The UW-L English Department's first colloquium presentation of the Spring 2017 Semester is from 2:30-3:30 p.m. on Friday, February 24. Dr. Chris McCracken will present "Tinkering Things Together: Rhetoric and Mess Management in Community Ecology":
The discipline of community ecology offers an interesting case study for scholars in rhetoric of science because, as some prominent community ecologists have readily admitted, their field can seem like a mess. They seek integrated approaches to large problems, but find their efforts impeded at various turns. They seek systematic approaches to their objects of inquiry only to have their objects quickly expand beyond a reasonable scope. What keeps getting in their way? How do they work around obstructions? How can they rein in their objects? How, in other words, do they manage their mess? Annemarie Mol and other philosophers of science have argued that this kind of mess management involves a great deal of “tinkering”—with definitions, numbers, images, and materials—spurred by moments of uncertainty. Dr. McCracken presentation relates Mol’s work and recent rhetoric of science scholarship to community ecology that we read about in the literature and community ecology that we see in the lab and the field. He examines how community ecologists have tinkered through uncertainty in the past, and he demonstrates how such tinkering continues to drive community ecology in the present. Ultimately, he asks what the case of community ecology might teach us in rhetoric and writing studies about managing our own disciplinary messes.
The UW-L English Department's last colloquium presentation of the Fall 2016 Semester is from 2:30-3:30 p.m. on Friday Dec 9. Dr. Kimberly DeFazio will present "'The World without Us': Melancholia, Posthumanism and the Erasure of Class":
Whether depicted as hurricanes, species extinction, factory farming, economic crisis, terrorism, or extra-terrestrial invasion – the catastrophic event now figures prominently in a wide range of culture and cultural theory. In her paper, English Department faculty member Dr. Kimberly DeFazio addresses the way posthumanist theory in particular has come to treat catastrophes as events beyond reason, as signs of the fundamental crisis of human rationality and the danger of conceptual knowledge. To develop her analysis, she focuses on Lars von Trier’s film Melancholia and Percy Shelley’s poem “The Triumph of Life” and how they are interpreted by such posthumanist writers as Alain Badiou, Steven Shaviro and Paul de Man, for whom envisioning what Eugene Thacker calls “the world-without-us” (In the Dust of this Planet) is the basis of a new planetary ethics. While such readings aim to challenge instrumentalism and to highlight the need for new ecological thinking in a global world, the cultural turn toward posthumanism, the paper proposes, not only makes it impossible to understand the material causes of disasters, it also erases the social structures of daily life that privilege the lives of the few over the lives of the many.
Dr. Haixia Lan's Aristotle and Confucius on Rhetoric and Truth: The Form and the Way argues that different cultures can coexist better today if we focus not only on what separates them but also on what connects them. To do so, Dr, Lan discusses how both Aristotle and Confucius see rhetoric as a mode of thinking that is indispensable to the human understanding of the truths of things or dao-the-way, or, how both see the human understanding of the truths of things or dao-the-way as necessarily communal, open-ended, and discursive. Based on this similarity, Dr. Lan aims to develop a more nuanced understanding of differences to help foster better cross-cultural communication. In making the argument, she critically examines two stereotyped views: that Aristotle’s concept of essence or truth is too static to be relevant to the rhetorical focus on the realm of human affairs and that Confucius’ concept of dao-the-way is too decentered to be compatible with the inferential/discursive thinking. In addition, Dr. Lan relies primarily on the interpretations of the Analects by two 20th-century Chinese Confucians to supplement the over-reliance on renderings of the Analects in recent comparative rhetorical scholarship. The book shows that we need an in-depth understanding of both the other and the self to comprehend the relation between the two.
Drs. Carlton Clark and Lei Zhang will present “Grass Mud Horse: Luhmannian Systems Theory and Internet Censorship in China” from 2:30-3:30, Friday Nov. 18 in Wimberly 112. Chinese President Xi Jinping has intensified state media censorship and public relations campaigns. Drawing on social systems theory as articulated by Niklas Luhmann and others, they will argue that these enhanced information-control efforts reflect the increasing systemic complexity of Chinese journalism, which is part of a global journalism system. They classify global journalism as a function system within global society on the same level as law, politics, the economy, science, education, medicine religion, and art. This theoretical move takes the focus away from human and organizational actors and puts it on the mechanisms by which global journalism resists political control and achieves its own system autonomy.
UW-L English Department's William J. Hyde and Yvonne Hyde Colloquium Series 2016-2017
TEACHING “A LESSON”: Integrating the 2017 Big Read Into Your Class An English Department Workshop
Instructors interested in incorporating this year’s La Crosse Reads selection into their Spring class (or in learning more about the Read) should plan to attend this informal workshop. Copies of the book will be available in limited supply.
