From the category archives:


Visual Form and Memory

by Dr Davis on November 23, 2014

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0Vivian, Bradford and Anne Teresa Demo. “Introduction.” Rhetoric, Remembrance, and Visual Form. Eds. Anne Teresa Demo and Bradford Vivian. New York: Routledge, 2012. eBook.

“To remember in late modernity is to store, send, or retrieve content” (Vivian and Demo)

“resources of personal memory training represent contemporary self-help equivalents to the classical ars memoriae” (Vivian and Demo)

“internet search thus provides a suggestive juxtaposition between contemporary technologies of memory and the classical art of memory” (Vivian and Demo)

“Associations between memory and visual phenomena supply the common denominator between these apparently antithetical paradigms of memory” (Vivian and Demo)

“the ancient memories were trained by an art which reflected the art and architecture of the ancient world” (Frances Yates qtd in Vivian and Demo).

“To remember, then as now, is to see.” (Vivian and Demo)

“generate valuable insights concerning not only how memories may be seen in visual form but also how visual forms constitute noteworthy material sites of memory” (Vivian and Demo)

“visual media can efficiently and reliably hypostasize the putative contents of memory” (Vivian and Demo)

“we presume an ability to mechanistically retrieve either part or all of our memories through some form of sight” (Vivian and Demo)

“visual artifacts materially facilitate practices of remembrance” (Vivian and Demo)

“contemporary artists routinely demonstrate the power of visual forms to evoke compelling senses of memory… dramatizing its personal, cultural, and technological variability” (Vivian and Demo)

“memory is profoundly informed by visual media, through rhetorical dynamics: visual and memorial forms coalesce according to the ways in which practices of interpretation, argumentation, or communication assign shared meaning” (Vivian and Demo)

“The relevant rhetorical question is why material intersections among images and memory sometimes succeed and sometimes fail as persuasively wrought depictions—or sightings—of the past” (Vivian and Demo)

“visual memory can ironically precede corporeal experience” (Vivian and Demo)



CFP Rhetoric in New Zealand

by Dr Davis on November 18, 2014

Reason Plus Enjoyment Conference 2015 10-13 July
full name / name of organization:
School of Arts and Media, University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia
contact email:
[email protected]
Next year marks the ten-year anniversary of the Rhetoric, Politics, Ethics 2005 conference in Ghent, Belgium, which gathered international scholars from a variety of critical perspectives to map recent signature events in contemporary theory. Reason Plus Enjoyment 2015 marks this occasion by inviting critical and cultural theorists to Sydney, Australia to reflect on the theoretical challenges posed in the intervening years. The remit of this second RPE conference is to read the vanishing futures of to phronein (thinking) and to kharein (enjoyment) in the twilight of what Derrida called the great Western metaphysical adventure. Joan Copjec once diagnosed our critical condition in terms of the “euthanasia of pure reason”. This interdisciplinary conference draws on a wide spectrum of interests to explore the endgames of Reason. What new, ‘bastard’ forms of aesthetic, political, rhetorical, sexual and technical rationality (and their enjoying subjects) are emerging in the 21st century?

Conference organisers: Kate Montague, Sigi Jöttkandt, Mark Steven

Please submit abstracts by February 15th, 2015 to Kate Montague kateamontague[at]

From UPenn.


How Essential are the Tangentials?

by Dr Davis on October 29, 2014

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0In research, particularly when I either do not know what I should be looking for (because it is relatively new to me or I am taking a different approach) or when I do not want to be doing the research I know I should be doing, I am likely to follow rabbit trails. It’s not an ADD thing, though I have that, but it is a feature or bug of the way that I do research. When I do not follow rabbit trails, my research seems to me to be staid and boring, whether it is or not. I like rabbit trails; it offers me a chance to learn something unexpected.

In this project on cosplay and memory I found a reference to Susan B. Kaiser’s The Social Psychology of Clothing: Symbolic Appearances in Context and put the book on my list of things to read. It’s a textbook, so very dense. It took me several days of reading, spread out over two weeks, to get through it.

I ended up with ten pages of notes, which, you will be happy to hear, I do not plan to reproduce on the blog.

