Tag Archives: research

Cintron’s Angels Town

This week in my advanced methods course we read the first 4 chapters from Angels Town: Chero Ways, Gang Life, and the Rhetorics of Everyday (1998) by Ralph Cintron. Though I hadn’t heard of Cintron before this semester, I’ve been anticipating this book since the syllabus was distributed in January because (1) we’re breaking it up over two weeks of the semester and (2) other members of the program have lauded it in passing. Obviously the book carries some weight. So what is that weight?

What’s striking right from the preface is Cintron’s reflexivity. Cintron combines critical ethnography with rhetorical theory to provide a thick portrait of a Latino/a neighborhood in Chicago and extends that portrait to a larger commentary on the relationship between representation, power and language in everyday life (note to self: read de Certeau). As he notes early in the preface, “one of the book’s controlling questions is How does one create respect under conditions of little or no respect?” (x). He admits the problem in answering this question, reducing the method of fieldwork to “the difficulty of finding the truth inside the lie, the lie inside the truth” (xiii).

Cintron spends the first chapter examining this problems of ethnography and representation by recalling his own background as the son of a Texas farmer, defining the true field site as the text that is constructed by the ethnographer, analyzing the power of the researcher through the interplay of ethos and logos, etc. But what struck me most about the intro is its inductive approach. When Cintron narrates his data-collecting process — 300 pages of notes, 91 tapes, 100+ documents in one round and then a slew more in yet another round years later — and then we see how he arranges that data by navigating specific moments with Don Angel, Valerio, and others alongside his own interpretations, I get the sense of how messy and chaotic this project must have been. Although Cintron isn’t always explicit in connecting his dots, the reader certainly benefits from what must have been a rigorous revision process.

A couple of questions for me as I read through these chapters:

  • Last week as we read and discussed an anthropology of writing (AOW), we heard perspectives about how an AOW studies so-called mundane sites like the workplace; this is different from ethnographers of the early and mid 20th century who studied othered, exotic sites and cultures. In chapter 2 of Angel Town, Cintron take up the question of romanticizing the subject: “For those who read and write ethnographies, the fieldsite is an ethnographic trope that generates both the spell of the exotic (romance) and resistance (science) to that spell” (16). Cintron tries to address this contradiction by studying a mundane map of Angeltown that “deflates the exotic and, in so doing, amplifies it” (16). As a researcher interested in studying a site that has shaped my own identity (self-publishing) I worry that I might fall prey to the romance Cintron evokes in this chapter. When we study material and subjects near and dear to us, then, how do we balance the romantic with the scientific? Does Cintron succeed in chapter 2 and throughout Angels Town?
  • A CCC review of Angels Town called my attention to Cintron’s move to construct metaphors from his data. This made sense to me given the inductiveness of his project. But is his reading of data too figurative? That is, does he ever make too much of certain details (his reading of Valerio’s obsession of cars, for instance)? Is his rhetorical reading of certain instances of everyday life in Angeltown paradoxically too sweeping?
  • Finally, given that Cintron’s fieldwork is now 20-25 years old, how might our privilege of distance help us assess the significance of this work in terms of cultural anthropology and writing studies? What do we need to take from this for our own work, and what needs to be left alone?

Purcell-Gates, Perry, and Briseño’s “Analyzing Literacy Practice: Grounded Theory to Model”

At the end of his book, Robert Stake characterizes the essence of qualitative research as innately limited to the specific:

“It has been important to learn that how the thing works in several small situations does not aggregate to solving a big-thing problem. Answers to macro problems call mostly for study of macro situations. Answers to micro problems call mostly for study of micro situations” (216).

However, for Purcell-Gates, Perry, and Briseño (“Analyzing Literacy Practice: Grounded Theory to Model”), aggregation of these small situations is the rub — perhaps not to solve a “big-thing problem” (such as illiteracy or social reproduction) but at least to perform replicable, cross-case analyses for “(a) the desire to reach for greater generalizability than that afforded by a single case and (b) to deepen understanding and explanation” (451, emphasis in original). The authors develop a theoretical and methodological model with the Cultural Practices of Literacy Study (CPLS), that collects specifically-coded ethnographic data from numerous sites, enters them into a database, for the purpose of more sophisticated theories of literacy that might lead to more effective pedagogies for “historically marginalized groups.”

