Monday, February 22, 2010


Announcement: Archival Research

Submitted by syntaxfactory on February 16, 2010 - 7:09pm

Archival research is the rave in composition studies lately. If you live in New York, consider attending these events; if not, consider contacting these researchers. Below, a list of interesting spring events & diverse panelists on archives @ New York University. Free and open to the public.

Discussing the Archive: Ideas, Practices, Institutions
A collaboration space for the M.A. program in Archives and Public History
New York University, Spring 2010
Sponsored by the Humanities Initiative, the Departments of English, History, and Social and Cultural Analysis, the Archives and Public History Program, the Working Group on Slavery and Freedom, and the Colloquium on American Literature and Culture, New York University.

March 3rd, 6 pm
Archival Materialities
19 University Place, Great Room (1st Floor)
Tina M. Campt, Associate Professor of Women's Studies and History, Duke University.
Lisa Darms, Senior Archivist at Fales Library, NYU.
Kate Eichhorn, Assistant Professor of Culture and Media, The New School.
Meredith McGill, Associate Professor of English, Director of the Center for Cultural Analysis, Rutgers University.
Moderated by Lisa Gitelman, Associate Professor of English and Media Culture and Communication, NYU.

March 11th, 5:30 pm
Collecting and Collectivities
Location: 20 Cooper Square, 4th Floor (SCA)
Brent Hayes Edwards, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University.
Steven G. Fullwood, Manuscripts Librarian, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Jacqueline Goldsby, Visiting Associate Professor of English, NYU.
Nikhil Pal Singh, Associate Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and History, NYU.
Moderated by Elizabeth McHenry, Associate Professor of English, NYU.

April 7th, 5:30 pm
Embodied Archive
Location: 20 Cooper Square, 5th Floor (Humanities Initiative)
Ann Fabian, Professor of American Studies and History, Dean of Humanities, Rutgers University.
Anne Golomb Hoffman, Professor of English, Fordham University
Deb Levine, Doctoral Candidate in Performance Studies, Instructor of Drama, NYU.
Marvin J. Taylor, Director, Fales Library and Special Collections, NYU.
Moderated by Michele Mitchell, Associate Professor of History, NYU.

April 22nd, 3:30 pm
Graduate Student Workshop with Thomas Blanton (National Security Archive)
Moderated by Peter J. Wosh, Director, Archives and Public History Program and Clinical Associate Professor of History, NYU.
Location: King Juan Carlos Center, 53 Washington Square South, Room 527

April 22nd, 5 pm
Archives and the Security State: Implications for Archival Research
Location: 20 Cooper Square, 4th Floor (SCA)
Thomas Blanton, Director of the National Security Archive, George Washington University.
Khaled Fahmy, Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, NYU.
Jennifer Milligan, Associate Professor of History, Marymount Manhattan College.
Yvette Christiansë, Associate Professor of English, Fordham University.
Moderated by Jack Tchen, Director of Asian/Pacific/American Studies Program and Institute, Associate Professor of History and Individualized Learning, NYU.

All events are free and open to the public; ID required for entry into campus buildings.

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Two ships in a foggy night?
Submitted by patgehrke on February 21, 2010 - 12:39pm.
I usually only lurk these pages, but I am provoked to chime in briefly here. Pardon if this is rough, but it is off-cuff.

I might offer up the proposition that comp/rhet and comm/rhet have significantly different traditions of writing their own histories -- that is to say, of being reflective upon their disciplinary traditions. This might be tied to the differences in how pedagogy and criticism are weighted as disciplinary endeavors or perhaps the sharp break from elocutionists, expressionists, etc. that helped define (the break from, that is) the grounds for the start of the ECA/NCA cadre (maybe even more than the break from English, but that is another story). In comm/rhet the 18th c. and 19th c. have not been the object of recovery-projects for disciplinary identity and disciplinary tradition to the degree or in the same way that they have in comp/rhet, at least to my eye.

That said, there is a real and durable interest among "speech comm." folks (and I know this term is archaic but I maintain its utility when discussing the history of the discipline) to do their own history, even at the very invention of this "speech" discipline (e.g. Maud May Babcock). However, I do think it is reasonably accurate (with exemptions for Bill Keith at least) to say that this tradition of writing disciplinary history in comm/rhet has been weak in deploying archival and textual evidence, relying instead upon (the exact quote escapes me but I think this is from one of the entries in the King and Kuyper volume) a combination of nostalgia, reminiscence, and amnesia.