Instead I will just put a few up and write what sparked my thinking in those quotations. Based on these notes (and a few others), this rabbit trail appears to have been very useful.

9Worlds 2014 steampunk moustachio-6232“Clothing and appearance symbols may be concrete or material objects, or they may be stored in memory as an image that evokes meaningful responses” (Kaiser 42).

Obviously this was included because it specifically references memory, which I am working with. Plus it is this idea of image evoking meaningful responses that is so important in cosplay. It’s no fun to play a character no one recognizes, so the image has to be relevant and memorable so that you can call up the associations in your audience.

“cultural messages are created through the process of representation. This process may involve selecting, presenting, structuring, and shaping elements of reality, by either reinforcing the status quo or creating new meanings (Hall, 1982, p. 64)” (Kaiser 51)
“cultural conventions may be applied in new ways or may be broken or bent” (Kaiser 51)

These specifically relate for my paper to cosplay mash-ups, where a cosplayer takes a character like Wonder Woman and makes her steampunk.

“clothes are more a factor in behavior displayed in specially defined contexts, as compared with routine or everyday contexts” (Kaiser 195)

This is significant as the cons where we cosplay are specially defined contexts and are not routine.

9Worlds 2014 Lady Elsie-6237“it is important to stress that the meaning of signs is not intrinsically linked to the signs themselves, but rather that signs acquire their meanings through process of interpretation” (Kaiser 219).

A yellow shirt and black pants are not inherently symbolic, but as a stealth costume, they evoke memories of Batman. Cosplaying itself is also a sign whose meaning is interpreted. Hall costume or masquerade? What kind of cosplay is the person doing? Is it relevant to the con or out of place?

“The concept of semanticity refers to the degree of associative “fit,” or the correlation or close connection between an appearance sign and its referent (Harrison, 1985). A code that is high in semanticity is likely to be linked to conventional attire and to clothes that function as signals. On the other hand, a “fuzzy” connection between signifier and signified, or a lack of specific rules for interpretation, is likely to promote the functioning of clothing as a symbol—arousing emotion and referring to values but not neatly pigeonholed” (Kaiser 228).

I think that cosplay fits in this fuzzy connection section. There is not a set dress (aside from the non-costume jeans and tee) and thus the connection has to be made by both the audience and the cosplayer through memory and connections in memory.

“…intrigued interpretation. Some appearances, due to their complexity, aesthetic appeal, novelty, incongruity with the social context or the person or unfamiliar nature, become very salient to perceivers. Such appearances may attract the perceiver’s attention, appeal to his or her sensibilities, excite or fascinate, interest or even tantalize, perplex or even confuse” (Kaiser 313).

This may be what the cosplayer is going for–intrigued interpretation.

9Worlds 2014 steampunk short skirt-6233“As Fine (1987) notes, creativity is rarely a problem in the development of a known culture. This is true because creativity reflects novel combinations of previously familiar elements and bits of information” (Kaiser 357).

However, it cannot be simply novel combinations. There must be the familiar elements as well. Familiar elements are found in memory and are sites of invention for both the cosplayer and the audience of the cosplay.

I took three different statements about uniforms (reveal and conceal status, confirm legitimacy, and suppress individuality) and wondered about them in terms of the ubiquitous jeans and tee shirts at cons. These jeans and tee shirts are not enough of a uniform to separate con-goers from others staying in the same hotel; costumes, however, clearly separate the groups.

Fashion encodes tensions between youth-age, masculine-feminine, and others (Kaiser 458). Does cosplay usurp those tensions or defuse them? How does costuming change the tensions?

“males have also participated in the symbolic struggle of gender ambivalence” (Kaiser 460)

I specifically referred in my notes to cross-dressing cosplay here. The first cosplayer I ever met was a young man cosplaying Sailor Moon, a Japanese anime magical girl.

There was a discussion in Kaiser’s book (462-67) about reactions to style. Two or three of these, I think may relate to con-goers: ego screaming (very different appearance through costuming), dandyism (elaborate historical costuming), and studied indifference (jeans and tee shirts).

DSC_4871“Ironically, stylistic reactions to mass culture—to the extent that there is one—often influence mainstream fashions and thus lose their original and ideological significance” (Kaiser 468).