Drawing from New Literacy Studies (NLS), the theoretical framework assumes that literate practices need to be “situated within social and cultural contexts and within relationships of power and ideology” (441). The researchers’ codes reflect this framework as they aim to document the context and the practice of the literacy events they observe. For example, they code a subject’s “social activity domain” based on the tokens of data observed (as folksomatic) in context (i.e. a person doing homework at a football game would be coded as SCH — schooling). Using genre theory as a guide, they code “text types” (e.g. novel) and “text forms” (e.g. book), the former nested within the latter.

Honestly, though, I found the examples of the coding scheme confusing. For social activity domain, they give the example of taxi driver reading the newspaper. Because he’s reading it while waiting in line for his fare turn, they coded it as Work. A paragraph later, however, they explain that they always “considered the nature of the activity, irrespective of where it occurred” when coding. Who’s to say the newspaper reading wasn’t serving some civic purpose (CIV) or communal one (COM)? Moreover, the authors locate social activity domain under literacy event codes, but then provide a figure on p. 450 that places “social activity” waaay outside the literacy event, rendering it unobservable according to NLS. My sense is that their coding scheme is an attempt to narrow the gap between literacy events — which are observable — and literacy practices — which are usually inferred, in order to more fully understand how literacy works in context of the subject (something that Theresa Lillis apparently attempts in our other reading this week). But despite reading this section multiple times, I’m just not sure.

The coding is obviously important as the authors aim to generalize from several ethnographic studies of various historically marginalized groups. The example research question given — “Does agency look different (is it instantiated differently) within different hegemonic contexts?” — leads to the conclusion that a more complex definition of hegemony (or more accurately hegemonies) is appropriate, given that resistance and appropriation of the historically marginalized are always situated. Although I didn’t think about this when I originally read the article, I now wonder about not only about the efficacy of such an aggregated approach, but also the ethics of it.

As Stake argues in the last chapter of Qualitative Research:

 “I am not confident we serve the people we research well. How accurately do we read their need, their aspiration, their constraint?  We are confident, sometimes overly confident, that the more we know about them, the better we tell their story. What is the evidence that the impoverished are empowered when we portray their impoverishment?” (202).

I suppose I wonder if this concern could be applied to macro qualitative research as well as micro? In exposing some of the hegemonies that historically marginalized groups have navigated, what is gained? The authors of argue that the third purpose of the CPLS is to design instruction that will “provide links between the literacy worlds of students and literacy instruction within formal educational contexts” (440), but how much of their research will actually support that goal? How much of it might actual objectify or homogenize “historically marginalized groups” under one rubric? I appreciated the sophistication of the CPLS and its goals (especially after discussing the potential and difficulty of the digital humanities last semester), but I did wonder if others had thoughts about both the possibility and the ethics of the database.

Emig’s The Composing Process of Twelfth Graders

Last week in CCR 635, Advanced Research Methods, we read and discussed a few frames in which to view empirical research in the social sciences (and in particular, writing studies). As I mentioned here last week, Smagorinsky’s Written Communication piece (2009) on the Method section and Hayes, et al’s second chapter from Reading Empirical Research Studies (1992) were particularly grounded. Before discussing Emig, then, I wanted to jump back and outline some of the definitions that Hayes, et al use in Section B of their second chapter on types of empirical studies. I used Bubbl.us here to help break this down (see image).

Types of Empirical Studies from Hayes, et al.

It doesn’t take a masters degree to figure out that Emig’s The Composing Process of Twelfth Graders is a case study, a kind of descriptive study, but what’s interesting about it is why it had to be one. According to Hayes, et al, it’s because descriptive studies are necessary when “the researcher does not have specific hypotheses to test” because “the domain is not yet well explored” (23). As Nystrand points out in “The Social and Historical Context for Writing Research,” Emig’s study is often the first plot in sketching a history of composition research in North America, even though it wasn’t necessarily the first empirical study. In the preface to Composing Earl Buxton of NCTE notes that Emig’s method emerged from an “adaptation of the case-study method” from Braddock, Lloyd-Jones, and Schoer’s Research in Written Composition. What seems significant about “Composing,” however, is such studies continued sponsorship from NCTE. As Nystrand argues, previous studies “were isolated and unsupported by professional networks and support systems, including doctoral programs training writing researchers and overseeing dissertation studies, as well as refereed research journals and professional organization special interest groups devoted to such research” (11). Both Research in Written Composition (1963) and The Composing Processes of Twelfth Graders (1971) were published by NCTE.

