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July 30, 2005

For Sale

I forgot to mention the other day that we did finally get the online ad up for the house where I grew up. I can take credit for neither the pictures nor the text that accompanies them, although I did spend a little time taming some of the prose, and entering the more mundane data.

So...if any of you are contemplating a move to the ol' Quad-Cities, and are looking for a nice family home, act now! I have it on good authority that there will be a discount for regular Collin vs. Blog readers.

July 29, 2005

Girls don't make passes

The one thing that I wanted to do this summer with the "extra" money I received for teaching was to upgrade the old eyes. It's been 5 or 6 years since my last exam, and the prescription on my sunglasses was even older (and more fishbowl-inducing) than the one on my normal glasses.

So, Wednesday was Lenscrafters Day--my stepmom and I spent roughly 4 hours within the sphere of influence of the Crafters, from eye exam to trying on some of the ugliest things I've ever seen to the few minutes I spent seriously contemplating my options. The result is that I'm bespectacled much more trendily than I was last week, and I won't be getting headaches on the road when I switch over to shades. My eyes thank me.

my old glasses

These are the old ones, and when I say old, I mean it. When the finish starts to wear off, and the lenses start to permanently tint from age, if you're me, that apparently means that you have to wait three years for the next pair.

my new glasses

These will take a little while, even though they have the advantage of making my face look tanner. I'm still not quite used to the spaces where I no longer have lens to look through, and I still smirk a little at the trendiness of them, but I think they'll do all right. I didn't succumb to the temptation of glare resistant lenses, though, partly because I would have had to wait an extra 2-3 weeks, because I would have paid another $40 for the privilege, and mostly because I've heard that you can scratch such lenses just by thinking about them funny.

In other news, this weekend is the local Bix Fest, which includes all the jazz you could ever want to hear, as well as one of the best road races in the country. I've mostly been helping my mom get ready to sell her place--flyers, data sheets, etc.--and trying to do a little writing in those spare moments. I'll be here for another week or so and then it's the road once more.

July 21, 2005

Another Day, Another Drought

Not much to report from the road, although I am now settled into Davenport for a couple of weeks visiting the family. On the local news, they've taken to labeling this The Drought of 2005. It's hot hot hot and for the most part has been dry dry dry. We had a little rain yesterday, but it didn't do much more than turn the QC into a sauna. At 10 last night, the heat index was a cool 100 degrees, between the heat and the humidity.

Access is intermittent, so I've fallen out of the blogging habit a touch. Mostly, it's been bits and pieces, none of which really has called out for its own entry:

  • I learned recently that, a few months from now, I'll become an uncle for the first time.
  • At least one sometime reader will be excited to learn that Avril Lavigne is playing here in the QC on Saturday. Most regular readers will not be surprised to learn that I won't be in attendance.
  • Spent last weekend with Thomas & Jenny, and it would be a mild understatement to say that we geeked out. I watched both the miniseries pilot and the first full season of Battlestar Galactica. And all I can say is wow. If you're a fanboy or fangirl and you're not watching BSG, you're missing out on the heir to the TV throne. You may giggle, and rightfully so, at the thought of Glen Larson's Cylons, but nothing of that 70s crapfest will prepare you for the sophisticated 2004-5 incarnation of the show. Smart smart stuff.
  • Jodie came through Tuesday on her way to Idaho, and we caught Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that night. It's an excellent movie which doesn't vary much from the original story, except where it must. Wonka is supplied with a little more motivation, and honestly, a better actor in Depp, and the movie is much more polished. I didn't really feel compelled to weigh in on the whole Michael Jackson debate, although I could definitely see why others do.

