a rhetorical flourish

as i mentioned in my last post, i've put in an application to UC Berkeley's Department of Rhetoric. gah, it just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? a bit about why i'm so ga-ga for this particular ivory tower, and what i'd do if they let me scale the walls:

first, the description on the website:
The Department of Rhetoric is a leading center for interdisciplinary research and teaching in the humanities and social sciences. Linked by a common interest in the functions of discourse in all its forms, faculty and students engage the theoretical, historical, and cultural dimensions of interpretation and criticism, in fields as diverse as political theory, gender, law, media studies, philosophy, and literature.
neat, huh?

the department is sort of inside out--they're not unified by a particular subject matter, but by a particular approach. people there do philosophy, history, film studies, english, etc. but they do them from this discourse-studying post-structurally-informed standpoint that sees all those disciplines as part of the same cultural moments and movements.

so, i love linguistics as a discipline, but i want to come at it from that direction. i think it's too entrenched to really be shaken up from the inside the way i want to.

how do i want to? i'm glad you asked. first of all, linguistics, for all its science-y rhetoric, relies on certain metaphors and assumptions that define how it conceives its objects: a person is the genesis of language, a person exists independent of language and then gains it, the purpose of language is to communicate information, and so on. an approach that examined these assumptions as metaphors and rhetorical figures would be ultra revealing.

second, disciplines like rhetoric (and brown's MCM department, notably), are doing a neat thing called 'media-specific analysis.' here is a ucla website on the topic. the first listed author, btw, is one of my recommenders! she taught a great course my last semester at brown for which i did some of my favorite work. including a 20-mile-wide webpage. which i should post.

anyway, MSA is being done on genre and poetry and so on, but not everyday language itself. why not? where are the people talking about how typing is changing language? what are the differences between print and speech, from a linguistic, not poetic, standpoint? these things aren't being talked about in linguistics, as far as i know.

i had a really nice meeting with a rhetoric prof, michael mascuch, just about the day after i submitted my application. he's done some interesting thinking about the authority of various media and how that relative authority has shifted over time. so he's examining novels and history, but maybe the techniques used in these disciplines provide a way into looking at the effects of media on language itself. (language conceived as an entity apart from any particular speaker? yeah... maybe...)

aside from that, the department has some major heavy hitters like judith butler and kaja silverman. AND, it's berkeley. come on. it's beautiful, it's in the bay area, and it's got people like john searle and george lakoff, who are SO important, even if i don't agree with them and submitted my writing sample on just how much i don't agree with them. it's a move i'm second-guessing.

the ulterior motives for this post: 1. maybe admissions committees do google searches? they should, in this day and age, shouldn't they? not that this slap-dashery will impress anyone, but maybe my enthusiasm is more apparent than in my overly-reworked statements of purpose. 2. i need to not think about this now. i'll know in just over a week if i didn't get in, and i'm hoping that getting this post out of my system will help alleviate the stress. fat chance: 200 applicants, 10 spots.

oh well, there's always next year.


where have I been?

greetings, faithful reader(s). i've gone over 6 weeks without posting. i'm currently too tired to look anything up, but that may be a record.

where have i been? i've been entering grown-up land! but don't worry, there's lots of language out here too.

between christmas and new year's, a friend and i loaded up a u-haul and moved to san francisco. i also managed to find a real, paying job out here since the last time i posted. i'm the assistant editor of FireRescue1, a news website for firefighters. my first news story (i'll be writing at least one a month) is online here: rappelling firefighters. in addition, i'm putting together bi-weekly and fourish-times-monthly newsletters, the most recent of which you can check out here: volume 221. i'm learning the business of 'web editing,' so maybe you'll see some fancy html up here soon.

though, i have to say, it is surprisingly exhausting to work as much as i'm currently working. mentally, that is. so consider this post my warm up, or my running start--Invented Usage will be flying again in no time. or fall on its face.

i've also got an application in to UC Berkeley's rhetoric Ph.D. program. I should know within the next few weeks if i don't get in. hm...

to make this a more legit post, an invented usage overheard at Tart-to-Tart, a neat little bakery chain that has a branch out here in my new neighborhood, the Sunset: "i don't want too much frosting. I've never cared for the flavor of frost." or something like that. it wasn't totally ironic, either. the speaker said he realized as he was using the word that it was a neologism, but would probably make his meaning understood. and it did. i'm still amazed.

and, as an added bonus, a few teasers about posts i've been considering writing for a while now:
  • jobs that make us break conversational implicatures and hence, create awkward social situations
  • AP style (the other thing I'm learning at my job)--practical reasons to solidfy conventions
  • language barriers in san francisco
  • The Department of Rhetoric and the media-specific analyses of language I would undertake if I were accepted there someday...
no promises, though. there's a quiche in the oven.