Browsing through my Google Reader feed the last couple of days, I see post after post from my fellow comp/rhet colleagues about getting ready for the CCCCs. Checking my email, I see message after message on WPA-L about sharing a cab from the airport to downtown New Orleans. I have already had to respond “no” to a couple of other “see you in NOLA” inquiries.
This year’s CCCCs has kind of put a bad taste in my mouth about the whole thing. First off, as I wrote back in October, I didn’t know what was going on with my proposal until the middle of October, or a full six months after I submitted my proposal in the first place. I can’t think of any good reason why it would have taken this long. Second, I thought I had a pretty good proposal, especially given the fact that it was based largely on the research that I’ve been doing this year on blogs. Actually, as I think about it a bit, the last two proposals I’ve put into the CCCCs that have been based largely on some sort of technology and comp/rhet have been viewed by the process a bit skeptically. My proposal (and ultimately my presentation) for the CCCCs in New York City last year was initially rejected, but I appealed to the program chair to see if there’s anything that could be done about it. Long story short, I ended up getting in, and I gave a presentation at pretty much the worst possible time on Saturday morning.
I supposed I could have appealed this year’s rejection too, but I didn’t want to press my luck. Back in October, my thinking was I was going to go to the conference anyway, but after I got involved in this conference that is new to me, I decided to skip the CCCCs this year. Now I’m kind of regretting it, as much because of missing out on the New Orleans experience as much as anything else.
Here’s a long quote, one I find especially interesting as one of those comp/rhet specialists:
There’s no better way to take the profession’s temperature, it seems to me, than by scanning the Modern Language Association Job Information List, the quarterly catalog of faculty openings in American English departments. If you want to know where an institution is at, take a look at what it wants. The most striking fact about this year’s list is that the lion’s share of positions is in rhetoric and composition. That is, not in a field of literature at all but in the teaching of expository writing, the “service” component of an English department’s role within the university. Add communications and professional and technical writing, and you’ve got more than a third of the list. Another large fraction of openings, perhaps 15 percent, is in creative writing. Apparently, kids may not want to read anymore, but they all want to write. And watch. Forward-thinking English departments long ago decided to grab film studies before it got away, and the list continues to reflect that bit of subterfuge.
That’s more than half the list, and we still haven’t gotten to any, well, literature. When we do, we find that the largest share of what’s left, nearly a third, is in American literature.
Yes indeed– can you imagine English being something beyond literature?
Well, three brief thoughts on this:
In the early 1990s, I went into a PhD program in composition and rhetoric and not literature for a bunch of different reasons, but one of them was what I already knew about the job market as a relative outsider. I vividly recall a lunch I had with my dissertation director in about October 1995 about the job market where I was expressing my anxieties and concerns. She waved a spoon at me and didn’t even look up from her soup and said “you’ll be fine.” When I asked more about this, she just pointed out to me that people in my field had been in demand since the mid 1970s and that no one who graduated from my program had not gotten a tenure-track job. In other words, the “new” rise of these wacky and marginal fields like composition and rhetoric is not, um, new.
It would be tempting to dismiss the author of this article, William Deresiewicz, as some old fogey who can be excused a bit for being out of touch with contemporary trends in English studies. But interestingly, as his homepage indicates, Deresiewicz is only 10 years out of his PhD program. You’d think that someone like that would be a tad more up to date on trends in his field. Sadly, I don’t think that Deresiewicz is really all that unusual among my colleagues in fields like British literature.
This seems to me to be another reason as to why we’re seeing a rise of “Writing” departments across the country, and why I think that the free-standing writing department– one that includes first year composition, undergraduate majors, and graduate programs– will be the norm by the end of my career.
Judge Claude M. Hilton, of the U. S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., found that scanning the student papers for the purpose of detecting plagiarism is a “highly transformative” use that falls under the fair-use provision of copyright law. He ruled that the company “makes no use of any work’s particular expressive or creative content beyond the limited use of comparison with other works,” and that the new use “provides a substantial public benefit.”
But this isn’t over yet– appeals from the students who brought the case in the first place are certainly forthcoming.
But hey, the way I look at it, there are lots of other reason other than the copyright issues to not like Turnitin. Like it’s just unethical and criminalizes students and doesn’t work well.
I haven’t had time to read this yet, but it looks like it might be something pretty cool to play around with this spring in ENGL 444, or maybe even next week in ENGL 516: hypertextopia, which I came across via Grand Text Auto and if:book. I have to say that personally I agree with the if:book folks: as a reader, I am not really a fan of hypertext fiction. As a writer though, I think it’s a fun form to play with. Maybe it’s the “writerly-ness” of the form, a way of reading and writing that would have pleased Barthes to no end. Interesting and intellectually stimulating, but not exactly a page turner on the beach.
Alex Halavais has a post I can’t link to right now (there’s some issue on his blog I am sure he will fix) where he has an excellent quote about scholarship and graduate study from Norbert Wiener. Here’s a link to Alex’s blog; I am sure he will make the link work to this entry soon enough.
Alex offers his own solid advice on going on for a PhD in communication studies, and that got me to thinking about my own previous bits of advice on the matter. I do occasionally get these kinds of questions from students, and I figured since I wrote this up before, what the heck, I’ll link to it now.
So, blasts from the past in this order:
Steve the Happy Academic, Part I, from 2003. This was back in the day when I was responding to a couple of different academic bloggers who were lamenting their sorry state. I still agree that working in academia is still a pretty good job, even with all of the stupid stuff that comes up.