The only other, somewhat ongoing, piece of news is that my mom, my dad and stepmom, and my brother and sister-in-law are all putting their homes on the real estate market right now. In the case of my mom, this has meant a journey to the center of the earth (the Basement), the place where the collected memory of the first 18 years of my life used to reside. As I told Jodie, I spent a fair portion of Tuesday throwing away my childhood. Merciless. No, I won't ever need my high school letters from band, debate or soccer. Gone. No, I won't ever need a cassette tape of Simple Minds, Crowded House, or Madness. Gone. No, I won't ever wear that Swatch again. Gone. No, I don't plan on putting high school debate trophies on the mantle that I may one day have. Gone. No, I don't have a use for the ratty stuffed animals that I slept with when I was 6. Gone. And so it goes.

It sounds a little sad, I suppose, but it really hasn't been. It's been pretty easy to set aside stuff that I haven't wanted or needed for close on to twenty years now, and it makes me feel a little lighter in the life department. That's not a bad thing.

July 14, 2005

The panelists, plus Jodie

A Panel + 1

I'm sure that there's someone somewhere who hates photos of themselves as much as I do, but oh well. Here we have Dan, me, John, and Jodie. As John noted later, and you can observe, it's a rare panel indeed where John is the scrawny hippie of the bunch, but there you go.

I can relate about Tuesday night that I was wearing sneaks, which I only do occasionally in lieu of sandals in the summer, and as a result, kept catching my feet on chairs, bottles, etc. Felt like a klutz, but mostly it was just that my body sense was thrown off. Surprisingly enough, the liberal consumption of alcohol did little to improve the situation. Perhaps the single most astounding thing about our little party was the truly encyclopedic soundtrack: seven hours of songs performed by bands other than the ones who'd originally recorded them. Wow.

Jodie is my hero


Hard to tell from this photo, but this is Jodie who, on the basis of knowing me for all of like 15 minutes, offered her spare room and futon bed as a solution for my sleeping woes. I know that she's probably tired of me thanking her, so I won't. I will say that she came home after a pretty long Monday night, and stayed up with me for a while helping me revise my paper, which did I mention was the worst paper in the world at one point? In less than a week, she's driving cross-country to take up her newly-appointed position at the University of Idaho, and I'll have the chance to repay her kindness by offering her a spare room in Davenport while she's on the road.

At the risk of sounding maudlin or addled with thoughts of serendipity, I'd add that Jodie and I hit it off almost immediately, in a way that really made the conference for me. At the risk of adding in ulterior conversations, I'd add that a lot of what we do as academics is incredibly isolating, and so meeting people and clicking with them is a rare luxury (this is one of the best reasons for academics to blog, Ivan).

I've thrown up a set for the handful of conference photos I took, and this is among them (and large enough to actually see).

July 13, 2005

Please to blog, yes?

Why, yes. Yes I will. I have all sorts of notes, and at least a few initial photos to offer from the past three days of conferencing, but you'll have to wait probably until tomorrow afternoon. In the meantime, though, content yourself with the following thumbnail sketch:

At the conference, no wireless (hence the delay in posting).
Away from the conference, very little sobriety (hence the delay in correctly spelled posting).
A little bit of drama involving sleeping arrangements.
A little bit of drama involving the quality of my presentation, and temporary lack thereof.
All in all, though, it was great fun, and tomorrow I'll try and sort through how much of that fun I'm actually allowed to relate.

Until then...

Update: I'm going to start posting (and pre-dating) conference rundowns, and then I'll post reflections. I'll try and get a few photos up on Flickr as well.

July 12, 2005

Penn State, Day 3

Tuesday began with my own session, featuring first me, then Dan, then John. My paper wasn't the worst paper in the world, apparently. I'd share it here, but it would require me to retype almost half of it, and I haven't decided whether that's something I want to do. It's a slight re-focusing of the essay I've been working on for CCC, revised to include a little more Burke than I did originally. I wrote probably about half of it from scratch (twice--ugh.), and learned a little more about what I need to do with that essay. So that was good.

I don't really take notes during my panels, because I'm usually too keyed up. On Tuesday, given my lack of sleep, being keyed up basically counteracted my exhaustion, leaving me awake. Dan and John were both very good. As I've mentioned to a couple of people, I often feel like my own work is a little thin conceptually next to them, but then I remember that pretty much most of the rest of my field would feel that way (if not moreso) on a panel with them, and then I don't feel so bad.

