Inside the Door

When sport and I got to our new abode, our box of summer reading was right inside the door:

Foucault's Pendulum (Umberto Eco--I'm a little past half done)
Cooking Light 2006 Recipes
Finnegan's Wake (duh)
The Human Stain (Philip Roth--finished)
A Thousand Plateaus (Deluze and Guttari)
Oh. Play That Thing (Roddy Doyle)
The Birth of the Clinic (Michel Foucault)
The Archaeology of Knowledge (Michel Foucault--O.K., so I have a Foucault theme here. I've already read this one)
Breakfast on Plut0 (Patrick McCabe)
Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates
The Space Planner

It's not much, but it should keep us distracted as we finish unpacking.


The Long Goodbye

Most of you in the blogosphere don't know that sport (she's the the muddy one in the center--ruminate on whatever metaphor you like) and I will be taking our show to Fargo at North Dakota State University this Friday. We appreciate what our two institutions did for us, but the pull of working at the same institution, with graduate students, and within walking distance of the office (we can sell our second car--yay!), was just too tempting.

I'll get a chance to work with Kevin Brooks, Amy Rupier-Taggert, Betsy Birmingham, and Dale Sullivan (yes, THAT Dale Sullivan), and get to work in an arts-friendly place with a burgeoning downtown scene that has the still-rough edges that makes me feel at home.

To all of you who are STILL giving sport and I a mind-blowing victory lap (parties for pretty much two weeks straight): Thank You! It's incredibly gracious of two departments who invested as much as they have in us. Thank you truly.

Final (for now) thoughts on Crowley's Toward a Civil Discourse

A few more thoughts on Sharon Crowley's Toward a Civil Discourse:

1. This is an important text, if only for the reason that Stanley Fish is right. Rhetoricians NEED to engage in what is an ontological and epistemological battle (although I believe that the two sides that Crowley describes--the fundamentialist and the liberal--see this as two different battles. For the liberals it is always epistemological, and for fundamentalists, it's ontological). I appreciate what Dr. Crowley is opening herself up to in writing this.

2. In some ways, I think of this book in the same way I read and understand Leslie Marmon Silko's Almanac of the Dead. It reads a little like a fin-de-siecle border drama, a lot like a Jeremiad, with a type of mystical gesture towards hope. The inexorable march northward in Silko's text (a march of prophesy) is parallelled by Sharon's gesture towards invention that might bring two warring factions closer (an enraged fundamentalism and a reluctant liberalism).

3. In her latest post, Dr. Edbauer notices the difficulty of formulating this debate as one that might revolve the idea of the irredemable. I'm extremely hesitant to call it that because of #4.

4. One thing that struck me about Dr. Crowley's book was the threat that is sketched out in her narrative. She is correct in looking at the Apocalyptic nature of fundamentalist Christian rhetoric and the importance of delineating clear inside/outside binaries based mostly upon patriarchal structures (patriarchal structures maintained semiotically with pulpits, diases, and "big bibles" held aloft during long and stylized sermons. Structures maintained discursively with distorted Biblical emphases on direct descent [a bizarre Gentile practice when perceived outside of its patriarchal function], fetus-centrism, and "Old Testament" justice). What she misses in her threading together of the Left Behind narratives and a solid historicizing of the Apocalyptist movements is the syncretism of the congregations. When I attended the churches and bible-studies that popularized the texts that Dr. Crowley studies, most of my fellow attendees didn't actually live most of what they publicly attested to. It was a sort of salmon faith. Most of the folks I went there with wanted to swim with a particular school of fish, direct their feelings towards some sort of larger and coherent goal (getting to heaven), and maybe eventually return towards the spawning ground of actually living their faith when they, well, spawn. I was one of the few kids in these groups that took it seriously (the thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning was more of an indictment of my boring Saturday nights than an indication that I went to church hung over). Did this sort of "preacher-kid syndrome" mean that my pentacostal/patriarchal/fundamentalist peeps didn't believe in this stuff. Kind of. We were embarassed by a lot of what Dr. Crowley delineates. There were even more bizarre parasites like exorcism call-in shows (the main guy, Bob Larsen, has had a re-surgence lately). We all pretty much rolled our eyes, but were too polite to confront our elders, who seemed pretty bewildered at modernity in general. We just sort of absorbed these beliefs and maintained pretty normal kid behavior. While there is a mental split between professing and living, it isn't all that unusual in nearly any belief system. My now-discarded fundamentalism has proven exceedingly useful when teaching freshman composition and rhetoric. Profess ideals and practice the real.

5. I especially agree with Jeff Rice's assertion that turning the fundamentalist rhetoric against itself seems a bit weak. I think that the strength of fundamentalist rhetoric is something that liberal rhetoric can appropriate successfully--that is, take language theorists seriously when using language. Meaning-making consists of both grouping and differentiation (differance). Fundamentalists can be deconstructed, but that misses the point of rhetoricians needing to craft appeals that reconfigure the "us" upon important differences. Yes, people will differentiate themselves, but take some sort of stand (and I think Crowley's book is doing this). Take Gerald Graff's "Teach the Conflict" approach one step farther. Get in there and believe in something. The writers of America's founding documents knew that Liberal Rhetoric could shape a country. They also knew that it could help keep us from killing one another. Our job isn't just one of co-optation of scary foundations (and, yes, Berube's antifoundational approach is itself a type of foundation that he defends more than adequately). A rhetor's job includes contending with and believing in all sorts of slippery and scary things like arete, phronesis, and even, gulp, agape.