Without being too redundant, I found the chapter on appropriation from Jeff Rice’s The Rhetoric of Cool to be extremely, well, cool. Any bit of academic writing that manages to work in the Beats, early hip hop, and quotes both DJ Spooky and Chuck D is all right by me. If he only somehow worked in the Chicago Cubs and Bob Dylan, I would have been rendered absolutely head-over-heels.
I have a bunch of thoughts on this essay, all which I hope come up tomorrow in class and all which would make for worthwhile blog posts. I toyed with writing up several posts on different topics (i.e. Rice’s use of cool as unfixed signifier; his appropriation of black urban coolness, the very act he critiques Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm for clumsily attempting; the disjointed flow of Rice’s chapter, which may or may not have been compositional remix; how technological challenges shaped the efforts and output of early MCs), cutting them up, and pasting them together in a Burroughs-esque act of compositional subversion. Time was short, thought, and I wasn’t convinced that the results would be worth reading (much less deserving of a David Cronenberg adaptation).
So, I decided to go with a meditation on a short passage from page 65: “It’s not hard for us, contemporary writing instructors, to imagine a writer, who at the computer, appropriates and mixes. And yet in our teaching we don’t imagine such writers.” That’s a spot-on critique. I think of my own school’s district writing assessment, which rewards for formulaic essay structure and penalizes for use of other’s writings, via anti-plagiarism software. If appropriation is such a feature of (post)modern composition, as Rice argues it is, it’s a feature that is steadfastly avoided at the high school level.
But I wonder if the alternative is possible or even desirable? I can just see a student turning in a paper he got from freeessays123.com and, once busted, claiming that it was plagiarized, just remixed. “I didn’t cheat—I was just sampling wikipedia. Read some DJ Shadow and get with the 21st century.”
This whole concept touches on multiple areas of contention: plagiarism, originality, privileged discourses, and genre/audience expectations, just to name a few. It’s tricky, but it makes me excited (and somewhat baffled) to be a writing teacher here at the apocalypse.
And, for something completely different, a cool bit of appropriation for you to enjoy: