Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My Life in Pronouns

I spend a lot of time thinking about pronouns recently. While this is certainly not a new development, my awareness of the pronouns shaping my life has definitely been heightened lately. Pronoun use is a subject that I talk about extensively in my English 101 class, and I am pretty sure that some of my students would argue that my distrust and panic over the first-person plural pronoun "we" borders on both insane and ridiculous. My students and I have extensive conversations about the rhetorical and ethical implications of using "we" and the way the employment of this pronoun is linked to both a fear of the "I" created by institutional forces and also to a fear of asserting agency and a fear of explicitly asserting an argument, a position, or a rationale.

Though the majority of my students still prefer "we" by the end of the quarter, I am continually more invested in the articulation of an "I." Perhaps this explains a lot about me. It certainly explains my obsession with personal blogs and with memoir, and I think it explains my investment in the essay as a genre. One of the most amazing moments in my academic career was when a professor explained the derivation of the word "essay," the way the word emerges from the french infinitive essayer meaning "to attempt" or "to try." I share this with my students each quarter because I still think it is so empowering and exciting. I like the idea of the essay because it is so tentative and so aware of its inability to guarantee success. I also like the term "essay" because its meaning always points to the author, to a subjective attempt. This blog post is an essay in that sense. It is an attempt to write something and to try to come to terms with the various pronouns in my life and the way they are shaping and reflecting my life and my thoughts.

Despite my critical distrust of "we," it is perhaps the most appealing pronoun in my life right now. This is the summer of weddings. I have been invited to four of them, and I also find myself at an age when I am surrounded by couples, and because I am surrounded by couples, I am surrounded by "we." I have been single for quite a while now, and I really miss using that word sometimes. Despite my lack of a relationship, I have been required to use "we" a lot recently. I am currently going through the process of trying to find a place to live with roommates for the first time in six years and WE are often talking about places, e-mailing property management companies, and explaining our plans to others. Additionally, having recently graduated from graduate school and having started the job search, I find myself a part of another "we." I find myself with the rest of my cohort and and explaining that "We are all applying for jobs" and that "The whole process is scary for a lot of us."

Because of this huge period of transition I/we am/are going through, advice is often given, and I find myself hearing both the explicit and implied you. "You should live here," "You shouldn't live there," "Have you considered applying at Amazon?" and "You don't really know what you are doing, do you?" are all phrases I have heard in the last week.

All of these you's are probably important because I don't know what *I* am doing. I do know that I think about this question a lot. I wonder what I want to do with the rest of my life, whether I am applying to the right jobs, and if I am making the right decisions.

I also find myself intensely aware of my use of "I." I worry about over using it, about turning this period into a period about me and not about some larger collective, and I worry about annoying people by talking too much about my self or about disappointing people when I explain to them what I have decided to do or about writing a blog that would have too many I's or would be too much about me.

Perhaps these worries are because the real question so often comes down to "What will they think?" I worry about disappointing them--some strange and ambiguous group of people (my parents, my professors, my students, my friends, my family?) I worry that I will not be the person they expect me to be. Still, despite how scary they might be, they are an important thing; they force me to try to come to terms with what is going on and to interrogate who I am.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Head in the Clouds/Wordles of My Life

I have (again) been failing to write any sort of real blog post, but the Wordles below are revealing of things that I have been writing and thinking about outside of the blog.

Current Draft of MA Thesis

Wordle: MA Thesis Landscape and Western Films

English 101 Syllabus

Wordle: ENG 101 Syllabus

Teaching Philosophy

Wordle: Teaching Philosophy

Resume and Cover Letter for an Academic Advising Position

Wordle: Resume and Cover Letter for Advising Job

My Blog

Wordle: My Blog

I am SOO happy that "interesting" is biggest! :-)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