The highlight of the panel for me was during Q&A, as Robert Wess was asking John a question. Most people didn't see this, as they were watching him, but John was taking a drink just as Wess suggested that he go back and read more Burke, leading to the most spectacular spit-take I've ever witnessed at an academic conference. Bad news was that I was right in the path of the spectacle. Still, pretty funny stuff.

We skipped the next session (surprise!), and hooked up with the conference again over lunch. Having gotten a little more sleep, food and I weren't mortal enemies, and so I actually ate a real lunch and listened to the session, which involved the officers of the Kenneth Burke journal urge us to submit and support their efforts. It was a little creepy at times, as they referred to Burke variously as our hero, our guru, our world-class genius, etc. I must admit, too, that the idea of keeping track of the activities of his children and grand-children strikes me as a little off as well.

I'm a little torn, because I'm often seen in my program as one of the people who really advocates for our students to read more Burke than they do, but in the face of many of these people, I was almost certainly an outsider. There's a weird vibe of hero-worship that it's hard for me to feel comfortable around, and it surfaced every once in a while, including this session.

Anyways. Believe it or not, I actually went to the final session. But with food in my belly, the inevitable crash after the adrenalin spike that accompanies every time I speak, and the fact that I hadn't slept much for three nights running, I didn't take great notes, or really do much else than struggle to stay awake during the final session I attended. One thing I'll note, and that's that Debra Journet's paper, on W.D.Hamilton's original work on selfish/altruistic genes, was by far the best application of Burke that I saw all conference. Not everyone was "applying" Burke, so there were other presentations of different sorts that were equally good, but she did a really nice job of using the pentad to open up Hamilton's work and identifying it as a moment of productive ambiguity. I'm not doing it justice, but it was really strong. If I feel like I can do it without sounding too critical or shrill, I'll talk later and try and get at this a little more.

That night was a porch party at Jeff Nealon's, featuring a nice spread, 7 hours of covers, a lot of good conversation (including a moment or two of heated debate). I have a few pix from that to post, and not much more to say just yet. We were there until around 3:30 in the morning, I think.

July 11, 2005

Penn State, Day 2

Sunday night, or Monday morning more precisely, we came back to Jenny's after shooting pool until about 1, and I proceeded to work over the paper I was delivering Tuesday morning. Two things of note: I had had a fair amount of beer, and I hadn't really slept more than about 2 or 3 hours the night before. I stayed up til about 5 or 5:30, and got up around 9:30 on Monday morning, although to describe my state of being as "up" is probably hyperbole.

Anyhow, I missed the session on "Virtual Burke, Visual Burke," one of the ones that I'd really hoped to catch. And then, because the next session began at 10:15, I missed "Burke Embodied," which I also really wanted to see. Who's a crappy conference attendee? Yeah, that'd be me.

I did make it over to the Inn in time for my free lunch, though, although I don't remember being able to eat all that much. The lunchtime speaker was Cary Nelson, who was "Leveraging a Career with Kenneth Burke." I didn't take notes, but the cheesecake was very good. The session ended with a little Q&A, which included a slightly embarrassing question by someone who had just found George Lakoff's new book and wondered if he wasn't just recycling Burke. Embarrassing because this fellow seemed not to realize who Lakoff was, or that his ideas have been circulating for quite some time, or that there might be some relation between L's earlier work on conceptual metaphors and terministic screens. Hell, for all I know, someone's already written that paper. I don't mean to dwell on it, but it was a little odd.

Oh, and then I skipped the next session. But to make up for it, I did go to the special collections room during the reception, and look around. Jack Selzer's students have been doing all sorts of archival work on Burke, and the results were really impressive. I'm not just saying that. Each project was laid out in a display case, and they were almost to a person really interesting. Made me wish I'd gone to the session.

