Dissertation ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS & Dedication

Straight from my dissertation, here are the acknowledgement and dedication pages. Thank you to everyone who’s been on this journey with me and been rooting for me.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I’d like to thank UTA’s Office of Graduate Studies and the College of Liberal Arts for the Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship that allowed me the dedicated time to finish my dissertation this summer. A particular thanks to Dr. Raymond L. Jackson for his help and encouragement.

There are so many people who’ve made my time with UTA’s English Department truly wonderful. I’ve grown so much as a teacher, scholar, and person because of the department we have and the opportunities it’s given me. I want to start by saying thank you to Dr. Peggy Kulesz not only for her incredible mentorship as Director of First Year Writing, but also for her support, generosity, and friendship. I was also lucky enough to get to work with Dr. Justin Lerberg as he stepped into the Directorship and am so grateful I had the opportunity to learn from him as well. Thank you to Drs. Amy Tigner, Neill Matheson, and Kathryn Warren for their work on our behalf as graduate advisors. Thank you as well to Yael Sasley and Margie Jackymack who are the reasons things get done around here and who’ve helped me countless times with things from organizing an EGSA trip to opening classrooms. Dr. Kevin Porter has also been an integral part of my growth as a scholar; his classes during coursework pushed me to think in ways I hadn’t before and I continue to wrestle with what “meaning” means.

There are so many graduate students to thank. The original CARH 409 whirlwind, where I shared my first office with three other fantastic people: Stephanie Peebles Tavera, Rod Sachs, and Sean Farrell. My original cohort: Joul Smith, Miriam Rowntree, and Stephanie. I’ve gone through each step of the process with this group and can’t thank them enough for their time, support, encouragement, and friendship. My current officemate and twin, the ever magical Rachael Mariboho who knows. She and the always wonderful Sean Farrell have been so generous with their support and encouragement as I went through all the things. Thank you to Jason Hogue and Jeffrey Marchand for many a good conversation and much laughter. To Vince Sosko, Hope McCarthy, Laruen Phelps, Christina Montgomery, and Connor Stratman for your support and inspiration. And to Bethany Shaffer for her optimism, dance moves down the hall, and just general awesomeness.

Thank you to Miriam Rowntree for the texts, the anthems, the unwavering belief and optimism, the trips, the dreamings and talking-out-louds. We’ve come a long way from Porter’s class that first semester. We might never know what meaning means, but your friendship throughout this journey has meant more than I can say.

Thank you to my committee for all their work with me on this project. Thank you to Dr. Tim Morris for serving on my Comprehensive Exams committee. To Dr. Estee Beck for serving on the Dissertation Committee and for pushing me to include other voices and fields. To Dr. Stacy Alaimo who started me on this posthumanist path with her wonderful class on Posthumanism and Science Fiction in the Anthropocene. The texts, both theory and fiction, from that class altered my scholarly trajectory, and her suggestion of reading Lenz Taguchi when I told her about my project led me back to Barad which helped me find my voice and a way to articulate what I wanted to say about education.

Finally, but never least, none of this would have been possible without Dr. Penelope Ingram. From her advice when I sat on her couch when she was our graduate adviser and I was deciding to apply to the program, to her teaching and her fantastic classes on postcolonialism and feminism, to her taking on the EGSA, to agreeing to be my Chair and helping me navigate this process, to making the call at the end of June that changed everything and made me dig deep in a way I didn’t know I could.  She is a model of the kind of invested, passionate, and resolute (in all the right ways) scholar, teacher, mentor, feminist, and person I aspire to be. Thank you, Penny, for believing I could do this, for holding me accountable to my own potential, and for always having my back.

DEDICATION

This dissertation is dedicated to my family who, in a million ways that mattered, made this document possible. I can’t begin to thank them or to fully explain what their love and support meant and did for me on this journey.

 

For:

Mom and Dad

Kate and Codi

Eleanor and Shepard

Neville and Theadora

I wouldn’t have “got ‘er done” without y’all.

