Sunday, November 27, 2005

limitations of teaching

"Our business must be to instruct students in signifying practices broadly conceived-- to see not only the rhetoric of the college essay, but also the rhetoric of the institution of schooling, of politics, and of the media, the hermeneutic not only of certain
literary texts, but also the hermeneutic of film, TV, and
popular music. [ . . .]Students must come to see that the
languages they are expected to speak, write, and embrace as
ways of thinking and acting are never disinterested, always
bringing with them strictures on the existent, the good, the
possible, and the resulting regimes of power."

from J. Berlin's Rhetoric, Poetics, and Cultures pps 100-101

...true critical thinking practices
the result of which is a group of folks who can (potentially)
consume and deconstruct texts and information thoughtfully and
intelligently. If we read and discuss one magazine article,
one film, one essay and really look at and talk about and
write about the language and the rhetoric, the
purpose/audience/effects (potential) for viewers/readers, the
focus and function of the text, then we will all have
sharpened our critical skills for further use in the future.
Yes, we can teach skills like how to recognize when to fix a
grammatically bad sentence (or better yet how to avoid writing
any bad sentences in the first place), or we can engage with
students and content (whatever that may be) in ways that will
help us all become better thinkers and better writers while
simultaneously participating as intelligent people in our
contemporary culture. Whether we use Foucault or Orwell or the
story on the evening news about someone caught on a security
camera doing's all about, or something about,

assignments for a comp class

in trying to design a series of essay assignments for a composition 1020 class and working out the details of linking between them...

first, write 2 essays (one Personal, one Cultural) in which you respond to 2 essays from the book (that we've read and talked about) and include any cultural artifacts that seem relevant (images, newspaper articles, quotes from IM or email...). (essays come from The World is a Text)

then, the for the final assignment, look back to the first 2 and see where your professional interest lies in the context of these. The assignment for this last essay is to write from a professional perspective based on something that stands out, or seems to be a theme or idea from the previous essays...

i've cut one essay from the original syllabus in an effort to spend more time and write a longer final essay that incorporates the professinal perspective in the context of both the personal and cultural and also includes research and analysis of a particular theme or topic.

to begin, i wrote short versions of the Personal and Cultural essays. I'll include sections from both, but the cultural is even less finished than the first, and i've not included any cultural artifacts...if i had i could link them from within the text here, and option that i will give students if they are interested in hypertext, but one that we will certainly talk about in terms of how to create hypertext on paper...


What happens to women who spend their time alone in suburbia? Or alone, at home with kids and no interaction with other adults? This is a white middle class phenomenon—women who can afford (or are ‘privileged’) to stay home and take care of kids and home. But in suburbia, you drive right into your attached garage—don’t even have to say hi to the neighbors—this is generalizing but in some neighborhoods there are no sidewalks, let alone shops or a city center for people to frequent and mingle. You get in and out of your car and in and out of your house. Even if you work, have life outside of your homogeneous suburb ‘community’ you still may not be connected to your domestic location. Especially if you work far from home. Where I live, everyone drives away to work. There is little local community activity. People drive away to work, come home and watch TV or do whatever, inside their houses. The dogs all bark from behind fences because they never walk around and meet people.

The mother in ‘My Mother’s Hands’ always worked but she moved so often she had no real sense of community or sense of her own place, or a place of her own. This is not the focus of the story but suddenly when she puts her foot down and decides not to move anymore, her need to redefine herself and her space become clear. She probably has felt disconnected. The suburbs some would say also help to create disconnected people. Instead of experiencing the city or other places, we only watch it on the TV, and what we see on the TV is not always the real city, or it is only a small part of the story. Often we only see the bad parts, the local news spotlighting the worst of the crime and character. In the suburbs then, especially in the Detroit Metro area, residents are safe from the city. People don’t go to Detroit unless they have to work there.