Hogan's certainly right that public address (with rhetorical history) has a strong and impressive tradition of archival research. I do find interesting, and maybe not all would agree with me in this, that comm/rhet has a far greater interest in doing archival and historical work on practitioners of public rhetoric (esp. major figures in social movements and government office) in the 19th and 18th centuries than on theorists/scientists/philosophers/teachers of speech/communication/rhetoric during those two centuries. We are especially weak on speech pedagogy during those periods. But historians interested in the pedagogy of speech and the theorization of speech in the 18th-20th century (myself included) could probably learn a lot about archival work from their colleagues in public address and in comp/rhet.

So, long story short, Aune’s interrogative might mark the distinction, to some degree. Both disciplines have some impressive archival work, but they tend to be directed toward different objects and tasks, which I think reflects something of that continuing distinction between comp/rhet and comm/rhet on the topics of pedagogy and criticism. The fact that David’s reference to archival research can so transparently mean for him disciplinary history focused on pedagogy while at the same time mean for Hogan an elision of the archival work in public address evidences the durability of that disciplinary distinction.

Fair? Some of this might be a bit broad-stroke and certainly important exceptions can be made.

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Archival Research More Prominent in Composition Studies?
Submitted by Mike Hogan on February 20, 2010 - 8:48pm.
Wow! Forgive my astonishment, but I think Jim Aune might have been on the verge of correcting Syntaxfactory (whoever the heck that is--I hate this anonymous posting stuff)but failed to do it. So I guess I must. The fact is that archival research has been taken very seriously in the subfield of rhetorical studies in "Speech Communication" (although we haven't called it that in at least 20 years)known as public address for at least the past 75 years. And it still is (see any of the recent volumes in the Rhetoric and Public Affairs series at the Michigan State University Press, as well as the forthcoming volume from Blackwell edited by Shawn Parry-Giles and me, the Handbook of Rhetoric and Public Address). It's starting to really bother me that "spokespersons" for RSA have absolutely no knowledge of the public address tradition in "speech communication." Zaresfsky and Leff tried to educate you people, but apparently their efforts have been in vain. Jeez. I think I'll stay home this May.

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More prominent?
Submitted by syntaxfactory on February 21, 2010 - 12:10am.
Jim couldn't have been correcting my first post, which made no relative assessment of the two traditions. Did he stifle a desire to correct the second posting? Maybe. I'll offer three lines of defense:

1. My claims were about archival research analogous to the tradition of archival research in composition. There is no doubt that those kinds of pedagogical-institutional archival projects are relatively underdeveloped in speech communication, in part because the history of pedagogy, discipline and major institutions in speech-communication is underdeveloped, comparatively. The point is made easily: we know more about one man in composition (Fred Newton Scott) than we do about all "seventeen who made history" by walking out on the NCTE to form the NAATPS.

2. Do I deny the public address tradition? No way. It's as old as the hills, or at least as old as Thonssen, Baird, and the efforts to fix the texts of exemplary works in public address for criticism. Nonetheless, is it possible that sustained reflection on archival theory and methods is a recent development for both Composition and Speech-Communication? I think so.

In RPA, Davis W. Houck locates the archival turn in public address studies "from Martin Medhurst's significant call for enhanced research at the first Public Address Conference in 1988." That would make the archival turn in public address contemporary to the archival turn in composition studies. We have a seventy year tradition of archival work in rhetoric/public address, but perhaps we have a recent rethinking of methods and theory worth considering. That special issue of RPA may be evidence of that.

That argument is weak defense against your claims, Dr. Hogan. Which is why, my third defense:

3. My post says:
"I have left someone out, to be sure. (Fill in my gaps!)"
"Whom have I missed?"

I am grateful that you picked up the invitation to reply. You have begun to answer the question "whom have I missed?" Thanks for pointing out the handbook. Houck celebrates the MSU projects as being made possible by the archival turn -- glad to see you recognize their value.

For the interdisciplinary audience of the Blogora, please -- push the issue further! What exemplary texts using or theorizing archival research should be noted to fully represent the public address tradition? Fill in my gaps!