I think this is particularly pertinent to steampunk, as elements have been in the mainstream of style for up to ten years. The opening credits to Doctor Who are now steampunk; I’m not sure that is mainstream, but the runways and the 5th Avenue Christmas windows have all had steampunk elements.

“Thus, any objects become fair game for appearance management in the act of bricolage [DIY fashion], and accessorizing becomes an art in itself. Hence, the strategic response of bricolage may reflect an individualistic means of personalizing what the fashion industry has to offer” (Kaiser 470).

Making (as in Maker Faire) and cosplaying have a lot in common. They are a conscious distancing from social norms and expectations, though in very different ways. Individualistic fashion through memory-invented character costumes seems to be very relevant.

ShD head steampunk blue“the interplay between individuality and conformity, or identification and differentiation, is an important aspect of participation in the fashion process” (Kaiser 488).

Cosplaying lets you be normal (through a character) and different (through a costume).

Ethnic clothes can “provide a sense of symbolic self-completion (Wicklund and Gollwitzer, 1983) to complete an aspect of one’s identity in which there may be some need for expression” (Kaiser 536).

This, I think, is particularly pertinent to adolescent cosplaying, where young people are working through identities. It may also be pertinent to adults who are attempting to co-opt a desired attribute of a favored character and cosplay as a means of practicing or performing that attribute.

“Cultural discourses are like conversations that involve working through ideas. Yet they operate both visually and verbally, involving a circulation of objects, ideas, images, and values that form a kind of underlying logic for the social meanings we assign to our identity, clothes, and communities” (Kaiser 549).

Steampunkers-2276Cosplaying would be a way of carrying on or out cultural discourse and the social meanings assigned would also be part of the cosplay. This is a dual role that memory is essential for. Interpretation depends on context and understanding.

“an appearance style that draws freely from available clothing items or media images in the marketplace” is part of identity work (Kaiser 576)

Cosplaying is a way of constructing a new/particular identity. Some folks only cosplay a single character, while others play new characters each day of a convention.

“Identity work is rarely straightforward. We are likely to experience a range of mixed emotions about what our appearances mean and why. Davis (1992, p. 24) notes that we often have ‘inner dialogues’ in our heads as we debate certain issues about how we want to present and represent ourselves” (Kaiser 578).

This is why a single costume can mean various things to the creator/wearer. It is also how it can mean multiple things to a single viewer. Where is the memory work involved here? Perhaps in identifying which parts of a costume or cosplay performance are related to what factors that we are exploring.

RMCF (Rhetorical Memory Cosplay Fandom)


SCMLA: PowerPoint Movies

by Dr Davis on October 26, 2014

Thomas Reynolds
“Powerful Words and PowerPoint Movies: An Exercise in Multimodal Composition”

Assistant professor and Director of First-Year Writing at Northwestern State University in Louisiana

Thomas has presented nationally on technology and first-year composition.

60% of course is traditional requirements
40% can choose

We spend more time on the 40%, because it connects.
Learn by doing.
Read and write every day.
Begin class with video or article on social media. Related to class for the day.
Try to build community in classroom.
Let students bring media, email or FB.
Share icebreakers.
After our teaching time, will return to the media as a writing comp.
Not just an academic conversation. Can be part of the online discussion.

Football, Jan 22, 2014 game winning play, talking trash, making choking image, yelling and excited—Richard Sherman football player
Led to an insane amount of online chatter where he was labeled a thug.
Stanford graduate (3.9 GPA) Richard Sherman

Watched video of press conference

“Cultural Studies and the Composition Classroom” George, Lockridge and Trimbur
moving from critic, to microethnographer, to producer/composer
–not always easy, being forced to build things in a different way
They are trained already to write. Are comfortable trying to write
“know what the expectations are and know they aren’t going to meet them”
“New Media Principles and Attitudes” Collin Gifford Brooke
more than teaching to the text
function as a writer’s lab: encourage experimentation and innovation
operate on “internet time”—entering the “other” conversations
replace expertise with exploration and engagement: student-centered and peer-directed

40% of class, where they may have discovered something new that will keep them reading and writing

National Congress of American Indians released ad week before Superbowl
Series of images with names they give for themselves
They couldn’t afford the Superbowl prices.
Native Americans call themselves many things (mother, soldier, Creek). The one thing they don’t… Redskins.
Talked about which were more effective. Which were less effective.

