Whew! It’s been a crazy few weeks (months, actually), and the unveiling of this project (ok, yes, pun intended) has gone about as smoothly as we could hope. In the process, we got a first-hand look at the ancient rhetorical concept of audience when our two presentations — first at our university as part of the LiteracyStudies@OSU initiative and then at the FemRhet conference in Little Rock — sparked substantially different discussions.
At OSU, a rather energetic debate followed over the word, harlot. I’d love to map out the evolution of the conversation (perhaps we should post a synopsis of it at some point), but I’ll just mention some details here. Concern was raised over whether the name is worth the potential amount of people who may be offended and turned away, worth the amount of rethinking we hope to spark with the OED definitions of harlot, the subtitle (a persuasive look at the arts of persuasion), the url (HarlotoftheArts.org), a description of the term’s relationship to rhetorical studies, and so on. How much are we willing to risk turning people away from this space before they even put effort into figuring out the philosophy behind the name?
Several people jumped in with responses in our favor — to the point where we nearly didn’t have to answer. My favorite response came from Jim Fredal (and I hope I paraphrase well enough): If in five years Harlot is still doing the work it seeks, the meanings (denotations and connotations) currently affiliated with the word will shift. The space of Harlot has the ability not only to question but also to write the ways in which symbols (words) are understood. And with this, we were momentarily struck silent with the grandeur of the idea. If only. . . .
An overwhelming topic that arose at the FemRhet conference revolved around issues of academic publishing. It was quite a shame that Tim, our resident student of academic publishing, couldn’t attend since he hadn’t yet been a member of our team when our conference proposal was submitted. His part of the presentation would have been very valuable for this crowd. Many voiced a desire to publish in a space like Harlot for reasons of philosophy and service. The problem, however, is that many scholars cannot put aside time to produce work that doesn’t directly apply toward tenure requirements. Many of the digital productions teachers spend time, energy, and thought producing are not recognized by current standards, and yet these productions are what bring scholarly work into the digital age, allowing networks and information streams to form and flow among professional scholars, students, and areas of study.
This discussion is probably what weighs heaviest on me right now. What standards must we put into effect to give academic authors a tangible reason for submitting to Harlot? In other words, if Harlot is supposed to be a space in which academic and public audiences come together on equal footing to discuss matters of persuasion in today’s culture, to what extent do we have an obligation toward scholars to produce submission criteria that would enable them to face their tenure and promotion committees and proudly present their accepted Harlot publications? Will we lose this part of our community if we don’t somehow oblige? When will the practicing of one’s scholarly philosophy in an online space finally become an aspect of academic work that is accepted, respected, and appreciated?
As always, for those of you who attended either presentation or who are reading our thoughts-in-progress in this blog, we welcome and urge your input. Establishing criteria for submitting to Harlot should be communally agreed upon . . . as in line with the philosophy of Harlot.