Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Researching at the Benson Collection for Writing, Rhetoric, and Latinidad

This past week I was in Austin, Tx conducting research for my disseration on Mexican women journalists. I've geared the first chapter of my disseration to answer one of the main questions in the special call for paper submitted by Damián Baca and Victor Villanueva: How do we being to understand a broader history of rhetoric within the Americas? I am planning on answering this question through the discourses of Mexican women journalists and how they played into constructing a national Mexican identity in the years 1876-1920. Enjoy my pictures from Austin and the Benson Collection.

The Benson Latin American Collection in Austin is the largest collection of Latin American writings next to the Library of Congress. Doing research is not easy and be quite exhausting. When I arrived in Austin at 7:30 am I hopped on the Flyer 100, the .50 cent shuttle to downtown Austin. I checked in my hotel and headed to the archives. I was greated by a cool breeze of air conditioning. Austin was experiencing really hot and humid weather. Entering the library and getting oriented, I noticed how big the library really is. The wings of the library are separated into rare books and then regular books that can be checked out. On the third floor they have an extensive collection of microfilm. I located some great materials that will enhance my dissertation! I hope my research will make a difference!

College English -- Call for Submissions
Call for Submissions
For two special issues of COLLEGE ENGLISH, we invite submissions, which should be sent electronically to the journal’s office at cesubs@indiana.edu by July 1, 2008:

Lincoln in English Studies: In February 2009, historians will celebrate thebicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Why and how should our disciplinestudy him, too? Besides his own rhetoric, contributors might examine how hehas figured in works of fiction, visual culture, English courses, orEnglish scholarship.

Writing, Rhetoric, and Latinadad (guest editors: Damián Baca and VictorVillanueva):

With Latinas and Latinos comprising the United States’ largestlinguistic and ethnic “minority,” this issue will consider the historicalknowledge that the field of rhetoric and composition needs to constructsocially relevant pedagogies. Particularly welcome are essays that defineLatina/Latino rhetorics in comparison to Greco-Latin ones. How do we beginto understand a broader history of rhetoric within the Americas, forexample? How can Latina/Latino rhetorics that pre-date the teaching ofEnglish in the Americas transform composition studies? How might resistantand de-colonial Latina and Latino rhetorics challenge Eurocentric historiesand historiographies of writing and writing instruction? How can greaterunderstanding of the unique historical trajectories of indigenous, Spanish,and English rhetorical ways affect our current attempts to include Latinoand Latina language experiences in our composition classrooms? What arehistoricallinks among AmerIndian rhetorics (i.e., those of Latin American andCaribbean indigenous peoples as distinct from their more Northern brothersand sisters)? How would these have affected, and been affected by, Spanishcolonial rhetorics?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Guest Blogger: A Rhetoric of Argument and Life

Isaac Campos 05/09/2008

And so it is that the Spring 2008 at UT El Paso has come to a close. The time has finally come to take a deep breath and ask the ourselves “did we learn anything?” The answer is a straight yes when it comes to English.

One of the most notorious, and sometimes annoying, aspects of this writer is his tendency to be critical about just about everything. Almost in every action, almost, I usually like to take a few seconds and think, “why am I doing this?” This question has lead to many astonishing conclusions which sometimes denoted the lack of purpose I had while performing some activities; classes are not any different. When I’m sitting in my room memorizing for the third straight year in high school the same birth date of the same person, I have to wonder, “why am I doing this? And more importantly, “How is this helping me at all?” The answer is, that it is not helping at all.

Eventually the time came for me to wonder, “Why am I in this rhetoric class?” The answer, unlike the history classes in high school, lead me to realize just how much I was learning about writing and the forging of strong arguments. As I read my papers, they did not sound as just an unguided train wreck anymore, but as a real argument. The advantage of using the techniques taught in Mrs. Cristina D. Ramirez’s English 1312 class was clearly seen in my essays.

One of such techniques that bettered my writing was “Stasis Theory” which is a way in which to develop a conclusion. When I included it in my final paper, it was very notorious that the conclusion had greatly improved compared to the regular conclusion I developed for my essay. Stasis theory is only one of the many argument-strengthening techniques I learned in English 1312.

Besides improving my writing, the class also taught me to be more aware my surroundings. How so? Well, for one thing, it may be become more aware of the deluding arguments advertisers sue to convince us to purchase their product. Understanding these arguments allowed me to become nigh “immune” to their rhetorical techniques. Another aspect of the class that made the most impact on this writer would be the way in which rhetoric impacts and can impact our lives.

