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Music: Marconi Union: 13 (2009)
I’ve been whipped up in so much traveling, work, and car repair that I’ve hardly had the time to blog, and somewhere in the middle I forgot to post about my summer travels. As some of you know, I was invited to speak with my brethren of Enlightenment Lodge in Colorado, Springs. They flew me out and put me up in a nice hotel overlooking Pike’s Peak (that’s my hotel window to the left). Colorado Springs was b-yew-tee-full! The weather was dry and a comfortable 75 degrees the whole time!
I spoke in the lodge about the significance of orality to Masonic ritual, but was really blown away by the way these brothers ran their ceremony (candlelight, meditation, and other elements that are more typical of “traditional observance” lodges). After the meeting, we retired to the basement for an “agape” or, as we say in Austin, a festive board—lots of toasts and intellectual discussion. The food was marvelous. Finally, I was treated to a mighty fine cigar at a “hidden” speakeasy bar. The whole visit was wonderful!
After my Masonic moment in Colorado Springs, I hiked it up to Boulder and environs, where I visited with Brian and Amy, the first couple I ever married as a minister in the Universal Life faith. Last I saw them, they lived in Baton Rouge—so it’s been four years. In that time, they moved to Colorado and had a baby, the adorable Hayden who, I confess, I fell in love with (Uncle Josh had a lot of fun playing with Hayden’s toys, too). Readers may remember Hayden from her precious Elvis wig glamour shot over the holidaze. Anyhoo, I had a marvelous time catching up with them, and also found some time to hang out with some peeps from Colorado State and the University of Colorado, and had a moment to reunite with my grad schoolmate Chani.
After Boulder, I met up with my University of Denver buddy Bernadette, and then it was home. But not long, ’cause I turned around and flew to Hotlanta to visit with friends at Georgia State and the University of Georgia, as well as a new colleague from the University of Memphis and my friend Chris Lundberg (we had a “reading group” meeting on Lacan and rhetoric). After pow-wowing with genius, I met-up with fellow former Louisianans Roger, Wendy, Gretchen, and Mindy! I also got to visit with my folks (this is mom to the right) and see my granny, who’s in a home.
So, with all these lovely people I got a real love-bombing. That’s why it’s sometimes hard to get all this affection and friendship and then come back home to triple temps and . . . work. And work I must. So, enjoy some photos (galleries here, here, and here!).
Music: A&E Channel’s Obsessions
“He’s going to die. But I can’t make him do it, I can’t get him to do anything. He just sits in that chair and watches television. His life is television. Josh, he’s not going to be around much longer if he keeps goin’ like this.”
“He’s depressed, and until you address his depression, he’s not going to be motivated to do anything.”
“But he’s already on Paxil!”
“Well, it’s obvious it’s not working. He has all the textbook, I mean, he has all the classic symptoms: self-isolating; lack of interest in things he is usually interested in—“
“He doesn’t bathe, I can’t get him to wash his hair.”
“It cycles on itself. I mean, I’ve dated depression—a lot. I know it when I smell it. He’s depressed. Clinically.”
“Well, what do I do?”
“Call his doctor yourself, tell him about your concerns, describe the symptoms. I know we can’t get him to therapy, but we can at least get some of the chemical causes under control.”
[tap tap tap; I roll down car window]
“Scuze me, but you just scared the hay-yell out of my mother in law. She was walking the dog and—“
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare anyone, I’m just working.”
“What are you doing?”
“I’m just working, I’m answering email. I’m staying with my folks for the weekend, and they don’t have Internet access.”
“So you’re using mine?”
“I don’t know sir. Someone has a very strong signal here, and they didn’t password protect it. I can even pick it up in my folks house, just very weakly.”
“Who are your parents?”
[I told him their names; he didn’t know them]
“Alrigh’, then. I just wanted to know what the hay-yell were doin’ out here.”
“Please apologize to your mother-in-law for me.”
[waving to car pulling out just as I lifted my car hood]
“Wait wait! [more waving; she stops; she rolls down her window two inches] I’m sorry to trouble you ma’am, are you in a hurry?”
