Reflections on Co-composing with a Five-Year Old

My son is a reluctant reader. At five years old, I’m not overly concerned about this fact – yet. He sees his father reading and writing regularly, and his mom, well… I am a writing studies scholar, so it’s fair to say that he sees that I am surrounded by words most of my waking time. We read multiple books at bedtime each night, and his “library” takes over a good corner of our living room. But the fact that he eschews learning to put letters and sounds together to form words has not escaped my attention. Continue reading

Personal Commentary: On the 2016 US Presidential Election

Thirteen days after the announcement of the 2016 election results, it’s very clear that the United States has entered into a new paradigm. While racism, sexism, etc. has always been an issue in this country, the prevailing political rhetoric seems to have now normalized open, public discrimination and derogatory speech. As a citizen, this has been disheartening and frightening to watch unfold. As an educator and rhetorician, it’s been fascinating. Continue reading

A Case for the Experimental

In a Harper’s Magazine article, author Ben Marcus rages against the judges of the National Book Award in fiction, saying their quick dismissal of low-selling works is “a clear announcement that the value system for literature [is] tweaked to favor not people who actually read a lot of books but a borderline reader…who might read only one or two books in a year.”[1]  Marcus’ argument is based on a premise that contemporary readers are not interested in being mentally challenged, and that the publishing elite cater to this by marginalizing economically any writer “interested in the possibilities of language…[who] appreciate artistic achievements of others but still dream for [them]selves …[and believe] that new arrangements are possible…new connections of language that might set off a series of delicious mental explosions.”[2] From his article, the reader can obtain three certain “Marcus Truths:” language that challenges the brain is not only fun, but healthy; artists who experiment with language and form push literature forward; and this progression is a good thing.[3]  I’ll add to those truths that experimental writing also fills a niche that other forms do not. It provides inspiration to authors and readers alike, enriches the database of forms and gives new life to the literary world. Continue reading

Moving Into the Center: Can Digital Humanities Find Credence in Other Disciplines?

It was late 2004 and I was sitting in The Tam, a dive bar on Tremont Street in Boston, talking with a group of literary friends. There may or may not have been trivia involved. The subject of our conversation was the state of publishing and what it meant for new authors; for authors of color, for authors who focused on women’s issues, for those who were women, for authors writing about the LGBTQ community. We were authors ourselves, regularly sending out manuscripts to literary journals all over the country and, just as regularly, receiving the two-sentence rejections (if we received anything at all). It seemed that print journals were publishing less, were closing down, were opting to print those authors who would draw a crowd. They weren’t interested in taking a chance on a newbie. And it seemed the same was true for the book industry, as well.

What was to befall authors like us? Continue reading

Navigating the Labyrinth: Network Mapping with Gephi

Exactly 8 months ago, I was sitting in an office with my boss, the Dean of Academic Research at a CUNY institution, looking at a network map. We were both in awe. The College’s librarian had provided us with two PDFs — one with a white background, one with a black — of the same dataset that had been mapped in vivid colors, swirling lines, and weighted names. The dataset was a list of faculty members and how frequently their work had been cited by other scholars. It was gorgeous. Exciting (we considered using it for a project book-cover). And it meant nothing. Continue reading