Back in the age of the Greeks, some of the wise ones of their time set themselves to propagate rhetoric throughout the land. They wanted to do so to provide the people of their time with the means to defend themselves in the everyday life. This class has accomplished so by providing the techniques that allowed this writer to canalize the feelings and sentiments inside of him and make them a convincing argument. This aspect is very much crucial for any conversation or form of writing; being passionate about a subject will only get you to a certain place, but not towards victory over the opposite side, which what we all want, right?

Besides all of the techniques, which already justified the class, I can most certainly attest that I greatly enjoyed the time I spent writing about the rhetoric of video games. The way the general consensus is right now, few if any teachers would have allowed me to write something about video games; I was allowed to do so in this class. What better thing to write about than my favorite hobby?

Hence, because of the ample amounts of useful information that I learned, and because of the great time I had all throughout the semester, let us conclude that the class was a success. 1312 not only changed my writing, but it also changed the way I looked at my surroundings. Hence, it is also possible to conclude that English 1312 was indeed rhetorical.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Guest Blogger

Oscar Veliz. 05/05/2008
Already the end of the semester has come leaving some gladness and some sadness. Gladness being that I'll get my Saturdays back and will be able to sleep in after the long week. Sadness being that I'm going to miss Prof. Ramirez's unique English class.

It is not very often that I'm shocked at what is in my syllabus because normally they all read the same. Quiz this day. Paper due that day. Test in a week. And Final on whatever future day. This class had something that I did not expect out of the gate, a blog. At first I was apprehensive with creating my own blog, thinking "What am I going write about?" All I really needed to do though was take the plunge and set up an account on Google. Once I started using Blogger and realizing how simple it was to use, the blog pretty much wrote itself. Visit my blog here.

Of course we had class as well with some required readings. Most of all of which were about rhetoric. Go figure. An actual definition of the word is hard to nail down because I have my own that I'm used for my research paper, as does every other member of the class. As a whole, we created a working definition that stated "rhetoric is an epistemic art created by a rhetor for the purpose of change." As a class we learned about ethos, pathos, and logos; which we've all learned about in high school but not nearly the level that we utilized it in this class. The easiest element for me to grasp was logos/fallacy mainly because I'm a computer programmer so I use a lot of logic to solve problems and write programs. Pathos and Ethos I still mix up from time to time even though Prof. Ramirez hammered them into my skull.

I think that the part of the class that sticks out in my mind is that we always used technology. Whether it was the simple use of a projector for notes or posting syllogisms on WebCT, listening to NPR to analyze an article's rhetorical elements, reading New York Times articles, doing research for our research paper, etcetera. We each created a video essay representing the change in our topic over time, for our research paper, using PhotoStory.

Speaking of research papers, mine is on Sherlock Holmes and how he is rhetorical. Surprisingly, even though Sherlock Holmes is found in the world of fiction, he is very much real to many people all over the world from the United Kingdom to the United States to Japan to India to Russia. There are Sherlock Holmes societies everywhere devoted to studying Sherlock Holmes Canon and have scholarly discussions regarding him. In the US there exists the Baker Street Irregulars (BSI), who publish a quarterly journal with various scholars submitting articles. I selected one of the articles in this publication to analyze its rhetorical elements for this class.

After the middle of the semester I'd started noticing that almost everything I saw, read, or heard had some sort of rhetoric in it. Whether it be bottle water advertisements or segments I'd seen on the news. More often, I started to question if everything I heard is valid. Normally checking a statement for fallacies or one-sidedness. In fact, I think I've always done that, but now I have a term, a definition for this analysis and I've come to begin thinking more critically.

As the semester comes to it's conclusion, I realize that this class has grown on me and that I may have grown because of it. Even still, I'm going to like having my Saturday's back.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Dulce Recuerdos de mi Abuela: Ramona Gonzalez (Jan. 6, 1906 - May 5, 1994)

May 5 marks the anniversary of my grandmother's passing from this physical world.

I lived with my grandmother the last five years of her life. Every morning right at 6:45, she would get up, boil some water, make a cup of instant coffee, and sit down and eat a pan dulce. While playing cards later in the afternoons, she would look at me, a wild eyed and energetic college student, and confess "You know I steal energy from you." Silence. The click from the edges of the cards being placed on the table would resonate through the kitchen. Not once did she look up from her game of solitare. I glanced at her, noticing the white curtains catching the morning breeze behind her. I would answer, "Ah, si, that´s nice, grandma." I thought that she was a bit strange for saying that, but then again, I felt like taking a nap every day at around 1 pm. Hmmm, maybe she was.

My husband, Alex, says that we live in a disposable society, and that we keep the crap and throw away the valuable stuff. He comments, "As an American society, we are in such a bad place because we throw away our old people letting them rot in old folks homes. Our actions are a sad commentary on our society." Our elders are our connections to the past, and we break that connection when we forget about our roots. I will never forget my abuela, Ramona. She had a gift of knowing how to use language, and could hold a group of people in suspense with her cuentos and chistes.