If the “characteristic outcome” of descriptive studies is to “formulate hypotheses,” (Hayes, et al) it would explain why Emig lists four “hypotheses” in the introduction to the study. At first I interpreted “hypotheses” as a traditional definition: as theories as to how these writers might compose going into the study (pre-data collection). However, as I read on (and revisited Hayes, et al), I understood them more as outcomes of the study, formulations for further research. So if I’m reading this correctly, then, the idea is that future researchers might conduct additional descriptive correlational or experimental studies to follow up on some of Emig’s findings. Like what?

In Chapter 7: Implications, Emig outlines some of the possibilities, including a similar study with a larger sample size and wider range of abilities (one of the weaknesses of this study is that all but two writers are good to exceptional — see bottom of page 29); a study comparing the composing processes of high school writers versus adults, longitudinal studies throughout a sample’s schooling, cross-cultural studies and others. But according to her, “the most promising aspect” of the study is the composing aloud protocol, the 6th dimension of a more or less linear process she uses as her mode of analysis throughout the study (a dimension that is, interestingly, “recursive”). On this dimension she argues for techniques that would allow for “finer calibration,” including the use of time-lapse photography or a stylus to track the starting and stopping motions throughout a writer’s process (96). Emig’s wish to use other technologies to mark the nonverbal actions of the writer to better measure this dimension of the process speaks to the difficulty of relying on such data (as a classmate mentioned last week, composing aloud is hard). It made we wonder if other studies have been done with cameras and electronic devices since this one to see how writers compose. (I imagine so.) It also made me wonder if anyone has captured data with eye-tracking devices used in usability testing.

Having the chance to read Emig’s study after all these years of secondary and post-secondary teaching and training made me realize the effect this study had on the process movement, whose theories have dominated 2 of the 3 institutions I’ve taught at (can you guess which one isn’t included?). See the table there for a summary of findings.

Summary of Emig's findings

If there’s a weakness to these findings it’s the linearity of the modes and the binary of school v self (as Nystrand notes, “the social 80s” shed light on the weakness of cognitive models and their inability to conceptualize audience with any complexity).

Finally, I have to say I was relatively shocked by the tone of condemnation Emig takes toward teachers throughout the study and especially in the last section. For example, in the chapter about Lynn (her primo sample subject), she writes “there is the inescapable impression that Lynn is more sophisticated than her teachers, both as to the level of her stylistic concerns and to the accuracy and profundity of her analysis of herself as a writer” (73). On page 98 in the Implications chapter she also argues that a pervasive “teacher illiteracy” exists: that teachers don’t read contemporary work (a bunch of white dudes, plus Gloria Steinem is in her list), don’t write compositions, and, as a result, show students anachronistic models of writing and “truncate the process of composing”; teaching composition in America in the late 60s/early 70s “is essentially a neurotic activity” (99). As a result of this assessment, Emig argues for more reflexive (as opposed to extensive) writing, offering more generous opportunities for students to compose so that they spend more time prewriting and planning, reformulating, and talking with one another about their work. The implications, it seems, could be rewritten as tenets for the process movement.


Works Cited

Emig, Janet A. The Composing Processes of Twelfth Graders. NCTE, 1971. Print.

Nystrand, Martin. “The Social and Historical Context for Writing Research.” Handbook of Writing Research. Ed. Charles A. MacArthur, Steve Graham, & Jill Fitzgerald. New York: Guilford Press, 2008. 11-27. Print.

Intro to empirical research

We’re kicking off CCR 635 with articles and book sections that provide invigorating overviews of empirical research, the methods section, and a review of recent texts in comp/rhet that attempt to capture the field’s seminal research. They are:

Anson, Chris. “Review Essay: A Field at Sixty-Something.” College Composition and Communication. 62.1 (2010): 216-228. Print.

Smagorinsky, Peter. “The Method Section as Conceptual Epicenter in Constructing Social Science Research Reports.” Written Communication. 25.3 (2008): 389-411. 23 Jan. 2012.

Young, Richard E. “Reading Research Papers.” Reading Empirical Research Studies: The Rhetoric of Research. Ed. Richard E. Young et al. Routledge, 1992. 11-40. Print.

