I Don’t Need Cs

I have been told that I need Cs. I’ve been told that, as a graduate student in rhetoric and composition/writing studies, that the 4Cs is the threshold of access to a job after graduate school. I’ve been told that Cs is the only way to network successfully, demonstrate or continue one’s professionalization, and that Cs is where the most engaging conversations about research are happening in the field.

I am sure that those voices that told me this did so out of concern. Sitting across from me as I told them how I was planning on not attending, different faculty from different universities—friends and mentors alike—all said nearly the same thing: you need Cs. They say this all nearly in the same breath as they would say how graduate students are the discipline, shape the discipline, and determine the discipline’s future.

Here are the things that I need: I need an organization that is willing to own and act on their own problems, I need the people within an organization to hold themselves responsible for the actions of that organization and the bodies that the organization represents, I need an organization that concerns itself more with the well-being of those that it serves than the organization itself.

I don’t need Cs.

Here are more things that I need: I need a field that recognizes more ways of accessing and participating in its enterprise, I need a discipline that encourages and values multiple venues as much as it purports valuing multiple ways of knowing, I need a field that is willing to engage in inter/transdisciplinary work and is willing to find and create venues to do that.

I don’t need Cs.

Here are other things that I need: I need faculty that are mindful of how they are positioning graduate students, faculty that are willing to engage in collective action with their students and with each other, faculty that are willing to call out complicity more than they are willing to believe that problems cannot change or are too large for them.

I don’t need Cs.

When engaging a situation or an organization is toxic and violent, it comes time to leave.

I’m a graduate student who has only attended twice. My leaving will not be noticed, it will not create some grad avalanche, and it is not something that I wish to valorize. But as someone who bought into the only narrative I had access to (that I ‘needed’ Cs), I want to create another option and another story. And, as there are tactics in place to dismantle collective action, I want to call attention to the violences that have led to this decision.

To better address even fragments of the complexity surrounding recent events at the 4Cs, I’m including copies of the emails sent out to their members. Even if you are already familiar with these documents, I would encourage you to reread them with me. Further, what I’m assembling here is just a fragment of the institutional work happening at Cs. If this feels like it under-represents the work of the organization, perhaps we, as rhetoricians can engage the questions and problems of how this was communicated to the organization’s membership.

Text One: “Update on CCCC at Kansas City,” 8/28/2017 at 6:00pm. An email.

The Costs of Staying

If an organization wishes to demean legislation of being dehumanizing, it ought to look at the choices it is making as possibly guilty of the same. What we have presented in the first email is a simple equation: We might lose a chunk of the discretionary fund, have to cut back for a conference cycle, and lose possible revenue versus the risk of violence against members and possible member boycotts. But, as presented here, there are no costs of staying, only risks. The costs of staying, the trauma, the precarity, the violence against brown and black bodies is not a cost here—it is framed as a personal risk that members might choose to undertake (which also doesn’t necessarily account for the institutional pressures surrounding attending CCCC, the narrative of “needing CCCC.”).

We are asking members to pay for the conference both with their finances and with their lives.

Now, it might be easy to say “brown and black bodies are precariously located across the country—this is not a Missouri-isolated condition.”

Sure, but what if it’s not even about that? What if it’s about acknowledging the collective action made by persons whose bodies and lives this effects? What if this is about valuing the voices of people of color who have created a travel advisory?

Staying isn’t just “conferencing as usual” but it is white supremacy as usual. When we as an organized body with a mostly white EC and officer community—and a largely white field—decide that the financial costs, that would not situate our organization in a way that the threat of dissolving would be considered is greater than the cost of violence against its members, then let us make no mistake that this is white privilege and our collective benefiting from white supremacy.

Oh, and while we’re here, let’s talk about this representative from the NAACP. Which, before I begin, if you haven’t read Sara Ahmed’s On Being Included or Living a Feminist Life, you should. Mr. Pruitt has been very vocal in the state of Missouri and his work there instrumental to the national conversation surrounding the NAACP travel advisory. And his comments that are included addressed to the EC are valuable comments. But that is not what is being done here. It is an all too familiar tactic of hearing and including the voices that assent, to include the voices of people of color insofar as they do not disrupt the institution from which they are being ‘included.’

