Rhetoric CFPs & TOCs

Rhetoric CFPs & TOCs
Photo: Kristoffer Trolle (creative commons)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

“Literacy, Democracy, and Fake News”

We are delighted to announce the publication of “Literacy, Democracy, and Fake News,” a special issue of Literacy in Composition Studies, now live at www.licsjournal.org. This issue features the following pieces:

  • “Introduction to Special Issue on Literacy, Democracy, and Fake News: Making it Right in the Era of Fast and Slow Literacies” by Thomas P. Miller and Adele Leon

  • “Navigating a Varied Landscape: Literacy and Credibility of Networked Information” by Jacob W. Craig

  • “How Automated Writing Systems Affect the Circulation of Political Information Online” by Timothy Laquintano and Annette Vee

  • “‘Globalist Scumbags’: Composition’s Global Turn in a Time of Fake News, Globalist Conspiracy, and Nationalist Literacy” by Christopher Minnix

  • “Toward a Theory and Pedagogy of Rhetorical Vulnerability” by David Riche

Also included is the symposium essay “Literacy and Rhetoric as Complementary Keywords” by Ben Wetherbee and a review of Katrina M. Powell’s Identity and Power in Narratives of Displacement by Tabetha Adkins.

LiCS is an open-access online scholarly journal--please share this timely issue with your colleagues and networks. We welcome queries at licsjournal@gmail.com.

We hope you enjoy the read!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Thinking through Pop Lit: "Staked"

I bought a stack of "Urban Fantasy" and "Paranormal Romance" books, books with a romance angle and a science fiction skin.  I've been reading them in the sauna;  as I finish, they fall apart.  It's not a loss.

Reading them has been instructive.  I tend to imagine literacy is a solution for all problems, that if only people read more, problems would diminish.

Reading genre fiction reminds me that that's not the case.

J.F. Lewis' Staked [author's website here] is an example of why it might be better not to read -- the narrative might only exacerbate our social problems.

The general narrative of the book is that the vampire protagonist, Eric, is being double-crossed into a conflict with werewolves so that the ensuing war makes it possible for a third party to buy property from the werewolves dirt cheap.  A significant subplot is that Eric must deal with romantic and familiar relationships that are clearly outside his depth.

Embedded in this plot are a slew of lessons about human relationships that are counterproductive, at least to me.

Lessons about Men
The central character and narrator for more than half of the book is Eric, a vampire who owns a strip club.  One of the central dimensions of Eric is his ignorance of the history that has brought him into the world:
  • Eric does not know his biological, human genetic connection to a nineteenth-century creator of a revolver that kills werewolves.  Eric does not know his connection to the nineteenth century.
  • Eric does not know who his "sire" was -- the vampire who made him a vampire.  Eric does not know the source of his power and privilege.
  • Eric does not know, as the book starts, why he is killing a werewolf in an alley.  He's blacked out.  He doesn't understand his violent present.
In short, Eric is the twenty-first century white male.  He doesn't understand his history, his power and privilege, or his violence.

Lessons about Male to Male Relationships [Friendships]
The thrust of the novel is that Eric's best friend since WWII, before he was turned, has betrayed him.  Male relationships are agonistic [Phillip keeps a competitor on a pike in his apartments].  Even Talbot, Eric's companion, sleeps with his girlfriend, Tabitha, with a competitive snarl.  No male relationship is loyal, genuine, or emotionally intimate.

Lessons about Women
In a way that is almost cliche, Eric has four women in his life.  It takes four women to provide the infrastructure to support the protagonist the emotional cripple.

  • Marilyn:  his first wife, now in her eighties, who refused to let him "turn" her into a vampire.  She looks after him, she cleans up his messes [in the club, with young women, when his violence draws attention to him].  She is, for all intents and purposes, his mom.  In the novel, he breaks his arm.  
  • Tabitha: his current girlfriend, the one who wants him to commit romantically.  She believes that if he will turn her, he will commit to her.  But the more she clamors for commitment, the more he will push her away.
  • Rachel:  his current girlfriend's sister, a witch, who wants him sexually without commitment.  
  • Greta:  his daughter, whom he turned when she turned twenty-one, who overeats as a vampire and is described in excessively sexual terms for a daughter.  
Maternal care, romantic love, sexual desire, and a daughter whose adulthood is marked by being turned into a vampire, a sexual act in many ways, by her father.  It takes four women to prop up the violent male, prone to blackouts and detachment from his emotions.

Lessons about Female to Male Relationships [Romance]
So, if you want to remain true to yourself [like Marilyn, who refuses to let Eric turn her into a vampire], you end up alone, disconnected from the love of your life.  If you want to become like your lover, in the hopes that becoming one with them will win commitment, you will end up alone [Tabitha].  If you offer yourself sexually without commitment, you will get sex without commitment [Rachel].  And the daughter -- she is his dependent, his property to offer as a hostage when he needs a hostage to be taken by his enemies so that they will trust him [Greta].  There is no whole relationship between men and women in this novel.

None of my reading is particularly sophisticated.  No fancy theories here:  just recognizing that a man reading this book will feel justified in being emotionally disconnected, a woman will feel like it's her job to prop him up, and no one will ever be whole.

On "Public" in Speech at UW Madison