In the UW-L English Department's first colloquium presentation of the 2016-2017 academic year, Dr. Natalie Eschenbaum will present "Playing with Sensation in A Midsummer Night's Dream." In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the characters, whether human or faerie, attempt to distinguish their realities from their imaginations by using their physical senses. Of course, in the topsy-turvy world of Athens’ forest, the characters’ senses are disconnected from reason, and nothing actually is what it looks, sounds, smells, tastes, or feels like. In this paper, Dr. Eschenbaum is particularly interested in Bottom, a figure both animal and human, and his ability to see through his current reality, and to reconnect sense with reason. To inform her readings of Shakespearean sensation, Dr. Eschenbaum examines a few early modern tracts that describe the senses that are most closely linked with human reason. Stephen Gosson, for instance, in his anti-theatricals, argues that one of the problems with theatre is that it is digested with hearing, and thus affects both the stomach and reason. Shakespeare’s Bottom, somewhat ironically, helps us to make sense of the most human of the early modern sensations, as they are described by characters, experienced by playgoers, and understood by readers. The presentation runs from 2:30-3:30 p.m. on Friday, September 23, in 112 Wimberly Hall. The event is free and open to the public. To arrange for disability accommodations, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 785-8295.
Although modernism has traditionally been considered an art of cities, Ecocriticism in the Modernist Imagination claims a significant role for modernist texts in shaping environmental consciousness. Analyzing both canonical and lesser-known works of three key figures - E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, and W. H. Auden - Sultzbach suggests how the signal techniques of modernism encourage readers to become more responsive to the animate world and non-human minds. Understanding the way these writers represent nature's agency becomes central to interpreting the power dynamics of empire and gender, as well as experiments with language and creativity. The book acknowledges the longer pastoral tradition in literature, but also introduces readers to the newly expanding field of ecocriticism, including philosophies of embodiment and matter, queer ecocriticism, and animal studies. What emerges is a picture of green modernism that reifies our burgeoning awareness of what it means to be human within a larger living community.
The contemporary has marked itself off from modernity by questioning its humanism that centers the world around the human as the moral subject of free will and self-determination, the bearer of universal essence that is the basis of human rights. Modernism normalizes humanism through language as referential, a set of interrelated signs that correspond to the empirical reality outside it. Humanist modernity, in other words, is seen in the contemporary as a regime that, by separating the human from the non-human and insisting on language as correspondence, not only fails to engage the emerging forms of social relations in which the boundaries of human and machine are fading but is also indifferent to the difference between the “other”’s life and other lives. Human, All Too (Post)Human: The Humanities after Humanism argues that the Nietzschean tendencies that provide the philosophical boundaries of post-humanism do not undo humanism but reform it, constructing a parallel discourse that saves humanism from itself.
Grounded in materialist analysis of social life, Human, All Too (Post)Human argues that humanism and post-humanism are cultural discourses that normalize different stages of capitalism—analog and digital capitalism. They are different orders of property relations. The question, the writers argue, is not humanism or post-humanism, namely cultural representations, but the material relations of production that are centered on wage labor. Language, free will, or human rights are not the issues since “Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development conditioned thereby.” The question that shapes all questions, in Human, All Too (Post)Human is freedom from (wage) labor.
A grant from the National Endowment of the Arts will support a community-wide conversation about the Ernest J. Gaines novel “A Lesson Before Dying” during the coming school year.
The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse English Department received a $14,000 Big Read grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. It will be used to bring nationally recognized speakers to La Crosse and generate community-wide conversations around the book.
“We want it to be a community, grass-roots read,” said assistant professor Kate Parker, one of the grant’s co-authors. She hopes up to 3,000 area readers take part.
Partners in the project include the La Crosse Public Library; libraries at UW-L, Viterbo University and Western Technical College; area schools; and several local businesses and nonprofit organizations.
UW-L is one of only 77 organizations nationwide that received grants totaling more than $1 million for Big Read projects running September 2016 June 2017. The goal of Big Reads, according to the NEH, is “to broaden our understanding of our world, our communities and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book.”
Another grant co-author, assistant professor of English Bryan Kopp, expects the Big Read to build community. “Slowing down and reading a book is a great way to connect with one another,” he said.
Community events planned for the Big Read include a kick-off event featuring Sister Helen Prejean, a social justice activist featured in the film “Dead Man Walking.” Other workshops and speaker presentations will be held this winter. Smaller groups will be encouraged to hold their own events while reading the book.
Parker, Kopp and the third grant co-writer, assistant professor of English Heidi Jones, worked with the public library to select the book from a list of 38 titles. “A Lesson Before Dying,” Gaines’ eighth novel, published in 1993, is a story about a young teacher pairing up with an uneducated young adult after he is wrongfully convicted of robbery and murder and sentenced to death in a small, fictional Cajun town.
“This is a book that invites us to think in unexpected ways about pressing social issues,” Parker said.
The faculty authors say there will be more formal and informal opportunities for students interested in promoting literacy — or just reading a good book — to become involved throughout the year. A full schedule of Big Read events will be announced in fall.