So, inasmuch as the NAACP is invoked here to look like color to appease a membership that may not have access to the complexities of the events or what dissenting voices are saying, this exercise is only another violence.

Text Two: “Decision on the 2018 CCCC Convention,” 9/11/2017 at 4:00pm. An email.

The Value of Color and Other Institutional Tactics

As part of  this year’s ‘transforming’ of the conference, the conference has expanded the Scholars for the Dream, which was designed to provide money for first time presenters of color to pay for travel and the cost of attendance. This is the first year that the scholarship has been expanded: doubling the number of recipients, raising the amount received to $1,000 per awardee, and allowing returning presenters to apply for the award.

This misguided, attempted band-aid, like the single narrative of “you need Cs,” is part of the way that institutions can destabilize ability to engage in collective action. And even the scarcest scrutiny, when weighed against the cost of leaving Cs shows how much the institution values its members of color.

Now of course, this minor expansion is not guaranteed to happen in future years and its money can come out of the discretionary fund.

To be clear, I am not against expanding the scholarship. Please do. But in the wake of attempts of scholars of color to organize boycotts, this tactic undermines collective action for those that may not have access to the information surrounding the organization’s activities.

Please tell me how this purchases security for brown and black bodies. Please tell me how this confronts the institutional racism that creates these conditions. Please tell me how this does not say that your color is worth $1,000 to us. Please tell me how you would spend $10,000 to not confront your own racism.

This is “conferencing as usual,” but with the airs of progress: a triumph of the white institution’s ‘turning to action’ in the face of racist legislation at the expense of its members of color. This conference will continue to be invested in its own interests and benefiting from white privilege. This conference will continue to project a field that is largely white and not challenge structurally the ways in which whiteness and race are embedded in our meetings or our practice.

What’s more is that the Executive Committee is now under nondisclosure agreements, after a measure made by Joyce Locke Carter, limiting the already scarce access that certain members have to the conversations that determine futures for our bodies and our discipline. As graduate students, newcomers to the field, or even long-time members of the field that are not privy to members of the EC, NDAs further disallow access to other narratives that allow us to challenge institutional practices.

Now, as someone less privy to these conversations, the best I can figure is that these nondisclosure agreements were instituted after the EC’s battle over a position statement on sexual conduct that started in its 2016 Houston conference, but before the current conversation surrounding its decision to stay in Kansas City, MO for its 2018 conference.

Nondisclosure agreements only attempt to define a barrier between the organization’s actions and the statements and discourse used by those whom it protects. After people said sexist, violent things in the EC committee over the sexual conduct statement, which could easily be traced back and affiliated with them, I can only imagine why there might be an impulse to institute nondisclosure agreements.

But let there be no mistake,  I am not disgusted with the fiction of an organization, I am disgusted with the members who have done this. We cannot hide behind the invisible wall of an organization: you. did. this.

The theme of the 2016 4Cs was activism, but as the EC and officer’s, like Joyce Locke Carter and Linda Adler-Kassner, demonstrated, that activism was only meant to be the convenient, low-stakes, low-cost, white liberalism variety whose investment in the incremental change of their own institution is threatened by disruption of those institutions from which they benefit. As we continue to hear that this conference will make activism its priority as an after-the-fact addition to the conference, I can only think it is the same ineffectual and self-congratulatory nod the organization’s members have been getting for years.

I cannot attend Cs. And I will not attend Cs for the foreseeable future. And I will continue to withdraw any affiliations with CCCC, NCTE, and its affiliate organizations from myself. The talk I was slated to give, “Safe Spaces, Queer Places, and the Labor of Sustained Attention,” was on the ways in which our students’ bodies and our own bodies are situated precariously and subject to institutional violence. I had hoped to encourage, through my talk, instructors to consider mobilizing our collective vulnerabilities to levy change. I will continue to make that claim—and I will do so in other venues, through my absence, and by attempting here to create another story than “You need Cs.”

I hope to meet and work with many of you in the future, and I hope we can strive together to create spaces of activism for this field and for productive change.

Thank you,


Notes: Lauren M. Bowen, “The Limits of Hacking Composition Pedagogy”

Bowen, Lauren M. (2017). The limits of hacking composition pedagogy. Computers and Composition, 43, 2017, 1-14.


Bowen traces and analyzes hacking as a concept and as a metaphor adopted by compositionists, critiquing the use of hacking as a pedagogical metaphor for writing.

