Call for Submissions, Fall 2013 General Issue!

Call for Submissions for Harlot’s Fall 2013 general issue

It’s that time again! Harlot is inviting adventurous critics, artists, and thinkers to examine the real, important, and everyday powers of rhetoric in innovative and creative ways. With a broad readership (including academics and non-academics), Harlot asks critical questions and provokes playful discussions that are interesting and relevant to diverse audiences. We welcome contributions of all sorts–in terms of subject, style, and presentation–and encourage pieces that engage our audience through meaningful media productions (i.e. accessible alphabetic texts and/or multimedia pieces such as videos, audio files, webtexts, etc.). Submit to Harlot and reveal those arts of persuasion.

If you have any questions or want to chat through an idea, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the editors (

Submission Deadline: July 15th

A Statement on Family

As we at Harlot prepare for the publication of our upcoming special issue focused on family rhetoric, I am struck by the relevance and import of Zach Wahls’ speech about family. In his speech opposing a resolution that would end civil unions in Iowa, he makes a bold statement about the rhetoric of family.

The 2nd Edition: [A]musing Ourselves

In the most recent issue of Harlot, my colleague Paul Muhlhauser and I published a satirical piece critiquing what we learn about genders and work from the November 2009 J.CREW catalog.  Yesterday, we posted a comment on our piece that extends our critique to the most recent issues of the catalog.  I’m copying our comment here for your delectation (and, selfishly, in hopes that some of you may enter the conversation we were hoping to start with our piece).  In case you didn’t know, each piece published on Harlot is “comment-ready”.  Just click on the “Add Comment” link below the piece and make your contribution!  [Caveat: you may have to register with Harlot if you are not yet registered.]

EXTENDING THE CONVERSATION (our comment on How Genders Work: Producing the J.CREW Catalog):

To be fair to J.CREW, they did “follow up” the Real Guys Relate feature with another issue that featured “real” women—women and their jobs. However, the feature is titled Who’s that Girl? rather than Who’s that Woman?. When women work, they are just girls. This sends the message that women’s jobs are really not equal to men’s.

Besides being called “girls,” these women are referred to as “muses” and “muse-worthy” in the introduction to the feature. This means they are sources of inspiration for others. In this context, the women inspire more than the job descriptions offered. What is striking is how these “real” women display behaviors consistent with women in How Genders Work. Though women are named and their jobs are listed, “girls” continue to be posed like the models in the magazine rather than the men who are aware of their positions and surroundings. Women’s posturing is still flirty as their toes are pointed inward, and they often look off to the side unaware of their surroundings and out of context. In addition, as if to counteract the effect women with jobs would have on a reader by unsettling a stereotype, J.CREW profiles the men who work at the British journal Monocle. These men become even more real as they are positioned in contexts of offices, city streets, and studios. The lesson we learn from this issue is that real men do real work—they exist in a real world, in context. Real women, on the other hand, may have real jobs but their work is to [a]muse.

To make matters worse, the issue following Who’s that Girl? once again features “real” men as workers and women models as flirtatious and air-headed. There are no “real” women in this issue. The theme for the issue is nature (as in landscaping, farming, and gardening). The instructions show us that women are incompetent and disengaged with regards to nature. Nature, for them, is an accessory. One model, for instance, looks as if she doesn’t know how to pot a plant. She holds it as if waiting for someone to help her. Another holds flowers—doesn’t do anything with them. Flowers are part of her “look.”

Men, in contrast, work with nature; they are competent and engaged. Rather than presented as an accessory, nature is presented as part of work and their livelihoods. In this feature, we return to the studio to learn about “The Naturals.” These “real” men are landscape designers, landscape photographers, agricultural directors, goat farmers, and agricultural farmers.

As these catalogs demonstrate, J.CREW has not changed their representation strategies. Though J.CREW attempted to represent “real” women, they failed. Our instructions still produce the J.CREW catalog. A second edition of our textbook would have a section for girls, muses, and jobs.

Contribute to the conversation!

getting physical

I was lucky enough to spend yesterday afternoon at the MoMA experiencing the Marina Abramovic performance art retrospective.   Abramovic tests the boundaries of the body and the mind in her pieces and disrupts the traditional relationship between performer and audience.  For Abramovic, the body is a medium for argument.