In ‘A Remedy for the Rootlessness of Modern Suburban Life?’ the author quotes Karl Zinsmeister (‘the editor of the conservative magazine The American Enterprise’) who wrote that as a ‘radical experiment’ we might attribute to suburbia ‘the disappearance of family time, the weakening of generational links…the anonymity of community life, the rise of radical feminism, the decline of civic action, the tyrannical dominance of TV and pop culture over leisure time’ (225). In some ways this could be the argument of either a conservative or a liberal. Some liberal groups are advocates urban planning and redefining suburbs to be places that include more center and community aspects, more civic and personal neighborly interest. Different sorts of planned communities are often liberal endeavors. But in this statement Zinsmeister also attacks feminists just because some conservatives need to attack or blame any problem on feminism whenever there is a space to do so. How the suburbs contribute to the (apparently disastrous bad) rise of feminism I’m not sure when all I see are women shuttling their kids around from activity to activity in their minivans, and filling the grocery stores, since, while they are at home all day with kids, or sometimes even not, they are still ‘in charge’ of the domestic sphere; or one might say responsible for. Even working moms, studies show, are still overwhelmingly responsible for care and maintenance of house and kids. This is not the feminism I have been reading and living all these years. But maybe Zinsmeister was watching Desperate Housewives when he made this statement and interprets those wild and sexy women as wielding their power and control over all of the men in suburbia. Never mind the fact that the ‘culture’ of suburbia seems to have made them all insane!
Whether we live in cities or suburbs or if we work or spend whole days with our kids, in this contemporary society we are losing connection on all fronts. We watch TV, listen to music, play video games, drive around as individuals in cars and have little contact. One might argue that suburban culture is just another metaphor for the phenomenon of disconnectivity of modern life…


Everyone assumed the cop killer song was bad, malicious, etc and so it was banned practically or literally before it was even heard. I’ve not heard the rap (will find it and listen) but can imagine that during that time in the early 90s when African Americans and minorities seemed to be targeted actually were beaten by police, that it would make sense to want to fight back, that a song like cop killer might be a response to the felt racism and lack of social and legal response to that racism. (click here to see the lyrics and a note on the cultural context). I don’t know how much worse this rap might or could be than some of the violent misogynist raps that are on the market and consumed en mass. (though, ok, he does say "Die, die, die pig, die!" and includes the line "F**k the police!" repeated a number of times.) But one could argue that maybe it is ok then to write violent and aggressive lyrics about shooting other folks (as long as they’re not cops) and mistreating and degrading women—these often fictional representations of gang or ghetto life created for the rap to fit the genre, to sell records, whatever the purpose—but not to write and rap in response to actual destructive social conditions and pervasive racism that is having real effects in (the song’s) contemporary society.


(hip hop as potential site of resistance, popular culture site of both ideology and resistance revision etc, race and ethnicity in popular culture in movies, in the face of phenem like Katrina and Rosa Parks death and funeral—local connections between these, connect globally with riots in france, when ideology and articulation don’t hold the people in check and military or other force is necessary when the people don’t believe the hype when they break through the matrix of social construction…)


Professional: from something that came up in the first 2 essays, something that stands out a topic or theme or an idea from these that lead you into something to research deeper; use appendix (and footnotes for extra textual info?) to link to cultural artifacts and earlier essays, present with images and layout like a newspaper or magazine article

some ideas for my theme/focus for a final project:

-people living lives of isolation and tv nightly news
-2000, 2004 voting stats (wmn and minorities) and discrimination at the polls
-decline in newspaper readership reading comprehension literacy is more than being able to follow through a text and read word for word but comprehension analysis synthesis of information
-cultural literacy, using cultural studies to develop reading writing thinking practices, write to respond and articulate, to form and express thoughts and insights, learn how to express thoughts to self and others and learn how to ‘read’ all sorts of cultural texts written visual aural
-important to look at the lyrics of a rap like ‘cop killer’ and others to see what is allowed and what isn’t, what is encouraged by the industry and society, what potential effects and consequences hip hop and other pop culture forms can have
-katrina, rosa, france: there are still great inequalities of consideration and respect for people and groups of people but
-impt to read culture in terms of own personal position and as part of cultural groups and society as a whole, as well as in terms of future professional situation, professional interests and opportunities, how we function as thinking and articulate professionals in the world…

preliminary sources:
articles on Katrina, rosa parks, france
voting demographics
reading culture, world is a text, cultural literacy
hip hop essay on potential site of resistance, etc

