I was searching for "Richards and Speculative Instruments" last night, and as is the case with many of my searches, I ended up on Derek Mueller's blog. After reading the Richards entry, I visited the blog's home page and saw a call for a CCC carnival about Karen Kopelson's "Sp(l)itting Image; or, Back to the Future of (Rhetoric and?) Composition" 59.4 (2008): 750-80. Here's my contribution.
I'm going to start with the conclusion: it is time for rhetoric and composition to get past its identity crisis and get on with doing its work (inelegant paraphrase--sorry) (775). Agreed. As a graduate student and early in my career, I was more interested in theory talk and history, which undoubtedly had something to do with me trying to find my place in the field, and I did try to contribute to these identity debates, but I am now trying to move on. But let me tell you, its hard ; ) I am trying to finish up a project that I now recognize is still caught up in identity crisis issues to a certain extent, but once I finish that, I think I will be able to move on and focus on literacy research for the global village.
But even that project, I suspect, will be caught up in identity issues. My department chair might ask me, "were you hired to do research on literacy acquisition in Sudan?" and I'd have to say "no," or redefine my identity in such a way that I can say "yes." My dean might say, "what does this documentary you have contributed to have to do with English?" I might find myself at a conference trying to convince colleagues that they ought to reconsider their identity, that they might want to begin to see themselves as global literacy researchers. And when I send an article to CCC, the readers might ask, "what does this have to do with teaching writing?" Maybe Kopelson's article will convinced reviewers to not ask that question so often. Hhmm, I think I am digressing.
Let me get back on track: Am I going to get into a scholarly battle about theory and practice again? I hope not, because I do agree with Kopelson that there are "more innovative and far-reaching [I would add "pressing"] forms of knowledge [I would add issues]" that I can address. But why is it hard to get out of those debates? Here is a possible McLuhanesque answer: More than other fields, WE are the content of our discipline. When we write about theory, practice, and the classroom, we are writing about ourselves (our processes). In the electric age, post-objectivist age, we have become more comfortable with "re-search" as "I-search" or "Mystory." Maybe my point the last two paragraphs is that even as we get on with new / different / innovative / pressing research, we aren't likely to escape identity debates and crises. And maybe we will be a "better" discipline for it--I'm always struck by the lack of self-reflexivity in other disciplines.
I had some other ideas, but I seem to have spun myself around this one issue. I think I will sit back and see where the carnival goes.