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CCCC 2002 in Review: Street Wise: How to Attend

After at least five years of attending 4Cs, I think that I'm finally beginning to pick up on "how to attend" the Cs. At my first 4Cs in 1997, in Phoenix, I was the wide-eyed neophyte. The first two days I went to every session during the day, and then some time around 4 p.m. on the second day it happened.

I was in the middle of a theoretically oriented presentation when my ability to listen, focus and make sense of anything academic stopped. All I began to hear was, "Blah, blah, blah, blah, Bakhtin. Blah, blah, blah, blah, discourse communities. Blah, blah, blah, blah, essentialism." The whole moment was as real as Miss Othmier of Peanuts fame having been demonically possessed by Lester Faigley, and I was some poor green priest sent into do his first exorcism. Immediately at the end of the panel, I bolted for the open area outside of the Phoenix Convention Center, found the nearest friend, and headed off to start a night of long island ice-tea drinking. (By the way, I only waited until the end of panel to go because I didn't know you could come and go during presentations, nor had I figured it out after two days of conference attendance-I'm a slow but polite boy.)

Before I go any further, I want to say that my point here isn't that the panel I saw sucked; in fact, I remember that it was pretty interesting up until my brain turned off and my need for refreshment and a familiar face kicked in. However, this moment is really tied to a larger point that I want to make about 4Cs conference attendance.

It was in this moment that I began to form, unconsciously at the time and consciously now, a tripartite approach to conference attendance. What I mean by this is that during each conference I attend, be it the 4Cs or the Connecticut Education Association Conference in my home state, I try to see three sorts of panels-in addition to drinking beer, catching up with friends, and trying to find a good breakfast place, I see panels composed of friends, panels that call to me, and panels composed of the stars of our shared field. Included in this review are two fairly complete reviews of two panels that do indeed cover my three conference categories. (I'll spare you the late night visits to bars and the math that makes my categories and reviews add up.) [CD]

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