I made it to the afternoon keynote, which was Ed Schiappa's "The Texts We Make: Revisiting the Textual Analysis/Audience Research Dichotomy in Popular Culture Criticism." Yeah, it made me tired just typing the abstract title. As we decided whether or not to go to the talk (which was really pretty good, I thought), I had cause to reflect on whether or not, in the end, the texts we take are equal to the texts we make. And I offered up $20 to anyone willing to raise their hand and ask whether or not it was true. No one took me up on it.

Anyway, Ed's talk was a good one, and not just because he and I were making very similar arguments in our papers, although that helped. I heard later about people not liking it, and my impression was that they were missing the point in exactly the way that Ed was trying to explain that critics were missing the point. But oh well. His talk was about how pop culture critics, in the guise of representing the texts they analyze, are basically making conjectures about audience, and that those conjectures would be better made if supported by research into actual audiences. I'm not really doing the argument justice because I don't have the handout nearby and that where I took notes. I think that the detractors thought the paper was about Ed's "subject" when in fact it was about his method, and from that perspective, I thought it was good.

The closing event of the day was a picnic and awards ceremony, which we held at an alternate location (Mad Mex's, I think). We had a couple of drinks, and turned in early, not the least reason for which was that Dan, John, and I were doing our panel at 8:30 the next morning.

And thank goodness we did. I printed out my paper on Monday, and mentioned to Jodie and John the fact that I had to resolve my sleeping situation (since I wasn't doing well on Jenny's couch). Anyhow, Jodie had a spare futon bed at her place, and offered it. So I went "back" to her place, and read over my paper for the first time, whereupon I discovered that I'm a much less talented writer when I'm drunk than I supposed I was (while I was drunk, to be fair). I ended up rewriting the last five or so pages, and Jodie got back just as I was hitting the end of it. She managed to persuade me that it actually wasn't the worst paper ever written, and so I only stayed up until around 2:00 or so to finish it.

That was Monday.

July 10, 2005

Penn State, Day 1

I drove down to State College, PA, on Saturday, met up with Jeff and Jenny, got a subpar night of sleep (see above), and on Sunday, the conference began. We got there earlier than we needed to be, so we registered, and bounced down to the retail/restaurant stretch bordering the Penn State campus.

A fair portion of the conference took place in the Nittany Lion Inn, which was really a pretty nice facility. Good spaces, good food. But no wireless, which was really quite strange. And by strange I mean inconvenient in various ways, not the least of which was the complete pointlessness of lugging my laptop to the first day of the conference. But oh well. Good cheesecake.

Leading off the conference were a couple of keynotes: Debbie Hawhee's "At the Edges of Language: Burke and the Mystical Moderns" and Robert Wess's "Burke's McKeon Side: Burke's Pentad and McKeon's Quartet." Really, the only thing I remember from either talk, though, was this line from a newspaper review imploring us to

let a dozen lovely young girls devote their entire day to modulations of body, until they become miracles of gracefulness

I do remember a little more than that. Debbie's focus was on Burke's theories of the body, and she presented some archival work connecting Burke to 1930's mystics, including Gurdjieff, he of the whirling dervishes. If my notes are right, I think that Burke was interested in an embodied mysticism, one foregrounding transformation, communication, vitality, et al. I have to admit that I didn't track Robert Wess as closely, partly because I was still pretty concerned about getting my own paper done, and partly because I simply don't know McKeon that well. What notes I have suggest that Wess was interested in rescuing Burke from contemporary appropriations of his work on behalf of relativism or constructivism, particularly when it comes to Burke's terministic screens.

Anyhow, after the keynotes were the first round of concurrent sessions, and Jenny and Jeff were tag-teaming their talk during onesuch, so that's where I went. And this was probably my first taste of what was different about this particular conference. It was my first trip to a Penn State Conference (which meets every other year), and my first to a Burke conference (which meets every 3 years), and while there's plenty of overlap in the audience for the two conferences, it's not what I would call a total overlap. My sense was that maybe 3/4 of us were there for Burke, and the remaining quarter for Penn State.