Keywords: composition, hacking, pedagogy, rhetoric, writing studies


Richardson, Timothy. (2014). The authenticity of what’s next. Enculturation, 17.

Yergeau, Melanie, Elizabeth Brewer, Stephanie Kirschbaum, Sushil K. Oswal, Margaret Price, Cynthia L. Self, et al. (2013). Multimodality in motion: Disability and kairotic spaces. Kairos, 18(1).


“An analogous pedagogical model would also be built on the unsubstantiated assumptions that classrooms—and hackerspaces—already host diverse populations and that adopting a merit-based system ensures that learning happens outside of institutionalized systems of oppression” (p. 9).


Notes: Paul Walker, “Let’s Disagree (to Agree): Queering the Rhetoric of Agreement in Writing Assessment”

Walker, Paul. (2017). Let’s disagree (to agree): Queering the rhetoric of agreement in writing assessment. Composition Forum, 35. Web. http://compositionforum.com/issue/35/agreement.php


Walker uses queer theory perspectives on failure to challenge assumptions of agreement or validity.

Keywords: composition, failure, queer, queer rhetorics, rhetoric, writing assessment, writing studies


Heard, Matthew. (2013). Tonality and ethos. Philosophy and Rhetoric, 46(1), 44-64.

Scott, Tony and Lil Brannon. (2013). Democracy, struggle, and the praxis of assessment. College Composition and Communication, 65(2), 273-298.

Walker, Paul. (2013). Composition’s akrasia: The devaluing of intuitive expertise in writing assessment. enculturation, 15. http://enculturation.net/compositions-akrasia.


“In such an ‘uncontained’ sense, here I adopt a queer positionality from which perspective I consider the “disorienting excess” emerging from an assessment study relegated to the margins as a result of its failure to meet empirical measures of significance—statistical reliability standards—that orient and are “contained” by writing assessment scholarship”.

“[F]ailure becomes instead a path to nowhere, a space wherein we cannot predict, and by doing so, generate alternative ways of sustaining”.

“I am in no way suggesting agreement, confirmation, or reliability are wrong intrinsically; rather, I propose that agreement as the subsumption of difference can, through institutional mandates and what D. Diane Davis calls the “rhetoric of totality” (12), marginalize queerness by reifying masculinized and capitalistic traditions, including the persistent upward trajectory of merit or value-added results and the assumption that answers to difficult questions about learning and performance and identity are waiting to be found by acting subjects”.

“Constantly moving towards the center, towards explicit harmony and sameness via expected standards of social-scientific statistical measurement to determine the “success” of assessment, reinforces for those outside our discipline the primacy of a correct methodology over complexly and ecologically hermeneutic meaning and validity, thus maintaining enough legitimacy for administrators to continue to coopt a reductive and possibly irresponsible holistic methodology”.

“Intuition, of course, is scientifically queer, for it resists the requirement of outside or empirical verification; indeed, it resists replicated verity as validation, proposing instead that extensive experience affords individually nuanced interpretations by multiple individuals that is more valuable in their ecological complexity than multiple individuals arriving at one clear determinate interpretation”.

“Our aim as teachers is to facilitate learning, which stubbornly resists accuracy, consistency, generalizability, fairness, efficiency, or any other term that is usually applied to calibrated assessment”.

2017 Summer Reading List (so far…)

4/24-5/5: Ahmed, Sara. (2017). Living a feminist life. Durham: Duke University Press.

4/24: Sewell, John I. (2014). “Becoming rather than being”: Queer’s double-edged discourse as deconstructive practice. Journal of Communication Inquiry, 38(4), 291-307.

4/25: Morris, Charles E., & Sloop, John M. (2017). Other lips, whither kisses? Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, 14(2), 182.

4/26: Samek, Alyssa A. & Theresa A. Donofrio. (2013). “Academic drag” and the performance of the critical personae: An exchange on sexuality, politics, and identity in the academy. Women’s Studies in Communication, 36(1), 28-55.

4/27: Fox, Ragan. (2013). “Homo”-work: Queering academic communication and communicating queer in academia. Text and Performance Quarterly, 33(1), 58-76.

4/28: Bessette, Jean. (2016). Queer rhetoric in situ. Rhetoric Review, 35(2), 148-164.

