while I'm in graduate school. This week will be my trial run.

It's been a while since I've written in the blog, relatively speaking. This lack of public processing has been intentional for the most part, deciding that I wanted to let the energies and conversations of the last couple of months do their thing without interference from my meaning making / story telling tendencies. Observation of the thing changes the thing and it had been a while since I let anything just be. Of course the gap in writing is also a response to a shifting attention, and I've been more locally oriented lately, towards school and my future as an academic. This recent conference serving as a good example, the first time that I actually physically enjoyed being part of Rhetoric and Composition. I spent two nights and two days there, mostly attending panels. On the first day I listened to some folks who used corpus linguistics (the study of word frequency) to investigate the question of students shifting from written to oral language (or in other words, the question of if "text speak" is infiltrating academic prose...answer: not really), next I watched a movie about adjunct/contingent labor at universities and listened to the discussion that followed it, then I attended a panel on Chinese rhetoric that poked holes in stereotypes about "direct" and "indirect" communication styles (the prevailing stereotype being that students from Asian countries are more "indirect"...which is not necessarily true. The researchers suggested that direct and indirect communication styles are more about power dynamics than any inherent feature of a language or culture), and last I tried to go to a panel on recent trends in teacher mentoring but went to the wrong room and listened to people speak about technology and race. At that point I was too tired to listen anyway.

The next day I went to a panel on mindfulness practices in the classroom, followed by a panel on crossovers between creative writing and composition, which was helpful because I met somebody who knew something about empirical studies on creative writing, which has been a recent interest of mine and there's not too many people out there doing that kind of work so was glad to make a connection; then I went to another panel about adjunct/contingent labor, and the last panel I went to was about "cultural rhetorics," the world of R/C growing to include rhetorics beyond the Greek and Roman (thanks post-modernism!). I learned a little bit about Chinese and Japanese rhetorics, the idea that we have to look through these approaches to understand them rather than judge them with a set of outside criteria. At that point, while there was more to do and see and say, I decided to get back to Lafayette and start preparing for the week. Anyway, all that is to say it was exciting and fun and full of generally nice people talking entirely about rhetoric and composition. Which is why I wrote that it was the first time I physically enjoyed R/C. Positive associations felt in the body (of smiles, eyes, handshakes, cigarettes, being away from home and the bonding that takes place between others in a similar situation, a massive group "high" of indoctrination) that ultimately form habits. Another reason I came back before the conference was over was that I was beginning to feel like I was part of something. 

And so I wanted to write today to swing things back the other way, a singular voice speaking in grey words over a black background. The crux of the entire "problem" with becoming an academic here, that if I commit to R/C fully maybe I lose my connection with poetry, and what has been a fairly fruitful process of introspection? I don't know, but most everybody tells me who has gotten a PhD that the creative writing thing goes away in the process. I don't know, but I'll keep writing, poetry or not. Speaking of which I'm going to get on with the days work, beginning a short paper for class that I think is going to be a post-modern music review, applying Foucault and Althusser to the new Bill Callahan record, and then getting started on the mid-term evaluations for the OEPP. Onward. Happy Spring.