Anson reviews the following tomes that were published in the latter half of the aughts based on their “historical reach,” “(inter)disciplinary breadth,” “international research,” and their ability to “take stock” of the field through reflective practice/observation:

Handbook of Research on Writing: History, Society, School, Individual, Text
Charles Bazerman, editor New York: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2008. 652 pp.

Handbook of Writing Research
Charles A. MacArthur, Steve Graham, and Jill Fitzgerald, editors New York: Guilford, 2006. 468 pp.

The Norton Book of Composition Studies
Susan Miller, editor New York: W.W. Norton, 2009. 1,760 pp.

Research on Composition: Multiple Perspectives on Two Decades of Change
Peter Smagorinsky, editor New York: Teachers College Press, 2006. 308 pp.

I know this sounds sophomoric, but I can’t help it: as I skimmed Anson’s review I was impressed at both the sheer amount of reading/refreshing he had to do to write such a short review and the disciplinary knowledge required to begin.

But the more practical pieces we read this week were Hayes, et al’s introduction (“Reading Research Reports”) to the terms and taxonomies of empirical studies and Smagorinsky’s argument for a more careful consideration of the methods section. Hayes et al breaks up their chapter into four handy sections:

  1. the format for the research report (abstract, intro, methods, results, discussion),
  2. types of empirical studies: hypothesis-testing studies (correlational and experimental) v descriptive studies (case study analysis, participant observation, and protocol analysis)
  3. modes of thought and argument in empirical research (including “common sources of alternative interpretations” re: stability, bias, researcher/participant effects, confounding factors, and faulty inferences)
  4. commonly used empirical measures (central tendency, variability, and correlation).

Because this chapter is rigid and loaded with relational terms (a rarity in a a theoretical program!), I’d really like to sketch these ideas and terms visually with bubbl.us sometime this week and repost.

Smagorinsky’s article, a wonderfully accessible essay which I had been hearing about for quite some time from J Lew, argues that greater care should be put toward the Method section of social science research (especially w/r/t the fields of literacy, education and comp/rhet). It should be essential to not only the product of the scholarship (in the sense that it would be publishable, replicable, or persuasive to its peers) but also its production (the process of its making). Smagorinsky, as former editor of RTE and and reviewer for nearly 30 different journals, finds a “lack of alignment” throughout most papers submitted to him to review. That is, the paper’s major sections — theory/literature, results, discussion — don’t add up. The Method section is the best place to start when it comes to research writing, argues Smagorinsky, because it is “the vehicle through which alignment” can be “systematically attempted” (405). “In particular,” he argues, “the outline of the analytic approach — for me, usually the articulation of a coding system — sets the terms for what I need to talk about means elsewhere in the manuscript” (406).

Belfer Audio Archive Tour

On Tuesday I had an opportunity to tour SU’s Belfer Audio Archive, the 4th largest sound archive in the country. It recently doubled in size in 2008 when Morton Savada, the owner of NYC’s Records Revisited donated more than 200,000 78s, making it the 2nd largest collection of 78s in the the US (second only to the Library of Congress). But Belfer also has a large collection of cylinders (22,000, in fact), some of which have already been digitized and made publicly available within their searchable and browseable digital library.

The studio for digitizing the archive

I was invited in because of a possible collaboration with Soundbeat, the Archive’s snappy audio blog that produces a daily podcast on one recording from the archive per day. Jim, Soundbeat’s thoughtful producer, has been working with instructors at SU to have their students write scripts for various episodes. Since each episode is only 90 seconds, the scripts are quite short (125 words) and tell a specific story. And since the episodes require research — both primary and secondary — the project would be a natural fit with a composition class.

A phonograph cylinder

Since I’m gunning for a WRT 205 section this spring, it looks like I might try to match up the goals of that critical research writing course with a collaboration with Soundbeat. What I’m trying to sort through first are issues with invention and exigence. How would a student choose a recording they are genuinely interested in? How would that recording and the script fit into a larger unit of inquiry? Likewise, what should the writing process look like for such a short piece? What research methods will be necessary in order for my students to write informed pieces that tell the right story? How will I balance the project alongside the other WRT 205 outcomes?