4/29: Pamela VanHaitsma. (2016). Gossip as rhetorical methodology for queer and feminist historiography. Rhetoric Review. 35(2), 135-147.

4/30: Horst, Heather & Daniel Miller. (2012). Normativity and materiality: A view from digital anthropology. Media International Australia, Incorporating Culture & Policy, (145), 103-111.

5/1: Muñoz, José Esteban. (2000). Feeling brown: Ethnicity and affect in Ricardo Bracho’s “The Sweetest Hangover (And Other STDs)”. Theatre Journal, 52(1), 67-79.

5/2: Chávez, Karma. (2015). The precariousness of homonationalism: The queer agency of terrorism in post-9/11 rhetoric. QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking, 2(3), 32–58.

5/3: Yep, Gust A. (2002). From homophobia and heterosexism to heteronormativity: Toward the development of a model of queer interventions in the university classroom. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 6(3-4), 163-76.

5/4: VanHaitsma, Pamela. (2014). Queering the language of the heart: Romantic letters, genre instruction, and rhetorical practice. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 44.1, 6–24.

5/5: Villarejo, A. (2005). Tarrying with the normative: Queer theory and black history. Social Text, 23.3–4, 69–84.

5/6-5/19: Thompson, Peter & Slavoj Žižek (eds.). (2013). The privatization of hope: Ernst Bloch and the future of utopia. Durham: Duke University Press.

5/6: Portolano, Marlana. (2012). The rhetorical function of utopia: An exploration of the concept of utopia in rhetorical theory. Utopian Studies, 23(1), 113-141.

5/7: Happe, Kelly E. (2015). Parrhēsia, biopolitics, and occupy. Rhetoric & Philosophy, 48(2), 211-223.

5/8: Newman, Eric H. (2015). Ephemeral utopias: Queer cruising, literary form, and diasporic imagination in claude McKay’s home to Harlem and banjo. Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters, 38(1), 167-241.

5/9: Stempfhuber, Martin & Michael Liegl. (2016). Intimacy mobilized: Hook-up practices in the location-based social network Grindr. Österreichische Zeitschrift Für Soziologie, 41(1), 51-70.

5/10: Harvey, David O. (2011). Calculating risk: Barebacking, the queer male subject, and the De/formation of identity politics. Discourse, 33(2), 156-183.

5/11: Chaput, Catherine. (2010). Rhetorical circulation in late capitalism: Neoliberalism and the overdetermination of affective energy.” Philosophy and Rhetoric, 43(1), 1–25.

5/12: Endres, Danielle, and Samantha Senda-Cook. (2011). Location matters: The rhetoric of place in protest. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 97(3), 257–82.

5/13: Walker, Paul. (2017). Let’s disagree (to agree): Queering the rhetoric of agreement in writing assessment. Composition Forum, 35. Web. http://compositionforum.com/issue/35/agreement.php

5/14: Thieme, Katja, & Shurli Makmillen. (2017). A principled uncertainty: Writing studies methods in contexts of indigeneity. College Composition and Communication, 68(3), 466.

5/15: Bacha, Jeffrey A. (2016). The physical mundane as topos: Walking/dwelling/using as rhetorical invention. College Composition and Communication, 68(2), 266.

5/16: Stormer, Nathan, & Bridie McGreavy. (2017). Thinking ecologically about rhetoric’s ontology: Capacity, vulnerability, and resilience. Philosophy & Rhetoric, 50(1), 1-25.

5/17: Wingrove, Elizabeth. (2016). blah Blah WOMEN Blah Blah EQUALITY Blah Blah DIFFERENCE. Philosophy & Rhetoric, 49(4), 408-419.

5/18: Daniel, James Rushing. (2016). The event that we are: Ontology, rhetorical agency, and Alain Badiou. Philosophy & Rhetoric, 49(3), 254–276.

5/19: Bowen, Lauren M. (2017). The limits of hacking composition pedagogy. Computers and Composition, 43, 2017, 1-14.

5/20-5/28: Cooper, Davina. (2014). Everyday utopias: The conceptual life of promising spaces. Durham: Duke University Press.

5/20: Vallerand, Olivier. (2013). Home is the place we all share, Journal of Architectural Education, 67:1, 64-75.

