I found my way to two panels, plus my own, on Thursday: "Octolog III: the politics of historiography in 2010" and "Autopoetic Processing: An Interactive Performance of Writing and Reading."
As I tweeted at the time, Octolog 3 sounds like something that should involve a cage and Mel Gibson…. this time it's personal. There is something a little odd about an event that seeks to put historiography into question but is continually seeking to restage itself. It's like The Who's third farewell tour or something. As suggested in the title, the panel was politically charged. It was largely organized around protestations over who/what is counted as the history of rhetoric; that is, it was essentially canon-busting in what struck me as a fairly conventional way.
There are two kinds of panels that I have little interest in at Cs. Those that are essentially heroic pedagogy narratives about "what I did in my class last year," and those that argue that you should be doing what I am doing because it is so important. This panel smacked of the latter, which is not to say that I disagree with the panelists. I completely agree with the general argument that there are giant swaths of non-white/male rhetorical practice and theory that can and should be studied as part of our discipline. At the same time, I think it is an error to see the canon of classical rhetoric as a monolithic entity. In my view, anyone who would feel comfortable saying "this is what classical rhetoric tells us" needs to turn in his/her history of rhetoric decoder ring. In saying that, I'm not trying to point the finger at anyone on this panel, though I do think there was some of that kind of rhetorical move here.
On the other hand, I was encouraged by another undercurrent trope among the panelists that focused on the importance of an embodied, material approach to rhetoric. It is in this context that I found Vitanza's response to panelists encouraging, particularly his cautions against chronology It is worthwhile to consider whether outside or other can be written into chronology. More importantly, from my view, there is a question of how the world of objects or things (pushing the panel's call for embodiment further) intersects the organ-izing plane of chronic-logical time.
For me, this issue of things extended into the next panel. I have to say that I thought autopoiesis was the wrong cybernetic model for what they were exploring. Autopoiesis models the self-sustaining cybernetics of an organism or system. Instead, the panel was really focusing more on the mutative potential of exposure and relations of exteriority, which I find more interesting, so I was happy about that. Where the Octolog focused on identity politics, this panel focused on our exposure to technological innovations. Johndan Johnson-Eilola had some interesting things to say about spimes. From his, Anne Wysocki and Marilyn Cooper's presentations, there was certainly a thinking about things.
As I have said, I don't have much interest in calls for others to do what I am doing. However, I do think it is clear to many that rhet/comp has long been mired in subjectivity, discourse, and ideology with no real way out. Maybe embodiment is one way out, a step toward things. Which is not an argument to say that others should study the particular things I study or in the way I study them. But I do think we need some kind of shifting.