Right now I’m trying to think about how these recordings might work in a course more broadly focused on remix culture, which is necessarily countercultural and will get the class thinking about intersections of discourses from agents and groups who have traditionally been silenced (i.e. DJs in the Bronx). I also like this idea because Belfer has some obvious restraints to making their recordings publicly available (restraints that will affect our choices for Soundbeat) and so it will open up conversations about copyright, IP law, creative commons, artistic license and access. For instance, although Belfer owns half a million recordings, only 1,600 cylinder recordings are currently available for download from the site. They will, of course, digitize more and the public can get streaming copies of the other copyrighted recordings upon request, but they have to submit said request and wait their turn in the queue, which can take weeks or even months.

But I’m also interested in the idea of having students work backward from a contemporary point they’re interested in and finish the course having written a very lean script for Soundbeat (as opposed to a 15-page paper). When I think of work in our field, like Jeff Rice‘s “The 1963 Hop-Hop Machine,” I think students will invent and find good work through juxtaposition, which is another value of remix culture.

In any case, if folks who are reading this have other ideas, I welcome them in the comments.

Reefer Madness

I expected to get a lot more reading done in Canada, having entered the week wondering if my two books — Sam Lipsyte’s The Ask and Gregory Colon Semenza’s Graduate Study for the 21st Century — would sustain me. And while I did dig a bit into the latter, I jettisoned The Ask once I tore into the intro to my wife’s second pick for the week: Reefer Madness, Eric Schlosser’s focused, investigative look at the American black market.

Anyone who reads regularly (or breathes) should recognize Schlosser as one of two leading authors on contemporary food politics (the other being Michael Pollan). I haven’t read his main claim to fame, Fast Food Nation (FFN), but remember liking “Why McDonald’s Fries Taste Good” from the Atlantic in the early oughts, and of course I’ve seen Food Inc., which I imagine is a hybrid product of Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma and FFN. But after reading Reefer Madness, I might read it. (I’m also now sorry I missed Schlosser’s visit to Syracuse last March.) Reefer Madness is a little outdated with drafts appearing as early as the mid 90s in national magazines like the Atlantic, but I had a difficult time putting it down, toting it to doctors offices, boat rides, etc. The book persuasively executes wide and narrow scopes using data and narrative to explore the black markets of marijuana (“Reefer Madness”), illegal migrant labor (“In the Strawberry Fields”), and porn (“An Empire of the Obscene”).

My quick take on the content:

“Reefer Madness” – The decriminalization of marijuana is a no brainer and it’s maddening to read about hemp prohibition’s effect on our legal system. The discrepancies in penalties in particular, is distressing. (Here’s a shortcut.) Twenty grams or less in New York will lead to a $100 fine, while the same amount in Florida can lead to a misdemeanor and 1 year in jail. And mandatory minimum sentences essentially move sentencing power from jurors and judges to prosecuting attorneys, subverting our basic legal system.

“In the Strawberry Fields” – Schlosser’s shortest chapter, on California’s illegal migrant strawberry pickers, is a helpful digest on immigration issues in the US prior to 2003 and good starting point for folks like me who know very little about immigration reform. Since 1980, Schlosser notes, the hourly wage of the California farmworker dropped by 50%, mostly thanks to policies that have encouraged growers to hire the cheapest laborer possible. And that’s really still the issue today. Most folks agree that the deplorable wages ($6-8 per hour in California) preclude most Americans from even considering these strenuous jobs. It’s a given. So introducing any strict, serious immigration reform would create a worker vacuum that would harm specific economies in central California and beyond. But instead of raising wages or trying to protect migrant’s from exploitation (“There’s nothing more permanent than temporary workers” says one economist), states like Arizona and South Carolina have instead adopted cat/mouse local enforcement policies that try to catch as catch can. And House Republicans just introduced the Legal Workforce Act (AKA the E-Verify Bill), which would require business owners to use an expensive federal database to check workers’ SS#s against a central database to see if they’re legal. The LA Times has good coverage on the bill, which has several of its own problems.

“An Empire of the Obscene” – The last essay in Schlosser’s book explores the rise of the porn industry after 1950 through the captivating story of Reuben Sturman, a distributor first of adult magazines, but later of peep machines and films. When various local, state and federal agencies could not bring Sturman down with obscenity charges, they went after his tax record. Eventually he was caught hiding millions of dollars in offshore accounts and served time for tax evasion, and later extortion. Of the three essays in the book, the last one is the most narrative driven. After reading his story, readers should feel amazed that hadn’t ever heard of Sturman, who died in 1997 (about the same time Schlosser was crafting early versions of this essay).

