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Writing Intensive Course Prep


I’ve got a few hours today to write in between packing boxes and I’ll be spending them organizing and preparing my portfolio for designating a course I am teaching in the fall as “Writing Intensive.” At BMCC every student is required to take a WI class in order to graduate. WI designated courses are the same as traditional courses but they have an extra writing component added to them. The class I am adding the WI designation to is a public speaking class and I’m trying to come up with creative ways to integrate additional writing assignments to an already packed speaking schedule during the semester. For my portfolio I have to create:

1. formal writing assignment(s) that total 10-12 pages, including revision activities and grading guidelines including before and after drafts

2. Informal (writing-to-learn) writing assignments, some based on the formal assignment(s)

3. examples of student writing in response to formal and informal writing assignment(s)

4. revised syllabus reflecting how the course meets WI guidelines

5. cover letter of 1-2 pages written on my portfolio talking about what decisions I made and why, how the syllabus reflects the changes, and what Writing Across the Curriculum changes I incorporated into the overall structure of the class.

Traditionally I structure my public speaking course to build the students up slowly in content and confidence across the course of a semester, using each assignment to successively add up to the final large speech. I will be trying the same kind of scaffolding structure with the integration of the writing assignments. I’ll be writing the  assignment descriptions and tweaking my syllabus this afternoon. Feel free to drop in.




Part of the work of the work I do is balancing everyday life activities with reading, writing, planning, and thinking. I’m moving next week and have been mostly dealing with that. In between I’ll think of things and jot them down or read a blog post or two and think things through but life is taking the front seat. So after the move I’ll be back, but I’m never not thinking of this space. The work always nags and lags.

How Do We Become?


Today I’m going to spend the afternoon writing and exploring ideas related to becoming, feminism, and critique. I read something this morning that’s getting a lot of play as an explicitly feminist, biting, and probably Marxist critique of Tiqqun’s Preliminary Materials For a Theory of the Young Girl. I’m particularly interested in exploring the concepts Grosz writes about in Becoming Undone and related them to the process of thought, of thinking and articulating an understanding of living. I should also note that part of the project Grosz outlines in the last few books she’s written is finding ways of producing new modes of thought, new ways of talking about living or experiencing that are themselves productive. Put another way, is there a way to articulate an understanding of what it means to live, to be in this world with others that doesn’t start from a place of comparison or critique through negation? So rather than talk about all the things we find wrong in an argument and building a response from that place how can we produce ideas or knowledge that don’t rely on negating other perspectives, or at the very least edge away from comparison, categorization, analogues, identity? These are the ideas I’m interested in exploring this afternoon. Join me here and read or write along!

7/6/13: Correcting Proofs and Revisiting My Process


Spent a few days with my mother visiting from Florida and am back to work today after a break. Yesterday I received the uncorrected proofs to an article of mine coming out in the fall. It’s a response essay to a performance I helped with in 2010 when I taught at BGSU. Everything is being published in a section of Text and Performance Quarterly called The Performance Space. Generally speaking The Performance Space is a recurring section of the journal reserved for discussing performances that have already been staged and then having other scholars respond to those performances in a more formal, sometimes theoretical, manner than a talk-back or conference presentation. I think the idea of The Performance Space is fabulous but am rarely happy with the kinds of discussions that take place there. Regardless, I’m writing one of the two response essays to the script which will also be published in the same section along with a framing essay from the performers. I’m really happy with the piece as a whole and with my essay specifically.

I fell out of love with writing and researching, with theorizing, during the three years I spent at BGSU. Almost all the people I worked with were terrible human beings and were almost extensively awful to me. I was hired into a tense departmental environment and because I was hired by an embattled department head (who is a really great dude) half the department put me “in his camp” and treated me like an enemy before they even knew who I was. Not only did they work actively to demean me as a person, they ripped apart my teaching, my research, my beliefs (in myself and my work), and my philosophies. I was a newly minted PhD and instead of mentoring me or supporting me in any way, these fools tore me down at every turn. As a result, I stopped writing. I lost confidence. I believed their hype. The performance I’m responding to in the forthcoming article happened during my last semester of those three intense years. The performance was great. I was incredibly proud of the performers and the work they did. I’m also really proud of the article I’ve written precisely because I’ve produced something out of those turbulent times, where I doubted everything.

