EP8: Jonathan Alexander: Writing and Desire


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By Ryan Leack & Ellen Wayland-Smith, Ryan Leack, and Ellen Wayland-Smith. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Jonathan Alexander, Chancellor's Professor of English at the University of California, Irvine, director of the Humanities Core Program, and author, co-author, or co-editor of 22 books, discusses his new book, Writing and Desire: Queer Ways of Composing (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2023). In this episode we discuss both the introduction to his book and the broader project. As part of the 3rd annual “The Big Rhetorical Podcast Carnival,” this episode speaks to the Carnival theme, “Rhetoric: Places and Spaces In and Beyond the Academy.” Challenging both modes of writing and desire, Alexander conceives of writing itself as desire in the form of an ongoing opening out onto possibilities. In this way, writing, especially as figured in rhetoric and composition pedagogy, transcends narrower argumentative and persuasive modes. Furthermore, desire is not conceived of as a lack to be fulfilled, or as an essentialized need to be unleashed, but rather as a fundamental openness, inclusive of critical reflection that makes different conditions and futures possible. Exploring the histories and modalities of writing and desire, we discuss both as unending processes of thinking and being otherwise in and beyond the classroom.
Jonathan Alexander
Ryan Leack
Selected References
Audre Lorde
Andrea Lunsford, Let’s Talk… A Pocket Rhetoric (2020)
Cheryl Glenn, Unspoken (2004)
Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity (1961)
Félix Guattari
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power (1901)
G. F. W. Hegel
Gilles Deleuze, “Desire and Pleasure” (1977)
Glenn and Ratcliffe, Silence and Listening as Rhetorical Arts (2011)
Gottschalk Druschke and Rivers, “Rhetorical Drift” (2022)
Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation (1981)
Jacques Lacan
James Crosswhite, Deep Rhetoric (2012)
Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway (2007)
Krista Ratcliffe, Rhetorical Listening (2005)
Linda Brodkey
Marilyn Cooper, The Animal Who Writes (2019)
Mary Louise Pratt
Massumi, Parables for the Virtual (2002)
Miguel Abensour
Slavoj Žižek, The Year of Dreaming Dangerously (2011)
Victor Vitanza
Notable Quotes from Jonathan
“What if we understand writing as . . . less driven by thesis and more driven by exploration? What if we asked students to think about writing as, well, I’m not starting with something that I’m going to try to convince my readers I know. I’m going to start, like many wonderful writers do, with a question and a recognition of what it is that I don’t know, and then allow the writing to serve as the very modality of thought and of feeling toward insight, toward the generation of knowing.”
“Maybe part of the political task is not to liberate our particular desires, but instead to understand how they have already been shaped and formed, and ask ourselves the critical questions. Are we okay with that? Is this flow of desire the way that desires within us have been formed and set down in certain pathways? Are we satisfied with that? Is that appropriate? Is it ethically sustainable? Is it ecologically sustainable?”
“I speak a lot in the first part of the book about connection, about the movement of self toward other, not with an anticipation that that other will fulfill or will provide for a lack, but that that other will excite, will surprise, will perhaps open up vistas, possibilities that had not otherwise been understood, or seen, or felt, or experienced. And it seems to me that that’s really a way to understand what writing is.”

9 episodes