I feel nostalgic. I guess that I have been feeling this way for a while now, but it really hit me when I was walking home from the grocery store this evening. I have always been fond of the word nostalgia. I like both of its meanings--its literal description of the pain associated with the desire to "return home" and its more typical usage to refer to a sentimental yearning for a return to some idealized past. I think that I feel both of these right now. I do very much wish that I could be home, but I think that my general desire to return to an earlier time is for the exact same reason that I want to hide at my parents' house. At this moment, I crave security because right nowI feel more unsure about things than I have in a long time. Yes, it is likely a result of the approaching graduation date. I will have my MA, and I do not know what I will do. I have been rejected by six of the seven Ph.D. programs that I applied to, and despite the e-mail from the final school letting me know that my application is "ranked highly and pending further consideration," I have no idea what an offer of admission would even mean. I wish that I could return to a point in my life where I felt confident. Surely no time has ever actually existed in my life, as I am an incredibly anxious and insecure person, but from this vantage point, it seems like every other point in my life was marked by some sort of certainty about where I was and what I was doing. And besides missing certainty, I find myself missing things. I am really interested in cataloging things and in making lists recently, and below is a list of things that I miss right now.
  • Having a cat, and I really miss having Ernest
  • My Fall '08, Spring '09, and Fall '09 English 101 Classes
  • Various students from the Winter '09 and Winter '10 classes
  • Interning for English 239
  • Late nights in diners.
  • Riding a 4-wheeler
  • Long drives
  • 2am trips to the grocery store.
  • Picking flats and flats of raspberries and making jam.
  • Listening to the BBC while driving home from my first fast food job.
  • The comp tickets always on the table when my roommate Shayla was active in the local theatre.
  • Singing Cher songs with Brandon
  • The secret certainty I felt about being accepted to a Ph.D. program.
  • Cooking large meals.
  • Lady parties
  • Being an undergraduate.
  • Marcus
  • Having someone to watch TV with.
  • Listening to new music.
  • Reading for pleasure regularly.
  • Going to the movies.
  • Taking photographs.
  • Thunderstorms
Because I have been thinking about the past, memory, and nostalgia, I made a little play list (see below) of songs that deal with those issues in some way. It is not a good mix because the songs don't quite work together, but they have all been floating through my mind, and I guess that is sort of what memory is; it is in many ways the juxtaposition of random bits.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Little Bits.

Every day I pull up my blog and plan on writing
something. Surely there is some topic that I could choose to write about, but every day I give up on the idea after a few minutes. Instead of blogging, I decide that I would rather pull up Netflix Instant Watch and lose myself in old episodes of Law and Order: SVU or 30 Rock. Perhaps blogging seems so difficult because I feel like I am in this weird liminal state and feel less sure of my future plans than I ever have in my life. I will probably post an entire blog about this in the future, but I wanted to mention this in order to acknowledge my lack of blogging.

Today in this early hour of the morning, I have decided that I have to blog something, and I have chosen to steal a form from a fellow blogger (and all-around amazing person and incredible academic mentor). This fellow blogger occasionally posts RBOC (Random Bullets of Crap) on her blog, and I think that they are incredibly successful for her, and I am hoping that trying this form will help me get over this bloggers block I have been facing.

So without any further adieu, my list is below.

  • I have been incredibly unhappy with all of my recent purchases (books, food, shoes, clothes, cologne). The only purchased item I have been happy with is the Crest Glide Comfort Plus floss that I bought the other day, and it is amazing.
  • I am so glad that my taxes are done and that I got money back.
  • I am reading a book for pleasure for the first time in several months.
  • I love buying flowers and having them wrapped.
  • I really want to go to the movies, but nothing good is playing.
  • I had three incredible afternoons with friends this week. Both involved wonderful food and conversations. Tomorrow may bring another.
  • I have longed for spring break, but with it here, it is making me go a little stir crazy.
  • I still have yet to touch my syllabus for next quarter.
  • I love writing letters of recommendation.
  • I keep listening to the song below over and over again (thanks, Joy). I know it seems depressing, but I find it oddly comforting. It isn't one of those depressing "Your life sucks" songs. I like that it is observational, and it just really reflects the way that I feel about my life this year.

Friday, February 5, 2010


Yesterday, I reviewed a manuscript for a new first-year composition textbook and reader. Part of the reason for my ability to review the text is that last year I taught from Stuart Greene and April Lidinsky's From Inquiry to Academic Writing: A Text and Reader, a text that the editors and the publisher of this new manuscript see as competition. I thought it would be an interesting opportunity, and the decent honorarium made the opportunity even more appealing. Though after the hours and hours, I am not sure if the $125 was worth it.

Below is an excerpt of one of my answers on the review questionnaire. I was asked to comment on the text's project which was outlined by the prospectus.

What is perhaps most appealing about the prospectus is the text’s emphasis on cross-disciplinary connectedness, on genuine WAC conversations, and on the importance of focusing almost exclusively on academic, scholarly work (which the prospectus argues current WAC texts fail to do). The prospectus emphasizes the importance of argumentative prose, of providing models for students to look to, and of providing contemporary readings to indicate to students that the work they are engaged in is part of ongoing conversations.

