Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Dartmouth Summer Seminar

So ... this time I am truly back -- promise!  Without a doubt, I have been struggling with the very word and concept that makes up the title of this blog -- my dissertation!  So let me be 100% clear about my goal -- I will be finished with the bulk of this sucker by December.  The end.

So now the big question, of course, is how do I get there?  Well, I took a big step the last few days.  At this moment, I am sitting in a quiet room at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH.  Yep, "that" Dartmouth! A few months back I applied for the Composition and Rhetoric Summer Seminar (held here since, as most Comp/Rhet folks know, one of the pivotal moments in the history of our discipline happened right here in 1966: The infamous Dartmouth Seminar!).  Anyway -- this seminar is set up to help researchers in the field get their "stuff" (whatever that might be -- in my case, a dissertation!) published/ completed.  The cool part of this whole experience (besides the cool "being at Dartmouth" factor) is the opportunity to network with some pretty cool colleagues and famous folks in our field (Charles Bazerman, Christiane Donahue, Chris Anson, Les Perlman, Cheryl Geisler, etc).  Oh -- and lots of time to work on our projects (of which, by the way, we have to give a public presentation of next Friday, the last day of the two week seminar!).  Today is the second day of the seminar and I have already gotten a huge dose of  "what is research anyway" and lots of into on literature reviews (a key component of almost any research project).

I am not staying in the dorm like my other 21 colleagues but, instead, living out at a cabin on an organic farm about 35 miles from Hanover.  The cons?  I don't get the chance to hang out with my new friends here but .... I am managing to use my down time (as limited as it is) to completely focus on my dissertation (and writing).  Jim is playing the role of the house husband (cleaner and chef) and my job is to just write and study.  At this point, I am imagining that Jim thinks this is going to be a long two weeks but ... we will just have to wait and see what happens!  Unfortunately, our rental does not have the promised wi-fi so Jim is pretty cut off from "civilization" and to make things worse, we get no phone service out in the woods!

A huge part of being diligent in getting the dissertastion done is going to be this blog, this artifact that will detail the "blood, sweat, and tears" of the most important six months of my life.

So day one and two:  This image shows the visual work I did in session this morning to clarify exactly what represents the "beating heart" of my study.  As you can see from this image, I am talking about the "exchange" (not the "debate") between Maxine Hairston and James Berlin.  Though I sort of knew this "fact" about my research, I think I needed this "friendly reminder" of what it is that I am trying to do:

As you can see, Hairston and Berlin represent the center.  The "exchange" that they had about the theory of what a composition class should "be like/ look like" serves as the center point of talking about (1) using themes in FYC, (2) using race as a theme of FYC, and (3) the presence of politics in FYC.  The picture above shows some of my most important reference works/ articles and how they "fit" into this puzzle that I have created.

So that was a big step for me, mostly on an emotional level.  This (see above) is what I want to do.  I think what I am trying to say is that the Hairston/ Berlin exchange serves as the point at which my study/ dissertation is the emperical "test" of what these two folks were arguing about.  So what happens when you place politics/ race/ social concerns as the center point/ organizing feature of a typical first-year writing class?  My data -- I think -- will show one possibility.

Well, I need to get going now -- on to a Library Tour -- but I warning any readers that I might have that this blog is about to get all dissertat-y!  I hope some of you will stick around for the ride!


  1. Thanks Laurie! It is so good to hear from you! I hope you are enjoying the time with the grandbaby! :D