The essay is about compositional and critical strategies of feminine writing in adaptation, interpretation, and performance practice. You can read the uncorrected proofs here. I’m working on the query sheet here. Let me know what you think, I’d love to talk with folks about the work.

Uncovering Hidden Work


I’ve been working about 5 hours a day for the last two days on a draft of a letter. In late May I participated in a Digital Storytelling workshop with 7 other faculty members. We were selected to participate in the workshop for three days, 8 hours a day, and given the guideline that we were to produce a grant out of the workshop related to “digital storytelling and/or digital humanities.” We were to turn the grant proposal in to the administration by mid-August. We were to be paid $4000 in summer salary. The administration has subsequently discovered that summer salary cannot be used to pay faculty for grant-writing and have now completely changed the rules of the agreement we all made and contract we all signed (including our departmental chairs). Now we are being asked to develop a literature review looking at the incorporation of digital storytelling into our respective fields, pilot a course that integrates digital storytelling into the curriculum for the fall, and the assess that course in the spring by writing a paper for a peer reviewed journal to be submitted during the summer of 2014. The payment of $4000 will be distributed over the course of the year in thousand dollar chunks instead of only as summer salary. The’ve easily quadrupled the work that everyone agreed to initially, extended the working time period, and have not increased payment at all. It’s patently unfair. The faculty members are crafting a response letter and that’s what I’ve been working on for the past two days.

Writing and collaborating with 8 different faculty members from different fields and producing a document that sits right with everyone while speaking to the concerns we have is an incredibly fraught process. All the work being put into this letter, into raising these concerns, and offering a counter-solution to the administration is additional labor that doesn’t pay, that doesn’t go into our files, that doesn’t count for anything other than working toward getting us already agreed upon pay for already agreed upon work. When I write about process and open-access academics on this blog and elsewhere I’m usually referring to the act of research, the act of writing and thinking, and trying to open that process up to the public. Opening access up to this kind of work is risky and, as an untenured junior professor, could be used against me as I go up for promotion and tenure in a few years. That being said, this work is precisely the kind of work that needs to be more public in order to demonstrate to as many people as possible that the work we do is not easily quantifiable or limited to three days a week, two semesters a year. The work we do, particularly the work of junior scholars who have much at stake in being as productive as possible, manifests in multiple professional and personal contexts but often rendered invisible in power flows. This work is important and needs to be made as visible as the research process.

6/28: More Writing & Reading E. Grosz


After a few days of jury duty and my mother flying into town I’m back to work today continuing reading Becoming Undone in public. I’ve been thinking nonstop about the book and the larger points Grosz is making. I think her ideas are radical and important and potentially revolutionary for developing political, personal, and ethical economies that are progressive and just. In light of the filibuster in TX and the recent Supreme Court decisions in the US I’ve been mulling over the limits of current progressive thoughts and acts, what it means to be progressive and radical in thought and action, and this book is an incredibly powerful guide for framing different types of arguments or discussions than the ones that happening all over the place. Not better, but different, vested in difference.

Reading Notes for 6/24


Today I’m returning to Stallybrass and White to get through the introduction. I worked with Grosz for a while this weekend and want to jump back in to the world of the symbolic and grotesque bodies to see what I can bring with from Becoming Undone. This jumping back and forth is a practice I use when reading and researching. I find that I very rarely finish one text off by itself and then move to another text by itself. My reading process is messy and things fall over each other and into one another. Perhaps to my detriment I never get a crystal clear picture of what one author or one text is saying. I try to play texts against each other, to make myself learn from how they relate to each other.

I don’t know at what point in this process I’ll identify and mark out a clear project description. Right now I’m content to wander until something emerges from the reading and writing. I am hedging on even identifying sites to write about. I’m resisting naming because naming is a kind of narrowing, a shutting down. The kind of pointless argument I get into with myself. These are the problems, this is the work.

