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Liz Rohan

Nobody told me that college was this hard!: "Venting" in the grad stacks

Using PowerPoint slides, Liz Rohan invites readers to participate in "venting," mnemonic activity which foregrounds the agency of artifacts in the remediation process. She shows that ordinary writing like venting, particularly of anonymous texts, is better understood as a system of composition in which the rhetor is one agent. To use terms from the core text, venting enacts production, reception, distribution, and representation, all dependent on participants’ collective participation in a larger ecology.

Abstract: "Nobody told me that college was this hard" describes a rhetoric and cultural practice that is unique to a certain ecology, University of Michigan's Ann Arbor campus at the turn of the twenty-first century.  Over the past 20 years, at least, students have used the grooves in the metal heating vents at the graduate library to write messages to one another about the latest football game, their various states of angst, the weather, their sexual status in general or du jour, and their struggles with learning. Venting shows how rhetoric "makes people" through imagined communities. Venting also foregrounds the agency of artifacts and their remediation in relationship to mnemonic activity. Venters' memories of college life are constantly recycled by new contexts as new texts are added and erased over time. Venting draws attention to the production of rhetoric as a system in which the rhetor is but one agent.

Liz Rohan is Assistant Professor of Composition and Rhetoric at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Her research interests include feminist research methodologies, literacy studies, computers and writing, creative non-fiction/life writing and American Studies. She has published several articles about women and literacy. Her latest appeared in the Winter 2006 issue of Pedagogy. One of her articles won the NCTE Award for Best Article Reporting Historical Research or Textual Studies in Technical or Scientific Communication.  Another article won the 2004 Ellen Nold Award for Best Article in Computers and Composition Studies.