K&L

All Too / Not At All

alienclassroom

 “And yet when essays draw on the work of Barad or Haraway but do not attend to nonhuman life, environments and material agencies, the lack is notable. Feminist materialisms, especially in their posthuman forms, are worlds apart from the conventional classroom, an all too-human place cordoned off from more-than-human liveliness. The chasm between the two suggests how intrepid and inventive we must be to teach with a (posthumanist) feminist materialism”

–Stacy Alaimo / “Book Review: Teaching with Feminist Materialisms” (179)

Part I: Diffraction

I was moving the above quote, which has been tapping at my thoughts for a while, trying to find where to insert it in Chapter 4, and as I scrolled through the screen in front of me, I saw the Spacetimemattering video stutter to a close on that last frame that’s been tapping at my thoughts for a while…

I think: {Alien. Still. Powerful.}

And type my student’s words: it doesn’t have to be alive…

{Feels like its brand of alive}. {Insert the words again here:} Alien. Still. Powerful.

Powerful.   {Full.}

With something I don’t have a word for, but that light that’s always on is saying it: something like, deep breath, fill back up, they’re gone.

{You’re anthropomorphizing.}

Still. But full.

A not-at-all-human space. With that one light off to the side that never turns off and the blue computer glow and the silence of the video now stopped (the music I added gone). Designed to be, built to be, for and by humans. But, in this light, from this view, not-at-all.

Still. Matter. Full of mattering.

Elsewhere is not Terrapolis.

Part II: Calibration

(Re)Calibrate

 

Curating from my American Lit class archive (pedagogical documentation) to do a larger “diffraction” or calibration. Open to whatever we create together here; hoping to get some insight on the “success” of changes made for Spring 2018 after the last class (Reuse. Remix. Rewrite, Fall 2016). The goal is a continual calibration of praxis to posthumanism.

7/19/18 ~ Home Office ~”Real time”: 1 hr. 45 min.

 

 

~

    Music: The Double Slit Test by Ketsa

Pedagogical Documentation

 

PD1

Separate pedagogical documentations for AL. Top picture from early in the semester shows my concern over the white space in the room; bottom picture from their Curation Project (major presentation) day at the end of the semester shows my realization that I wasn’t working with the desks but against them, indicating a tendency on my part to still try and plan first and fit that plan into the space second.

/

PD2

In this pedagogical documentation for AL, pictures of the students’ work for that day appear on the left of the top picture. I used the yellow legal pad paper to track student movement through space and use of texts—Composition Books (CB) and a copy of the novel Turtles All the Way Down—while they worked.

Spacetimemattering

 

 

[EDIT: Below is the analysis of this video I did later for my dissertation.]

…But what isn’t shown in some of these pictures or in the actual sketchbook itself are all the ways in which the doing—the curating↔calibrating through PD (pedagogical documentation) and diffraction—is an embodied, emergent, and intra-active process that can shift the teacher (or other doer) from distant observer to entangled co-actant. For instance, in a video I created from three time-lapse captures of me working from pedagogical documentation and posted on my blog, we can see me intra-acting with the PD. Titled “Spacetimemattering,” the video shows the doing of pedagogical documentation and diffraction in ways the figures of its products shown so far can’t. And yet that view of PD in action still loses all the little and large course corrections and creations built into the end products (such as the daily activity in the first clip or the Composition Book Final Analysis in the second) as they emerge through the curation being enacted in the classroom.

In the first clip from the desk in my campus office we see me flip back to green index cards in my sketchbook as I curate an in-class writing workshop from the feedback students gave on where they were in their projects and how working in a different location (the library) worked or didn’t work for them the week before. The intra-actions with their comments led me to curate two options for class, the path I highlighted in red being my preference for our use of time. Once I could see students working, however, the actual class ran more like a mix of both options. In the second clip from my desk in my home office we see me curating an in-class Composition Book Final Analysis activity that was the first day in a three-class arc prepping to write (answer) their final exam questions. Of note in this clip is that we can see the variety of nonhuman actants that go into curating such an activity: texts, scissors, tape, PD sketchbooks, all the artifacts in the sketchbook, our Blackboard site, my Surface, markers, pen, coffee. All these things in the frame (and several out of it) contributed to the making of the assignment as they constituted the phenomenon with which I worked.

