If you've been a reader for a while (first of all, thank you!), then you've probably noticed that my posts have gotten more and more focused on rhetorical theory and ancient philosophy. That's because today is the big day of my doctoral exams, and I've been using my blog as a way to prepare. All the posts marked "Blogging to My PhD" have been connected in some way to my exam reading list.
Here's the post that introduces my efforts to catalogue the studying dated all the way back in May 2013. That's right. I've been preparing for this thing longer than it took me to grow an entire human being and birth her (another effort that I cataloged on this blog long ago).
Incredibly (at least to me) this isn't the end of these posts because (as long as I pass this exam this afternoon) I'll be moving on to writing a dissertation, and writing these posts has been so helpful that I'll keep going (unless I don't pass; then I guess they weren't as helpful as I thought).
As a way to culminate the exam study experience and as a way to help me pull out some final summaries before I go in to take the test, here's what I've written as part of Blogging to My PhD.
Statistical Noise and the Collective Value of Diversity- By looking at the tension between Plato and Aristotle's ideal city (Plato wants singularity in The Republic; Aristotle wants diversity in Politics), I draw some conclusions about the risks of erasure through unity and the value of diversity illustrated by the Army's racially-charged hair regulations for women and The Good Judgment Project, an experiment that asks everyday people to make predictions about major world events.
Melting, Mixing, and Patching American Dreams- Perhaps you've heard of America being referred to as the melting pot or the patchwork quilt. This post looks at what each of those metaphors tell us about the different ways to handle America's diversity and how both of them miss the mark. Victor Villanueva, however, gives us an alternative in his book Bootstraps.
In Defense of Facebook Braggarts and Faking It Til You Make It- Do you have a friend who drives you crazy by posting what looks like a perfect life on social media. You know it's a lie. No one's that happy all the time! This post defends such aggravating acts of social media illusion using Castiglione's concept of sprezzatura from The Book of the Courtier and Hannah Arendt's discussion of socially-maintained reality in The Human Condition.
Comfortable Deceptions- When Cheryl Glenn started her project Rhetoric Retold in an attempt to reclaim the women silenced throughout rhetorical history, she was told it would be a "negative" project that would only verify that women weren't a part of the tradition. Instead, she found evidence of female rhetors throughout history. I use her book to think about what other historical images we won't let go despite evidence to the contrary.
Flood Lights and Roller Skates- A month out from the exam, it became all-consuming and absolutely exhausting. I thought about it all the time . . . except when I was at roller derby practice.
Richard Sherman and the Postmodern Self- When Richard Sherman made his infamous post-game speech, I was reading Lester Faigley's Fragments of Rationality, and the connections between the media response and the way we treat subjectivity in narration were too clear to ignore. We need people in boxes even when it's clear they don't fit.
The Future is Full of Disaster (and Other Non-Problems)- An essay in Writing New Media points out that postmodernity seems like a crisis . . . to those who see it as a change. For the new generation, it just seems like life.
Can Tablets Be Our (Children's) Friends?- Using Walter Ong's Presence of the Word, I wonder about marketing that promises electronics that will act as friends. Technology can be a wonderful tool--even for children, but it can't replace human interaction, and it shouldn't pretend it can.
Athletics and the Rhetoric of Violence- Deborah Tannen's The Argument Culture gave me an opportunity to examine the Richie Incognito story in particular and the rhetoric of violence in sports fandom in general. Does a player's bodily risk make the sport more "real"?
Peter Elbow Helps Me Clean My House- In Writing Without Teachers, Peter Elbow gives a recipe for writing that includes making yourself work for a set amount of time without stopping. Just 10 or 15 minutes makes a huge difference when it comes to producing written ideas. As it turns out, it makes a huge difference in cleaning your house, too.
Government Shutdown Edition- Disgusted with Congress for shutting down the government and even more disgusted with people who insisted this was a matter of "compromise," I turned to Richard Ohmann and Patricia Roberts-Miller for a discussion of how the mythos of compromise can actually work against us.
Become a New You! (And Other Educational Endeavors)- Debra Hawhee's Bodily Arts discusses the close ties between ancient Greek physical education and rhetoric. Both types of teaching involved transformation for the student. Today, that longed-for transformation is often caught up in sociopolitical standards of "success." We seek out education to make a change in ourselves, but what boundaries should we place on that?
Is There an Authentic Self?- If I had to pick one post to be at the heart of my exploration over this past year, this would be it. Again turning to Debra Hawhee, I look at two films (The Butterfly Effect and Knocked Up) where the protagonist undergoes a change because of interaction with someone else. Is that a bad thing? Do we lose our "true self" when we change for someone else?
Don't Mind Me; Just a Little Meltdown- I freaked out a little. I didn't think it would be fair to the process to not document that part, too.