5/21: Jennex, Craig. (2013). Diva worship and the sonic search for queer utopia. Popular Music and Society, 36(3), 343-359.

5/22: Faris, Michael J. (2014). Coffee shop writing in a networked age. College Composition and Communication, 66(1), 21.

5/23: Dean, Tim. (2015). Mediated intimacies: Raw sex, truvada, and the biopolitics of chemoprophylaxis. Sexualities, 18(1-2), 224-246.

5/24: Heard, Matthew. (2013). Tonality and ethos. Philosophy and Rhetoric, 46(1), 44-64.

5/25: Scott, Tony and Lil Brannon. (2013). Democracy, struggle, and the praxis of assessment. College Composition and Communication, 65(2), 273-298.

5/26: Walker, Paul. (2013). Composition’s akrasia: The devaluing of intuitive expertise in writing assessment. enculturation, 15. http://enculturation.net/compositions-akrasia.

5/27: Bhattacharya, Kakali. (2007). Consenting to the consent form: What are the fixed and fluid understandings between the researcher and the researched? Qualitative Inquiry, 13(8), 1095–115.

5/28: Cole, Daniel. (2011). Writing removal and resistance: Native American rhetoric in the composition classroom. College Composition and Communication, 63(1), 122–44.

5/29-6/11: Butler, Judith, Zeynep Gambetti, & Leticia Sabsay (eds.). (2016). Vulnerability in resistance. Durham: Duke University Press.

5/29: Schotten, C. Heike. (2015). Homonationalist futurism: “Terrorism” and (other) queer resistance to empire. New Political Science, 37(1), 71-90.

5/30: Migraine-George, Thérèse & Ashley Currier. (2016). Querying queer African archives: methods and movements. WSQ: Womens Studies Quarterly, 44(3&4), 190-207.

5/31: Adams, Heather, Jeremy Engels, Michael J. Faris, Debra Hawhee, & Mark Hlavacik. (2012). Deliberation in the midst of crisis. Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies, 12(4), 342-345.

6/1: Stormer, Nathan. (2016). Rhetoric’s diverse materiality: Polythetic ontology and genealogy. Review of Communication, 16(4), 299-316.

6/2: Pflugfelder, Ehren H. (2015). Rhetoric’s new materialism: From micro-rhetoric to microbrew. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 45(5), 441.

6/3: Agnew, Lois P. (2015) The Materiality of Language: Gender, Politics, and the University. Rhetoric Review, 34(1), 106-110.

6/4: Burnett, Cathy, Guy Merchant, Kate Pahl & Jennifer Rowsell. (2014). The (im)materiality of literacy: The significance of subjectivity to new literacies research. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 35(1), 90-103.

6/5: Richardson, Timothy. (2014). The authenticity of what’s next. Enculturation, 17.

6/6: Yergeau, Melanie, Elizabeth Brewer, Stephanie Kirschbaum, Sushil K. Oswal, Margaret Price, Cynthia L. Self, et al. (2013). Multimodality in motion: Disability and kairotic spaces. Kairos, 18(1).

6/12-6/17: Rand, Erin. (2014). Reclaiming queer: Activist and academic rhetorics of resistance. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press.

6/12: Rand, Erin J. (2013). Queer critical rhetoric bites back. Western Journal of Communication, 77(5), 533-537.

6/13: Bessette, Jean. (2013). An archive of anecdotes: Raising lesbian consciousness after the Daughters of Bilitis. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 43(1), 22-45.

6/14: West, Isaac. (2013). Queer generosities. Western Journal of Communication, 77(5), 538-541.

6/15: Ahlm, Jody. (2017). Respectable promiscuity: Digital cruising in an era of queer liberalism. Sexualities, 20(3), 364-379.

6/16: Nichols, Garrett W. (2013). The quiet country closet: Reconstructing a discourse for closeted rural experiences.” Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in Society 3.1.

6/17: Scott, J. Blake. (2003). Extending rhetorical-cultural analysis: Transformations of home HIV testing. College English, 65(4), 349-367.

6/18-6/23: Waite, Stacey. (2017). Teaching queer: Radical possibilities for writing and knowing. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

6/18: Waite, Stacey. (2015). Queer literacies survival guide. College Composition and Communication, 67(1), 111-114.

6/19: Kopelson, Karen. (2013). Queering the writing program: Why now? how? and other contentious questions. Writing Program Administration, 37(1), 199.

