As a first-timer at The Conference on College Composition and Communication (Cs for short), I didn’t know what to expect. A lot of people wearing thick, black glasses? Monkeys? What I got was a plethora of free food, plenty of free drinks, and a banquet of delectable conference presentations, including one with a monkey! More on that later.
About the presentations: For me, when attending any conference, I am always afraid of getting stuck in that one presentation with the sad, rambling instructor. And prior to attending Cs, I was warned about the infamous “teacher lore” sessions, where someone says: “Look what I did in my classroom; those kids loved it!” However, I am happy to report that there were very few boring or lore-ish presentations at Cs! In fact, I saw many awesome presentations discussing important questions in rhetoric and composition: Should “composition” be reconfigured more generally as “writing studies?” How can we re-think the physical space of the composition classroom? Should (and how can) social media platforms be used in the classroom? How might attention to different lived experiences of time help us re-think rhetorical criticism? What role does visual rhetoric play in the writing classroom? Fascinating conversations. Good discussions.
Of course, this excellent range of conference presentations was likely a product of the wealth of presentations available. There were, no kidding, 30-40 concurrent sessions every hour or two. The choices were endless! And it is important to note that there were many, many excellent NC State presentations! As a group, the CRDM program certainly made a good impression. What I noticed was how our presentations really tried to bring together writing-as-composing, rhetoric, and new media. I was very proud to be a part of such an awesome group!
But outside of NC State, here’s a list of some of the more memorable presentations that I saw:
Pierre Cyr, Oklahoma City University, OK, “How to Remake the Composition Classroom into a Greek Symposium—And Why You Would Want To”
Megan Trexler, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, “Rhetorical Reflection: Reconceptualizing Reflective Narratives through Sophistic Verbal Techne”
Suzanne Rumsey, Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, “The Rhetoric of Weight Loss and Food Porn: Conflicting Messages of Responsibility”
Joshua Prenosil, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, “An Actor-Network Theory of the Enthymeme”
Scott Campbell, University of Connecticut, West Hartford, “Writing Evidence: Quotation as Object”
Laurie Gries, Syracuse University, NY, “Resuscitating the Temporal in Rhetorical Theory and History: What’s Time Got to Do with It?”
Gage Scott, Florida State University, Tallahassee, “A Method of Non-Linear Dynamics: Tracking Discursive and Material Flows in Post-Katrina Baton Rouge”
Now about that monkey: So, I went to see Peter Elbow discussing “writing and intonation.” His idea was that speaking-out loud (or thinking about how the intonation of the voice can mark clausal segments) might lead students to write in a “natural” voice and then produce a “clear” writing. Some pedagogical problems, from my point of view, overshadowed the presentation; however, to be fair, his idea is still in its infancy, and I’m sure he’ll develop this work more fully over time. But amusingly, Elbow had William Greaves, a linguist working on ape-human discourse, open the show with a discussion of ape intonation as communication. Greaves showed a video of ape (Bonobo) vocalizations. I’m still not sure how the ape video applied to thinking about practices of writing. But you have to love ape videos! Hey, I was excited.
All in all, I learned that going to Cs is great way to be inspired, both as a teacher and a researcher. Even Elbow, in his desire to do something new and incorporate research from other fields, was an inspiration. Being back home now, I’m reviewing my notes. I’ve decided to apply at least one lesson from the conference. I don’t want this information/experience to go to waste.
P.S. The parties at Cs were good too! Here’s the breakdown: Pearson had the party with the best food, Bedford had the most impressive location (Churchill Downs!), and McGraw had the best dance party (although the DJ was questionable). Next year, I hope that Pearson’s party will incorporate live music, Bedford’s party will have better food, and McGraw’s party will not charge for drinks.
~David Gruber, Class of 2008