Wednesday, April 15, 2009

OK, I'm back, sort of

I'm somewhat surprised that, despite my long absence, this blog has some die-hard followers that extend beyond my mother and aunt. It has been some time since I've posted anything substantive. Quite a few things have happened. Or maybe very little has happened. I'm not sure.A few have inquired as to what I'm "waiting" for. I took my first two comprehensive exams. I haven't heard how I did, so I am waiting. I won't know until around 4/25. Wish me luck.

One interesting thing I did over the past few months was attend the national MLA conference in San Francisco. It was my first time on to both city and conference, and I was kind of excited about it, so much so that when I noticed that a young attractive woman (ahead of me in line as we boarded the plane) was reading from the conference program, I interjected, "Hey, you're going to MLA." I think that both she and I were slightly taken aback by my exuberance. I followed up with, "Um, me too." What followed was an awkward conversation where I further embarrassed myself and which ended with her returning to her reading.

I swore several complicated oaths against myself as I found my seat and settled in for the flight.

MLA is funny in that it attracts individuals who are virtually unknown in the mainstream world yet who are like rock stars in their own specialized community. I found myself thinking thoughts like, Oh my God, I'm standing right next to Gayatri Spivak. I could, like, stroke her hair if I wanted to. Or I can't believe I'm eating at the same buffet as Stanley Fish. OR What if I just ran up to Judith Butler and kissed her right on the lips. What would she do?

Having lived mostly in Florida and the Arizona desert, I'm used to warm outdoors and lovely over-cooled interiors. I found this somewhat reversed in San Fran; hence I found myself sweating a good bit more than I would have liked. There's no way to play it off when you're visibly sweating, no way to seem natural or relaxed.

Other than this, I was able to see people that I haven't seen for a long time. I also visited my publisher's display in the exhibit room. I was curious to see how prominently my book was displayed. Sadly, it was not even there among the hundreds of others. But I did get to meet some nice people from the press.

Of course, I broke from the formal events of the conference to explore the city. On the second night, I took a trip down to the famous Haight/Ashbury area and had a wonderful, wild time. I met lots of friendly people of many types. Unfortunately, my camera was also stolen, which contained many very cool photographs. That was a tough blow, and now that I think about it this was one of the reasons I kind of lost the desire to post.

So, in lieu of photos, I have rendered a likeness from memory (such as my memory is) from that night at "The Haight."

I was lucky enough to get a $300.00 stipend to attend the conference. This was for participating in a session geared toward community college instructors and was led by Gerald Graff, another luminary, and his wife Cathy Birkenstein. The session focused on their book for college writers, They Say/I Say. The book's premise is a little controversial, but for the most part I'm on board with them. Composition teachers, check it out.

Below is a faithful representation of a tender moment following the session. be continued...


Anonymous said...

Seth here. Glad you are back. Graff and Birkenstein came to Maryland for a presention that I was required to attend (I was also required to teach their "book"). I thought they were a little weird, kind of like they had just finished meditating in Bhutan for a few years wherein they decided to become compositional theorists. Normally I like weird, but there is something deep deep deep inside me that rebels at the term compositional theorist. So during the q & a session, I asked them: "what do you think your little formulas do to a writer's voice?" He answered (patriarch!) that one's voice wouldn't be lost; rather, it would clarified. His answer struck me as rehearsed, but I suppose that is partly his point, yes?

Good luck on your quals, though I'm sure you'll do fine. Sucks you don't hear right away. What is your area, anyway? I seem to remember something about 19th century American literature. Is that right?

Ric said...

Seth, It’s good to hear from you. In all honesty, I’m hesitant to respond to you, especially if I’m disagreeing with you on anything. Let’s keep all discussion civil.
I share your concerns about any approach to their templates that treats them as anything other than fluid tools that can help us understand the important moves made when we’re trying to enter the conversation. I don’t know how I learned these moves, but I think I entered college with some early notions of them. My students typically do not, and I find that they are really, really slow in intuiting them. Why keep the techniques a secret? Do the students who really need help in this area have a “voice”? Doesn’t voice imply a certain level of proficiency? I teach at an open-admissions community college. Confronting the papers can be really demoralizing. Whatever works, I say. Did you see your students using the templates? Improvising with them? Incorporating the concepts but moving beyond the rigid structure? I’ve never actually taught from the book.
Yes, 19th Century American was my major area. Our program is different from most. We test in three ‘minor’ areas. I also tested in literary criticism and theory. I have two more in the fall. What’s going on with you? How is the next New Stories from the Southwest coming?

Ric said...

Oh, yeah. On Gerald Graff. He's more associated with literary studies as far as I know. He's pretty influential in the discipline.
I developed a bit of a crush on Birkenstein.

Anonymous said...

They say their book is a useful tool for writers. I say the book might be useful for high school freshman...Damn, their templates have invaded my mind.

Truthfully, my guess is that if you're in college and need to use a book like that, you're probably in a lot of trouble.

As for the ol' D. Suave, I'm gearing up for a Seahawks Superbowl run! Also, I'll be doing my comps in 20th century American literature next spring. I'm still writing. The Southwest book was one and done, but I've moved on. The 2009 Best of the West is now up on the U. of Texas website. Check out the cover and toc at Book will be published in September.

Oh, and one more thing: I'm getting old. Sigh.