writing as a productive art

(qtd. Bruno Latour The Pastuerization of France) “Standing by what is written on a sheet of paper alone is a risky trade. However, this trade is no more miraculous than that of the painter, the seaman, the tightrope walker, or the banker. [Knowledge] does not exist…despite all claims to the contrary, craft holds the key to knowledge” (Bogost 110).

Reading the end of Kelly Pender’s Techne, particularly “Why Techne? Why Now?” unexpectedly caused me to return to Ian Bogost’s Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing, a book that a small group of students and faculty read in the summer of 2012 as part of a reading series. While the work explores object oriented ontology as a call to philosophy /philosophers to reconstruct their craft as practice as theory, his chapter entitled “Carpentry” allows some connections to be established to Pender’s emphasis on teaching writing as writing through techne (more specifically poesis).

Pender writes

“Historically, we have valued techne because it focuses our attention to external goals; or to put it more precisely, we have valued techne because it allows us to align writing with particulalr external goals” (142).

As poesis, or a bringing forth, techne allows students to write as writing to achieve an external goal.  And while she is careful not to easily dismiss using techne to achieve external goals (something like problem solving), she explains that such an emphasis on goals of writing have caused us to overlook the thingness of writing, “the ability of writing to engage us in a process of bringing forth that is more aimed at doing something than knowing something” (143). This stresses the teaching of writing as a means of textual interpretation over a means of textual production – we aren’t using techne to make (techne as theory vs. techne as methodology).

This called to mind Ian Bogost. In “Carpentry”, he writes

“Like mechanics, philosophers ought to get their hands dirty. Not just dirty with logic or mathematics…but dirty with grease and panko bread crumbs and formaldehyde. I give the name carpentry to this practice of constructing artifacts as a philosophical practice” (92).

This signifies a shift from knowing about to doing with/from. He lays out the frame of carpentry:

“‘carpentry’ borrows from two sources. First, it extends the ordinary sense of woodcraft to any material whatsoever—to do carpentry is to make anything, but to make it in earnest, with one’s hands, like a cabinetmaker. Second, it folds into this act of construction Graham Harman’s philosophical sense of “the carpentry of things”…to refer to how things fashion one another and the world at large. Blending these two notions, carpentry entails making things that explain how things make the world” (93).

I can envision reactions to this approach as dismissive, a sort of hyperbolic aside of giving students in freshman writing courses a hammer with their writing handbook, but what might it make available? We already use metaphors and theories of process and construction to talk about writing to draw attention to the act of putting things together and taking things apart. What might writing that incorporates making (beyond focus on alphanumeric texts or “creative” projects to accompany alphanumeric texts that aren’t viewed as texts on their own) do?

Bogost works to destabilize writing as the sun in our academic universe, and hile I’m not making such a move, I do find scraps of carpentry, as tied to techne, of interest to discover what writing might be/do.

I’m left wondering

  • What would a methodology of techne in teaching writing look like?
  • How can teaching writing as writing allow for the entanglement of writing and making?
  • What composite definition of techne (from chapter one) would this approach make use of?
  • Does this something, or a way to make some things, fit in the writing classroom – techne as method?
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morning bites

Superstition says itchy palms means money; the left means money paid out, and the right money coming in. But what if your whole body is itchy? I think it’s time to buy a humidifier for this dry apartment. //

I had the thought upon waking that my absence from home would not be such an issue for my cat if I could have constant laser pointer beams going at different intervals, heights, and directions. //

There is a non-place outside of the graduate assistant office that I have been paying increasing attention to. It is not quite a room, but a space with two tables and four chairs that leads forward to a room, or to a hallway of many rooms. I assume it is meant for meeting with students because entering the doorway to it will place you right outside the door for the GA office; take a slight left, and you are headed into English faculty offices. Some of the graduate assistants hold conferences with students there because our common space can get crowded. A few GAs or adjuncts use the tables to work at because desk space is at a premium. Lately, I’ve found students hanging out there before classes alone, in pairs, or in small groups. This week I watched a small group review materials of a presentation that they had due in class. Another student sat quietly reading while eating his lunch; he subsequently left his book on the table (I wonder how long it will be there?) as well as his lunch garbage. A pair of students that had the same class remarked that they didn’t want to walk home just to walk back before their next class, so they sat eating. One potato chip was left on the table. I suppose what interests me the most is that it is not designated as any place, but the outside of the doorway that leads to it has signs about the upcoming space being GA offices. But the furniture there is not occupied, it shows no signs of use as office space. It has no personal touches or person objects there. The furnitiure is of a different design than the desks/chairs in the classrooms, the desks/chairs in our office, and the tables/chairs in the cafe downstairs. I wonder what is signaling students to use this non-place as a space? What are the cues that invite them in? //

Books for composition that are capturing my attention: 642 Things to Write About, 642 Things to Draw, Listography: Your Life in Lists, How to Be An Explorer of the World. I am increasingly drawn to the possibilities in short form noticings, collecting, archiving, and inventorying. Composition as action.

Student Writing Made Visible: Questions About Publication (WIDE-EMU 12)

(mis)conceptions of (un)expected student writing

enter: chorus of trepidation, consideration, and action. sing from the homogeneity of what writing is. listen closer, the notes hum discord. breaking from the chorus, we can hear a line: what does it mean to publish student writing?

Breaking from the chorus,  Chelsea Lonsdale, Becky Morrison , and I, graduate students and instructors invested in the teaching of composition, desire to amplify this, gain volume with the addition of voices. We question, what does it mean to publish student writing, pulling threads to follow in inquiry: audience, what  (student) writing (what it can(not) look like/sound like) is, and what publishing is/isn’t/can/can’t be.

I am unraveling what it means to publish (verb. action?):

1. prepare and issue for public sale

2. print in a book or journal so as to make it generally known

3. prepare and issue the works of a particular writer

4. formally announce or read

There are further threads, to publish as an adjective (descriptor?) too: publishable, from the stem of Old French puplier; from Latin publicare, to ‘make public’; from publicus, a blend of Latin poplicus ‘of the people’ and pubes ‘adult’. At a public university, how is the action of publishing envisioned? And where does that definition come from? HowWhy does(n’t) student writing become published?

paper/web

classroom/institution

institution/beyond…

commodity/value

value/reputation

value/accomplishment

value/visibility

visibility/reception

reception/conception

conception/misconception

misconception/misunderstanding

misunderstanding/unexpected

unexpected/expected

unexpected/value

How can we negotiate the spaces of dichotomy in what is (un)/expected?

exeunt: notions of singularity, static frames, and temples of paper

enter (not to exit): questioning our ideologies, methodologies, (in)actions