How Much Should Textbooks Matter?- Sharon Crowley relies heavily on information from textbooks to make generalizations about past rhetorical teaching practices in The Methodical Memory. But I think relying too heavily on textbooks to learn about how someone taught is like relying on Planned Parenthood handouts about STDs to learn about sex. Textbooks just aren't that illustrative of what actually happens in a classroom.
Metaphors as Tools for Creating Productive Tension- Peter Elbow gives a lot of practical advice on how to become a better writer, but he also sprinkles in a lot of striking, unique metaphors. This has me wondering about the pedagogical value of metaphor.
Let the Youth Speak!- By looking at Current-Traditional rhetoric practices, Sharon Crowley criticizes the way that boundaries were created for students. Much of these boundaries were justified by something of a "kids today" argument that denies agency and action to the youth.
Negotiating, Bargaining, and Equally Shared Parenting- Patricia Roberts-Miller became one of my favorites on the list after I read Deliberate Conflict. I used her ideas to muse on the difference between negotiating and bargaining, especially when it comes to navigating who will do what in equally shared parenting practices.
What's so "Masculine" About Strength?- If there is one thing that has driven me absolutely mad during this process of studying, it's been reading the argument (often from feminists) that traditional rhetorical practices are masculine and silence women because they focus on strength. While I don't deny that there has been silencing afoot, to accept that strength is masculine is not helping.
Collaboration and Plagiarism, the Tangled Webs We Weave- A Twitter fight over plagiarism accusations between two bloggers has me reflecting on the way that postmodern concepts of authorship and the ease of access to material factors into the lines between collaboration and plagiarism.
We Always Judge From Where We Stand- An article about feminist approaches to composition helps me reflect on the way that the mythos of equality masks difference. When we conflate nonstandard expressions of idea with substandard expressions of ideas, we silence and isolate voices that would benefit us all.
Technological Devices and the Human Experience- We often think of writing as a way to express our already developed selves, but writing and language are actually ways to develop that self in the first place. Our tools shape us as much as we shape them, and the impact of our rapidly progressing technology is huge.
Consumers and Producers of Discourse in the Digital Age- Thomas Miller helps me consider how the balance between production and consumption of texts might be challenged by the devices we use. It's easier to consume media on a table than it is to produce it. Will that mean less production? Or will it mean a new kind of production as we adapt to our tools?
Tightropes and Hard Times- Almost all of the women that have been "reclaimed" in the earlier part of rhetorical history found their way into rhetoric through tragedy and financial necessity. Is struggle part of the process of becoming a rhetor?
Practicing and Preaching- In Reclaiming Rhetorica, one of the early female rhetors is Mary Wollstonecraft. Her personal life (which included suicide attempts and letters begging for the attention of her wayward lover) has been harshly criticized by feminist scholars who would rather forget that she did such things. But that's not fair. She lived an actual life, and that's part of the story, too.
Meta-Post: How the #*%& Do I Study for This Thing?- At this point in the studying, I did some reflection on my methods. They grew and changed over the course of the thing, but they were multimedia approaches that focused on getting summaries and connections above all.
Thoughts on Obedience and Toddlers- I didn't expect my exam study to overlap with my parenting practices much, but since so much of what I read was about teaching philosophy, it really did. Using Quintilian, I put some thought into whether or not I actually want an obedient child.
Melvin B. Tolson's Debate Legacy- This is a short little post about how reading about Melvin B. Tolson in David Gold's book was inspirational and, in a moment of pure happenstance, coincided with my husband's high school.
Berlin's Rhetorics- I made an infographic! It's all about James Berlin's categories of rhetorical teaching approaches.
Truth in Fiction- In Rereading the Sophists, Susan Jarratt makes some excellent points about our rhetorical history that I use to think about our privileging of nonfiction over fiction. What does the "truth" in writing really mean?
Education Reform: Everything Old is New Again- Reading Albert Kitzhaber demonstrated how much we're really repeating the same problems again and again in rhetorical teaching but labeling them as new crises. We're not actually in crisis. This is just the way things are.
Information Overload or Peak of Intellectual Power- Cicero would probably be a little overwhelmed if he were zapped to today's time and shown all of the information we can access. Do we have too much? Or are we at the peak of intellectual power, historically speaking?
Aristotle and Multiple Intelligences- In Politics, Aristotle makes a comment that one should not work the mind and the body at the same time. I disagree.
Aristotle's Politics- Sometimes (and by that I mean every minute of every day in comment sections across the internet) people are called racist for pointing out racism and sexist for pointing out sexism. Using Aristotle, I think a little about what's at stake there.So there you have it. I didn't quite make it to my goal of a post per book, but I did write whenever the inspiration struck and the time allowed (a tough combo to come by near the end). We'll found out soon if it worked!