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December 29, 2006 - 7:51pm


Yesterday I went to the session on Literary Studies in the Public Sphere. For two of the speakers, Amardeep Singh and Michael Bérubé, public meant Bloggic. I felt great personal warmth for Singh when he said that pen names in blogging did not reduce ownership or validity; indeed, he said, a pen name is a system as genuine as a legal name, so “Bitch Ph.D. is the same as Foucault.” That is, there can still be “a commitment to textual authenticity.” (You’d better believe it.)

Bérubé said that academic blogs are valuable because they show what professors and grad students do not only as teachers but also as people with whole lives. The young woman in the seat next to me smiled hugely and squirmed in her chair. Bérubé added, however, that he felt blogging was not a form of publishing (at least not one worthy for the c.v.), but that it was “marginal in the best sense of the word.” (In that case, a blogging adjunct, marginal in two ways, must be great.)

I also went to the poster session on Innovative Uses of Technology in L1 and L2 Writing. Matthew Klauza, from Auburn, showed how he used Mark Twain’s manuscripts on CD in the comp classroom. There are, he said, a thousand changes to the manuscript of Huck Finn, and tracking some of them with students is a good way to model revision, especially for clarity of image, tone, and concision.

I started thinking about innovation by individual teachers, and resistance to it by their departments. I once developed a lower-level lit class that asked students in groups to create casebooks on a text read in class. Included would be their critical essays, annotated bibliographies for print and film resources, and other writing. Then they’d use digital camcorders and editing software to make short films about that text, either updating the original for their own time, or doing an anatomy of it, a la Al Pacino’s Looking for Richard.

The College of Education wanted the course, and was willing to pay the English Department for me to teach a section or two, so they could channel through their students who needed both writing and technology credits. In the end, the English Department declined, based on the idea that video editing is not writing (it is construction of text, and there was plenty of traditional writing to be done). They also foresaw difficulties in finding a place for such a class in the course rubric. Now the Art Department is developing some awfully similar courses.

Anyone else experience resistance to new technologies?


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