Links for Talk

I'm guest lecturing in a graduate course tonight on the evolution from literacy to digitality (my playful name for the talk is "From the Ear to the Eye to the Mouth: Orality, Literacy, and Digitality"). I didn't have time to make a web presentation, so I'm posting some links I might need here:


Talkin' Shop: Teaching Direct Quotation

I'm doing a nuts-and-bolts topoi approach to direct quotation today, and I thought I would share my brief overlay. I'm also interested in how other people approach the subject.

In class today we are going to focus on incorporating direct quotations into writing. Essentially, I consider quotes a 4 part process. There's the signal, the quote, the summary, and the analysis. While we'll be using this specifically for direct quotes today and this weekend, this is essentially the undelrying structure for most academic-argumentative paragraphs: a claim, followed by evidence, and analysis. The signal works to create ethos for the source: the source itself can either present logos or pathos (similarly, you can react to sources in the vein of logos or pathos).

  • Signal: who, what, where, when. Note that what/where can be a reference to a kind of media [article, book, poem, website, blog post], a genre [sonnet, dialogue, operational manual], or location/event [press conference, reporting from the steps of the White House]
  • Quote: in-line citations use quotation marks and are generally three lines or less. Block citations do not use quotation marks and are indented from the rest of the text.
  • Summary: especially for block quotations, you need to reduce a block of text to a single-line.
  • Analysis: Reaction, counter-argument, point to similar situation, offer further information, use the bridge, "in order to appreciate X's argument, it helps to know about/explore/etc

Here's an example; let's say I was writing a blog on the struggles of newspapers to survive the digital transition, I might want to point to the October 15th, 2009 NYT's article dealing with the Times Co. decision to hold on to the Boston Globe.

In his recent article, Richard Perez-Pena explains that the Times Co. has decided to hold onto the Boston Globe, at least for now. Perez-Pena explains that the Times Co. has been trying to sell the newspaper for the past month, but, since it hasn't received what it deems a credible offer, it has decided to pull the paper off the market. He writes:

Dan Kennedy, a journalism professor at Northeastern University who has closely followed The Globe’s troubles, said it might be better for The Globe to remain with the Times Company than to go to a new owner that might do more cutting or replace top executives. “But the company has its work cut out for it in terms of rebuilding credibility with the employees and the community,” he said.

Perez-Pena explains that the Times Co. has been involved in bitter labor disputes over the past year, as advertising revenues continue to fall: this move, as Kennedy notes above, could be a solid first move in rebuilding an important relationship with one of America's oldest, and most significant, newspapers. However, I think we still need to be a bit skeptical here: the fact that no one even proposed a reasonable offer for a newspaper that only 15 years ago commanded 1 billion dollars, the highest price ever for a single newspaper (Perez-Pena), does not bode well for the future of the industry. Like many newspapers, the Globe was slow to adapt to the digitalization of America's infosphere. Time will tell if recent efforts are too little too late.

If you look above, I first contextualize the quote--not only supplying where/when/who it came from, but also providing some sense of what the whole article discusses. Then I focus attention toward a particular point and supply the quote. After the quote, I first reiterate what the quote said (providing a bit of new information). This is an important step that a lot of writers skip. Always make sure you summarize a quote, so a reader knows precisely what you think it says. Then, in the final part of the paragraph above, I analyze the material. I respond to it. In this particular case, I am somewhat critical of the optimism that underlies Perez-Pena's piece.

A few other small points:

  • Notice the first time I reference an author, I use there first and last name. After that, it is sufficient to only use the last name.
  • Notice that I don't have a citation after the direct quotation: the reason here is that it is obvious where the quote came from thanks to my signal. This is an electronic source, so there is no page number citation, were it a print source I would have to include that. NEVER USE A PAGE NUMBER IN THE SIGNAL TEXT.
  • Notice in my analysis that I make a parenthetical to the author--its because I pulled the price of the Globe purchase in 1993 from his article. I don't directly quote it, so no quotation marks.
  • Finally, there's two kinds of quotations, in-line quotations and block quotations. Each have there own rules for academic papers (the dreaded MLA and APA guidelines). We will deal with those later in the course. In terms of blogging: quotes longer than 4 lines need to be blockquoted. Blogger has a button to help you do this. Blockquotes don't receive quotation marks.


Wait Til Next Year?

As a Boston/New England sports fan, the first decade of the new century went rather well. Perhaps too well. Our cultural ethos is constructed around losing and misfortune. Might it be that things are returning to normal?

This was an odd year for the Red Sox. While the offense struggled mightily, and while the pitching staff failed to live up to the lofty expectations, the Sox still made the playoffs. To lose in a sweep is a bit unexpected; to see Papelbon blow the save seems fitting for a season in which he, and other beloved veterans, struggled.

The Red Sox still have a very good collection of young players. The bloated contract of J.D. Drew will haunt them for at least one more year (two if Drew stays healthy). It will be interesting to see what happens with Jason Varitek and Jason Bay in the off-season. ESPN doesn't have the CERA (catcher's ERA) numbers for Martinez behind the plate, but I am going to guess its not as good as Varitek's 3.87 (since the team ERA on the season is 4.35). It should not be overlooked that Martinez, and not Varitek, was catching yesterday as the Red Sox stellar, hard-throwing bullpen imploded. I was previously concerned about this.

Bay had a roller-coaster season. I imagine he is seeing dollar signs this off-season. The Yankees have a considerable amount of money rolling off the books this year. I still fully expect Carl Crawford to execute the one million dollar buyout on his contract to become a free agent. That will put Crawford, Bay, and Matt Holliday (ouch, that error hurt--I still think his numbers with St. Louis were an aberration--buyer beware with this guy) at the top of a talented group of free agent outfielders, that additionally includes Manny, a resurgent Abreu, Magglio Ordonez (injuries a factor here), and others. Most of the major markets--Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Dodgers (bye bye Manny?) will be potential buyers.

