extended CCC, Dec. 2009

I’m thinking about that Prendergast and Licko article as I make my way through the “extended CCC.” This is an online only portion of the journal, a short-lived component of the journal (thank goodness). I’m reading the materials as pdfs and feeling really frustrated because I can’t underline or make notes in the margins. As a result, it feels like my ability to absorb what’s being said is tied up with and limited by the medium of delivery. Paper is not only an ideology and an economy; it’s also a literacy platform for reading and comprehension. Reading and thinking are much harder on screen than on paper for me.

Anyway, I want to document some bits from David Wallace’s “Alternative Rhetoric and Morality” right now before they dissipate into the nothingness that is my brain. Wallace’s piece, which I’m still in the process of reading, addresses concepts of rhetorical agency and collective agency as more fitting and consequential than those that depend on individualized models of subjectivity. The latter, he suggests, can devolve into identity categories that neglect intersectionality. (I like Wendy Brown on “wounded attachments” for a critique of over-attachment to identity and resulting political ineffectivity…)

Here’s an excerpt from Wallace: “Further, we must accept that collective agency that crosses traditional identity barriers is necessary to unseat such beliefs [including heteronormativity and racism, among other discriminatory beliefs] and the discursive practices that support them if we are to avoid reifying the very problematic identity categories that we hope to challenge” (W23).

I’ve seen other recent work that takes up questions of agency, so I’m interested in the field’s collective thinking about this. Also, though, in preparation for a piece I’m writing about wpa agency, I’d like to think more about agency as aspirational and as the ultimate means by which change happens. Can we trouble this idea? What trouble boils up when we start messing with agency as an assumed good? More on that later, but for now…Wallace…

And here’s another excerpt: “[A]lternative rhetoric, as I define it, requires acceptance of the responsibility to develop a new kind of rhetorical agency in which we are not only conscious of the limits of our subjectivities but also take action to understand our complicity in the oppression of others and to educate ourselves in the use of new discursive practices” (W23). [Side note: this essay might work very well in the spring rhetoric 2 class.] Wallace is making a moral argument about our responsibilities as literacy educators; obviously, this is bigger than adding different voices/experiences/subjectivities to the mix. He ends by suggesting two principles to guide further work on alternative rhetorics: one is that identity has to play a role in rhetorical theory and pedagogy that seeks to combat inequity, and the other is that those doing this work have to interrogate their own privilege in order to do morally responsible work.

To return to rhetorical agency, then, identity and privilege are important pieces in projects to redefine rhetoric. Ok…more notes to myself coming…

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