Sunday, November 20, 2005

to mix and match or some such

on a question of sampling reusing appropriating whatnot there are many versions and examples of this but what about in writing in literature in art (who said good art is borrowed great art is stolen?) and what about the question (s) of using and collaging and mixing and revising and taking pieces and fragments and re-incorporating those putting them together in a similar or different way to make something that started from something but then turns different...

or, is it another version of hollywood pop-genre movies, where one is a hit so 10 or 50 more are made in slightly different form? But in hip-hop often some of the actual talent of the artists also comes through even in the face of producers, the 'demands' of the masses or whoever is claimed to specify the genre boundaries/standards, whatnot. So even though it is the same, it is at the same time always different and somehow evolving, reflecting on a variety of levels while also moving (forward, maybe, moving outward somehow from its initial moment of reflecting something...). Anyhow, it could be sort of appropriative, sort of associative and hypertextual; we start with 'this' and then add, subtract, revise, rearrange, etc and end up with 'that' so many ways, this is how self, society, whatever 'progresses'...

is this hypertextual or progress by association or simply that there is no such thing as real authenticity or authentic creativity? is this all bad or all good? if all art is a revision of some earlier art or work isn't the creativity then in the remix in the product of the collage the revision the etcetera...

about hypertext

i'm starting with:

teaching carnival #1 ( here's the link )

and thinking about hypertext. i don't know who all ("Every one or two months, a different editor (me first) will round up a bunch of links to blog posts related to teaching in higher education.") is writing these (3 installments of) hypertextual essays, but you could link around and read all day long and then some...some links are useful and good and some i guess you could skip over, the basic idea, and then you could get caught and wander around for a while in who knows wheresville having connected yourself somewhere else entirely...the theme: "Teaching Carnival is devoted to gathering select blog entries related to teaching issues in higher education."

anyhow, this link is interesting for example on how much to teach when having to fit too much into an intro level course of some/any kind:

clink here

there are a lot of links, i've not even finished reading through the first edition of the teaching carnival. part of the good and the bad about the web is this issue of information. i could spend my day reading and linking my life away here finding lots of good interesting stuff and finding even more nonsense clicking through page after page of stuff and that wouldn't even get to the tiniest piece of what is even available out there. how is this an issue, or how do we talk about these kinds of issues and how this affects our reading and thinking life, how are we to negotiate where to draw the lines of consuming information on the web, when you find and know more and when to step away? this is relevant simply as individuals trying to learn constantly how to exist in an often overwhelmingly technological world, as students and teachers in a world rich and full of information easily accessible at the touch of our little techno fingers, and as thinkers as we pull some of the insights and contradictions together and try to work through and articulate these.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

more good advice - for teaching and for life :: Sunday, 13 November, 2005 :: Chapter 8

The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao.

In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don't try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.

When you are content to be simply yourself
and don't compare or compete,
everybody will respect you.

Translation by Stephen Mitchell.
Site Copyright (C) 2003-5 Glen Sanford


having neglected to do much posting to my delicious list, i've copied some interesting links from others' lists...some good stuff, check it out, link at the right...


Date: Sun, 13 Nov 2005 09:34:13 -0500
From: Jill Darling
Subject: Re: Association

Taking all of this, great ideas and insights, Sarah, if I had
the time and energy to totally redesign my whole focus and
syllabus for next semester, I would create a course that
through the context of language/rules/rupturing/disrupting
(this would, again theoretically, be worked out specifically)
look at Katrina, France riots, and in the middle of these,
like some sort of language of mediation (but does it Really
mediate?), the rhetorical situation surrounding Rosa Parks
(comments of people waiting in line to see her, reports of the
crowds and fanfare, excerpts from the talks during the 7-hr
long funeral)...

like Burroughs, or the LANGUAGE Poets who bring a Marxist
criticism to the structure and power of language, rupturing
and then reassembling texts/paragraphs/sentences/structures in
general, obviously, will make a reader look at the content of
the writing differently, but instead of turning away b/c it is
weird or different, we could use this as model to look at
'regular' writing to see how it is potentially actually
functioning, how it doesn't add up, etc.

yes, the photo is something, beauty/terror/suffering, how
indeed does language simply fall short...