As I finished Reefer Madness, I wondered how well the book would hold up in an undergraduate research writing class. The book could be used as an interesting springboard for various inquiries into capitalism or the black market (and all could use some updating), or the chapters could be treated as separate essays used in more focused inquires on sex workers, marijuana, or illegals. A predictable but major issue comp instructors would have to address is Schlosser’s soft documentation. Presumably to aid with readability, Schlosser cites vaguely, using 60+ back pages for “notes” on methods and sources, which I admit I probably could have spent more time with. Otherwise, though, the books successfully blends numbers with characters, establishing shots with close-ups, and manages to check self-righteousness at the door and let the muckraker’s research do the talking.

Short Paper #1: Bizzel’s “Opportunities”

Bizzell, Patricia. “Opportunities for Feminist Research in the History of Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Review. 2.1 (1992): 50-58.

Patricia Bizzell begins “Opportunities for Feminist Research in the History of Rhetoric” – the oldest selection from this week’s set of readings (1992) – by reflecting on her and Bruce Herzberg’s selections for the (then) first edition of The Rhetorical Tradition. She describes how they were “surprised to find that research in rhetoric was so traditional” (50). They were surprised, she claimed, because there was so much “canon-busting” going on over there in English studies. I found this claim – and their use of words like “surprised” and “dismayed” – curiously passive. Were Bizzell and Herzberg not part of the discipline of English? And how did they define “traditional”? As knowledgeable historians hired to choose appropriate selections for this anthology, how could this have been a discovery for them? The women authors recovered or referenced in the articles by Campbell, Mattingly, and Sutherland – who contributed to the special issue of Rhetoric Society Quarterly twelve years later in 2002 – were exhaustive. I was interested to learn that Bizzell and Herzberg couldn’t find anything, especially when the other authors found so much. A few questions came from this observation: Where were they looking? Did they, in actuality, find stuff but were just too anxious to include them? Was this article actually a rebuttal to accusations that the editors themselves were complicit in such elitist practices? Or were the methods proposed in this piece essential to “open up spaces” for feminist historiography in rhetoric?

While the other questions are worth weighing, the last one renders them more or less moot. Bizzell does not come right out and say it, but her main point in “Opportunities” is to argue that she and Herzberg could not contest the tradition because the real problem was the lack of method for recovering such work – not the lack of extant texts. In response, she outlines three approaches that would prove useful to feminist historiography in rhetoric. The more recent articles we read this week either took up these approaches (especially the second and third) or actually added to them by contributing new approaches themselves. Ultimately, those texts responded to Bizzell’s call for more research, more work – the “let’s do it!” passion that must have made the text so inspiring.

Bizzell’s first approach asks revisionists to become “resisting readers,” a term borrowed from literary critics that requires historiographers to “notice aspects of the canonical texts that the reader is not supposed to notice, but that disturb, when the reader is a woman, and create resistance to the view of reality the work seems to want to purvey” (51). Her idea is to appropriate these texts – to resignify – the traditional canon by using feminist perspectives. Bizzell acknowledges, however, that critics might see this kind of work as not quite far enough away from the tradition (51) – and she might be right. None of the authors we read for today employed this strategy explicitly. Still, some of the authors did encourage re-readings of certain narratives (such as the Lorena Bobbitt story), which could be seen as resistant.

The second approach Bizzell recommends requires scholars to do more recovery work by finding female rhetors similar to those men traditionally canonized. The purpose of this approach, of course, is inclusion, but it is also to “[set] their work in dialogue with the canon” (51), to use them as potential foils for the established rhetors. Each article in the special issue of Rhetoric Society Quarterly agrees with Bizzell that more recovery needs to be done via primary research. Carol Mattingly, for example, begins her article by summarizing how thousands of years of masculine scholarship cannot compare to few decades’ worth of feminist study. Karlyn Kohrs Campbell provides a brief history of recovered texts in the U.S. (perhaps in an attempt to rewrite this canon). And Christine Mason Sutherland suggests that the act of primary research is preferable because is avoids the adversarial/masculine tendency of working with only secondary research.

