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CCCC 2006 in Review

M22 The Centrality of Orality: The Conference Paper as a Site of Mediation for Scholarship, Teaching, and Public Performance

I went to this session on Saturday at the very last time slot, and it was the best panel I went to during the entire CCCC, and in many years of CCCCs, for that matter. Kate Ronald, Hepzibah Rozkelly, and Meredith Love were presenting, and their topic was the CCCC conference paper, with each suggesting a different purpose and different format and different way of marking the program for conference papers.

Kate Ronald, "Speaking/Teaching: The Conference Paper as Pedagogy"

Ronald argued that the interactions we typically have at our institutions constitute "teaching" where we interact with the audience, teach a lesson/have a goal, don't really let people walk in and out of the room so randomly as they do at CCCC sessions now, and really teach our presentation to the audience, call on the members of the audience, and truly engage them as we do with our students. This makes total sense to me, and she presented it as animatedly and engagingly as she would do in a classroom where she is the teacher. It was a presentation that was alive and involved people.

Meredith Love, "Speaking/Acting: The Conference Paper as Performance"

Love asserted that some presentations are acting stints, a true performance that involve the body, the gestures, the voice modulations that go along with a good performance which are accompanied by the strong emotion that actors can show. Again, hers was a performance that was alive and involved the audience. Love kept us interested, entertained, and enacted the message she was conveying. It was wonderful.

Hephzibath Roskelly, "Speaking/Attending: The Conference Paper as Rhetoric"

Roskelly proposed that instead of having people read papers, as if the audience is hardly even present (and let's admit it, some presentations are simply deadly), and instead of having them have to give a performance, that some people's presentations should be devoted to treating the text as a text, rather than pretending a text is a performance when it isn't, really. Treating the text as a text would mean that perhaps the presenter would "give" the paper by reading the paper to the audience, with the idea that it is a text, a paper in the draft stage, and maybe even copy the paper for the audience with the idea that the writer would like feedback from the audience for improving the paper as a future publication to help the writer more fully form the ideas by their questions. Roskelly suggested giving the paper to the audience in outline format for feedback on its structure or feedback in other ways, and treating the paper as a paper. The last part of her presentation called for a "modest proposal," as she put it, but I think it is an absolutely fabulous idea—to have us mark our presentations as we're sending them in as to which type of these three (or other) presentations we would be doing: a performance, a pedagogical type of presentation in which we would treat the audience as students, or as a text-based presentation during which we might discuss the paper's problems, read the paper to the audience for their feedback for future publication, or in some other way seek feedback from our peers. This way, we could know whether presenters would be giving a paper, delivering a performance, or teaching a lesson, and conversely, whether we would be critiquing a paper, watching a performance, or learning a lesson. This would make us better rhetoricians at least and give us a better experience at CCCC. I wish you all could have been there—it was a great idea. All three speakers were wonderful-lively, entertaining, interesting, and totally engaging.

— Wendy W. Austin

CCCC ConventionFor more information on the CCCC 2006 conference,
visit the NCTE Web site at http://www.ncte.org/profdev/conv/cccc/.