Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation
Main content start

Preview: September Sessions 2018

view of people in a large space

By Christine Alfano

The mornings are getting a bit cooler, the evenings seem a bit shorter, and small clusters of rising sophomores participating in Sophomore College can be found around Coupa and Meyer Green … that means that it’s that time of year again: time for PWR’s September Sessions!

Next Thursday, September 13, we launch into our annual four days of intense collaboration, conversation, intellectual inquiry, and occasional conviviality as we come together as a program to lay both the scholarly and pedagogical foundation for our work this year. 

The Sessions this year have been designed by a hard-working group of Septembrists, who met both in-person and virtually several times over the summer.  In fact, there was a record number of Septembrists this year, including: Shay Brawn, Tessa Brown, Jenae Cohn, Samah Elbelazi, Mark Gardiner, Wendy Goldberg, Shannon Hervey, Chris Kamrath, Valerie Kinsey, Ashley Newby, Sarah Perkins, Sarah Pittock, Tesla Schaeffer, Lisa Swan, Cassie Wright, and Irena Yamboliev.  That’s 16 people.  For those of you keeping track, that means that almost 1/3rd of our instructors took part directly in designing this year’s Sessions.  And that doesn’t even take into account the contributions of our other colleagues who offered their input through committee feedback or email messages.

Here’s a short snapshot of what’s in store during our four-day extravaganza:

  • The Theme: We’re continuing our work around Cultural Rhetorics, this year focusing more closely on student experiences in relation to CR – their backgrounds, literacies, and genres, and how those intersect and enrich our work in the classroom.  We’re anchoring our discussion in two texts, which we’re asking all instructors to read in advance of the start of the Sessions: LuMing Mao’s “Opening Topics: Reading Chinese Fortune Cookie" and Jacqueline Jones Royster & Rebecca Greenberg Taylor, “Constructing Teacher Identity in the Basic Writing Classroom.”
  • The Keynote: We’re pleased to welcome LuMing Mao, chair of the Department of Writing and Rhetoric Studies at Utah State University, as our keynote speaker on Thursday. He’ll be giving a talk entitled, “Turtles all the Way Down”: Re/Locating Comparative and Cultural Rhetoric(s).”  Here’s the abstract for his talk:

How can we study the other without making the other an extension of what we already know or what we think we know? What are the politics of representation and the ethics of methodology in representing other rhetorical traditions? What happens when we lack the appropriate vocabularies and when we experience power asymmetry at its most acute level? What are the challenges in pursuing comparative and cultural rhetorics when terms such as “comparison,” “rhetoric,” and “culture” are perennially contested and in search for an elusive center, and when other familiar terms of engagement remain stubbornly part of the dominant paradigm or the Western Rhetorical Tradition? How can we capture the shifting, but no less interdependent, dynamics informing the relationships between our own identities and what they entail, on the one hand, and our objects of study and their local histories seen in present time, on the other?

Using these questions as both points of reference and focus, this talk aims to place comparative and cultural rhetoric(s) in direct dialogue with each other, not only making explicit their resonances and shared commitments but also underscoring the complexity, fluidity and multiplicity of rhetorical practices. Drawing on examples from other rhetorical traditions and from ongoing cultural relocations and alignments, the talk also seeks to highlight the centrality of culture and local practices to meaning making in today’s global contact zones and to reconceptualize and problematize the incongruities and ruptures brought about by the blurring of boundaries of all kinds and by a relocating process that is infecting/affecting identities, communities, and cultures. 

There will be Q&A and discussion after the keynote.

  • The Working Groups.  Last year’s working groups were such a successful innovation that we’ve decide to carry them forward to this year as well.  The groups for this year are
    • Assessment
    • Assignment Scaffolding & Design
    • Institutional Rhetorics and Transfer
    • Oral Communication and Multimodality
    • Student Literacies and Genre Literacies
    • Teaching Persona and Classroom Culture
    • Tutoring and Conferencing

Each working group will move from conversation about a reading related to their particular theme to working together on a project or deliverable (of suitable scope) that they’ll present at a showcase on our final day together.

  • The Weekend.  Another popular innovation that returns this year is the weekend break between the first two days and the last two days – giving us all time to refresh, recharge, and refocus on our work in the middle of the Sessions.

Pro-tip: be sure to show up early on the first day; we’ll be serving a light breakfast in the first floor lobby of CERAS (the building right next to Sweet Hall) starting at 8:15 AM.  It’s the best time to meet new people, say hello to friends, and transition back into PWR life with a cup of coffee and a pastry in your hand.  We’ll start with our official welcome promptly at 9 AM, so even if you’re not coming for breakfast, be sure to calculate your commute to get you to CERAS on time.

Thanks to the Septembrists, we have a great set of Sessions lined up and a wonderful start to the year ahead of us.  So whether you’re looking forward to September Sessions for the intellectual engagement, the comradery, the conversation, or even the food (or Star Trek references!), you can count on it being a memorable and rewarding experience.

More News Topics