Bizzell predicted, however, that this second approach would be criticized for borrowing the same criteria as used for men’s inclusion in the canon and thus suggested an alternative third approach that requires scholars to redefine or broaden terms of rhetoric so that previously unchecked areas of history might be recovered. One way to do this, she suggests, is to avoid looking for names and authors, but instead looking for issues. “If women are not represented in the traditional history of rhetoric,” she argues, “we might look for the issues that throw into relief the social practices that resulted in this exclusion, thus also highlighting where women are, as well as where they are not” (54). Examining schooling and literacy, or how women gained the right to speak in public on certain issues would get feminists away from the masculine “counting match” that the study of authors tends to encourage.

Most of the women writing in 2002 agreed that applying masculine criteria to women’s rhetoric would be a step back and thus strove to advance recovery work by becoming more theoretical. Mattingly asks historiographers to reconsider what counts as evidence when looking at how women used rhetoric “since many of the traditional tools of rhetoric were denied to them” (106). Similarly, Campbell reminds us that the criterion used to revere traditional masculine rhetoric is why alternative rhetorics have been excluded in the first place. Instead, she argues feminists need to link recovery with recuperation to theorize about women’s discursive practices.

While Bizzell’s article looks outdated when compared to the feminist texts from 2002, its explicit, innovative approaches clearly had a lasting impact on the discipline; however, I also wonder if it oversimplifies the gender dynamic by reinforcing gender binaries that I assume queer rhetorics have subsequently complicated. I wonder how the male/female dichotomy, for example, actually damages or at least reinforces some of what these methods seeks to subvert.

31 May 2007

So rather than write one long response at the end this time, I decided to type up notes as I read to see how this would be more or less helpful. Though I don’t always synthesize the texts, this format does help to remember the texts. I guess it’s weird being a students again — experimenting with different ways of response and such…

Bizzel – see Short Paper #1

Graff/Leff – “Revisionist Historiography” (2005)

  • As Graff/Leff provide their meta-history of revisionist historiography, they fall into the same trap as their predecessors in comments like “…Charles Sears Baldwin established the standard pattern for twentieth-century studies of the history of rhetoric” and “[Carole Blair’s] essay ‘Contested Histories of Rhetoric: The Politics of Preservation, Progress, and Change’ represents the last major entry in the wave of revisionism…” because they never explain how they’re coming to these conclusions.
  • Oddly, when discussing the new scholarship that has emerged in com/rhet since the first wave, the authors do acknowledge that they do not “have space in this chapter to review all of the different perspectives featured in the early stages of the discussion but can identify some of the basic tenets as well as characteristic assumptions and motives animating the broader revisionist projects within the field of composition-rhetoric.” Again, no real discussion here about how these “basic tenets” were generalized. To what degree, then, do historians need to be explicit about who/what they’re including/excluding and their reasons for doing so? As an outsider (someone just now learning about this discourse community), it seems that the risk in not being explicit is unchecked canonization of certain authors – more on this below.
  • In outlining a chronology of first and second wave revisionists, are Graff and Leff contributing to the traditional view of history as a linear enterprise and in turn, canonizing certain historiographers and theorists (names that I now recognize as important)? We have more taxonomies (“critical historiography”). Interesting to have read this after Octlog and after last week’s readings. How would I have framed those authors if I had read Graff/Leff’s account of them first?
  • What’s also suspect is Graff/Leff’s four-page interrogation of Carole Blair. Seems like she being used for a set up, though it’s difficult to tell without knowing more about revisionist approaches. I also wonder if she is attacked because of some disciplinary distortion – as the authors admit, her speech background “contrasts sharply” with comp/rhet’s.
  • Argument for why we should look at pedagogy moves a bit quickly for me, though I like their suggestion to study the pedagogy of rhetoric since teaching is my most viable and rewarding reason to study histories of rhetoric (as opposed to other ways of viewing it, which so far seem more interested in its philosophical, textual, and therefore abstract consequences).

