Date of Award

5-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design

Advisor

Haynes, Cynthia

Committee Member

Vitanza , Victor

Committee Member

Feeser , Andrea

Committee Member

Hung , Christina

Abstract

This dissertation finds its exigency in 'The 9/11 Commission Report,' and specifically its claim that 'a failure of imagination' that dismisses possibilities relates to the work currently in focus within rhetoric and composition studies as it relates to writing (with) new media. My argument relies on the underdeveloped concept of `imagination' in composition as a way to argue for an alternate theoretical framework for addressing what writing (with) new media entails as a growing form of art. As such, I take up Geoff Sirc's invitation to `remake' his English Composition as a Happening with all of its references to avant-garde art as conceptualized in Allan Kaprow's figure of the unartist and Dick Higgins calls for intermedia practices. Both of these concepts appear in the unart of comics - an `art' for artists who have left their `homes' in disciplinary iterations of art (unart) and for artists who are more concerned with working between media than they are within a specific medium (intermedia). Comics, as I use the term, does not refer to a specific medium, but works as a form of thought in the Deleuzian sense: a sort of intuition exercised by imagination engaged in the continuous discovery of possibilities.
Building on `post-pedagogical' theories of invention--Italo Calvino, Byron Hawk, Cynthia Haynes, Gregory Ulmer--avant-garde writing and art practices (as it relates to new media)--Maurice Blanchot, Andre Breton, Friedrich Kittler, Jean-Francois Lyotard--and institutional rhetorics--Giorgio Agamben, Jacques Derrida, Bill Readings, Thomas Rickert--I propose a `strange' manner of writing that foregoes the demands of argumentative writing in favor of a playful writing that attunes itself to imaginative possibilities of discovery. To write strangely connotes an unconventional approach to composition that would offer us the opportunities to think about `the coming composition' as we invent new forms and ways of thinking according to methods invented for the occasion. In inventing new forms by thinking in terms of intermedia, we can realize the goal of Lyotard's postmodern writer: to present (allusions to) the unpresentable. If we are to address the `failure of imagination' in institutional practice and in `the scene of teaching,' we need to be willing to be nomadic as both artists AND writers. Comics `artists,' or those who I refere to as unartists, are adept at demonstrating ways in which this work can proceed, especially if we think of comics in terms of Haynes' slash-technology that cuts through the divisions between media. In this dissertation, comics function as a form of thought that extends `multimodal composition' and `art' to their limits in order to suggest a strangely imaginative composition capable of attending to the disast(e)rous `failure of imagination.'

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