Saturday Click Throughs


I’ve been away from writing and research proper for so long and even though yesterday was quite productive it took me a few hours to shake the feeling that I wasn’t doing enough, or that it should have felt different, better. That’s a frustrating feeling for someone who prides himself on telling other people to be kinder to themselves within the academy. This business can be quite brutal. So many people spend so much time critiquing one another and their work that the last thing anyone needs is that kind of intense scrutiny turned onto themselves. It’s bullshit too, the way that some academics start from a place of tearing others down. Uninteresting and unproductive.

Today  I’m clicking around looking for some help from Elizabeth Grosz on refocusing my attention on the material and how the material enables the symbolic and the cultural to emerge. I know there is a lot written about this in Becoming Undone so I’m looking there and then other places I find online. I’ll be writing up notes here as I move through the afternoon. It’s lazy and hot in the city so I might work for two hours or I might fall asleep on the couch.

6/20: Mass Ornament Essay/Book Proposal/Reading


Today is a bit harder because it’s really about me setting my own schedule and trying to differentiate between two projects that feel similar. Video artist Natalie Bookchin created a piece in 2009 called Mass Ornament that culls together incidental moments of people dancing on Youtube to create a longer more “realized” piece of digital choreography. I’ve been obsessed with the piece for years and want to write about it. I’m very interested in how Bookchin takes seemingly unimportant, banal, or “low” moments from Youtube videos in order to construct a highly realized, artistic, or “high” piece of art out of them. These are all arbitrary designations. I think what I’m most interested in is using Mass Ornament as a model for engaging digital performance of everyday life on sites like Youtube, Tumblr, or Twitter–investigating the small acts of everyday life, considering them in their full force as deeply political and complex, moving beyond calling them banal or low culture. Put another way, I want to use the way that Bookchin composes Mass Ornament as a model to engage other sites of digital performance of everyday life, other sites of small acts of repair, small acts of care, and speak back to the false hierarchy of high/low culture placed on so much of digital culture.

As a way of starting I’ll be editing a document I pitched as a book proposal to the Feminist Scholars Digital Workshop working group of HASTAC in May, a brand new blank Google doc about Mass Ornament (these two things may become one thing eventually), and sometime in the afternoon switch to reading The Politics and Poetics of Transgression and typing reading notes as I go. You can link to any of these documents to search me out and have the ability to comment where you see fit.

6/19: Light Revisions and Editing


No better way to start the ball rolling than to dive right in. Process is after all always in the middle of things. I received an email yesterday from the editors of a journal that is publishing an article of mine in their next issue. They included a query sheet with edits. I re-read the essay and offered up my response to the suggestions. I’m including both of those documents here instead of in a Google doc because they were both Word documents originally and there are formatting issues with Google and Word in Drive. Regardless you can view both documents through the links provided.

I’ve found that sometimes in the final stages of the publication process the copyeditors get aggressive or standoffish with the types of cuts they want. There’s lots of reasons this could be the case but mostly it feels like as an academic I sometimes write within a particular linguistic and representational context that doesn’t emerge from the same place that editing does. That’s ok. I’m open to suggestions and editing as long as the people I’m working with are open to whatever mode I’m working in or where the essay seems to be coming from. This particular process has been great. I think the suggested edits really improve the overall tightness of the essay. Writing isn’t easy for me and does’t really come naturally so working through the process of seeing the things that I wrote up against the edits they are suggesting makes the essay better but also makes me a better writer.

I’m really proud of the essay. It’s a response to a performance piece and resultant script produced by two graduate students when I taught at BGSU in 2010. The performance used écriture féminine as a theoretical foundation to construct a performance methodology. In the essay I’m working through ideas of feminine form and composition as they relate to interpretation, adaptation, and performativity. I’m forever going to argue that HOW a text is made is more important than WHAT the text “means.” I’m interested in the politics of performance and representation insomuch as how we compose things, how we put something together is a political act and that engaging in feminine and feminist strategies of composition eschews masculine and masculinist anxieties about truth, objectivity, and linearity by grounding the site of a woman’s body as productive and overflowing rather than reactive or lacking.