I actually made these videos for fun. I cut them together for my personal blog where I post about teaching and graduate studies but among other thoughts and workings with writing and, most especially, its materiality and intra-action. But watching them has been incredibly beneficial as a reminder that all such planning, writing, reading, teaching, etc. are indeed embodied and material-discursive acts and not the detached, cerebral doings of a mind that can produce the same no matter what “setting” its body is in. A posthumanist framework calibrated to agential realism sees in these videos a reminder that where and what we work with matters. All three of these spaces were integral to the spacetimemattering that was the American Literature Spring 2018 classroom, and the PD sketchbook in the first two clips, as one of those actants, served as a kind of wormhole or spacetime bridge that does what my human conception of linear time can’t and makes material and apparent the enfolding of spacetime. As I re-read or work with the PD sketchbook, I am back in relation to the classroom, in TH20, with my students and the nonhuman actants of the room

…Having such an archive, one curated from the phenomenon itself (i.e. with the students, with the rooms, with the objects), as an actant in such situated, embodied, and, therefore emergent onto-epistemological acts as those shown in “Spacetimemattering,” is, then, not just a good tool for observation (to course correct in the moment or to publish findings) but essential to curating↔calibrating as teaching↔as↔inquiry where larger studies (curations/diffractions) are part of a continual and purposeful calibration of praxis with and across classrooms, as we’ll see with the Diffractions following this chapter.

Pedagogical documentation is certainly a gathering of “data” in that it builds an archive of artifacts and observations. But it is also a doing to produce more doing rather than a collecting to represent or generalize.

The last clip in “Spacetimemattering” is of me tearing down after AL for the last time that semester after the Semester Story class day pictured in fig. 4.2 and discussed in Diffraction #2. Though I didn’t think of it in these terms at the time, much like the Crakers*, I’d assembled from and with the students an array of objects that, on the whiteboard at the front, served as our “storytelling” devices across classes. Though not always at the same time, they worked with us on the whiteboard to ask questions about what the American story is and who gets to tell it and why. For me, they were also a way to bring color into an otherwise stark white room without windows and to push back against—to quote one student—the “prison” feel of the space.  However, I backed off doing a whole lot more than that when, through the continued use of check-in cards, I realized only about half of us disliked the room. The other half liked the lack of distractions and disliked it when we worked in other spaces like the library. This was an important check on my own biases, as the PD often was as it kept curation↔calibration running from the phenomenon instead of letting me fall back into my habit of “planning.” As we’ll see in Diffraction #1, the move to using the whiteboard as a collecting place (Sumara Private) and curating objects purposefully into the room as a way to leave traces of our work on the space came from the biggest shift across classes: to use more photos in PD and to do larger diffractions curated from the archive created.

~

*Crakers are bio-engineered human-like beings in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy. In order to tell stories, they require particular non-human objects/actants (e.g., a fish offered to the storyteller, a red cap for the storyteller to wear, a watch, etc.).

    Music: The Double Slit Test by Ketsa

Sumara, Dennis J. Private Readings in Public: Schooling the Literary Imagination. Peter Lang, 1996.

DESK

A Tale of Two Starbucks Tables…

Saturday Morning, Catch-up and Strategize ~ Starbucks, Bowen & Park Row ~ March 31, 2018

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Monday Morning, Student Conferences and Prepping ~ Starbucks, Spaniolo Dr. and UTA Blvd. ~ April 2, 2018

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My favorite thing about Bowen was the streaming sun (as you can see in the stripey shadows in the picture). Against the window it was warm and lazy and that early morning sun filled me with contentment as I caught up on journal entries and figured out the to-do list for the day. My favorite thing about the pic of the Spaniolo Starbucks that shows the UTA Bookstore beyond is the copies of Turtles All the Way Down in the distance, surely watching over my work with my students who were supposed to have read that book by class time later that day…I have a feeling having now lived that class time later that day that some of those students need to take a trip to the bookstore and snag one of those copies.

IMG_3408

All the Books & Dragon Cheese

On the way home from the “Ferris wheel” (as E calls the carousel) at the mall, Eleanor and I stopped at Half Price Books to buy presents for her mom, dad, and brother. She herself requested these gifts be bought at the bookstore. Although we did have a brief falling out over her wanting to go to the library instead and me saying it was closed (so we could buy instead of check out these presents)…but all was forgiven when we entered the store and she saw “all the Bibles.” She’s in a phase where, rather than have us always read to her from children’s books, she often prefers to pull thick paperbacks, what she calls Bibles, off shelves and tell us fantastic stories while flipping through the pages. It was like we’d walked into the candy store, and she didn’t know where to even start…

But she settled on some books down on her level, settled on to the floor and in for a good storytelling. It was the most precious thing in the world…as you’ll see below.

