academia: October 2008 Archives

Disengaging Theory

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So, like I said, I was at this conference during the past few days. I'm going back and forth over whether to write about my time there, because what I have to say will inevitably be taken up in ways I don't intend. But ah well.

A few things that you should understand. The conference was very small, more like a working group than a conference per se, and in that, it bore some resemblance to the Convergences shindig we put on a few years ago. Because the conference needed to be small, it was invite-only. And invitations went out to a lot of people whose work I admire, from both the comp and comm sides of the rhetoric aisle. For two days, we shifted seats around a circle, giving presentations on a range of topics related to rhetoric and theory. So far, so good.

Here's the thing. And you need to understand that this is most certainly not me looking for some sort of validation or compliment or disagreement. The thing is, I didn't belong there. At all.

I've been struggling to deal with this over the last few days, trying to come up with a good analogy that will get at what I've been feeling. I don't mean to say that I don't like, respect, and admire the people at the conference, because I do. I don't mean to say that I wasn't happy to see them, talk to them, and spend time outside the conference with them, because I was. But in terms of my paper, my contributions to the conversations, and my ability to follow those conversations, I no more belonged there than I did the conference on digestive disorders (!!) taking place next door. It was as though I was attending a conference in a different discipline or one taking place in a slightly different language than my own.

The best I've been able to come up with is that it was like watching an athlete trying to come back after a few years away from the game. You can tell that this person knows what to do, but the body just won't cooperate. It's kind of sad and embarrassing. So it was kind of like that, except that it slowly dawned on me as I was sitting there that I was the player. I understood what was going on around me, of course, but I didn't really have the same repertoire of texts to rely upon, I wasn't the same kind of writer, and I definitely couldn't have hit a fastball to save my life.

What's peculiar to me about this was that I don't think it really occurred to me ahead of time how much I didn't deserve to be there, and so I've been a little shell-shocked over the past few days. There was a time, 5-7 years ago, when this conference would have been like an oasis in the desert of the discipline for me, when it would have gotten me fired up and motivated to get back to work. And I suppose I vaguely thought that this would be the case even though I've drifted away from theoretical stuff in my own work and I'm at a place where it's not really asked of me.

This kind of scholarship has never been at what I would call the center of my field, but given my background and my social network, it's been much more central to my conception of the field. And so to discover that I no longer have the particular language, skills, or background required for it was more than a little humbling. And no, that's not an attempt to fish for compliments about how smart I am despite this--rationally, that's not a question for me. I know that I'm not stupid, regardless of how stupid I may have felt over the past few days.

But I've always just taken for granted a certain amount of foundational work that I did in graduate school--that I worked really hard at in graduate school. Studying with the people I did, and having the degree I did, and having the expertise I thought I did was part of my core academic identity, the foundation upon which everything else I've done has been built. And yes, I've moved in other directions, picked up other interests, focused on other texts, and so forth. But I assumed that at least some of this other stuff was still there, regardless of how deeply it's been buried.

What I found out this weekend is that it's gone, by and large. And if you detect a little self-pity hereabouts, you wouldn't be entirely wrong. I've spent a lot of time over the past 12-15 months grieving, and that was my overwhelming emotion the final night of the conference, so much so that I basically left early to be by myself. Only instead of losing someone else, I felt like I lost a part of myself. And the truth is that this loss has been gradual and entirely justified given my personal and professional circumstances. Yet, somehow, I wasn't called upon to face it, and had to wait until the worst kind of performance anxiety nightmare situation to realize that I had no business being in that room, with those people, talking about those topics.

So yeah. That's how my weekend was. I don't know what else to say.

You may have already seen this on the JIL, but if you know of anyone who might be interested, please feel free to pass this along to them...

Assistant Professor in Professional and Technical Writing

The Writing Program at Syracuse University invites applications for a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Writing, specializing in Professional and Technical Writing, to begin in the fall semester of 2009. The following areas of secondary interest/specialization are also welcome: environmental rhetorics, medical rhetorics, rhetorics of science, and/or technology studies.

The Writing Program is a freestanding unit at Syracuse, with a nationally recognized faculty and course offerings ranging from first-year writing to its Ph.D. in Composition and Cultural Rhetoric. As of Fall 2008, the Writing Program is also home to a Major and Minor in Writing and Rhetoric. The successful candidate for this position will demonstrate scholarly promise and teaching excellence and will join an active research faculty, teach undergraduate and graduate courses, provide curricular leadership for our professional writing course offerings, and help us develop undergraduate internships and partnerships with local businesses and industries. That candidate should have PhD in hand by August of 2009.

Applicants must complete a confidential, online summary at https://www.sujobopps.com and upload a letter of application and CV (including the names of at least 3 references). We encourage prospective applicants to visit our website, http://wrt.syr.edu, and to contact the Search Committee Chair, Collin Brooke (cbrooke at syr.edu) with any questions. Review of applications will begin November 15 and continue until the position is filled. Syracuse University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity institution, and we welcome applications from diverse candidates--women and minorities are especially encouraged to apply.

OMGWTFBBQ!!1!

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the page proofs for my book arrive

I have a couple of posts* brewing, but I'll let them simmer for a while longer. Today is a day of long awaited celebration:

My page proofs arrived today!

In the world of Collin, this is a VeryGoodSign™. The only cloud to this silver lining is that, of course, it adds a whole new section to my already over-burdened to-do list, as I will be indexing it myself (with some help from one of the grad students here) and of course, proofreading it.

But you'll allow me the requisite evening of relief and joy before reminding me of all the work that remains, I hope. And no jokes about how lucky I was that the Cubs infielders weren't responsible for catching or delivering it.

That is all.

(* Onesuch is in reply to StevenB over at ACRLog, who picked up last month's discussion about CCCC, and had some interesting things to say about the politics of that conversation...)

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This page is a archive of entries in the academia category from October 2008.

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