What kinds of conversations are happening publicly about their ethnicity?

Better if make images so they cover the whole white space

How is a ppt presentation different from a ppt movie?
Because already have experience with ppt, easier.

“make a bad ppt” for tech writing

asked them to self-select into groups

had to publish it somewhere online. But vimeo was an option so they could password protect.
All knew would be screened in class.
Negotiated in class. Had to have some image and some sound.
Voice was significant to the ad.
Negotiated about assessment. Let them decide what they are going to be graded on.
Logical fallacies, ethos, pathos

…8 video examples… (from groups)
thug, animal abuse, poverty, Trayvon Maritin, Same sex marriage…
one of stipulations they agreed on was they had to be in their videos
what makes a thug? Gun violence, gangs, tattoos, stereotypes assumed by characteristics

plenty of things they did really well and others where they fell short
worked hard negotiating images and examples
give them a space to play, a space for their own voices and ideas

critique and assessment
Students discussed and decided on these as criteria. 50% of the grade was:
clarity of topic and stance = who saying what and why?
Importance of issue = answer So what? How is context provided?
Rhetorical appeals = how does it work? Where does it not work?
Design and style = does it meet genre expectations? Is it appealing?
Audience engagement = were you moved? Why or why not? They wanted grade based on this totally. They thought it was important enough.

Students get feedback within the screening.

Took me a week to get through the videos.
They were invested in what they had to say and defending their own work, but also to holding each other accountable.

How might they transition this video to an essay? What about an academic argument?
Develop examples. Pick other kinds of examples.
Teams and their roles
They talk about their learning.

Redeveloping for definition essay… Good way to write about words they feel labeled by and offended by and deconstruct those for the class.

Question: What if have no words they feel labeled by? Or they don’t want to deal with?
Way I am beginning project, words that are offensive, and potential of language to be empowering and disempowering
My hope is that they will all find a word. Don’t know what to do if I have a resistor.

Someone else –use term and look at connotation, denotation. Misfit words instead. Not necessarily offensive.
“sweet” or “cute”
sweet in black community also refers to gay people, broken wrist, etc
pull in connotation of plays, music, etc. Where do you see this word used.

Immigration, did you make presentations on this?
Service learning on immigration
Powerful visuals… Students found the visuals. Some were personal images.
One with guys showing off guns. They go to the shooting range, but people see that in Louisiana, they think thugs.


Metarhetoric of Aristotle

by Dr Davis on October 19, 2014

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0Murphy, James J. “The Metarhetoric of Aristotle, with Some Examples from His ‘On Memory and Recollection.’” Rhetoric Review 21.3 (2002): 213-28. Web. March 10, 2012.

“the Rhetoric can only be understoodin light of Aristotle’s general theory of human action-that is, the set of prior knowledges necessary to comprehend an analysis of a particular human action” (Murphy 213)

“Metarhetoric investigates what a rhetorician needs to know in order to begin to be a rhetoric. … metarhetoric is not a rhetoric itself but rather a congeries of knowledges and skills prior to that rhetoric” (Murphy 214).

“It is the humanity of speaker and audience,not any principles of argument,that Aristotle perceives inherent in the rhetorical situation” (Murphy 215).

“Aristotle sees rhetoric as a necessary form of human knowledge-sharing” (Murphy 215).

Greek writing ancient pottery by Tkoletsis“His treatment of the role of memory in the audience reception of enthymemes-for example, the reasoning must not be too long (1395b24)-could well encourage the reader to look into On Memory and Recollection; in fact, since metaphor is based on comparison of the new to the known, it too depends on a principle of memory of the known” (Murphy 217).

“Habit, or the tendency to act in a certain manner, derives from memory in that unrecollected choices create a potential motion of the soul in advance of recollection” (Murphy 218).

“recollection succeeds as a chain-seeking exercise; therefore, finding any point on the chain can lead to the desired point. That is why mnemonic topoi (452a14) are useful as startin gpoints; since the human intellect is capable of identifying classes of perceptions retained in the memory, the identification of a single topos can unlock a whole category of retained perceptions” (Murphy 219).

