The fact that articles like this don’t refer to Nancy Reagan as an activist is how well conservatives have fooled everyone into thinking that what they do isn’t radical or activism.
Certainly, not all students wear these moral blinders. But the fact* that many students do, and that they are at some of the nation’s leading colleges and universities, should be a cause for profound concern across higher education.
-Ezekiel J. Emanuel “Hamas and the Moral Deficiencies of a Liberal Education – The New York Times“
*Where is that fact located, Professor? Could you cite your sources? Let’s keep focusing on the plight of liberal education by shaming 34 Harvard students for exercising their right to free speech. Would the good professor like to address food insecurity on campuses? How about other universities are slashing major parts of that “liberal education” he is crying about? I think the Vice Provost (again, what even is that job?) wanted to be mad at the Harvard students, but gets to yell about it in The New York Fucking Times.
We have left these students a world on the brink of death, destruction, and despair.
We have all failed them and they are letting us know.
While I was transcribing my notebook today, I came across this paragraph I wrote about the first chapter of Richard Miller’s Writing at the End of the World:
Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club is discussed in detail and while I’m pleased we found the time to discuss a female writer, I’m saddened that her story has to be about hope generated through the expression of her psychological and physical trauma and that her contribution is about forgiveness. Thank goodness for the lady nurturers. “It might seem that by organizing these readings in this way, I’ve been building up to a spirited defense of the social and therapeutic value of writing one’s memoirs” (24). Reader, he is not. Amis, Krakauer, Descartes all new that writing could exemplify, amplify their anxieties: “extend one’s sense of despair and one’s sense of superiority” (24) but they lacked the knowledge that Karr had, that writing could generate hope and forgiveness and an understanding of one’s own past and path. Miller forgets to point out that men often have the space, time, leisure to amplify their pain because the women compromise, cajole, and cooperate. Karr finds hope and optimism because she is not allowed the space to brood and sulk in the literary world. Her pain isn’t vented through literary doppelgangers or shooting sprees—it burns until it’s contained and only valued when her trauma is transformed into that most useful of all stolen artifacts—hope.
An open letter to NPR:
Why purposefully use “teenager” in this headline to describe the adult male pleading guilty? His attack was racially motivated and since we have a long history of “aging up “ Black people in our media to make them seem more threatening, this is a bad editorial choice.
“Man pleads guilty to killing ten Black workers and shopper in Buffalo.”
There. You don’t even have to put “white” before his name if it makes you uncomfortable, because we know. Of course, we know.
Stewart, Sophia. “Beware the ‘Storification’ of the Internet.” The Atlantic, 17 Nov. 2022.
I really appreciated Sophia Stewart’s review of Peter Brook’s Seduced by Story: The Use and Abuse of Narrative, as it’s probably a book I would pick up and read as supplementary to my exam readings in rhetoric. I especially appreciated the shortcomings she outlined and wanted to share my own thoughts on her review. I am thinking of making this a regular thing.
Also, I think anyone doing rhetorical commentary has to do more than mention the Internet. It is the driver of discourse in a number of ways, particularly in what media outlets choose to cover. The average person may not be on Twitter or TikTok, but they’ll hear/read about it over their morning coffee.
"There is a growing trend in American culture of what the literary theorist Peter Brooks calls “storification.” Since the turn of the millennium, he argues in his new book, Seduced by Story: The Use and Abuse of Narrative, we’ve relied too heavily on storytelling conventions to understand the world around us, which has resulted in a “narrative takeover of reality” that affects nearly every form of communication—including the way doctors interact with patients, how financial reports are written, and the branding that corporations use to present themselves to consumers. Meanwhile, other modes of expression, interpretation, and comprehension, such as analysis and argument, have fallen to the wayside."
On the surface, what Brooks seems to be asserting is bull. All things are stories. The things listed here are parts of narratives and this is just some tiresome way of saying personal ≠ rational.
"The danger of this arises when the public fails to understand that many of these stories are constructed through deliberate choices and omissions."
So, like, what the humanities provide? The thing we’re defunding?
"In other words, we could all benefit from a lesson in close reading and a dose of skepticism."
Interpretation is deliberate choices and omissions!
"In times of turmoil, we search most desperately for the familiar hallmarks of storytelling: clearly defined heroes and villains, motives, and stakes."
This will never really change, it is part of the human existence. What we have to do is not rely on a single story – but a breadth of voices to give a full picture.
"His sole mentions of the internet—vague acknowledgments that “Twitter and the meme dominate the presentation of reality” and that ours is an “era of fake news and Facebook”—fail to grasp that on the internet especially, more attentive, analytical reading is essential."
His observation is based on the story of the Internet woven by outdated media institutions.
"But it also provides language for hard-to-articulate feelings: In another video, a forlorn teen stares into the camera above the text, 'i know i’m a side character, i have no purpose except to sit and wait for my next scene.'"
People who have grown up in front of the DVD player, with videos streaming on tablets at their youngest age, whose adolescence is framed through a Snapchat filter will invariably describe their lives in the vocabulary of the mediums they use. Every generation does this.
"As narrators of our own lives, Brooks writes, 'we must recognize the inadequacy of our narratives to solve our own and [others’] problems.' Pulling from Freudian psychoanalysis, Brooks concludes that telling stories should be a tool we use to understand ourselves better rather than a goal in and of itself."
Adriana Cavarero talks about how we are not the ultimate authors of our lives, it’s those we know who tell our “true” story – I am slowly becoming convinced of the realness of this message (though I am resistant.) The Internet accelerates the dispersion of our story, but ultimately is not the final editor. Our stories are told over and over, in various way, through various mediums and with various intent.
"Although Brooks briefly worries about 'inflated claims about [narrative’s] capacity to solve all personal and social issues' in the first chapter, it never comes up again in the many rich and rigorous close readings that follow."
Sometimes narrative’s role is just to show that those personal and social issues exist.
Perhaps I should have organized this as more of a narrative, but I labeled this as an annotation so there wouldn’t be an expectation of me spinning a story.
This is my illustration of the rhetorical situation, sort of. Think of it as a biblically accurate angel with less surety. All the stick figures are the same person, just at different moments. That’s the cardboard tube of genre in the middle. It has form but easily bendable. Yes. Ok.
This was also posted on Facebook.