Kopelson’s “Sp(l)itting Images”

Time to join the fun. Since others have already written some interesting things, I’ll keep this short.

First, on context, to pick up on Alex’s comments about Cortland, what if we shift the ground from research universities to institutions where teaching is the primary mission? While I don’t want to tune my response by saying “That’s not what happens here,” it’s hard not to think students for whom the MA is a terminal degree would respond very differently to the survey. For instance, Derek’s diagrams would be very different with “thesis” substituted for “dissertation”–two years of coursework, not four; none of the deep, focused reading preceding doctoral examinations, etc. Given that non-research institutions dominate American higher education, from comprehensives like Cortland and Western to community colleges, I see a pedagogical imperative even more broadly operant than Kopelson. And it is powerful enough to reverse the field: instead of compelling students to add a pedagogy chapter or “pedagesture,” I often have to encourage (even force) them to think outside the pedagogical box. Kopelson’s call for broadening “pedagogical” is hard to argue with: I think I could live with the pedagogical imperative if it wasn’t at its heart an first-year composition imperative.

And the conclusion. Disappointing for a few reasons. First and foremost, I’m an “eat your own dog food” kind of fellow, and it just doesn’t make sense for Kopelson to end in this manner. There’s a huge difference between an essay like hers and narcissistic edited collections which tell “stories of the discipline” (read: here’s how we do it at Whatever SU). Second, yes, some folks (heck, whole university presses) are entrapped in “endlessly recycled debates,” but it’s not hard to find scholars who aren’t, following the borrowing and/or rhetorical models she presents. I’d like to think that my borrowing from user-centered design, computer science, library science, etc. is productive, even if it doesn’t create a true interdisciplinarity. So I’m just gonna strike out that last paragraph.

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