“Aristotle sees the rhetorical enthymeme as a cooperative syllogism requiring activity by both speaker and hearer” (219).

“The speaker offers, through language, a set of symbols designed to initiate-not to complete-a line of argument. At some point, ideally of the speaker’s choosing, the audience member self-identifies the point of the argument based on his own synaptic rush of memory that enables him to grasp the entire argument” (Murphy 219).
Can this be used to discuss cosplay? Except not in language but performance/action/image?

“the recollection chain must be as short as possible” (Murphy 220)

“Aristotle sets out two conditions for success: First, the speaker must know what is accepted by his audience, and he “must know some, if not all, the facts about the subject.”The first is a matter of observation.The second, however,is subject to recollection” (220).

“By a period I mean a portion of speech that has in itself a beginning and an end, being at the same time not too big to be taken in at a glance” (Aristotle, chapter nine of Book Three of the Rhetoric, qtd in Murphy 221).

steampunk_word_processor_icon_microsoft_word_typewriter by_yereverluvinuncleber“memory depends on sharp,clear presentations; a thing perceived fuzzily can only be remembered the same way” (Murphy 222)
Says they need to be lively and unfamiliar… I wonder if steampunk cosplay meets this. I know it is not language per se, but it is rhetorical.

“the indispensable criterion for the successful rhetorical enthymeme is that the hearer must supply part of the “reasoning” process. From whence can that come except from unrecollected memory? (If it is consciously recollected, the Discovery fails.)” (Murphy 222).

“The unrecollected memory of past appetites, in this case the habit of being angry, becomes a tool for the speaker to manipulate” (Murphy 223).

“Later the Romans were to make the synthetic judgment about the role of habit in rhetoric, making it the keystone of their educational program” (Murphy 223).

“underlying language is his understanding of “movement”-the change from potentiality to actuality-in human souls” (224)

“I would reply that no one can understand how rhetorical it [the Rhetoric] really is until it is understood completely as part of a complex effort by Aristotle to describe the whole universe and the human beings in it” (Murphy 224).



Memory Reconceived

by Dr Davis on October 18, 2014

Hutton, Patrick H. “The Art of Memory Reconceived: From Rhetoric to Psychoanalysis.” Journal of the History of Ideas 48.3 (July-Sept 1987): 371-92. Web. March 10, 2012.

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0“Mnemonics, or the art of memory, is today regarded as an arcane intellectual interest. It functions on the periphery of popular culture” (Hutton 371).

“The art of memory as it was traditionally conceived was based upon associations between a structure of images easily remembered and a body of knowledge in need of organization” (Hutton 371).

“If the art of memory was an essential technique of learning for yesterday’s rhetoricians, it has become for today’s psychologists the stuff of sideshows” (Hutton 372).

“memory as it was understood in its classical formulation provided not only a useful skill but also a way of understanding the world” (Hutton 372)

“From this perspective the art of memory was not only a pedagogical device but also a method of interpretation. It is this link between the art of memory and the making of paradigms of cultural understanding that suggests the larger significance of this topic” (Hutton 372).

“correspondences between the art of memory as it was practiced in the rhetorical tradition that culminated in the Renaissance and the use of memory as a technique of soul-searching in the Romantic tradition of psychology that culminates in psychoanalysis” (Hutton 373)

Frances A. Yates, The Art of Memory (Chicago, 1966).

through time Yates found that “the techniques of the art of memory remained essentially the same” (Hutton 373)

“the poet Simonides of Ceos, who was the first to reflect upon the emotional power of a system of images as an aid to memory” (Hutton 374)

steampunk_file_server_icon_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d5exhgj“arrangements of places and images. The places provided an architectonic design in which the knowledge to be remembered was to be situated. These were places so deeply embedded in the mind of the mnemonist that they could not be forgotten. The architecture of place” (Hutton 374)

“A good memory was a function of a resilient imagination, and images were chosen for their aesthetic appeal. Vivid pictorial imagery that inspired awe was judged to be the most effective” (Hutton 374).