“I no speak English.”
[pointing to my lifted car hood, jumper cables dangling from it; I make the “electrocuting car” gesture]
“I don’t have cables.”
“No, I have cables [I point to the cables dangling from my car hood]”
“Sorry, I can’t help you.” [she drives off]
Music: Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works, Volume Two (1994)
Every now and then I entreat lurking Rosechron readers to come out of the e-closet and announce their identities. I’ve met some scholarly friends this way over the years. I’m also just curious to know who is stopping by. I have a stat counter that can tell me ISP identities, but this is not necessarily a good measure of who is reading: a have a buddy in the Carolina’s whose ISP comes up Minneapolis.
The readership of Rosechron is modest: in the summer, this blog averages about 40-80 discrete visitors a day (weekends 40, weekdays 80). During the normal academic year, readership is about 100 to 150 a day, unless I post something about forensics/debate, in which case readership bumps up to 400 or more.
I’m just curious, perhaps a little narcissistic: who are the bulk of you? I know my buddies read regularly, but I’m curious about the strangers who visit: are you academics? In grad school? Fellow academics? Come out! Come out! What are your names, what do you do? Do you have a blog of your own?
Music: Marconi Union 13 (2009)
This academic year I have not been terribly “productive,” or at least by my usual standards. In part, this is because of the new preps I had and my many travels. It also has something to do with my focus on textbook writing (which is not “counted” by my place of employment as work—only peer reviewed stuff “counts”). And as it turns out, I shall lose my summer “writing months” to preparing a tenure packet, the minutiae of which is just overwhelming (good lord the paperwork!). And, since I’m leaving town here in a couple of weeks, I figured I better sit down and pump something out or I’ll have nothing “in the pipeline” for post-promotion evaluation. If I ever want to get a raise for promotion, or post-promotion, peer-reviewed puppies must manifest.
But heck, I also enjoy writing and I have a couple of projects I’d like to bang out this summer. One is a generic criticism of The Passion of the Christ. The other project is to finish-up my draft of “On Speech and Public Release,” a talk I gave last fall that I’m trying to turn into an article. I’m happy to report I just now finished drafting the latter. Woo-hoo. It took me three straight days to do—and I had to skip July 4th festivities last evening, but dang it, it’s done. I do feel accomplished having got this down on paper—with 150 endnotes, to boot. It’s well-researched, if I do say so.
(I am sometimes annoyed by work in my field’s journals, which is under-researched, lacking in notes and appropriate shout-outs.)
So, I’m coming off a binger. The essay is not ready to send out, but at least it’s all out, on paper. I am now printing out the 45 page whopper. I shall soon make me a boulevardier beverage, and commence editing with a red pen as I sip my victory drink.
Tomorrow: car repairs, class prep, and figuring out how to fill out all these tenure forms and formats. For now, however, I go a-gloating. Here’s a teaser conclusion:
III. CONCLUDING REMARKS: ESCAPE FROM TEXT MOUNTAIN
Expression is the expression of affect, of the passion at the origin of language, of a speech that was first substituted for song, marked by tone and force. . . . The force of expression amounts only to vocalic sounds, when the subject is there in person to utter his passion. When the subject is no longer there, force, intonation, and accent are lost in the concept.
–Jacques Derrida (1967)
In what is perhaps his most important work, Of Grammatology, Derrida concludes with a critique of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s views on the inferiority or writing to speech. Like the philosophers of antiquity, Rousseau believed speech was superior to writing because it more readily made present the thought and feelings of a speaker to listeners. Derrida undermines this popular speech sentiment by arguing both writing and speech are posterior to language (or the symbolic), and consequently speech is merely another from of inscription. Privileging speech derives from the “metaphysics of presence,” and more specifically the article of faith that something outside of language-some transcendental signified-guarantees meaning. Derrida argued that speech presences a subject no more readily or realistically than does writing.