These attributes which make the text so compelling also point to the ways I see it as potentially problematic (though these problematics would likely not prevent me from adopting it for my class). In the prospectus’s insistence on seeing cross-discipline connectedness, I worry that it could ignore or gloss over the very important differences and disconnections between writings in separate disciplines. While I definitely understand and appreciate the text’s desire to point out that similar conversations and inquiry projects are being taken on in a variety of disciplinary locations, it is easy (but irresponsible) to erase differences in disciplinary writing. While the text does acknowledge that it will have to address differences, I worry that it will not take into account the ways that very specific disciplinary genre features are indicative of greater epistemological and ontological differences between disciplines. I would encourage the writers to consider some of the recent work done in genre studies that examines the relationships between genre and ways of being and thinking in the world. Writing is always situated rhetorical discourse, and ignoring its situatedness would be irresponsible.

I also remain somewhat dubious about the potential for a course to prepare students to write across the disciplines. No course has the time to allow students practice in writing for all disciplines. Such a goal also assumes that one can forget the situatedness of the particular classroom in which the text is being taught. All courses are situated by the department in which they are housed and by the instructor who is teaching the class. Perhaps more important than that impossible goal of preparing students to write in every disciplinary context is the teaching of ways of recognizing discourse features, to see which disciplines employ particular discourse features, and to allow for a discussion of why particular discourse features are found in given disciplines and why they are absent in others.

I also think that the prospectus’s criticism of textbooks which include sections of writing from outside of the academy seems contradictory to the prospectus’s insistence on the importance of a WAC/WID reader. The prospectus chastises traditional single-discipline (humanities) writing instruction for being too insular and failing to address the ways that similar discussions are going on in other disciplines, but then the prospectus seems very invested in seeing the academy’s insularity. Wouldn’t there be a benefit in showing that conversations occurring in academic spheres are also being explored by the general population, in popular genres? This contradiction in the rationale in the prospectus reveals one of the text’s key weaknesses—its failure to address the ways that new media sources are impacting and changing the ways that academic writing is disseminated, cross-disciplinary work is being facilitated, and the ways that new media is allowing for changes in discourse features.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

On the Loss of a Car.

"Everything in life is somewhere else, and you get there in a car."
- E.B. White

“The car has become a secular sanctuary for the individual, his shrine to himself, his mobile Walden Pond.”
- Edward McDonagh

At approximately 1:35am on Monday, January 4th, 2010, my called stalled in the intersection of Garden and Chestnut. I was on my way to pick up the lovely Caitlin from the airporter, but I never made it there.

After madly turning on my flashers and trying in vain several times to get the car to start, I put it in neutral, got out, and started the very difficult job of pushing my car off of the road, a task made much more difficult by the fact that I was on a slight incline and the car wanted to roll backwards. I called Chris to get Caitlin, called the tow truck, said the word "fuck" an obscene amount of times, and then waited--first alone, then joined by drunk college students, and finally by Chris and Caitlin. Caitlin was amazing enough to stay until the tow arrived and to drive me home.

The potential for car trouble is one of those things that constantly causes me anxiety. I am always convinced that I am a second away from the engine dropping out underneath me or from something bursting into flames. I am assured by friends and by professionals that things like that rarely happen. Apparently other things can happen, though. For instance, on a random early Monday morning, the timing belt could break, likely completely destroying various other components of your engine. Of course, none of this is for certain; there is perhaps a 50% chance that the car is fine, that it has not caused damage in excess of the car's value. The tricky thing is, though, that I would have to pay well over $350 just to find out. It was a difficult decision, but as luck seems to be against me so far in 2010, I decided not to hand over the $350. I made the decision to sell the car to a salvage yard, to say goodbye and take the insultingly small amount of money they offered for the car. I rationalized that I probably would never feel at east driving the car again. Plus, I don't really need a car.

Despite the lack of need, I miss it already. It is incredible how much my worldview had been shaped by the fact that I had a car. There will be no more late night movies, no insane trips to the grocery store to buy the limes that I forgot to put on the shopping list. I wont feel comfortable asking people to go out because I wont want to ask for a ride. I cannot just drive to kill time. Everything changes.

At the conference Joy and I went to at Rice University, Sharon Marcus questioned whether cars are what books were in the 18th and 19th century. Both have been items of cultural capital, both have shown integration into society at the same time that they have provided a sense of autonomy, isolation, and individualism. Both can be thought of as escapes and mergings. It is an interesting question... one that points to the way that objects, that things are related to so many other issues.

It will likely be a while before I get another car, but I am trying to focus on the good things that will come of it. I will save money, be outside more, and I will get to experience the world at a different pace.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Pics and A Playlist for a Decade.

I am obviously intoxicated because I am taking pics of myself.

Some dignity.


Yellow created an amazing and beautiful playlist which she dedicated to this decade. It inspired me to create my own. See below. Yes, I know; hers is better. She is more skilled.