on making (dis)associations

Date: Wed, 9 Nov 2005 07:33:47 -0800
From: Sarah Ruddy
Subject: Association

(the image is which actually from riots
in Toulouse.)
Yesterday in 7520, we talked briefly about Burroughs
"Electronic Revolution." Burroughs based his "cut-up"
technique on a very textual understanding of power
structures and social formations. This led him to the
idea that control "depends on laying down lines of
association." Jill, you're in this class, feel free to
step in if I'm wrong or something. These lines of
association could be equated with "conventions." His
revolutionary writing practice is then based on
rupturing the lines of association that manipulate us.
It's not so much that this is a new idea, but
Burroughs presents it in a way that underscores how an
exercise of power and the resistance of it are forms
of "writing." The disruption of accepted lines of
association introduces the possibilities for freedom.

This makes me think about a 1020 course based on
Burroughs, looking at "texts" that reinforce lines of
association and texts that explicitly resist them. A
good example of the former might be the BBC report on
the Paris riots that I exerpted on my blog. It relies
on lines of association to make it seem like the
"Algerian Curfew Law" is justified. Many mainstream
news reports, if examined closely, base their logic
not on, well, logic, but on associational connections
- ie conventions. The Five paragraph essay does
something like this too, which is why it's a joke as a
form. Then you have your "rupturing" text, which in
this case might be the photograph I also posted on my
blog (reposted below). It's a beautiful image of
rioting. How is this disruptive? Well, why is it so
beautiful? How do we respond to the rioter's
simultaneous joy and anguish? Lines of association
don't give us an answer.

I guess as a syllabus, this could also be extended to
reading social movements and revolutions. Where, for
example, were segregation's lines of association? How
did the civil rights movement rupture them? This is a
historical text which would have continued to be read
via association if those lines hadn't been severed by
people like Rosa Parks.

The assignments for a class like this could range from
close readings of texts like ads and news reports to
smaller cut-up projects to a larger analysis of a
social movement told in cut-up mode. Obviously, there
is a lot here that we already read about, including a
hip-hop logic and Haynes' troubling of "ground."
Reading the Burroughs essay really made it come
together for me.

Saturday, November 05, 2005


i love the box sirc's box ideas particularly b/c he uses duchamp who was crazy and joseph cornell b/c he was also crazy but both did fab great stuff collaging and collecting and compiling i love the idea of collecting and then 'organizing' how are we going to put all of this together certainly that is the question but the ideas of the notes and diagrams gathered in a little green box or whatever you want to use and carry around and add to and then take this all out and put it together somehow create 'text' or 'art' or 'life' and call it what you will and etc.

but i don't yet know how to do this in / for a class


stored for future use / thought / idea in the little green box of my brain

thinking syllabus

in trying to incorporate or organize or do it all while keeping it simple and straightforward for everyone's benefit

but not having included any poems by lyn hejinian or more on hip hop or all of the other fab and great essays that are out there to be read

not having included much in the way of visual

to insert, to include some activities which utilize magazines and newspapers, web sites and music, etc texts in all of their visual form and etc bring it into the classroom whatnot how can we talk about text in all of its or some of its at least possible variations and realizations...

Selections from a Syllabus

Hypertext Culture: Making Connections, Making Choices

English 1020: Introductory College Writing

Wayne State University – Winter 2006

Course Description
English Department: English 1020, Introductory College Writing, prepares students for academic writing as required in college classes and introduces them to forms of thinking, reading and writing that are applicable in multiple contexts beyond the university. The strategies involved in producing written arguments intentionally designed for specific audiences and purpose include data-gathering, pre-writing and/or outlining, organizing and developing written ideas, and revising to increase conceptual sophistication, enhance clarity, alter expression, and correct mistakes. To teach these strategies, English 1020 puts considerable emphasis upon the relationship between reading and writing, specifically upon readers' expectations about the structure of texts; the writer's reliance upon existing texts to produce new writing; and the process of collecting, interpreting, and disseminating information through texts.