What blows my mind is what a synthesizing machine she is; I mean, to get all scholarly for a second, she is like the human embodiment of intertextuality. The stories she tells are incredible remixes of her daily life: phrases she hears us use, stories we tell her, and, of course, the media–both books and television–that she consumes. In this video alone, we’ve got dragons–(the stars–in all shades of the rainbow–of most of her tales), peanut allergies, spit-up (what she calls vomit and which she did a lot of the week before, much of it on me), her bedtime routine, cheese which we’d been talking about earlier, the penguins I promised her we’d see at the aquarium later that week, seeing Thea tomorrow, the sailors from our Moby Dick book, mommy and daddy, shopping for them, and love, and all sorts of other bits and pieces. She’s a sponge–takes it all in, doesn’t forget a thing, and spits it all out later in her own delightfully new creation.

Obviously, this is how many children grow and learn, and I’m just seeing it for the first time (Spinster Aunt that I am*) up close. It doesn’t hurt that my love for E is immeasurable and colors all her being, doing, knowing as miraculous. (Call Guinness, as my dad would say). But I am blown away by the child brain in general and this weaving together of being and knowing with the world and all the stories–told and experienced–it tells her. Beyond intertextuality, watching her remix is watching agential realism in action. Those blank pages at the end changed her conversation, that stuffed dragon on the floor set her on a tale about dragons, the books low to the ground with pretty covers drew her in and gave her a spot on the floor to peruse them. And on and on and on…Though bits and pieces will make it into later remixes of her life and days, this story, the one in the video, will only be told once. It came out of a singular and unrepeatable space-time-mattering where its possibility was realized and recorded. She didn’t discover the story about dragons–she created it with the world, her material-discursive world unfolding through and within our unique time-space to actually create reality. And while I insert the artifact (recording) of that reality here, what you see is a different story than the one she and I experienced in that moment. It will play a new story each time it’s viewed, framed by my interpretation and creating new meaning with you and your understanding of her words and your own bits and pieces you bring to the watching of this tale. It’s miraculous, but the miracle is more than her–it’s an assemblage of past, present, here, absent, people, animals, objects, ideas, rooms, noises, smells, sights…all the things of the world working together.

And we wonder why I’m the Spinster Aunt 😉

The cherry on top of these scholarly musings is after this video stops, when she wanders over to the YA corner. And when I come up behind her, this little bit of a girl dancing within an aisle of floor-to-ceiling books, she does this Belle from Beauty and the Beast twirl, her arm up and out with a sweeping gesture and cries (happily), “Look at all the books!” I died. She killed her Spinster Aunt Say, stopped my heart dead with joyous affinity. I will never forget her smile or the love I felt for her then (I keep thinking there’s no way to love them more and events keep proving me wrong). I hope she never loses that delight. And I hope she tangles together and spins out stories for all her days and never, ever, finds the words “The End…”

belle_bookshelf

~

*I fully embrace and celebrate the Spinster Aunt title–this was not a cry for reassurance nor is that a “bad” word. For more information, see Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own.

Flashback: Coursework

It’s kind of sad that a lot (for me, most) of coursework doesn’t really find a second home, whether because of the direction your scholarship goes or just the structure/nature of the original writing. I was searching for a word in the hopes of finding a file I’d obviously not named well-enough to find it again years later, and this paper popped up. A throwback to Science Fiction and Posthumanism in the Anthropocene–one of my favorite classes. I enjoyed reading it again four years later (yikes!). I sound quite important 😉

Sarah Shelton

ENG 6370

Dr. Alaimo

23 January 2014

The Dust Accuses: Anxieties of the Anthropocene

Read together, [the articles pictured below] highlight the very instability of the “meaning” of Anthropocene. Each article explains the concept from its own angle—ranging from the debated physical evidence traced in the Zalaswiewicz article, to the “metaphoric” designation in the Robbins article, to everything in between. Several descriptions point to a change—already made or hoped for—in human understanding of our relationship to nature, one that collapses the Nature/Human binary and situates us not outside of or above a “pure,” or “wild” nature, but inside an intimately connected and now-threatened biosphere. In fact, the most interesting takes on the concept focus on how the very existence of the Anthropocene idea signals “a ‘reframing’ of normative traditions towards human and non-human life,” offering new language with which to speak about and new viewpoints from which to view human responsibility for our species’ impact on the Earth and to other species who also call it home (Alberts 6).