In one of her early performances, she sat herself in public beside a table containing things such as knives, a gun, and a bullet.  A note on the table invited passers-by to do to her what they wanted.  For six hours, she endured people cutting her and sucking her blood, undressing her, carrying her, and putting the loaded gun to her head.  In another piece, she and her performance collaborator stood naked in the entryway of an art museum.  They positioned their naked bodies so anyone wanting to enter or exit the museum had to pass through their naked bodies and had to choose whether to face the naked man or the naked woman as they slipped through them sideways.  This performance piece is being recreated for this retrospective, so a contemporary audience can experience it for themselves.

In addition to videos and live recreations of her performances over the past four decades, the exhibit includes Abramovic herself performing her longest-running solo piece “The Artist Is Present.”  For this piece, she is sitting in a chair facing whoever sits in the chair opposite her.  Visitors to the museum take turns sitting in the chair opposite her and are invited to stare into her eyes for as long as they wish.

Abramovic’s pieces are moving, engaging, and sometimes disturbing.  Not surprisingly, they are effective as a medium for political, social, and cultural arguments.

the “be stupid” ad campaign by diesel

Okay, so my research has, for a long time, focused on issues of intellectualism and anti-intellectualism in American culture.  And yes, that has resulted in a quick eye for all things anti-intellectual in my surroundings.  Still, I can’t be the only one stunned (and frustrated) by the new Diesel ad campaign: “Be Stupid.”  I noticed it first a few weeks back when getting off the D train at West 4th Street in Manhattan.  The long tunnel I had to walk through to surface just a few blocks from the campus of NYU was lined with Diesel’s new “Be Stupid” ads.  Here’s a taste of what I encountered…

Um, moving past the blatant anti-intellectual message that to be cool we should “be stupid,” there’s a whole lot here that’s problematic.   Women as sex objects perhaps?  The preference for balls over brains?  The image of “stupid” (i.e. cool) as a white middle-class youth we may presume has had the privilege of a good education?  Oh, and I just love that these ads (though I’m sure they appear elsewhere) line the subway tunnel right by NYU–one of the most prestigious universities in the country.

Call me “smart,” but I don’ think this ad campaign is as “stupid” (i.e. cool) as it thinks itself to be.

the e-reading experience

This past weekend I found myself participating in a lively (and at times heated) discussion about the future of the book and the value of the written word on paper vs. online.  The characters nestled around the table at which the discussion ensued included a professor of medieval literature, a poet/writing teacher, a fiction writer/rare book salesperson, an aspiring writer, and a college composition teacher (myself).

The discussion began when the medieval literature professor said she was troubled by students asking if they could read ebook versions of the assigned texts in her course.  She knew her answer to the students was no, but she said she also knew she had to think more about why that was her immediate answer.  Certainly, she said, it’s important for literature students to read the specific edition she chose (because she chose it for a particular purpose), and certainly students need shared editions so when the class performs a close reading of a particular passage, they are all looking at the same text and can easily find it with the same pagination.  But she knew there was another reason she said no to ebooks and it was more about the value of reading printed texts as opposed to etexts–about the different reading experiences students would have whether they read the text in print or online.

I quickly snapped in points about the cost of books and how ebooks could cut down on students’ expenses (a good thing, I believe) and also the changing nature of our students’ reading experiences and processes.  Many of our students are now growing up reading online and reading etexts, so I tried to argue perhaps students could have valuable reading experiences reading online the same texts we first encountered in a hardbound book.

The medievalist and the poet disagreed, and the poet added that she will not submit her poems to a publication that exists only online.  She doesn’t want her poems read in an electronic version, she said.  She wants them read on paper.

And this got me thinking about Harlot, and about our readers’ reading experiences.  All of us sitting around the table agreed that online publications can contain multi-media texts that can’t be reproduced in print journals, but a few at the table insisted that the same written text printed in an online publication could not possible be read the same way as it could be on paper.  Agreeing that the reading experiences would certainly be different (as of course the reading experience depends on so many factors, not just the form in which it appears), I was a bit concerned by the undertone of a value judgment being attached to those differences.  The woman who works in the rare books department of a well-known book store added to the conversation the issue of how “valuable texts” can only be bought by those with the proper resources, and how hard it is for her to observe people buying rare books solely for the purpose of owning them, rather than for an appreciation of the text itself.