6/20: Coles, Gregory. (2016). The exorcism of language: Reclaimed derogatory terms and their limits. College English, 78(5), 424.

6/24-6/30: Shipka, Jody. (2011). Toward a composition made whole. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

6/24: Shipka, Jody. (2009). Negotiating rhetorical, material, methodological, and technological difference: Evaluating multimodal designs. College Composition and Communication, 61(1), W343-W366.

6/25: George, Diana. (2002). From analysis to design: Visual communication in the teaching of writing. College Composition and Communication, 54, 11-39.

6/26: Marback, Richard. (2009). Embracing the wicked problems: The turning to design in composition studies. College Composition and Communication, 61(2), W397-W419.

6/27: Davis, Matthew, & Kathleen B. Yancey. (2014). Notes toward the role of materiality in composing, reviewing, and assessing multimodal texts. Computers and Composition: An International Journal for Teachers of Writing, 31, 13-28.

6/28: West-Puckett, Stephanie. (2016). Making classroom writing assessment more visible, equitable, and portable through digital badging. College English, 79(2), 127-151.

6/28: Fortune, Bonnie. (2013). Queering the hackerspace at miss baltazar’s laboratory and beyond. Make/shift, (14), 38.

6/29: Kohtala, Cindy. (2016). Making “Making” critical: How sustainability is constituted in fab lab ideology. The Design Journal, , 1-20.

7/1-7/7: Sirc, Geoffrey. (2002). English composition as a happening. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.

7/1: Ball, Cheryl E. (2004). Show, not tell: the value of new media scholarship. Computers and Composition, 21, 403-425.

7/2: DeVoss, Dànielle Nicole, Ellen Cushman, & Jeffrey T. Grabill. (2005). Infrastructure and composing: The when of new-media writing. College Composition and Communication, 57, 14-44.

7/3: Symposium. (2014). The maker movement in education: Designing, creating, and learning across contexts. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 493-494.

7/4: Martin, Lee. (2015). The promise of the maker movement for education. Journal of Pre-College Engineering Education Research (J-PEER), 5(1), 30-39.

7/5: Kera, Denisa. (2014). Innovation regimes based on collaborative and global tinkering: Synthetic biology and nanotechnology in the hackerspaces. Technology in Society, 37, 28-37.

7/6: Halverson, Erica R., & Kimberly M. Sheridan. (2014). The maker movement in education. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 495.

7/7: Charlton, Colin. (2014). The weight of curious space: Rhetorical events, hackerspace, and emergent multimodal assessment. Computers and Composition: An International Journal for Teachers of Writing, 31, 29-42.

Notes: Sarah Orem and Neil Simpkins, “Weepy Rhetoric, Trigger Warnings, and the Work of Making Mental Illness Visible in the Writing Classroom”

Orem, Sarah & Neil Simpkins. (2015). Weepy rhetoric, trigger warnings, and the work of making mental illness visible in the writing classroom. Enculturation, 20.


Orem and Simpkins develop an idea of trigger warnings as ‘weepy rhetoric’ that performs outwardly a reclaiming of assumptions of mental illness.

Keywords: Trigger warnings, mental illness, disability rhetorics


“Trigger warnings have long been used in feminist-, queer-, and disability-activist settings online, but the public discussion of trigger-warned syllabi came specifically on the heels of the ratification of Oberlin College’s 2013 Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act” (para. 2).

“We believed that navigating academic careers while mentally ill demonstrated our resilience, but as journalistic and scholarly op-eds on trigger warnings populated our computer screens, we learned that the opposite conclusion was being drawn by some: only recently, we participated in a highly public online conversation about trigger warnings in which a fellow academic declared that ‘PTSD is the new ‘my dog ate my homework’'” (para. 3).

“[W]e argue that trigger warnings function as what we term weepy rhetoric, a mode of crying through text. Pouring out difficult, messy emotions in academic spaces, trigger warnings function as reverse discourse, reclaiming damaging assumptions about the mentally ill” (para. 6).

“Weeping, therefore, is a dramatic performance of making visible the complex interrelation of emotional and physical, visible and invisible pain. It is a concept rooted in the embodiment of emotional pain” (para. 11).