The sweetest memory I have of my grandmother is my 21st birthday. For my birthday, I wanted to have a get together with my friends at my house where I was staying with my grandmother. Worried that grandma would not want to stick around, I asked her if there was anything I could do to accommodate her. She said no, and that she wanted to meet my friends. The evening of my birthday arrived and my friends started to arrive. Perched in her regular seat at the head of the table, my grandmother was the focus of attention as my friends entered the small house. Each of them approached her and greeted her with the utmost respect. After the food, and after the singing of "Happy Birthday," I cut the cake.

We all sat down at the table and watched as my grandmother said to my Swedish friend Tina, "Give me your hand." She put down her fork piled with cake and extended her hand to my grandmother. She turned my friend´s hand over, palm up, and brushed her hand over it. My grandmother murmured, "Hmmm, muy interestante," and a hush fell over my friends. "What is it? What do you see?" Tina demanded, with eyes wide ready to peer into her future. Grandma preceded to read the lines zigzagging on her hand and fingers. That evening, each of my friends touched my grandmother's hands letting her smooth over their palm and tell them about their future. With each hand she touched, she told a story, and all my friends listened. I think they forgot that it was my birthday party. But that didn't matter. My friends enjoying my grandmother's wisdom was the greatest gift.

Esa noche viene a mi mente hoy dia.

- Cristina D. Ramirez

The fragile days I spent with you
the last years of your days
rushed by like the currents of el Río Bravo.
No estas aqui.

Puedo oír tus cuentos y dichos
In my mind
Like echoes through a canyon.
The memories of your words mix with the smells of guiso y calavasas
cooking on the stove.
The knowledge you imparted with me
chases away my ignorance
like the first signs of spring's arrival
on a winter’s afternoon;
Your wisdom resides in me.
Pero tu, no estas aqui.

Before, I would not let the wisdom in,
I thought it to be old-fashioned,
A tattered book with yellowed edges,
abandoned on a shelf unread.

Abuela, me has dejado un gran plato
servido con palabras y memorias
De tu juventud.

Abuela, I feel you now,
Como el sol en las espaldas
De una mujer sin blusa.
I embrace my memory of you
Like a child embraces her mother
For the last time.
Abuela, si estas aqui.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Cinco de Mayo: Mexican History is American History

Cinco de Mayo seems to be a day for people in America to get drunk, party, have sales at department stores, or take a day off from work. Do they really know what they are celebrating? I don't think so. In 1962 the Spanish, English and French had come to Mexico on the pretext to collecting debt from the Mexican government. While the Spanish and English left, (the Spanish had been defeated in 1810), the French decided to stay. Under Napoleonic rule, the French brought the Prince of Hapsburg, Maximilian and his wife, Carlota. Napoleon's French Army entered Mexico undefeated in 50 years, and invaded Mexico with the finest modern equipment and with a newly reconstituted Foreign Legion. The Mexican people wanted to create their own nation, their own identity; they were not going to stand idly by. On May 5, 1962, a Mexican army of 4,000 sliders faced an army of French soldiers and Mexican traitors who joined the French equaling about 8,000 men.

General Zaragossa ordered Colonel Díaz (who would later become president and dictator in Mexico) to mark with his cavalry, the best in the world, meeting the French flanks. In response to the confrontation, the French did a most stupid thing; they sent their cavalry off to chase Díaz and his men, who proceeded to butcher the undefeated French army. The French did not give up. The remaining French infantrymen charged the Mexican defenders through thick, slippery mud, created by an ensuing thunderstorm, and through hundreds of head of stampeding cattle stirred up by Indians armed only with machetes. By the battles' end, many French were killed or wounded and their cavalry was being chased by Díaz's superb horsemen miles away. (Very interesting side note to history not many people know). The Mexicans had won a great victory that kept Napoleon III from supplying the American Confederate rebels for another year, allowing the United States to build the greatest army the world had ever seen. This grand army smashed the Confederates at Gettysburg just 14 months after the battle of Puebla, essentially ending the Civil War. Could Mexico defeating the French have given unity to our American nation? Nothing is impossible.

The French were not kicked out by any means after the battle. A year later, they occupied Mexico, with Maximilian as ruler. In 1867, Benito Juárez, the first full blooded indigenous national, and his men defeated the French again and expelled them from the country.

So this is why people celebrate Cinco de Mayo. The history connects Mexico and America in a show of force and patriotism that shaped both of our histories, Mexican and American. If we could only do the same today we would be a strong nation and people.
Pictured above: A basketball hoop post. This picture was taken in a colonia of Durango, Mexico.