Carol Mattingly’s “Telling Evidence: Rethinking What Counts in Rhetoric” (2002)

  • Agrees with Bizzell that more needs to be done to “explore the broad range of texts that can contribute a vibrant understanding and appreciation of women’s role in rhetoric.”
  • Outlines early recovery efforts and uses the example of Cady Stanton and Anthony to argue that this early work has been guilty of canonizing certain women rhetors (admittedly, to establish ethos) at the expense of ignoring other important ones. The problem is that those canonized “become deeply imbedded in our cultural narratives,” initially chosen from rhetorical criteria “established in the masculine tradition.”
  • By reading a wide range of primary sources, Mattingly discovered that more women were more publicly active as rhetors in the 19th century than scholars initially thought. A resistance to study women outside of the suffrage movement (i.e. women in the temperance movement) prevented scholars from coming to this understanding sooner and is the result of not reading locally (contextually) enough – an argument made by several of Mattingly’s contemporaries (so-called second wave revisionists) – since contemporary scholars have equated temperance with conservativism. More focused study, she argues, opens up possibilities for more interpretations. Without this additional work, she implies, she would have never discovered that Amelia Bloomer was more influential than Anthony or Cady Stanton or that the temperance movement was really a call for better conditions for women.
  • In arguing for a more accurate understanding of rhetorical traditions Mattingly ultimately wants scholars to rethink the ways they measure rhetoric by redefining evidence. “Since traditional definition of rhetoric have been constructed around notions of masculine rhetoric,” she argues, “many rhetorically sophisticated women simply do not fit neatly into the rhetorical tradition. What has counted for evidence fails to recognize women’s excellence.” Mattingly’s example is women’s clothing in the 19th century played an essential role in establishing ethos, though we wouldn’t consider that if we went with the traditional measures of rhetoric.

Karlyn Kohrs Campbell’s “Consciousness-Raising: Linking Theory, Criticism, and Practice” (2002)

  • Campbell’s overarching argument can be captured in her pithy quote in the intro: “as a form of discursive practice, consciousness-raising is the thread that links the recovery of texts, their recuperation through criticism, and the extraction of theoretical principles that underlie women’s ways of persuading.”
  • She begins by tracing a few ways women’s histories have been recovered, even before the U.S. woman’s rights movement, from speeches in the 19th century to dissertations in the 1930s through the 1950s to the emergence of women’s studies programs to new anthologies of women’s histories. She acknowledges, however, that no matter what historians try to do, “the historical record will remain profoundly distorted, skewed toward those lucky enough to be literate, educated, and middle or upper class and whose works appeared in mainstream outlets with wider circulation.”
  • In the spirit of recovery, Campbell then analyzes how women’s rhetoric and its history have been “lost” in the first place – or how certain obstacles and criticisms (“formal prohibitions,” “denial of agency,” “unsexing,” “attacks on character,” “aesthetic”) are fixed by traditional rhetoric to make it impossible to analyze justly.
  • In order to overcome these obstacles – and to protest them – women spoke or wrote in ways that both met traditional expectations of the rhetor “while incorporating stylistic elements that projected femininity” such as inductive structures, narrating personal experience, dialogism, etc. According to Campbell, these alternative rhetorics can only be recuperated through critical analysis.
  • Barrowing from Krista Radcliff’s efforts to theorize from analyses, Campbell argues that feminist critical analysis of the discursive practices that are recovered should be used to extract larger rhetorical theories: “the task of recovery is unending; recuperation, however, requires the analytical and interpretive work of critics.” It’s not clear to me, though, how these all link together. What would these new theories do? How might they help with current issues facing feminism? How might they help historiography of rhetoric?

Christine Mason Sutherland’s “Feminist Historiography: Research Methods in Rhetoric” (2002)

  • She starts by comparing how she learned to conduct historical research to how she learned to write – it just became second nature – which doesn’t seem to be very self-reflective. Her privileged background reinforces this for me.
  • The article is feminist in that it’s autobiographical – the most personal we’ve read so far – yet sometimes I can’t help but feel she abuses the notion by not discussing evidence enough. She brings up multiple issues but tends to dismisses them and move on (postmodernism being one of the biggies).
  • Agrees with Enos that more attention needs to be paid to primary texts since interpreting them makes her “feel more like a benefactor” than “taking the adversarial stance typical of so much secondary research.” This really provoked me – I never thought of this distinction and the idea that primary research could be considered a “feminist” move is powerful. I’m surprised more attention wasn’t paid to it. Instead she makes grander claims about the trouble with argumentive discourse.
  • Notes that she sides with “the authority of the writer, and the importance of seeing the text in the historical context,” which, she argues, characterizes traditional scholarship. But many feminists and scholars (who’d probably be calssified as po-mo) agree that all historical scholarship needs to be localized. I thought Campbell made a more nuanced argument in this regard and that Sutherland gets confused because she tries to claim too much.