Thursday, February 10, 2005

Tangents & Parentheses...Are Just a Couple of My Cravings

Because I Believe Tangents Are Great

To reply to—or simply further—something Tamara made reference to in one of her responses, I am fascinat’d by the rhetoric of the parenthesis, or parenthetical rhetoric.

Corbett & Connors, in Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student (5th ed. 1999), offer a solid foundation for the use of parentheses. They write

A parenthesis abruptly—and usually briefly—sends the thought off on a tangent.
Although the parenthetical matter is not necessary for the grammatical
completeness of the sentence, it does have a pronounced rhetorical effect.
For a brief moment, we hear the author’s voice, commenting, editorializing,
and for that reason, the sentence gets an emotional charge that it otherwise
would have not. (385)

& for any of you etymology lovers, the OED Online claims that the term “parenthesis” was 1st used in 1568:

Check it out:
1568 GRAFTON Chron. II.
811 The Duke somwhat marueylyng at his sodaine pauses, as thoughe they were but Parenthesis, with a high countenaunce sayde.
That's 437 years of ( ) !

A book that employs a fair number of parentheses very effectively is Beth Boquet’s Noise from the Writing Center. (Nothing like plug’g the WCJ Co-Editor’s book, eh? :)

One of the most effective attributes of Beth's work is that the reader is (hyper-)aware of the author’s presence, of how she works w/—and plays w/—language to the point where read’g it b/cs almost like a game (in a positive way, of course). The appearance of the language is a NOISE! of its own ("appearance" thus reflect’g/project'g "content").

I think parenthetical rhetoric is a grand part of (my) play theory (which Tamara & I are, I believe, hoping Roberta D. Kjesrud will discuss during her blogmeister party).

(But How Does Parenthesis Relate To… This?)

I'm think'g about Gardner & Ramsey's "The Polyvalent Mission of Writing Centers" & Bokser's "Pedagogies of Belonging: Listening to Students and Peers" as I write about these little grammatical symbols that can have such a profound effect on readers, on the way s/thing is suppos'd to be read (both literally & as a physical property).

What's in b/n the symbols, as suggest'd by C & C, does not necessarily have to be there--but it does. W/o it, the author wd be, in some great way, lost. (I said lost, not dead.)

& maybe (if it's not too much of a s-t-r--e--t---c---h) that's a space where WCs sometimes are. Maybe WCs are the tangential curriculum of education. Maybe WCs are not "necessary for the completeness of an education" but, whoa, do they "have a rhetorical (and personal) effect."

Writing Centers can briefly--and abruptly--provide students w/ a space where they can dually "resist hegemony," as G-n-R suggest WCs are all about, while, @ the same time, help'g them assimilate into an academic conversation (see Bokser's article, too). G-n-R offer a list of Hegemonic & Counter-Hegemonic qualities/values of the university on p.33. WCs can, conceivably, find themselves operating in the center of each of the parentheticals.

For example, just imagine "regulatory" (hegemonic quality) being left parenthesis, while "liberatory" (counter-H quality) is right parenthesis. What's in-between is the writer's voice (the writer being both writer and tutor--& WC). Maybe WCs are the parenthical space where writer's can comment on & editorialize their academic voices--as well as their own, everyday voices.

(I mean, parenthetical comments are often the most honest comments in a piece of writing.)

Heh. Blog'g.


Entertainment Recommendation:

Coffee and Cigarettes (2003)
It's a Jim Jarmusch film, so be prepar'd to feel weird (& wired?) @ times. But where else can you watch Iggy Pop & Tom Waits talk endlessly while indulg'g in c & c's? Where else can you see RZA & GZA (of Wu-Tang) have tea while conversat'g w/ their caffeinat'd waiter, Bill Murray?

A visually dynamic, creative flick to make you feel slightly (insert emotion here) while watch'g.

Sing'g of Combos:

Rufus Wainwright's "Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk." Rufus visit'd IUP this past fall--w/ little fanfare, I must say. & I don't think he was pleas'd by it.

& I don't smoke. But I (occasionally) drink coffee.


At 6:10 AM, Blogger Tamara Miles said...

More on the parenthetical element: (You've got to see this for today's cultural experience --- read the bio and listen to "Christmas Memory" and "Here's to Forgetting").

Okay, so what you are saying, Kevin, is that writing centers are the parentheses in the academic sentence? That's so beautiful. I can almost hear Dennis Hopper's character in Apocolypse Now saying it about Colonel Kurtz (Brando): "Will they say he was a g-o-od man, he was a k-i-nd man, he was the par-en-the-sis in the aca-demic sen-tence?" (I'm a little hung up on Apocalypse Now; I've seen it entirely too many times). Anyhoo, you are a brilliant man, and I formally declare February to be "parenthesis month" at the Writing and Professional Skills Studio at OC Tech. By George, we will put that fellow to work. Which brings up something interesting to my little brain --- is the parenthesis masculine or feminine? Is it gender-neutral? (Well, I am almost certain it is bisexual. It goes both ways.) ()

If I am going to espouse the parenthesis this month in our WC, how shall I go about it? Posters that say "The Parenthesis --- a Salute to Digression"? or "The Parenthesis Wants to Take You Aside and Talk to You"? or "Meet the Parenthesis --- the Deviant Punctuation Mark"?

BTW -- As I was looking up "parenthesis" in the thesaurus, I found an unfamiliar word and will now add "divagation" to my vocabulary.

to divagate = to wander or drift about

Now, Gardner and Ramsey ("The Polyvalent Mission of Writing Centers") that some of the work we do in the writing center involves such 'extracurricular' learning acts (38 WCJ)as "freshman seminar support; resume writing; consulting with students with learning disabilities; creative writing consultations (students not in creative writing courses who seek an ear for their poems or short stories)," and etc. So, the authors are claiming these activities to be parenthetical within the writing center world. I'm troubled by the idea of seeing the needs of students with learning disabilities as parenthetical. What do you say?

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