As I watch the blue in the sky increase in depth and intensity with each passing moment as the sun rises nine miles behind me on what appears to be the "other side" of Lake Michigan, I know it's going to be a gorgeous fall day here in Chicago. From my apartment window three stories up, this nest of my own, sunlight saturates surface so intensely that, in the case of the trees, it seems to be radiating from the trunks, rather than reflecting off leaves. Light sources redouble on all that lives. The day, here, now, opens.
The sensation I feel in this opening is lovely--it mirrors the kind of wonder and excitement and joy expressed during the recording session with my colleagues. You can hear it in the way they say the word open. The O gets hit and sustained just a little bit longer than it might in a word like, orange or orchestra. Add to that the memories and associations we were all making between the words open and openness in connection with the hospitality, kindness and support provided by Cindy and Dickie Selfe, (and all of the that-time graduate students associated with the various CIWIC/DMACs we all attended), well then you've got warm-and-fuzzy made tangible right there in the pronunciation.
As I listened again and again to folks saying this word, as I considered this linguistic relationship, the bodily representation of this sensation; as I researched and made a list of all of the different phrases, metaphors and sayings that use the word open, it didn't take much to conclude that the word "open" is often associated with positive connotation. To be open, (at least from a liberal perspective), we all usually agree, is a good thing. Good like bonfires, and candy, and smiles, and hugs. Like iMovie, like Googling it. Like CIWIC, like DMAC. Like accomplishment, and pride, and success, and love.
The reason I've been sitting here, witnessing the shift from dawn to morning is that I wanted to figure out how to say that the video essay I created for this project reflects the ways that CIWIC has impacted my compositional style. Because of working with Anne Wysocki in the session focused on design and multimodal composition, I began to embrace my own desire to engage in creative-critical, (rather than academic) writing. Because of the generosity expressed during my time at Michigan Tech, I felt invited to consider ways of incorporating my own interest in intellectual hospitality into my life and work, an idea I was invited to speak about at CIWIC the year after I attended as a participant. Through all of this intellectual and creative work, I thought about the energy it requires to open something--a door, a drawer, a jar--and how it can sometimes actually appear more like a violence--the cracking of an egg, or nut, in order to get it open, to get to the "good stuff." This focus on the good stuff, this, I came to see, is what we walk away with when we have but a memory of what it is to open.
What we don't really mention much in our conversation, was the energy, time, frustration and resistance that were also involved in most of our CIWIC and DMAC experiences. Those attending CIWIC/DMAC came willing to work with to the technology, the new pedagogical ideas. We weren't just open to the idea of these things, we set ourselves out to be cracked-ruptured wide. We trusted that something good would come of this energetic output and so even when we may have resisted during certain moments throughout the two week session, (I hereby acknowledge that there were some exercises/assignments that I just did not do because I had had my fill of 'new' information and modalities), our internal motivation to learn and grow was as much as anyone could ever expect from a group of students.
The students in a writing classroom? Ah, here's the rub, right? For a variety of reasons, written about by scores of people over the past few decades, students do not always come to the classroom with a clear desire to open, or be opened to, and for, and by whatever it is you've got to show/teach/present/offer them. (If you've watched this video essay and have made it this far in this letter, I am sure can list [maybe have already been listing in your head] the scholars and projects that have explored this situation.) And so the trick here is for the instructor to know themselves and their material and their students well enough to apply the right amount of pressure to their particular levels of resistance. To know whether you're pulling open a drawer, or will need to crack an egg. To know when to move in, when to pull back, when to press down, when to lift off, when to push in, when to fade away.
My video essay reflects what I have taken from the CIWIC experience: a beginning point in my own folklore regarding development of a personal process in critical-creative composition/writing. What you have here is an example of the ways that CIWIC has made an impact on me, not as an instructor, (though I could have gone that route--it's definitely the obvious one,) and not exactly as a scholar, (I haven't presented you with much of a methodology, though I might argue that I'm using story as my methodology and that perhaps cultural rhetorics are at work here), but as a maker. As a both/and individual, a transgenre writer, a genderqueer subject, working with and at and within the interstices of academic and artistic realms.
CIWIC, I know is the place I first considered transitioning--from straight academic to queer critical-creative writer. It's about form, I came to see. Not necessarily content. The more choice we've got for the form, the more potential we've got to open ourselves, and others, to meanings and interpretations and ideas. I am always interested in the open. I am always aware there's an implicit violence in the opening. Where and how and when and whether we submit to that violence, are comfortable enough to embrace the discomfort and laugh out loud, that's the interesting part. That's what I am investigating with this piece.
This subject, here, now, open: WIDE for you.
With both gratitude,