Thursday, March 17, 2016

New book in the former native speaker's library

Ong, Iok-tek. Taiwan: A History of Agonies. Trans. Shimamura Yasuharu. Ed. Ong Meiri. Taipei: Avanguard, 2015.

I probably won't get around to reading this until summer vacation, but it's high on my list. I found out about its English publication through a book review by Jerome Keating published in the Taipei Times, Feb. 25, 2016. Keating writes,
"Ong’s book is for those researching Taiwanese consciousness post-WWII. What makes it unusual is not just the historical content, much of which can now be found in other contemporary works, but the realization that awareness of Taiwan’s history and identity had reached a state of maturity in Japan by 1964."

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Just found out today that as of the next academic year (2016-2017), I'll be a Senior Lecturer. As I told a colleague, this mainly means I'll have to order a whole new set of business cards....

Well, and the fact that I have a new title. One that sounds kind of cool (if I were in the UK). A couple of years ago I was chatting on Facebook with folks about the term "non-tenure track" and how it defined us in terms of what we aren't. We tossed back and forth some possible alternative titles. I suggested "reader" would be most apropos, considering that reading is most of what I do as a writing instructor...

[Update, 6/2/16: Now they've decided to change our titles from "lecturer" to "teaching professor." So I'll be an Associate Teaching Professor. (Good thing I hadn't already ordered new business cards...)]

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Reminders for myself and for my students

Not sure any of my students read this blog, but anyway...

I am catching up on reading the reflective journals that my 1102 (First-Year Writing for Multilingual Students) students wrote after they finished the "English and Me" assignment. I asked them to think about the process of writing the essay--the challenges they faced, how they dealt with those challenges, and any other points that came up. Many of them mentioned the peer work as being helpful to their writing; they felt that getting responses from their classmates helped them think about how others were reading and interpreting (or misinterpreting) what they wrote. Nothing really earth-shattering here, but those comments and the comments about the value of drafting and revising are always something that I like to see. 

I mention this because I think this process worked well as I was working on the introduction to the new edition of A Pail of Oysters. I sent a rough draft to John Ross and got his feedback on it. Since I had never written an introduction to someone else's book before (and particularly the kinds of introductions you see to older novels), I wasn't sure how to write it. I got good feedback from John on how to revise it, and we went back and forth on it, also bringing in Mark Swofford (another of the co-founders of Camphor Press) later on in the process. In all, I have about 15 different drafts of the introduction from between last September and the end of January 2016. (I should probably tell my students about that!) Not all of the drafts are drastically different from previous ones, but they all reflect reworkings of ideas, sentences, etc. based on the feedback from the readers.

This process (as well as my students' reflections) has reminded me of the need to draft and revise and to get others' eyes on my writing as I'm working on it, rather than thinking that I need to give someone a "perfect" "final" product. It reminds me that while I might take pride in my work, I don't have to be so proud (or perhaps insecure!) that I won't show unfinished work to others.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Upcoming ICRT interview about Vern Sneider

I was interviewed last week for a program on ICRT (International Community Radio Taipei) called "Taiwan Talk." The subject was Vern Sneider and the new edition of A Pail of Oysters. That interview is going to be broadcast tonight at around 7:05 p.m. Eastern Time (about 8:05 a.m. Monday morning Taiwan time) and again at 5:05 a.m. Monday morning Eastern Time (about 6:05 p.m. Monday evening Taiwan time). You can listen to it live by going to ICRT's website and clicking on the link to the live stream. There'll be a longer podcast that will be available later at this link [Update: it's now available at that link.]

I'm not a great interviewee (haven't been interviewed that much, so I don't have a lot of practice), but Keith Menconi, the interviewer, did a good job trying to make me feel at ease, and I hope he'll do just as good a job at editing out my hedging, hesitations, and hemming and hawing! We'll know in a couple of hours...

Friday, March 04, 2016

Another old conference paper posted online

This paper, entitled "The Location of Chinese Culture: The Rhetoric of Chineseness in Post-World War Two Taiwan" (I really hate my titles--I should just drop them and use the subtitles), was presented in July of 2005 at the International Society for the History of Rhetoric. I didn't try to publish it, but I did use most of it in a background chapter of my dissertation (which is really why I wrote it in the first place). Here's the abstract:
The vast majority of English-language resources on contemporary Chinese rhetoric locate their object of study in the geopolitical space of the People’s Republic of China. Such a perspective risks ignoring an important aspect of Chinese rhetoric--what I call “the rhetoric of Chineseness.” This term refers to the rhetorical nature of identifying as Chinese in a variety of historical, social, political, and other circumstances. It suggests that fundamental to the notion of a Chinese rhetoric is the need to understand the shifting nature of the signifier “Chinese.” Without a more complex understanding of “Chinese,” we lose the ability to see contemporary Chinese rhetorics as multifaceted discourses that are embedded in various political and social contexts.

Particular to my purposes here are the ways in which Chineseness was called upon by political and intellectual figures in Taiwan in the formation of a cultural and national identity that was used for a variety of purposes related to the making of Republic of China citizens on Taiwan after World War II. I will describe how, after the Japanese surrender, the incoming Nationalist (KMT) government positioned itself as the representative of Chinese culture and nationhood. Political discourse in martial law Taiwan (1947-1987) involved the invention of particular cultural and political understandings of “Chinese” in order to encourage the people of Taiwan to think of themselves as part of a once-and-future Republic of China, a nation which saw itself as the rightful government of China although it had lost control over the physical space of China. Through civic and language education, the government of the ROC on Taiwan attempted to indoctrinate its people into a view of themselves as Chinese citizens and “compatriots” to their suffering brethren on the mainland.

This study will, it is hoped, complicate the notions of “Chinese” that are often unexamined when scholars analyze “Chinese rhetoric.”
As with the other conference paper I posted a few days ago, there are things that I like about this paper--particularly some of the writings that I dug up in the Tunghai University library by former Minister of Education (and founder of Chinese Culture University) Zhang Qiyun (張其昀) and Liang Rongruo (梁容若), professor of Chinese and co-editor of the Guoyu Ribao (國語日報). But one thing I always found myself worrying about when working with such primary sources in Chinese was the question of how influential these writings were, or even how influential their writers were. It's not always easy to tell this when you're working with older sources in your own language, to say nothing of working with historical documents in another language. I wonder how people deal with this. I think the writers I cite here were somewhat influential at the time, but I sort of found that after the fact. (I also have to admit that I don't remember how I managed to come across these texts. I have a feeling it was serendipitous, though.)

Anyway, enjoy! (Or don't...)

Thursday, March 03, 2016


Judging from the picture, though, I seem happy about it...
There's a certain irony to the fact that at the end of the week that I decide writing for academic audiences is no longer my main interest, tells me that I'm now in the top 5% of researchers on their site.

[Update, 6/3/16: Well, it was fun while it lasted...]