Along with such instability comes anxiety. What do we make of a concept that can be interpreted and used in so many different ways? Is it already defunct because of our inability to agree on a productive way to use it or is the very debate it inspires the very point and what really matters? Zalaswiewicz et al. warn that the Anthropocene “has the capacity to become the most politicized unit, by far, of the Geologic Time Scale” (2231). Are we doomed, then, to lose the positive and generative power that such a reframing offers to the quagmire of politics as usual? Will we become stymied as Robbins and Moore claim scientists caught up in anthrophobia* or autophobia** are, unable to make progress toward our desired goals because of anxiety over what it means that humans have become “geological agents” as well as biological ones (Chakrabarty 206)? Or will we find a way to come to terms with what is (despite what we think should be) and (though it requires a “human collectivity” or “universal” that Chakrabarty says we can never understand) develop a “global approach to politics without the myth of a global identity” (222).

Though Rigby claims that writing “in the mode of prophetic witness” is one way to overcome such anxieties, such endless debates and fruitless back-and-forths, or what she calls “idle chatter,” her article exemplifies the Edenic language that gave me pause in several of the articles (174). For instance, in Proctor’s review of McKibben’s book, McKibben refers to the planet as “violently out of balance,” implying that a planet older than my brain can comfortably comprehend has a “natural” and defendable “balance” that our human science can pinpoint and prove (88). Rigby, in analyzing Wright’s “Dust” as an ecoprophetic poem, determines that “the cry, which the prophet apprehends and mediates, is an indication of something drastically wrong.” “The speaker of Wright’s poem,” Rigby says, “hears the earth sighing all night” (181). Such a reading—and Wright’s own language—strikes me as an anthropocentric view dependent entirely on assuming we had—at some point—a harmonious and “good” relationship with the Earth. That there was an Eden-state where Nature was pure and wild and outside of our interference. Something can only be drastically wrong, the earth can only be violently out of balance, if we consider the Earth’s Edenic baseline to be the biosphere in which humans can survive, if we consider the “very conditions, both biological and geological, on which the survival of human life as developed in the Holocene period depends” to be the natural state of the planet (Chakrabarty 213). Considering the relatively short duration of the Holocene as compared to the other periods of geologic time, I find the human assumption of our time as the Earth’s “true” state incredibly problematic. How do we begin to take responsibility for ourselves and fulfill any ethical obligation (if we have one, which I think we do) to the other inhabitants of the current biosphere if we can’t get our heads around the idea that there is no going back on an always-already altered planet that won’t miss a step in its own evolution—no matter if we can’t speculate on a “world without us”—once we’re gone?

When Rigby claims that (in such contemporary places as sub-Saharan Africa) “the dust accuses,” she’s transferring to the planet human nostalgia for the past and human fears that we can’t or won’t adapt in time to the new world our actions have triggered. The desert doesn’t accuse us of anything. It doesn’t care what we’ve done. We care. We don’t want to be buried beneath elements we can’t survive. But the Earth itself doesn’t deal in human emotions. Personification here is certainly a powerful, persuasive tool when trying to convince others of “the catastrophic consequences of continuing on our current ecocidal path and…the possibility of another way of thinking and being” (Rigby 173-4). But to imply through figurative language that the Earth itself emotes in a way that any species could understand, to romanticize nature via the human construction of “natural,” seems too much like the human hubris/essentialism that brought us to this point in the first place.

Perhaps I have a touch of autophobia myself. I certainly don’t disagree with the arguments Rigby sets out; borders between human and non-human others must be breached if we’re going to live according to and move forward with an interspecies ethics that I can get behind. But I also see Earth’s agency as beyond any personified relationship with us. Suggesting the Earth is angry with us or seeking revenge seems too much a convention of a species only concerned with its own recorded history and not aware of its deep history. A species that needs to realize it is “dependent on other species for its own existence, a part of the general history of life,” not the origin of it (Chakrabarty 219, my emphasis).

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* “a fearful response to … the negative normative influence of humans on the earth” (Robbins and Moore)

** “a fearful response to … the inherent influence of normative human values within one’s own science”  (Robbins and Moore)

This weekly paper response was created with Dr. Alaimo’s curation of texts as pictured below in our syllabus:

ALaimoWeekThreeCuration