“A trigger warning, we suggest, weeps. It is weepy rhetoric—a method of calling attention to pain through language, while foregrounding the interrelation between emotional pain (such as mental illness) and physical pain (including assault or sexualized violence). Visibly displaying through text a history of surviving physical and psychological injury, a trigger warning (TW) is itself a Textual Weeping” (para. 13).

“Because trigger warnings point, unflinchingly, to pain and hurt, they position users as performing the wrong affect for the classroom, collective, or digital space; they defy the drive to be pleasant or decorous” (para. 41).

touching [writing, writing] feeling

In this ongoing project, Brianne Radke and I have been reflecting on the intersections of affect and materiality, at the interactions and extensions of self and/through objects in our composing process, at the way that selves and objects mean. Below, you can see how we have written our way into this inquiry—and we invite you to click, read, and write your way into this project as well.

legos ultra-fine blog gel pen laptop typewriter voice proposal rubber bands knitting

Our “do” session “attend[s] to the tex[x]tures” and affects of converging materials and experiential realities to explore how “objects and [body]events mean” (Sedgwick, 2003; Massumi, 2002; Bora, 1997). We invite participants to compose with varieties of materials and respond to the sensed experience of writing.

Having trouble viewing this? Interactive .pdf available here:

Knit /code and a lazy Fall afternoon


Some days are chill pants days. Fall is here, which means for me gray skies, strong coffee, big sweaters, and a sort of nostalgic slowing down when at all possible. On those days, where it’s possible, I tend to not leave the couch. Whether it’s curling up to read, binge a show, drink more coffee, work: it’s couch work and chill pants time.

The stress of the school year, finishing up my MA program, working on my MA project, applying to PhD programs—these, if indulgent, moments seem few and far between.

I’m not the best at knitting, but it’s something that I love. Even sitting here on the couch knitting a misknit scarf is one of the highlights of my week. The soft yarn moving between my fingers, wrapping around the smooth metal needlethe textures of the fibers in the yarn fraying lightly, the fabric is cool, but touching it makes me feel warm beyond a physical level.

Any time I sit to knit, it is nostalgic. My grandmother taught me to knit and I still remember the black feathery scarf she was making for her mother to mother’s day. It was something I desperately wanted to learn to do, but it seemed strange. It was something I was ashamed to do if anyone was around or watching me. Some years later, my dad found a some study somewhere that I still haven’t read about knitting being helpful for people suffering with moderate to severe depression (my diagnosis). Then it was something that was encouraged, something I could display openly.

But there is an easy rhythm to knitting. It feels like beat counts: 1, 2, 3, 4/k, p, k, p. It feels even in time and material. The paced stitching of fabric in the measured passing of time. Like beat counts, after the first few bars, the pattern all but seems to fade away and becomes something more internalized: a knowledge that my hands know/do. And it is always moving: it never feels like an appropriate place to stop in knitting, as though there is something compelling me to continue to the next stitch.

All because of two stitches: knit (k) and purl (p). All purling even is is a reverse knit (coming from a Middle English word to twist). I can make from them scarves and sweaters, and hats, and socks, and gloves, and cozies… I can misknit, drop a stitch (or drop-stitch) or double stitch and then what does that mean? Now that the pattern has been interrupted and I’ve moved on rows and rows away.

It’s frustration and failure. It’s the questions of value: is this still a scarf? Is this still usable? How bad does it look? What are my options? Are there ways to adjust or compensate? Does a scarf need a straight edge?


catch(e) {


Not only because knitting operates with a binary operation/language (k,p/1,0) but I think about the ways in which knitting and coding are similar. The pattern operation, the potential for error in-line, and the frustration I feel during these moments seems the same as when I write code.

However they both involve the use of an interpretive and performed language to make digital and material objects.

What is that act of making? And how am I doing it? Have I installed, as I knit, some sort of Python library that make these flurried movements recognizable as knitting though? And where am I in this or as I code for that matter? Or is this just the practice of doing with skilled knowledge?

I don’t feel skilled.

Nor do I feel like I’m tending to the formation or sustaining of something skilled. These acts of doing inscribe into what I do as much as my doing makes the objects.

feel some sort of generative energy in both situations that is clumsy and wondering with the interplay of vision and (re)vision that my hands make possible; a conceptualizing ends and means that wouldn’t be possible without my hands and self being present with the materials at hand.