I have a feeling that the team will see a major shake-up this off-season: only time will tell if Varitek, Bay, Papelbon, or Mike Lowell returns next season. Papelbon in particular will be interesting to watch. The Red Sox still control him, but they have had difficulty coming to terms the past few seasons--and just barely avoided arbitration last year. I think part of the hesitation here is giving Papelbon, who has a chronic shoulder issue, a high-end long term deal. To avoid arbitration, and make the deal worthwhile for all sides, the contract would likely work out something like 32 million for 4 years (K-Rod got 37 million for 3 as an outright free agent). I had a feeling, when the Sox wouldn't pull the trigger on the Halladay deal, that Bard was being groomed as a future closer. So, as much as I love the glare, I wonder how much longer Papelbon will be in Boston. Please note that my wondering has absolutely nothing to do with his performance yesterday. He lived dangerously at times this season, but is still a top closer. I just think, medically and economically, the Red Sox front office has showed hesitation to lock up Paps as they have locked up Pedroia, Youkilis, and Lester.

As to the Patriots, it is very hard for me to watch Tom Brady right now, if only because he set the bar so high. But his deep ball looks as accurate as JaMarcus Russell's right now. I remember when Joe Montana returned from his elbow injury- though still great, he wasn't Joe Montana. That's how I feel watching Brady right now. Again, time will tell whether, like Donovan McNabb, he is able to recover from this injury or if, like Carson Palmer, Brady never quite returns to the level he was pre-injury.


Reading Cicero Otherwise

So I am more and more coming to the realization that I will likely have to learn at least Latin, if not Greek, in the coming years. My Latin is tolerable enough to work through small passages, but I admit to being reliant on translations. Reading Cicero in preparation for my graduate seminar this week, I was struck by what I believe to be a telling anachronism in a passage from J. S. Watson's 1970 translation:

For the proper concern of an orator, as I have already said, is language of power and elegance accommodated to the feelings and understandings of mankind. (20)

It was that last word that really struck me--mankind, since, to my knowledge, the Greeks did not have such a conception (this, I realize is a difficult statement--certainly, Plato and Isocrates, via Idealism and Hellenism, approach the concept, but I don't want to engage that fight here). Now I realize that Cicero is a Roman--but the opening section of his De Oratore is a pragmatic response to Plato's treatment of rhetoric. Essentially, Cicero argues that Plato, sitting in his corner (an allusion to Aristophanes' The Clouds), discusses important matters in dead, lifeless, bloodness, dry, academic language. The power of the orator comes in injecting life into this language--imbuing it with an animating passion.

It was this celebration of language that got my spider sense tingling--because, beyond the direct Enlightenment language of "mankind," I also hear an 18th century preference for understanding over passion. Readers of Addison and Samuel Johnson will be familiar with such an echo. To confirm my suspicion, I checked a few other [free, electronic] translations of the passage. First, from the 1904 E. N. P. Moor translation:

For the special province of the orator is, as I have said already more than once, to express himself in a style at once impressive and artistic and comfortable with the thoughts and feelings of human nature.

I hear in this one a remnant of Ramus--a reduction of oratory from style (I can't get into it here--but Cicero is suspicious of the term rhetoric, linking it to books, and prefers the term oratory, stressing the performative elements. Style has a default logography to it. Hmm.

From the 1822 Guthrie translation:

For, as I have often said, the province of an orator is to talk in a language that is proper, graceful, and suited to the affections and understandings of mankind.

"Proper" and "graceful" here are powerful Enlightenment concepts--connected to the Order of the Beautiful. A bit of interpretive induction suggests that the orators' power isn't suitable to the occassion, but rather to the Truth of Mankind. Again, I am reading beyond the lines, but I believe such a reading is productive.

Now, like I said, my Latin is rusty and was never close to fluent. But here's the original Latin:

hoc enim est proprium oratoris, quod saepe iam dixi, oratio gravis et ornata et hominum sensibus ac mentibus accommodata.

Rather than transform "hominum sensibus" as some form of "understanding of mankind"--which seems to [theoretically] universalist and [philologically] sloppy--I chose to go with a more literal representation of the words: one that captures sensibus as feeling/perception in connection with the senses. Additionally, let accommodata ring with its sense of "suitability" or "propriety." So, my amateur interpretation would look something like this:

For the particular being of oratory is, as said, weighty/pregnant speech furnished by a perceiving mind and adaptable disposition/soul.

While the use of soul might seem odd here, remember that this is Cicero's most direct response to Platonic censure. It is quite likely that he might want to tease out soul here--a way of exorcising Platonic spirits and celebrating rhetorical souls. Pregnant is a possible meaning for gravis--and I personally like it here, since it reminds us that the purpose of speech isn't transference, but growth. The notion of a[hu]mankind is proper to a transcendental, idealist, dualism which Cicero here, and in other places, resists. For Cicero, the orator is responsible, first and foremost, to the people surrounding her.

In historical rhetorical studies, theorists such as Poulakos and Vitanza often get accused of reading ancient texts with a postmodern bias (which they, and I, do). I wonder, however, if closer study of all translations wouldn't reveal the extent to which the texts we teach in graduate classes aren't, in ways that often escapes our attention, written from an extreme default modernity. There's a Levinasian slant to my reading--one drenched in a postmodern feminine [pregnant] ethic of responsibility, accountability, singularity, and transience. I think we can see in Cicero a celebration of the saying's power, a dedication to enacting change in the polis, and a skepticism of knowledge for knowledge's sake.

NOTE: I am working from a coffee shop today. I have found 4 other translations available at the USF library, so I will check those tomorrow.