So anyway, Jeff and Jenny did an alternating presentation where they reinvented the idea of the Dictionary of Pivotal Terms. They made the argument that they took from Burke his attitudes toward production rather than technology. A couple of highlights from my notes:

  • Jenny: recreation/re-creation--this part would have been better projected, but the Flickr flip, from documenting spaces to producing them, is going to make a great essay in the next year or so for Jenny
  • Jeff: the lightness of linking--purpose makes rhetoric heavy and heavy-handed. he linked this up with KB's bureaucratization of the imaginative, and I was interested in the degree to which bureaucracy is a technology of purpose. (I should write more about this.)
  • Jenny: conjecture--the choice is no longer between production and nonproduction, but among the ways we produce
  • Jeff: folksonomy (or folksono-ME)--tagging not as a part of literacy, but literacy as just another tag (wayyy cool, this idea). I was also grooving on the connections between folksonomy and Camera Lucida

The other two papers were both applications of Burke's pentad to online "cases," IM tutorials in one, and the process of developing online educational tools on the other. Not a lot more about them to say.

One thing worth mention is that during Q&A--the singularly unbearable part of almost every session I ever go to--one of the Burke purists asked, in what would come to be something of a theme of our conversations, how Jenny and Jeff would use Counter-Statement (one of Burke's earliest books). Or maybe he "asked" that they should go back and read it, I don't know. Let's just say that there were cross-purposes at work. One sign of this? The dinner session (which we chose not to attend) featured a keynote session called, literally, "We Knew Kenneth Burke." Umm. Okay. The counter-session, called, literally, "We Didn't Know Kenneth Burke," was held in the basement pool hall of Champs until about 1 in the morning, and featured the emergence of a new game called Muckelball. But I'll save that for later...

July 8, 2005

Bring me the head of Ivan Tribble!

Ok. I lied. Just when I thought I could pull away from the blogosphere for a couple of days, get ready for my trip, etc., it keeps pulling me back in. Curse you, blogosphere, and your wily ways!

Ok. I exaggerated, because it's not really fair to describe the Chronicle as part of the blogosphere even though, as I think I've observed before, I think they've taken a tabloid turn in their content in an attempt to engage the blogosphere. Exhibit next: "Bloggers Need Not Apply" by Ivan "not my real name, but I have watched plenty of Star Trek" Tribble. (By the way, it's going to be almost impossible for me to avoid the phrase "the trouble with Tribble" as I write this post.)

So anyway, Ivan the Tribble has taken the trouble to disabuse the millions of us who blog of the notion that applying for a job is about standing out, presenting one's self as a human being, or representing one's self outside of the highly conventionalized genres of the application dossier:

We all have quirks. In a traditional interview process, we try our best to stifle them, or keep them below the threshold of annoyance and distraction. The search committee is composed of humans, who know that the applicants are humans, too, who have those things to hide. It's in your interest, as an applicant, for them to stay hidden, not laid out in exquisite detail for all the world to read.

Wow. So that's what it means to be human and what it means to work in academia: trying one's hardest to become, as Jeff puts it, YABC (Yet Another Boring Colleague). I for one welcome our new robot overlords.

Jeff has put a number of my objections pretty well, so I'll just stew for the most part. But I would like to note, just in case there's someone out there who recognizes themselves in Tribble's account, that this faux-bemused account of a job search admits to what are probably borderline ethical violations. Tribble is of course careful to say that the blog was "one of many" factors that killed each applicant's chances, but the fact that they considered things like hobbies and the possibility of airing dirty laundry as factors is probably actionable. Disqualifying a candidate based on something that someone else wrote on their blog? Double wow.

Ok. That's all. Really.

July 7, 2005

You can't see me

At least for a few days. I'm gearing up for my annual summer road trip, which this year includes stops at Penn State, Columbus, Lafayette, Chicago, and Davenport.

