Monday, October 09, 2006

You know you are writing a paper when . . .

it's 12:58 am and you are typing in your blog. That means a) you can't sleep because your brain is on fire, and b) you don't really want to write, because you'd rather be sleeping, so you blog instead.

Doc and I are messing with the classical trivium and trying to apply it to new media. I was actually dozing when I got hit by the so what, but I am not sure I caught it in my haze. I was working on this earlier in the evening, and it does seem like a number of people have identified various educational tensions, but they always identify those tensions in twos: rhetoric and philosophy (fish), orators and philosophers (kimball), rhetoric and poetics (Berlin), but the trivium suggests 3 ways of dicing and slicing research, teaching, and curriculums: grammar (now literature, linguistics, even history), rhetoric (still pretty much rhetoric), and dialectics (philosophy).

McLuhan often ends up blending rhetoric and grammar, and he more or less suggested in his diss that grammar (the collecting, sorting, categorizing, and interpreting of texts, including the book of nature) is necessary to support both rhetoric (eloquent wisdom) and dialectic (the pursuit of truth). Maybe what struck me as I was trying to fall asleep was that grammar (in the classical senses) has indeed been under attack in two ways that we need to articulate in this article:

1. the dialecticians pick away at the limitation of grammatical categories and labels, and
2. the rhetoricians of the 20th century teach their subject (our subject, my subject) as if we don't need all that wisdom, all those texts. We teach writing without Literature, and we teach "new media" without giving ourselves (in some cases) and our students a grounding / history / sense of the scope of new media.

We rhetoricians need the grammarians, and, despite what McLuhan thinks, we need the dialecticians. Or we need to be able to play all three in our classrooms and in our curriculums.

On a metanote, writing in a blog, ten minutes a day (as metaphor, not literal), is liberating. I have been grinding and hacking away at that essay when I can over the weekend, but the writing is slow and difficult when done within the essay as a whole. I came to the nice open space of the blog, and the dialogue box was mine to fill-up. This essay started with a blog note, developed through other notes, and will undoubtedly need get stretched out via blogging along the way.


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