All this is to say that I’d like to participate in and hear more discussion of people’s reading experiences with publications like Harlot. What do our readers gain and lose by experiencing our submissions solely online?

sesame street meets crime scene investigation

To be honest, I haven’t watched Sesame Street in… well, many many years.  I did, however,  stumble upon these YouTube clips of Sesame Street‘s versions of popular adult crime shows: Law and Order Special Letters Unit and Rhyme Scene Investigation (RSI).  While the videos are–in keeping with SS‘s mission–educational, it’s a little ballsy to connect a children’s educational show to adult crime shows, especially to one that focuses on sexually heinous crimes.  I’m guessing SS just wanted to throw its adult audience a bone.

Law and Order: Special Letters Unit:

RSI: Rhyme Scene Investigation:

going public

This morning I’ve been reading some of Mike Rose’s work, especially his arguments for teaching academics to write for public audiences (something he’s notoriously good at).  Mike Rose is a Professor in the UCLA Graduate School of Information Studies and he’s well-known for his research on workplace literacy, remediation, and reconsidering our understandings of intelligence in relation to work.

In An Open Language: Selected Writing on Literacy, Learning, and Opportunity Rose points out that though rhetoric and composition as a field is “deeply connected to matters of broad public interest–literacy, teaching, undergraduate education” and we’ve been seeking connection with the public through service learning, courses in civic rhetoric, and work with workplace and community literacy projects, the field “offers little or no graduate-level training for public writing or speaking.”

Rose has been creating opportunities for graduates students in his program to learn more about and get more practice writing for public audiences (See his article with Karen McClafferty, “A Call for the Teaching of Writing in Graduate Education”).

Among the benefits of public writing, Rose says, are that “it can lead to a questioning and clarifying of assumptions,” it forces precision and “a honing of argument,” and forces you to think about what evidence is most persuasive.

I was struck by his comments, of course, because Harlot was started based on the recognition of a disconnect between academic considerations of rhetoric and persuasion and public deliberation of these matters.  Rose’s summary of the benefits of public writing also moved me.  Personally, I have struggled to write blog posts because of the kind of reflection writing for a public audience forces on me.  I agree with Rose that such reflection will only make my writing better, and I aspire to become a better blogger–and a better public writer.  Much like Rose noted above, though my dissertation research is directly concerned with public issues, I have not felt more removed from the public than I have writing my dissertation.

Check out Rose’s blog at  The philosphy of his blog, in his words, is “a deep belief in the ability of the common person, a commitment to educational, occupational, and cultural opportunity to develop that ability, and an affirmation of public institutions and the public sphere as vehicles for nurturing and expressing that ability.”

post-election reflection

Whether or not you’re happy with the results of the 2008 Presidential election, you might be troubled by this:

Rick Shenkman, associate professor of history at George Mason University, recently published Just How Stupid Are We?: Facing the Truth About the American Voter.  Below is a YouTube video he created and shares on his blog, aptly named

How much can we trust all the rhetoric about how stupid Americans are?

Most accusations of American anti-intellectualism, ignorance, and unreason come from academics.  So, I’m wondering what nonacademics think.

  • Just how stupid (or not) are Americans?
  • How do we react to such accusations/arguments?
  • Does this year’s election support or refute Shenkman’s argument?

conventional wisdom

This past week, I made a conscious effort to catch the major speeches at the Democratic National Convention (including Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, Al Gore, and Barack himself).

“But why?,” I was asked last night.

Hmmmm…. because I’m a Democrat?  Because I study rhetoric?  Because I’m trying to decide who to vote for?  No, no, no.

Really, I guess it’s because I want to be inspired.  Because I want to hear motivating speeches that promise Americans the best, that tell us we deserve the best, that make me feel a part of something larger than myself… a part of a big community that shares my social, cultural, and political values and goals.

Is that, in fact, the sole (or “soul”) purpose of these conventions?  Because, let’s face it: these politicans don’t tell us anything we don’t already know, they can’t possibly accomplish all they claim they will, and they never really tell us what exactly they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it.

Is it all about the use of rhetoric to INSPIRE–to MOTIVATE the American people? to stir our emotions just enough to reinstate our belief in the government and to cast our vote in November?

Well, these 6 people did that for me.  They told me exactly what I wanted to hear.  They made me feel exactly how I wanted to feel.