Progress on My Social History of Rhetorics Project

In thinking of how to organize my social history of rhetoric project, I have been tinkering with the idea of collage.  Beam essentially rewrites history through collage and montage of seemingly unrelated icons, indices, and symbols.  These techniques allow him to construct history in a nonlinear fashion–an important move for Beam since his work, in part, is intended to disrupt master narratives based on linear ways of viewing the world.  As he writes in speaking about the American Indian perspective, “We have the collage aspect to looking at life, which we could call cyclical—with no single viewpoint predominating.”  The Renaissance linear way of looking “depicted reality within a scientific viewpoint; there was a science to looking and reality….[Y]ou can look at things from more than one point of view and not be threatened.” This point in his work is provocative to me and reminds me of Vitanza’s work in the Octalog in which he argues that rather than try to create a better world through the work of historiography (as Robert Conners proposes), scholars ought to be looking for ways to deconstruct homogeneous methodologies of inquiry and production of texts. Collage as a method of producing texts is being used more and more in the academy under the guise of multi-modal writing.  I played with this genre in my seminar paper in my visual culture course last semester, mostly because I find it to be a creative and stimulating outlet.  (For those of you who don’t know, I am a creative writer at heart.  Short stories.)  Beam and Vitanza, however, have really made me rethink the political value of multimodal historiography.   It seems to me that a multimodal social history of Beam’s rhetorical art would be a means to present his work rather than represent it. It would be a means to talk beside Beam rather than for him.  It would be a way for his art and his words to speak for themselves as well as a means for the scholars I will draw on to speak for themselves.  A multimodal social history, in other words, is a way to write history in ways that honor the rhetorical voice, to whom I want scholars in our field to listen. For my first draft then, I am thinking of trying to create the draft in multimodal form to see what everyone thinks.   Any thoughts????  



Filed under cultural rhetorics exam, historiography exam

7 responses to “Progress on My Social History of Rhetorics Project

  1. revasias

    Hi L. I like the idea of a collage. When I think of collages, it makes me think of “webs” of conversations or “intersection” points of communications. No one image or artifact may stand alone. There is an “overlapping,” “reciprocal,” yet “progressive” nature of inclusion with collages. It provides avenues for many voices. To play off of our Sanchez reading, you should “write” to “write”. You have proposed an interesting approach to your project. You should try it.

  2. legries

    Those adjectives about the nature of inclusion with collages are helpful to think about in constructing a collage should I go for it. Thanks, R.

  3. Laurie – I think its a really compelling idea…!!!! I just spent a big portion of the day working on my presentation for thursday (another case of Trish getting sucked in…) and I was reminded of our Panera conversation. I found the construction of my presentation (which is, in essence, an archive of my encounters bound by my technological ineptitude) so generative because the writing of the texts/images with/through one another seemed to capture connections in a way that is presently escaping my usually verbally-oriented brain.
    That being said – a small wrench… fixity. The archive I’ve gathered made most sense as I was moving things around, adding, deleting, resizing, (re-watched some documentary pieces that I couldn’t logistically handle so I left out)… Now it just sits and somehow it seems that it will decay a bit until we “move” through it on Thursday…
    I know this sounds like a deterrent, but its an advertisement, somehow…
    Design away, my friend!
    Your entry also makes me think about that essay Collin wrote (the one he showed us in class a few weeks ago) and gives me renewed hope in my anthologizing idea for our class…

  4. Eileen Schell

    I, too, like the idea and having a visual piece to this given your focus on Beam. I wonder about your perspective as a guiding point for the collaging. What are the ways in which you will be guided by collaging design principles? What kind of collage are you talking about here? A digital collage? A collage that would play with/mimic Beam’s work, to some degree, or? Say some more…interesting idea.

  5. comprhession

    Your idea of collaging reminds me of Burrow’s cut-up novels. As the story goes, Burrows finished typing a novel, cut all the pages into four pieces, and tossed them up into the air. The order that he collected them in, for the most part, became the order that they were published in. It also reminds me of a book that I saw when I was younger (don’t remember the title though) that created pictures in the text by bolding certain words or making certain words/phrases larger than the others. You read the story by reading the words that made up the picture.

    I’m just kind of posing these things to think about how the writing aspect of your paper can also be crafted if you want to create the sense of “collage” within your project. Rather than just seeing it as a separate entity to exist alongside your paper, is there a way that the two ideas could join? I think it’s fascinating.

  6. Janet

    A very curious (in a good way) site and an interesting project. I’ve just taken a glance at it, but I wonder how you will deal with institutional issues. What does it mean to “make knowledge”? Are you problematizing the project (implicitly, of course, you are with the sense of “collage”–but “production” can be a useful metaphor)?And who are the audiences of these “products” or “performances”?

  7. legries

    Thank you for the comments, Janet. The kind of new paradigm Beam is calling for in his art and I want to call for in our field/institution is certainly constrained by deeply imbedded institutional practices, knowledges, and ways of being in the academy. I am not sure a new paradigm would “make” new kinds of knowledge or create space for other kinds of knowledge and ways of thinking and presenting information for contemplation. I appreciate your suggestion to consider “production” as a useful metaphor because I think what Beam is calling for is a disruption of the modern academic pursuit and a revisualizing of how we “produce” knowledge in the academy. Also, I guess what I am really trying to advocate for are new modes of knowledge production–ones that avoid the tendency to exclude and dominate other ways of “producing” and representing knowledge and thus perpetuate ubiquitous imperialistic intellectual processes in the academy.

    Beam seems to have created art for both native and non-native audiences, but I think to a great extent his art is directed to non-native peoples. I interpret his art as rhetorical utterances intended to provoke questions about and responses to both the absence of his culture’s knowledge and the simultaneous hyper-presence of Eurocentrism in historical and contemporary discourses of power. He is challenging us to come up with new structures of thought….pushing the boundaries of intellectual pursuit and representation….Beam admits that he has no idea how to formulate a new paradigm–its up to us to confront the institutional issues head on and construct it ourselves….

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