Saturday, February 27, 2016

New edition of A Pail of Oysters out

I mentioned in a recent comment to a previous post on A Pail of Oysters that a new edition would be coming out soon. It's out now in e-book format, published by Camphor Press. I had the honor of writing the introduction, based on archival research and an interview with Vern Sneider's widow.

The Taipei Times has also published an article on the new edition. I was interviewed for that (through email), as was Mark Swofford, one of the co-founders of Camphor Press. I liked the following quote from Swofford:
“It’s a very complex novel, [written] when many people thought it was just the communists versus the KMT,” he says. “It was more of a middle way sort of thing; from the standpoint of the Taiwanese people.”
 If you don't like e-books, it'll be coming out later on in print. I'll update this at that time.

Friday, February 26, 2016

An old conference paper, "The French Invention of Chinese Rhetoric?" posted online

I uploaded to a copy of a paper that I presented back in February of 2004 (wow--that actually predates this blog!). The title is "The French Invention of Chinese Rhetoric?" but it probably should be "The Jesuit Invention of Chinese Rhetoric?" (But "French" sounded better because of the contrasting nationalities thing...) Here's the abstract:
In the thirty years since the publication of Robert T. Oliver’s Communication and Culture in Ancient India and China, Chinese rhetoric has slowly gained recognition as a legitimate area of research in communication studies. This study has begun, however, with characterizations of Chinese discourse in terms of what it is said to lack in comparison to the West. Oliver’s book, for instance, begins by stressing India and China’s lack of political, legal, religious, or educational platforms for oratory. It famously continues that for these countries “rhetoric has been considered so important that it could not be separated from the remainder of human knowledge” (10). George Kennedy, in his 1998 book Comparative Rhetoric, even implies that Chinese rhetoric as a scholarly discipline was invented by French Jesuits.
This paper argues that if Chinese rhetoric was, as Oliver and Kennedy suggest, first theorized by the West, then it was also theorized for the West. Furthermore, European theories of rhetoric were changing even as Jesuit descriptions of Chinese rhetoric were circulating around Europe. Whether Chinese rhetoric as a discipline was invented by the Jesuits or not, contemporary Western studies of Chinese rhetoric have failed to examine the complex relations between “our” notions of Chinese rhetoric and the particular seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European contexts in which those notions were rooted. Absent this examination, Chinese rhetorical theory is inevitably cast as being in some sense outside of time and “behind” that of the West.
Works Cited
Kennedy, George A. Comparative Rhetoric: An Historical and Cross-Cultural Introduction. New York: Oxford UP, 1998.
Oliver, Robert T. Communication and Culture in Ancient India and China. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse UP, 1971.
I think the paper makes an interesting argument about cross-cultural studies of rhetoric, though similar arguments have probably been made elsewhere since then by others who are more active in comparative rhetoric than I am anymore.

Anyway, I thought I'd post the paper online after I noticed that it was cited in Li Yuxue's (李奭學) book, 中國晚明與歐洲文學. I guess Li must have come across the CD-ROM on which the papers from the conference were saved. (Everyone attending that 2004 Conference on East-West Identities at Hong Kong Baptist University got a CD-ROM with the papers on it.) I don't think I'm going to be doing any revising with it at this point; that phase of my life has pretty much passed. But I enjoyed rereading my paper (am I allowed to say that?) and I hope others will get something out of it, too.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Back to teaching first-year writing after a long break

Before this semester, the last time I taught a section of first-year writing was in the summer of 2014 (hmmm... not that long ago...). I'm doing some things this semester that are similar to the projects we did back then, but I've made some changes due to some interesting developments at Northeastern (more on that, perhaps, in another post).

I should mention that I primarily teach multilingual students (mostly international students), so the activities that we do in class are primarily focused on their experiences as multilingual (and possibly international) students. I take some of my rationale for this focus from Ilona Leki's 2007 book, Undergraduates in a Second Language: Challenges and Complexities of Academic Literacy Development (I've written a brief review about this book). Leki argues that L2 writing classes "can be used to make space and time for students to explore the world into which they have stepped by, for example, examining and making a start at responding to the literacy demands across the curriculum" (284). She also recommends that L2 writing teachers give students an opportunity to address the challenges they face as L2 students, such as when their cultures are "essentialized by professors" or when they are "not selected for group work." Leki suggests that
[u]sing their developing L2 literacy skills as tools to work toward analyzing such situations, including their hidden ideological dimensions, and developing possible solutions communally not only honors their intellect and experience but also might make L2 writing classes be remembered for more than only the use of the comma. (285)
So we start off introducing ourselves to each other by writing my old standby, "English and Me," in which they describe experiences that exemplify important aspects of their relationship to English. I should mention that "English and Me" often grows into something more than just "English and Me"--for one thing, students' English learning doesn't take place in a vacuum, so often their discussions of their learning experiences encompass such things as educational cultures; family relationships; politics; first (and second and sometimes third) languages in addition to English; culture shock; and emotions like frustration, loneliness, feelings of accomplishment, and pride. I see this essay as not only a way for me to get to know them, but also as a way for them to reflect on what has ultimately brought them here as part of the flow of "transnational citizens" back and forth across borders.

In the second project, we'll be working on defining the concept "international students," which should be interesting... More on that later.