Call for Proposals – Style = Composition

Star Medzerian and I are putting together a collection on style – in the rhetoric and composition sense of the word. Feel free to distribute this CFP to anyone you think might be interested.

Call for Proposals: Style = Composition
Deadline: August 31, 2010

Style has enjoyed a renewed presence and legitimacy in our discipline in recent years, but it remains, to a certain extent, a specialized side interest.

Style = Composition is a collection that aims to promote a style-based pedagogy for composition studies, wherein style is understood to be the core of effective writing instruction, not just a particularly difficult and advanced corner of it. Many writing instructors work with this assumption in their classrooms, but the published work in the field does not always reflect this. As such, the collection intends to provide a home for a set of approaches that both are grounded in theory and that can be applied in writing classrooms, as well as entire departments/programs. In short, the volume seeks to not only argue that we should teach style – this is assumed, if it is synonymous with writing – but also offer a number of practical models for how style (as writing) can be taught.

We invite proposals for this edited collection that share or extend upon this assumption of the centrality of style to writing. Specifically, though, we invite proposals that investigate the following:

· relationships between style and other rhetorical canons (invention, arrangement, memory, delivery)

·  paragraphing, rhythm, and/or rhetorical figures as means of teaching style

·  oral, visual/spatial, and/or digital approaches to style

·  style’s role in administration, curricula, and/or assessment

·  style as a way of understanding careers, disciplines, and/or the public sphere

Send 750-1000-word proposals with brief author bio via email to Star Medzerian ( AND Mike Duncan ( with the subject line “Collection Proposal.” Deadline for proposals is August 31, 2010. Final manuscript length will be approximately 15-30 double-spaced pages.


The TV series Lost is almost over. I’m going to miss my weekly ontological fix, but all things must pass, as George Harrison used to say. I’m also going to expect that its conclusion, coming on May 23rd, will not be very conclusive; if you are also watching the show and are expecting all your questions to be answered, I would start getting used to disappointment, as the Dread Pirate Roberts used to say. Lost has consistently been about never giving its viewers any real answers, and having those viewers come back for more shoddy treatment in the form of more questions. I can’t think of a single Lost episode in the last six years where my net knowledge of what was going on, after subtracting all the outstanding questions, ever increased. Imagine yourself  going to the grocery store with a list, getting 50 items on your list in the cart, and then noticing that 55 more items have suddenly appeared on the list; you will never, ever get out of the store, but that’s ok, because you like eating, and you’re allowed to munch on what you have as you continue to try and complete the list.

Susan Sontag wrote a book or two on the very human nature of collecting things, though she wrote before computer and console gaming perfected collecting and made it insidious. Diablo, World of Warcraft, Pokemon, all shrines to the addictive psychology of collection. Lost has been very good at it, too, though its Ponzi scheme is almost about to end, and millions of viewers will learn that their grocery list will never, ever, be completed.

So, yes, I’m almost positive my most abiding questions about the show’s mythology will not be answered at all. I’m ok with that. I enjoy debating them and watching others debate them more than actually finding anything out. I will probably never know, for example:

  • The nature of Jacob’s powers, especially how he gets on and off the island with such precision
  • Why and how the island is linked to Tunisia
  • Exactly what Widmore has been trying to do since Season 3
  • Why and how Desmond is ‘special’
  • Why and how Walt was ‘special’
  • Even more important, why and how Locke was even more ‘special’
  • Why Jacob chose the people that he did, why the plane as the delivery method, and why the high death count
  • How much Ben really knows about the island – sometimes he knows tons, other times he knows squat
  • Which appearances by the dead were Smokey and which were not
  • Just what Smokey is, anyway – not who, that’s fairly well known, but what (though the who and the what are a bit confused at this point, I’ll admit)
  • What DHARMA was really up to, beyond the obvious electromagnetic meddling
  • Why Kate never quite manages to die even though she’s not a candidate
  • Why Hurley can see dead people but no one else can


Seems like the White House has leaked that Elena Kagan will be the SCOTUS  nominee.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating; this is a bad pick. It’s not Harriet Miers bad – I don’t see the Democrats derailing her, especially after Obama’s health care win – but it’s a definite missed opportunity for Obama to put an unambiguously liberal justice on the court when the Senate is helpless to stop him. I was hoping for Diane Wood. Oh well.

I don’t know what Kagan’s positions are on the vast majority of the Constitution. That’s not good at all.  She also has no trial experience or judicial experience, save her brief time as Solicitor General. That’s also not good at all.

I do know, however, that she has a record of being sympathetic to wanton extensions of executive power, which fits very well with the court’s conservative wing. And that pretty much cuts it; any liberal justice is going to be better than any conservative justice, but the big decisions to come are going to revolve around what our already-jacked-up Presidency is allowed to do. And on those, I can’t see much reason to trust her.

Obit for the world’s meanest cat

I haven’t posted much in the last two weeks because my 8-yr-old cat, Kota, was dying. I took her to the vet and put her down this morning. It was not easy.

Back in mid-April she stopped eating much of anything or doing much besides breathing heavily. Tests were inconclusive. Her breathing got worse and worse, to the point last night that I thought she was going to die on the spot, and I decided that waiting for her to die was crueler than a quick and painless shot. I wish that I had made this decision about a week ago, though, as her last week was not a smooth one. In all likelihood, it was cancer that had gotten into her lungs.

I picked up Kota as a stray in January ’03. She came out of the woods near my father’s property in Arkansas, at about midnight on a very cold night.  She was about a year old, too pretty and well-bred to be a wild stray – in fact I’m pretty sure she was a neighbor’s cat – but she stuck around and I eventually took her to Memphis with me. I named her after what I was looking at when trying to think of a name – my father’s trolling motor, a Minn-Kota.

It is useful to understand that Kota hated everyone in existence besides me. And hate is the right word. Female cats can be like that. I lived alone for five years with her and during that time, her tolerance for other people, including my wife H, remained extremely low. When I moved in with H, she did not change one wit. I could pick her up like a baby,3 but she would give everyone else about ten-fifteen seconds tops before she cut them. There is something to be admired in her persistent hatred of the majority of the universe. If cats formed motorcycle gangs or nihilist societies, she’d be a founding member.  She was perpetually like I was when I was in my mid-twenties – angry at everything.

But when she got sick, she lost almost all of that. She didn’t really have the energy to bite, or scratch, or even glare. When we tried to pill her after her first visit to the doctor, her attempts at biting us were a far cry from the old Kota. All she had energy for was trying to breathe. She was stubborn enough to keep the vet techs from pilling her, though – she couldn’t fight, but she could spit and hide pills with ease.

When I realized that Kota really wasn’t Kota anymore, and that she wasn’t going to get to be Kota anymore, that was when I could make the decision.

I’m sitting now in my study at home, looking at all of the many things in the room that remind me of her. I will have to get rid of most of them or they will drive me crazy.This room had been her sanctuary, because she hated all of our other pets save the parrot, which she tolerated (that is to say, ignored completely) for some strange reason.

The strongest memories of her that I have are all the countless hours that she half-lounged on my right, mouse-holding hand while I’ve sat at this desk, allowing me to simultaneously pet her and use the computer.  For all the hatred she spewed at the rest of the world, she was the warmest, most affectionate cat I’ve encountered.