Tagged: fosterwallace

Article Round-up: The End of the Tour

It will come as a complete surprise that I am super pumped about The End of the Tour.   I’ve yet to see the movie (it has a delayed release in Austin) but have read some pretty stellar writing about the movie, so I thought I’d collect it.  I strongly disagree with some of the opinions presented in these links, but they all have their place.

Edit: Additions.

Further Edit: Self-promotion.


With summer drawing to a close, it’s time to get back into the mindset of school and projects and whatnot.  I’ll be graduating next May, assuming I can complete a THESIS.  As such, I’d like to do a little description as to what I have planned so far, but first I wanted to get some meta-blog stuff (or blog meta-stuff?) off my mind.

I’ve been hesitant to update my blog lately because the subject constraints I’ve laid out for myself here are based on the confluence of gifted education and my academic subject matter, Rhetoric and Composition, along with the idea that connects them: storytelling as persuasion/informer.  However, over the summer, I’ve strayed quite a bit in my work and interests, and I wasn’t sure if I should write about that or not.  I think, given the fact that most readers come here not because of the subject matter but because of their social (media or otherwise) connection to me, that it would be fine, but we’ll see how the future goes.  Lots of people say the biggest pitfall for a new blogger is to jump around in topics.  Although, it’s definitely possible my recent work projects are connected slightly more than tangentially.  For one, I’ve been wanting to talk a lot about Infinite Jest, which I just finished, and which might be the greatest book I’ve ever read.  There’s a lot of “gifted” youth content in that book, and I think there’s room for a discussion there.  Additionally, I’ve been writing and thinking a lot about the South, for several reasons.  I’ve been semi-obsessed with genealogy in the past year, and am writing a good deal about it, both in terms of legacy, family connections, and the impact of the neo-digital world on what the aforementioned things will look like going forward.  I spent some time this summer taking pictures of graveyards in Kentucky.  I also played the new indie video game Kentucky Route Zero and am pitching an article on it to a few places (it’s a great storytelling experience, very southern-inspired, and not at all like a typical video game).  There’s storytelling and rhetoric and composition all over the place, really, now that I’m sounding it out.  Maybe I had no reason to be scared?  A handful of possible topics:  Video games as a composed text, and separation of storytelling-experience-based games like Kentucky Route Zero from the typical video game text.  Kentucky Route Zero as a simultaneous narrative/counternarrative about the Southern experience.  Storytelling as part of genealogy, and the relationship between the two (check out the argument on Wikipedia about whether genealogy and family history are the same thing, for more on that).  The rhetoric of legacy, in terms of previous/old-fashioned memorials and digital/future memorials.

SO, maybe more on that later?

Back to my thesis.  As this blog shows, I’m interested in the power of narrative, whether personal or otherwise, within argument/persuasion.  As someone in the academic+composition world, I know that this is a popular topic for discussion.  Lots of scholars argue that students should be allowed to use their own experience in academic papers (despite lots of professors still insisting on “No first person!”).  In addition, there are a good deal of scholarly texts that include personal experience, including Victor Villanueva’s Bootstraps and Joseph Trimmer’s collection Narration as Knowledge which were assigned in one of my classes last semester, but even more iconic omni-discipline texts like Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera use authorial experience to make their case.  So, given this scholarly atmosphere where we approve of and supposedly encourage this implementation of personal narrative as rhetoric, the question my thesis asks is whether this approval/expectation carries over to “novice” writers, specifically those sitting in a freshman-level composition class.  I’ll do this by conducting a small experiment looking at the reactions of freshman composition instructors to texts which use personal experience versus those which do not.  Don’t worry – I have no intention of making an argument one way or another as to how we should value personal experience in relation to “academic research.”  Instead, I’ll allude vaguely to it and let my reader project themselves onto the page.

Outside content:  A few things.  Below is a track listing for a mix CD I made entitled Home(Sick) which grew out of my mind being so focused around home/the South lately.  In addition, here are a few YouTube videos with music from Kentucky Route Zero:  1, 2.  Compare them with their more “traditional” counterparts: 1, 2.


