Some post-Watson thoughts

I’m in a coffee shop in Louisville, thinking about the conference, what I learned, and what I missed. I’m bummed that I got into town Thursday afternoon, in time to miss some cool talks Thursday that I wanted to see. After riding the city bus to my hotel, and then riding the wrong city bus and winding up north of the Ohio River, and the getting on the right city bus, I missed even more presentations Thursday.

I booked my hotel, clear across town, when I thought I was going to drive to Louisville. I thought driving across town would be no big deal. But then, I realized I would be very tired, and a nine-hour drive would be very hard, and then I thought about how much work I could get done riding a Greyhound, so I took the Greyhound to Louisville. The Greyhound wasn’t a mistake, but not switching hotels was. It’s an hour-long bus ride, if not more, from my hotel to downtown, and then a 15-minute bus ride to the U of Louisville campus. Thus, I didn’t see as much of the conference as I had hoped. Next time, I definitely get a hotel closer to the conference, even if it’s a bit more expensive.

During my panel, someone asked a great question about what our three talks could teach us about what we do in order to counter the effects of online rumours, media’s framing of events in order to blame certain folks, and online uncivil discourse. A few people in the room chimed in, and the traditional idea that we want our students to be able to read texts and not be duped was an answer. But I like the answer proposed by our chair, that we should be thinking about how we and our students can produce texts that do evoke emotion; as Sharon Crowley has made so apparent in Toward a Civil Discourse, liberal rational arguments are not effective.

And I’ve begun wondering about how I focus so much on rational argumentation in my writing classroom. Certainly, I do value some emotional appeals in the paper, and try to help students work with those effectively, but many times, I fall back on the rational. It’s that dratted hermeneutics of suspicion training that keeps me in the rational mode. Also, I think the focus on the printed page is particularly limiting in that it pulls us toward the logical….

I’ve been struggling between my training in criticism and my desire to move toward design (a la Gunther Kress, Jeff Rice). I think the course I teach next term will help me with this quite a bit (more about that at a later date).

I was struck by Anne Wysocki’s presentation during a plenary session on Friday. Among other things, she made a call for returning to a focus on labor and craft, returning to Hegel’s idea that in making things, we fashion ourselves and recognize ourselves. I took some notes, but even after a day, I’m having a hard time recalling what my notes meant, or how the ideas worked together in Anne’s talk. But her talk resonated with some of the arguments I made about texts and figures, and understanding some of the visceral/bodied reactions to the figural aspects of texts. Anne asks us (drawing on JW Mitchell, I believe?) to question the visual/textual and body/mind dichotomies.

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One Response to Some post-Watson thoughts

  1. Nicholas Rhodes says:

    “Certainly, I do value some emotional appeals in the paper, and try to help students work with those effectively, but many times, I fall back on the rational. ”

    Often times my professors have pushed my papers this direction as well. Stay away from emotional build ups and create sound, rational arguments… but when we are discussing matters that are human-centric, how can we not include emotion? What balance of the rational and the emotional constitute a valid argument?

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