Thursday, January 24, 2008

So I'm trying not to be bitter

About trying to get essays ready for submission. You see, I have this old essay from a couple of years ago that I like. It is about the ideology of teaching--particularly in relation to the pedagogical claims made by Civil War reenactors. One of the things that they say, as they are talking about the places that they are standing and the materials they are holding, is that they are trying to teach history right. And a lot of them are pretty good teachers (just fyi, never get into an argument about historical details from the Civil War with a reenactor. You will lose).

That being said, there are myriad problems with the "truths" they claim to express--ranging from method to performance to subject to style... So, anyway, I want to send this essay somewhere, but I can't until I make the citations right. Because I don't want to look like some turnip-truck escapee who doesn't know the difference between Chicago and MLA. Although, if you really want to know, um, I don't the know the difference between Chicago and MLA.

So, as I struggle with re-formatting and relocating commas and citing sources in the correct manner, I am trying not to be that guy in Office Space who obsesses over the stapler. And I am having trouble with it, I"m not gonna lie. Because, while it is super-important that we give credit where credit is due and appropriately reference the sources of good ideas and smart theory... it is hard not to get lost in the stupid little details of where commas are supposed to be places and whether or not the author's name comes before the date and whether or not we're supposed to put Ibid or something else Latinate and abbreviated.

And, so, in honor of these formal lamentations--which are not new and I am certain are not going to go away--here's a yummy quotation from one of my favorites: Phil Wander's "The Third Persona: An Ideological Turn in Rhetorical Theory."

“What do we have to show for our faith in method? In rhetorical studies, in communication research, and in various other fields, the result has been work which speaks only to the professional concerns of technically trained scholars. Techne has become an end in itself. It is no longer related to a product. McGee’s argument here, and it is an important one, is not that we have been cursed with bad criticism, or that rhetorical studies has become too specialized, or that the field has not yet matured, or that we need a more 'holistic' approach. It is that what is now called “criticism” is the result of an established order willing to tolerate work which is morally, socially, and politically meaningless so long as it reproduces forms associated with technical reason. It is the product of a system which asks not why is this subject important, what does it add to human knowledge, or what is its emancipatory potential, but committed to technocractic solutions, what is the ‘text’ or object of research, what have other researchers said about it, and, above all, what method or methods are going to be employed?” (from "Contemporary Theory: A Reader" 364)

I know he's not talking about parenthetical documentation, per se. But it still makes me feel a little bit better.

1 comment:

Nuge said...

I think the first line/question of the quotation is something we should ask ourselves in every discipline.