1. Long Journey Home – The Bedquilt Ramblers
2. God’s Country – Ani Difranco
3. Feather Lungs – Laura Gibson
4. Classic Cars – Bright Eyes
5. Paradise – John Prine
6. Fire It Up – Modest Mouse
7. Drifting – Pearl JAm
8. Whiskey in My Whiskey – The Felice Brothers
9. Merry Go ‘Round – Kacey Musgraves
10. Laundry Room – The Avett Brothers
11. Rockin’ Chair – The Band
12. Dear Believer – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
13. History of Lovers – Iron & Wine w/ Calexico
14. Giving Up – Ingrid Michaelson
15. To Just Grow Away – The Tallest Man On Earth
16. I Can’t Take It – Tegan & Sara
17. Mother, I’m Here – Darren Korb
18. 24 Hours A Day – Todd Snider
19. Sunday Morning Sidewalk – Johnny Cash

On Sincerity and Authenticity

Last night in my Composition Pedagogy class we covered expressivist and rhetorical pedagogies.  I know, I know, try to contain your excitement.  Anyway, I was in charge of teaching the rhetorical section, and like many English majors in their late twenties, I am slightly obsessed with David Foster Wallace.  Because of this, I used his 2005 Kenyon Commencement speech, commonly titled “This is Water“, as part of my lesson.  My logic was that speeches are often analyzed in composition classes for their rhetorical content (Identify the Ethos, Logos, and Pathos that Martin Luther King Jr. uses in his “I Have a Dream Speech”, etc.), and that Foster Wallace often makes arguments about the rhetorical presentation/nature of writing (“Tense Present“) and other cultural phenomena (“E Unibus Pluram“).

I expected part of the class to not like it.  It’s a long speech, and we could only listen to the first 1/4 of it.  Much like his writing, some of the speech feels overwrought to the point of being tedious (which is the same thing that makes most of his fiction and some of his essays out of reach of my enjoyment).  However, I didn’t expect the majority of the class to disagree with both his content and his style, which is what happened.

Some context:  We spent the first half of the class discussing expressivist pedagogy, which came to power in the 1960s.  If composition itself is traditionally concerned with the writer, the reader, the text, and the reality/truth, expressivists are the ones who put the writer at the top of the chain.  Practices like freewriting or trying to find an “authentic” voice are closely associated with this theory.  In class, we spent a lot of time discussing what having an authentic voice meant, and whether or not it was the same as sincerity.  The general tone of the class agreed with the postmodern idea that there’s no such thing as having one voice, that we are comprised of many voices.

Now, when you start talking about David Foster Wallace, discussing whether his voice is authentic or sincere leads to some complex stuff.  On one hand, the man wrote frequently against the overuse of irony that permeates modern American culture and told Charlie Rose that his pushing the boundaries of text with his signature injections of footnotes are an attempt to portray the convoluted reality of thoughts.  On the other hand, it’s been reported that he made up pieces of his supposedly nonfiction essays to dramatize the story.  Now, whether or not that makes him inauthentic, insincere, or whatever negative adjective you choose to use is up for an engaging debate.

However, in class last night I was disappointed to hear those critical of his commencement address refer to it as being overly ironic, and even “hipster” (a reference to their interpretation that part of the style of the speech was an attempt to seem cool).  The biggest contributor to this attitude were the instances in the beginning of the address where he acknowledges the expectations (mostly negative) of what a commencement speech entails and then proceeds to work within those expectations while simultaneously seeming to mock them.  And, I think, interpreting that action as an attempt at irony is not illogical.  What I would argue, though, is that by acknowledging the social/cultural expectations and boundaries that he and the event are subject to, and then working within them, he is not being ironic.  In fact, I would argue he is being more authentic by making his audience cognizant of these factors.

But, I don’t know.  How do we walk the line between authentic, self-aware, and likable/readable in our writing?  Is there a point to looking for a voice, authentic or not, in your writing?

Your external content of the day looks at adding a new voice, literally, to poems.  Motionpoems takes poetry and adds video/audio to them.  Having met a couple of the poets who received the treatment, the dissonance between the voice used in the video and their real voice is highly entertaining.