This course will focus on critical thinking through reading and writing. It takes an integrated approach to writing by teaching various rhetorical strategies for reading a variety of texts in both written and visual forms, and for constructing reflective and argumentative writings in response. The term ‘Essay’ is one to be investigated, that is, we will discuss what constitutes an essay in both reading and writing. Readings in this course are chosen to enhance comprehension of challenging non-fiction texts, awareness of a text’s purpose and its intended audience, and identification of related and connecting themes and issues, and comparing and contrasting and arguing many perspectives on individual issues. You will be expected to articulate both oral and written responses about contemporary and sometimes controversial topics, and to demonstrate in writing that you can sustain your own ideas, supply sufficient evidence, and effectively synthesize primary and secondary source information.

The theme of the course is: Hypertext Culture: Making Connections, Making Choices. Using the text The World is a Text, as well as other sources, we will talk about how in contemporary society our lives are always already hypertextual, we are constantly moving in and out of diverse situations and contexts, constantly analyzing and interpreting the multitude of ‘texts’ that surround us from our own personal narratives of family and community to the movies we watch the billboards we pass on the street and the books and articles we read in both personal and professional situations. We are constantly ‘linking’ our thoughts and actions from one moment to the next, making connections mentally, socially, professionally, working always to negotiate the multiple and various pieces of our lives, knowledge, and understanding in order to make the choices that will keep us moving along a particular path both as individuals and as members of the assorted communities to which we belong and through which we move. Our reading and writing then are places or opportunities for interpretation, analysis, and discussion, places for making connections, drawing conclusions, making arguments, and asking questions. And these are spaces in which we must also make choices about how think, how to understand and interpret information, how to decide the purpose of, and the audience for, the different writing that we do, and how then writing is to be structured and presented from one context to the next.



(More detailed assignment sheets will be distributed and discussed in detail before each essay is due.)

Major Essays:

Essay 1: Personal. You will write a personal essay which both responds in a thoughtful and articulate way to two of the readings for this section, and incorporates a collection of references and images which might include: newspaper clippings, comic strips, literary references, cultural references, song lyrics and etc. You should have a minimum of 3 pages of your own writing in addition to the included references.

Essay 2: Cultural. Similar to the first essay, this assignment asks you to focus a bit differently. You are to respond to what you see as the main ideas of one or two of the readings for this section and then create a response to that idea through the incorporation and collection of references that are more specific to the particular popular cultures in which you are a part (such as entertainment, media, art, music, literature, etc). You should have a minimum of 3 pages of your own writing in addition to the included references.

Essay 3: Professional. This assignment is the same as for Essay 2, though you should create some sort of professional focus that reflects your area of study and/or professional interests. You should have a minimum of 3 pages of your own writing in addition to the included references.

Essay 4: Making Connections. (This assignment will function as some sort of MyStory in which some recurrent theme or idea from the previous assignments will be researched and presented in a personal and cultural context. Details to be worked out.). You should have a minimum of 5 pages of your own writing. MLA format for sources and citations. Four to five sources in a variety of forms (articles, books, web sites).

Additional assignments: On Mondays I will post and announce in class, a blog question related to the readings to be addressed on the class blog; due fri before class. I will also create a class email listserve for thoughts, comments, questions, things to ‘think about’ and etc. We will talk more about how to best use this resource in the context of our class.


High scoring papers (A and B range) are well above average in their sophistication, focus, development, and organization of ideas; their effective use of language and style of writing. Papers that receive a mid-range grade are functioning at a basic level and often show less clear focus, may include some undeveloped ideas, and may utilize awkward language and grammatical or mechanical problems that distract from the flow of the essay. Failing papers may not meet the requirements of the assignment, have seriously underdeveloped ideas, or include an excessive accumulation of language errors that may make the paper generally unintelligible.

Essays: All essays, other than in-class assignments, are to be typed in a 10 or 12 point font and double-spaced with margins no larger than 1.25 in. Papers are due at the beginning of class on the due date without exception. Papers turned in later than this will be reduced in grade by 10 points for each day, including weekends, that they are late. Please locate the various computer labs and the resources available to you on campus to help you complete your assignments in a timely and effective manner. If you are unhappy with your grade on an essay, I encourage you to set up a time to meet with me to discuss a possible revision plan. You may revise up to two essays during the semester.