Laundry's done, mail's turned off, laptop's charged, iPod's updated, car is gassed. What else? Oh yeah, I have to give a paper on Tuesday. Wouldn't hurt to see if I can't get that written.

My plan is to try and be a little better about documenting the conference, both via Flickr and blogging sessions. Fortunately, that's at the beginning of the trip, before I get tired of lugging the laptop everywhere. I'll also have at least a couple of other people to help--Jenny and Jeff will be at Penn State as well. So, expect some session blogging as well as some pix from the Penn State Conference, but don't expect much action here in the next couple of days...

July 6, 2005

Curse of the Black Perl

Having just finished up four hours of my life that I can never get back, let me just say this: trying to figure out how to get Perl working on my office machine has been a journey I would not wish upon anyone. Don't get me wrong here, I managed to do it, thanks to some creative googling and a stubborn refusal to believe that it could be as hard as I was making it.

Whether it will ultimately pay off or not, I do not know. We're hoping to bend a couple of perl tools to our will to help us with CCC Online, and the first step was getting to the point where we could actually try them out, so that's accomplished.

July 4, 2005

Independence month

I'll probably venture forth with one or two additional carnival posts, but today, as I reflected on the notion of independence, I realized that it's been almost a week and a half since I watched television of any sort. Having had to move to a temporary space, I decided not to bother switching either my phone line or my digital cable. Partly, I'm being cheap in the sense that I'd almost certainly have to pay my providers both to switch it and to switch it back. Also, since I'm going to be attending the Penn State Conference next week, and ranging westward from there, there didn't seem to be much point in (a) paying, and (b) paying for what would ultimately have been a fairly short period of time.

The result is an oddly quiet, pre-digital cocoon that I'm inhabiting just now. Of course, I come into the office to blog, email, etc., but I do a lot more reading in my homespace than I'm accustomed to doing normally. Oh, and I finally succumbed to the siren song of Netflix. I'm through the first two seasons of West Wing, and will probably embark on the third before I leave next weekend. Teaching assignments over the years have interfered with my ability to watch faithfully, and so it's interesting to see episodes that I hadn't before (or had forgotten) and to see them in order.

I know. How boring am I this weekend? Well, that's what you get for interfering with the slow, grinding process that is the composition of the presentation I'll be delivering in roughly a week. At 8:30 a.m., much to my future delight.

Anyways. That's all.

July 3, 2005

Every silver lining has a cloud

Perhaps the only reason for the blogosphere-at-large to be sad about Jenny's move to Pennsylvania is the fact that we will no longer be treated to the occasional missive from her "nabor," nor the poems that we turned them into.

Sigh. Those were the days...

Anyhow, in that spirit, I offer this link to Teresa Nielsen Hayden's page. Her mission? "...to come up with a poem so bad that the International Library of Poetry, to which I submitted it, neither declared it to be a semifinalist in one of their contests, nor offered to publish it in one of their pricey yet unreadable anthologies." And her solution? Taking a Miriam Abacha 419-scam letter and introducing line-breaks:

I salute you in the name of the most high God.
I was the former first lady Federal Republic of Nigeria, married to
late General Sani Abacha the late Nigerian military Head of State.
I am presently in distress and under house arrest while
my son Mohammed is undergoing trial in Oputa Panel Lagos
and Abuja, this Panel was set up by the present civilian regime.

[and so on.]

You can read the entirety of "I am Mrs. Miriam Abacha a Widow" over at her site. Be sure to read the comments as well, which include all sorts of fun variations on this theme, like "I now salute you in the name of Ghod,/I who a piteous widow must complain./My son, my joy, arrested by a squad —/And in far Lagos he shall soon be slain."

Really. It's a hoot.

July 1, 2005

content envy

I want to spin my next set of comments off the tail end of Clancy's first carnival entry:

Anyway, one of my contentions is with Fulkerson's "content envy" observation: "Both the lit-based course and the cultural studies course reflect, I suspect, content envy on the part of writing teachers" (663). As I said before, I think that having a balance between form and content is a Good Thing; having a nice, coherent course theme grounds the writing and gives it some context. Maybe he's not arguing against having themed writing courses, but his criticism of mimeticism in writing courses leads me to think otherwise (662)...