As for staying home in May: I hope you'll no more stay home in May than you will cease filling in the gaps in Blogora postings.

--David Beard, UM Duluth

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The rage?
Submitted by Jim Aune on February 16, 2010 - 7:51pm.
How do you mean, exactly? Researching records of how composition was taught?

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Archival inquiry
Submitted by syntaxfactory on February 17, 2010 - 9:58am.
I was a rave kid in high school. Does that explain the gaffe?

Archival inquiry has been something of interest in rhet/comp for more than a decade now. I kind of date the widespread interest from initial backlash against the histories of composition and rhetoric that were based on journal articles and textbooks; these approaches were decimated not just as incomplete but as intuitively off (as much of what happens in my classroom, at least, varies little at all with what textbook I use).

John Brereton gave us an anthology of materials that demonstrated the richness of what was available in the archives:
The origins of composition studies in the American college, 1875-1925 By John C. Brereton
This book opened the field; it's probably one of the three or four most important books I'd read as a doc student because it opened me up to the diversity of narrative possibilities in writing the history of rhetoric and composition -- the field may have been reducible to what Kitzhaber saw and what Berlin saw, but at the same time, that reduction cost us something that Brereton (and others) made visible again.

Other scholars began drafting newer, more sophisticated historical narratives based on these materials:
--The Idea of a Writing Laboratory By Neal Lerner, just out recently, is an awesome example. I met Dr. Lerner while he was in Minneapolis looking into the history of the Writing Lab there. I thought he was exhuming a corpse. I now thing he was searching for diamonds.
--Local histories: reading the archives of composition By Patricia Donahue, Gretchen Flesher Moon (in which Kathryn Fitzgerald's essay beautifully teases out some of the problems of reconstructing the history of writing instruction if all you have left, as a documentary trace, are the students papers, without a prompt or assignment.
--Historical Studies of Writing Program Administration: Individuals, Communities, and the Formation of a Discipline by Barbara L'Eplattenier, Lisa Mastrangelo won awards for this kind of work.
--Archives of Instruction: Nineteenth-Century Rhetorics, Readers, and Composition Books in the United States by Jean Ferguson Carr, Stephen L. Carr, Lucille M. Schultz

While, finally, books that reflect on methods and orientations (as well as utilizing case studies) appeared.
--Working in the Archives: Practical Research Methods for Rhetoric and Composition by Assistant Professor Alexis E. Ramsey, Associate Professor Wendy B Sharer, Professor Barbara L'Eplattenier, and Professor Lisa Mastrangelo
--Beyond the archives: research as a lived process By Gesa Kirsch, Liz Rohan, Gesa E. Kirsch

I'd think that this interest in archival materials would make us rethink some of the canon-fights in rhetorical studies of 10 years ago. We were wondering whether Sor Juana de la Cruz (see Bokser) and Adrienne Rich (see Ratcliffe) fit inside the Bizzell and Herzberg narrative. "Canonoia," Schilb called it. These new approaches generate different contributions altogether -- not reworking the Platteville Normal School into B&H (Fitzgerald, above), but making a unique contribution to the history of rhetoric nonetheless.


I have left someone out, to be sure. (Fill in my gaps!)

Part of this, to be sure, fits into the grand tradition of archival work in literary studies -- a body of principles for research sometimes cited in this literature. So it may make sense that there is less of it in Speech-Communication research. And even if there we equal impulse, there is (arguably) more stuff to work with: universities saving masses of student papers, for example, while unable to save student speeches in the same way. Composition instruction largely uninterrupted for 200 years in American universities, while the early NCA-types wanted a clean break from the 19th century traditions of speech education (leaving, at most, 95 years of material in most cases).

But William Keith (Democracy as Discussion) and Pat Gehrke (Ethics and Politics of Speech) and Gerry Philipsen and Ron Greene and Darrin Hicks are riding a crest of archival work in Speech-Communication, to be sure. (We have yet to see our analogue to Brereton -- someone who makes not just the narrative, but the raw materials, available to the Speech Communication community. That's a shame, though maybe those books sell poorly to people who are not me.)

Whom have I missed? And why does this post feel like a Publisher's Weekly article?


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