(As per Plato) “The art of memory, therefore, was a way of establishing correspondences between the microcosm of the mind’s images and the macrocosm of the ideal universe, which were believed to be congruent structures. In such a conception, the role of the mnemonist took on added importance. Not only did he practice a skill, but he also assumed a priestly status as an interpreter of the nature of reality” (Hutton 375)

“The key to understanding the nature of memory, Vico contends, is derived from the direct correspondence between image and idea in primitive poetic language. In the beginnings of civilization, image and idea were one” (Hutton 377).

“Vico’s theory of memory as an act of interpretation that enables us to establish connections between the familiar images of the present and the unfamiliar ones of the past anticipates the modern science of hermeneutics” (Hutton 379).

“memory as a key to magic was displaced by memory as a key to soul-searching” (Hutton 380)

steampunk_archive_icon_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d5jsav0“The need for an art of memory to verify the integrity of knowledge through recourse to memorized oral formulae was rendered obsolete by the dramatic expansion of the publishing business and the rapid growth of the reading public” (Hutton 381)

“The transformation of the human mind that Vico describes in terms of the evolution of tropes, therefore, may also be understood in terms of the long-range shift from orality to literacy to print culture” (Hutton 381).

“the major theoretical expositions of the art in the ancient world, those devised by Roman rhetoricians in the first century B.C., were contributed during Rome’s most illustrious age of literary expression” (Hutton 382).

“As places permanently fixed on the printed page, words acquired an autonomy they had not previously possessed. … written communication is transacted through texts and thereby acquires a specific identity of time and place” (Hutton 382).

“Less constrained by demands for assiduous memorization, the citizen of print culture was disposed to use his memory for a more inquisitive kind of learning. If the art of memory appeared to many to have lost favor in the declining prestige of rhetoric, it was destined to rise once more in the guise of autobiography” (Hutton 383).

steampunk_email_icon_for_outlook_mkii_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d5a47qa“The recollection of the past is therefore a process of emplotting the landmarks of one’s life history as it is presently perceived” (Hutton 384).

“Freud asserts the constructive power of the unconscious mind to shape recollection. To use his terminology, memory is tendentious in that it reflects unconscious psychic intent. In this respect the unconscious mind is the guardian of memory” (Hutton 388).

“Michel Foucault’s notion of “counter-memory,” which denies the ability of collective memory to bind meanings across dissimilar historical epochs, is a provocative statement of this point of view. Foucault’s questioning of the intrinsic value of remembering the thought of ages past reveals the degree to which our present perception of the art of memory has shifted from the problem of forgetfulness to that of oblivion” (Hutton 391).



Kuhn on Memory

by Dr Davis on October 17, 2014

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0Annette Kuhn has written two major works in memory studies and this chapter in Memory and Methodology provides the tale of her journey. In some ways, that makes it the antithesis of what I hope to do; she is writing about how she moved through memory, while I will be writing how memory is moving. In other ways, it is very similar.

“personal memory materials–artefacts” (179)

“A critical deconstruction would attend to the narrative strategies and rhetorical devices at work in autobiographical texts, and with the ways in which the autobiographical self is textually constructed” (181).

She says she looks at revisionist autobiographies which “incorporate into their writing implicit or explicit critiques, even deconstructions, of traditional modes” (181).

They “subvert assumptions about the transparency, authenticity, or ‘truth’ of memory” (182).

At this point in the chapter, Kuhn discusses a series of autobiographical stories which featured school girl shots of the authors, but never commented on the photographs within the texts. She begins to focus on visual rhetoric at this point.

“What is the function of images in relation to written accounts…?” she asks (182).

“images are just as much productions of meaning as words, even if the ‘language’ is different” (182).

“Personal photos have a … special, place in the production of memories about our own lies” (183).

She says, with photos, millions have gained “a new kind of access to the past” (183).

“Personal photographs are commonly taken as evidence” (183), which made me think of rhetoric again.

“how images make meanings…. every photograph contains a range of possible meanings…” (183).

Those photos “embody coded references to, and even help construct, realities” (183).

Photos can have “status as cultural artifacts” (184) and “carry meanings which have as much to do with aesthetic and cultural conventions as with any unsullied ‘truth’” (184).

Photographs of a person, an autobiography in images, is “a constant reworking of memory and identity” (184).