Be that as it may, with recourse to the theoretical literature in public feelings, psychoanalysis, and elocution, in this essay I have argued that speech has what we might call “presence effects.” I suggested that such effects are affective and sexual in character, and that the felt presence of speech—real or illusory, it does not matter—continues to challenge any tidy public/private distinction. Rather, an attention to the presence of speech—particularly speech that violates or transgresses some norm—helps us to see better how the public/private distinction is in crisis and continually born anew. In this respect, Clinton’s “misty moment” in the recent presidential campaign marked a new intimate form of publicity-a newly permissible form of public feeling.
I also argued that in our culture we learn at a very young age to distinguish between masculine and feminine voices, the former paired with reason and control, the latter with emotion and the body. Because the way in which the misogynistic norms of speech are heard and felt, not merely thought, I argued that an attention to vocal tones and uncontrolled speech can help critics to discern their cultural labor. Alternately put, my point here is that tone is essentially pointless, but it is not normless; assuredly, for example, on the spoken side of language tone is gendered. As the cultural reception of female grunting demonstrates, aggressive tones are less permitted in the female voice than they are in the male voice. Studying the cultural norms of uncontrolled speech provides us with a renewed way to reckon with the sexual dynamics of contemporary public address, perhaps even a sort of renewed elocutionary approach to sexuality and citizenship in the postmodern republic.
In advocating an attention to the norms of uncontrolled speech or to the limits of emotive permissibility, I mean to pose an alternative to what I would term the monstrosity of textualism, or if you prefer, the august mountain of “Text.” As Dilip Gaonkar once wrote, the enigmatic arrival of the oratorical text was announced at the first meeting of the bi-annual Public Address Conference, then known as “The Wisconsin Symposium on Public Address: Case Studies in Political Rhetoric.” The text “arrived” at the very same moment that the field formerly known as Speech Communication was killing off speech and administering its last rites.iv For some of us, “text” replaced the oratorical object, while it sent others packing for the Hills of Foucault and critical rhetoric. Yet the arrival of the text was also the arrival of a certain sort of violence-the violence of deconstruction and poststructuralism. As the subsequent controversy over the text has demonstrated, text poses a kind of antidiscipliary violence; its domain is seemingly boundless. On the other hand, text is given over to the signifier. Text speaks only to the subject of the signifier, and in so doing, overlooks precisely that dimension of oratory that excited our forbears in the early twentieth century. Sadly, the arrival of the text was the death knell for oratory. It is as if oratory has rolled under the couch, dragging the forgotten canon of delivery with it. To recover and expand on rhetorical institutional traditions, I argue along with Frank E.X. Dance for a return to the object of speech and the sound of voice. In concert with Debra Hawhee and others, I commend the cartography of the body’s rhetorical dimensions. To these voices I add a call to the study of public feelings. Focusing on the body in feeling and speech as its symptom, I am arguing for a renewed focus on the canon of delivery.
Let us take the field of political science as a warning: as a number those who work in the area of political communication would recognize, few of our colleagues in political science can account for emotion and feeling. By moving toward the subject of the signifier in pursuit of demonstrable and quantifiable knowledge, the so-called rational choice model achieved hegemony. Such a model is useless for explaining the love of and for a leader. In the field formerly known as speech communication, we already have a rich and complicated body of theory at our disposal for a vocabulary, and we have other domains of theory, such as psychoanalysis, and colleagues in cognate subfields, such as performance studies, to help us renew an attention to speech.
If the oratory of our contemporary election cycle teaches us anything, it is that the measure of eloquence is not so much the choice of words, but in delivery, in how those words are carried aloft by modulations in tone that tease the auditor with the safe threat of involuntary speech. The eloquent orator is the one who conveys a longing that does not collapse into moaning, who ignites excitement and passion without resorting to the barbaric yawp. Or, taking the Dean Scream as our normative limit, eloquent is she who hints at the unspoken and uncontrolled. Eloquent is she who projects animus and amity but without the grunt or the cry. Eloquent is she who bodies forth feeling to the limits of linguistic control. And eloquent is she who demonstrates the fullness of human being and becoming, of feeling and of saying, in speech.