First, I want to qualify what I'm about to write by saying that there is a great deal of merit to Fulkerson's observations, at least when it comes to the oddly flat model of "social construction" that circulates through our field. I think that there are some curricula where "reading what others have written" comes to stand for the social (sometimes with a little peer review, sometimes not), and in a fashion that represents a pretty limited shift away from CTR.

So, second. I can't be the only one who's a little unnerved by the implicit gendering behind a phrase like "content envy," can I? More on this in a moment.

It's no accident, I think, that Fulkerson ends up rehabilitating Hairston, whose argument (one that I never quite understood) was that we should feel free to make connections and draw on resources from across the disciplines, except for literary criticism. And half of what was being called literary criticism, even at the time, was being cribbed from other disciplines anyway, which lent Hairston's argument some of the intemperance (666) that Fulkerson bemoans.

More to the point, though, Hairston's argument (and to a degree, Fulkerson's) are provincial. The gendered phrase "content envy" speaks of the family drama played out in earlier generations of English departments between Daddy Literature and Mommy Composition, a drama that helps to contextualize Hairston's contribution to the discussion a little bit. We shouldn't be trying to be like them, she argued, because they were responsible for the crummy model (paradigm?) of instruction that we have been trying to break from for years and years.

But, setting the old winds of change aside for a minute, this argument feels a little thin to me, and not just because I'm in a freestanding writing program. The other day, I mentioned Laura Wilder's update of Fahnestock and Secor's "Rhetoric of Literary Criticism." In that article, F&S survey a broad range of critical articles, and distill them, arriving at a set of topoi that literary critics draw upon to make their arguments in journals. When Wilder revisits that study (or more accurately, performs her own on more recent texts), she finds ample evidence to support the list of topoi that F&S locate, but she adds a couple of others that speak to some shifts in the ways that literary critics operate nowadays. One of them in particular she calls "social justice":

The assumption in this topos is that literature and life is connected--that literature, regardless of when it was written, speaks to our present condition. But more precisely, the articles that invoked this topos sought in that assumed connection avenues toward social justice through advocating social change (98).

So here's my question: if turning to CCS (and the corresponding desire for our students' intellectual liberation) in composition is a symptom of content envy, then what does it say of literature scholarship (and, I presume, literary pedagogy as well) that there seems to be a similar turn there? Surely, literature scholars aren't acting out their own "content envy" as well, since they supposedly have the "content" we "envy"?

And here's my answer: the "turn" to social relevance, in both disciplines (and almost certainly more besides) is symptomatic of a much broader phenomenon that we might locate in the humanities in general: the charge of irrelevance. It's provincial to imagine that all we see as comp-lumbians are our lit-huanian colleagues, when in fact, we have to teach future engineers, lawyers, doctors, MBAs, etc., many of whom don't come into our classes (nor leave them) with a great deal of respect for what we do. And that lack of respect is a faint echo of the gradual erosion of the importance of the humanities in this country.

I don't mean to suggest that each of us walks into our classrooms thinking to stem the tide of an entire culture, but that motive is as least as likely as Fulkerson's suggestion that we seek "to empower or liberate students by giving them new insights into the injustices of American and transnational capitalism, politics, and complicit mass media." Unconsciously, I think that we respond to a culture that treats intelligence as a flaw and that treats the humanities as frivolous and irrelevant by insisting that there is something to be gained by the application of intelligence and by the careful interpretation and analysis of our culture's artifacts and processes.

Does that insistence sometimes come at the cost of our discipline's long-developed understanding of writing? Almost certainly. But like Clancy, I don't think it's an either/or, and I'm less than enchanted at the dismissiveness of describing a large segment of my colleagues as possessed of content envy. That phrase allows a great deal of work to be too easily "denounced as well as ignored."

That is all. More soon.