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CCCC 2004: Review

Review: C 24 "Questioning Author(Ity)" & Vertigo: A First-Timers Experience at the CCCC
Reviewed by: Kristen A.M. Hauck, kah011000@utdallas.edu
Posted on: April 4, 2004

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I am, by nature, a free spirit. I have accustomed myself to plotting my own course, searching for adventure, and risking falling. So when I was allowed the opportunity to attend the Conference on College Composition and Communication, my first conference attendance ever, I thought nothing about embarking on a previously unexplored expedition and seeking new scenery. I looked forward to a completely new and different experience.

And a completely new and different experience I received. I arrived on the evening of March 24th, checked into my hotel, and ventured onto the town. Spending my last four years in the city of Dallas, I was struck by the aesthetically pleasing dimensions of San Antonio. The old mixes with the new in a contra/complimentary manner. It reminds me of William Carlos Williams’ search for beauty in the ever more urban (and industrial) Paterson. Shiny new buildings climb upward, industrial bricks jut in from corners, and in the heart, hidden, the Alamo still stands. The play of architecture echoes the presentations, round-tables, and exhibitions featured at the CCCCs. With sessions on technology in the classroom, “multi-modal” composition, authorship and authority, the landscape of research featured at the CCCCs climbs upward and in all directions. At the same time, the power of Plato, Aristotle, Ramus, Bahktin and so many others are invoked at the center of it all. Such landscapes of architectural design often create a feeling of vertigo.

 I mean this vertigo quite literally. Take for example, the inner architecture of the Hyatt hotel as seen from level B (or is it level A? The number of times I heard such questions uttered, often in the elevator, is innumerable. As scholars and professors we have long since forgotten the anxiety of exams and multiple-choice questions we once faced as students). To the side, glass elevators slide effortless up in down in varying succession; below, a lower vista overlooking yet a lower vista with sets of stairs in diagonal directions (think Escher); and above a seemingly endless expanse of windows stretch. Marking the geometric surfaces and angles are plant and water features, which once again set old and new into relation via artificial and natural. All of these elements combined to create the feeling of groundlessness and flow. As I stood waiting to attend session C.24, “Questioning Authority,” I was overcome with this vertigo.
 
Session C.24 (chaired by Rebecca Moore Howard) exasperated this feeling with a poignant discussion on student writing in relation the “Author/Writer” binary. Justin Bain set the foundation with “Collaborators and Cheaters: Who’s Writing (in) the Center.” In this presentation Bain discussed the placement of students outside of the “Author/Writer” binary and how this placement excludes student writers from otherwise legitimate operations of collaboration and authorial voice. Jonna Gilfus began erecting scaffolding and planks by expounding on contradiction of plagiarism and collaboration in her presentation, “Thieves, Scribes, Apprentices, and Authors: Contradiction Enacted Through Introductory Textbooks.” As she explained, while it is collaboration, summary, and melding of ideas remains legitimate for authors and writers proper, which is a real and necessary part of the composing process, such collaborations remains illegitimate for student writers. Gilfus went on to demonstrate how Rhetorics, in their approach to students, construct the students’ (or readers’) identity, and in doing so, weaved a labyrinth of staircases. Susan Adams complemented the architectural structural space with plant and water features entitled, “The Erotics of Authorship: Writer, Bodies, and the Materiality of Language.” She expounded on the construct of author as a myth propagated through the tradition which relies upon the absence of Eros; that is, the space of author is one of absence and cannot be impeded by the presence of the body (the erotic). Finally, Tracy Hamler Carrick installed elevators and roofing with her comments on reconstructing the space of authorship in her presentation, “Spot Keeps Turning Up: E/quality in Authorships and Pedagogy.” Her discussion centered on the fact that, while we may attempt to erase the concept of author (in order to make space for student writers), we are still contingent upon the tradition.

Like the architecture of the Hyatt Hotel, this session sent me spiraling through a variety of vantage points and in many directions. However, this vertigo does not spin aimlessly as it may appear. The session, like the Hyatt, moves upward and inward to the center, where the Alamo still stands.


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