“we cannot access the past event in any unmediated form. The past is unavoidably rewritten, revised, through memory; and memory is partial…”

“I have made some discoveries about how memory works, and observed in action some of the psychical and cultural processes through which memory organises not only our inner worlds but the outer ones of public expression” (185).

She identifies “a set of cultural products which … share key characteristics… ‘memory texts’.”

“remembering binds us as individuals into shared subjectivities and collectivities” (185)

Definition of memory work: “an active practice of remembering which takes an inquiring attitude towards the past and the activity of its (re)construction through memory. Memory work undercuts assumptions about the transparency or the authenticity of what is remembered, treating it not as ‘truth’ but as evidence of a particular sort: material for interpretation…” (186).

“stages memory through words, spoken and written, in images of many kinds, and also in sounds” (186)

“the relationship between actual events and our memories of them is by no means mimetic” (186)

“the past is always mediated” (186)

“memory does not simply involve forgetting, misremembering, repression…. memory actually is these processes…” (186)

“performative nature of remembering” (186)

She says what we bits and pieces we choose to put in memory is important but also “what we do with them: how we use these relics to make memories, and how we then make use of the stories they generate to give deeper meaning to, and if necessary to change, our lives now” (187).

Main Patterns

1. Memory orders our inner worlds
2. Memory is an active production of meanings
3. Memory texts have their own formal conventions
4. Memory texts voice a collective imagination
5. In modernity, memory embodies both union and fragmentation
6. Memory is formative of communities of nationhood.

“does memory share the imagistic quality of unconscious productions” (188)

“condensations, its displacements–gaps, non-causal logic, discontinuous scenes” (188)

“pre-texts of memory” (188)

“peculiar characteristics of memory texts is a quite distinctive organisation of time” (189)

“events narrated or portrayed in memory texts often telescope or merge” (189)

“memory texts will deliver abrupt and quite vertiginous shifts of scene and/or of narrative viewpoint” (190)

family stories (birth weddings death) “produce a sense of time as cyclical: a version of ‘timelessness’” (191)

“intersubjective domain of shared meanings” (191)

“memory texts are shaped by conventions” (191)

“stories often take on a timeless, mythic quality which grows with each retelling” (192)

“actually to create their own world and give themselves and each other a place, a place of some dignity and worth” (192)

“in making sense of, we also imagine, and make, a shared world. Memory texts translate the psychical activity of warding off loss into the domain of the social” (193)

“Memory texts proliferate” (193)

In the collective domain … “a search for common imaginings of a shared past” (194)

“memory feeds into a conception of a history that is ‘ours,’ and that belongs to all of ‘us’” (194)



Aristotle’s On Memory and Reminiscence

by Dr Davis on October 16, 2014

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0As part of my preparation for the chapter on cosplay and memory, I am reviewing rhetorical presentations of memory. These are quotes from Aristotle’s On Memory and Reminiscence translated by J. I. Beare and found online.

“persons who possess a retentive memory are not identical with those who excel in power of recollection”

“Memory is, therefore, neither Perception nor Conception, but a state or affection of one of these, conditioned by lapse of time.”

“Whenever one actually remembers having seen or heard, or learned, something, he includes in this act (as we have already observed) the consciousness of ‘formerly’; and the distinction of ‘former’ and ‘latter’ is a distinction in time.”

“there is in us something like an impression or picture, why should the perception of the mere impression be memory of something else”

“we have to conceive that the mnemonic presentation within us is something which by itself is merely an object of contemplation, while, in-relation to something else, it is also a presentation of that other thing.”

“the one (the unrelated object) presents itself simply as a thought, but the other (the related object) just because, as in the painting, it is a likeness, presents itself as a mnemonic token” These seem like they would be important for cosplay and I should build on them.

“This (occurrence of the ‘sudden idea’) happens whenever, from contemplating a mental object as absolute, one changes his point of view, and regards it as relative to something else.”

Definition “what memory or remembering is, it has now been shown that it is the state of a presentation, related as a likeness to that of which it is a presentation; and as to the question of which of the faculties within us memory is a function, (it has been shown) that it is a function of the primary faculty of sense-perception, i.e. of that faculty whereby we perceive time.”

“the moment of the original experience and the moment of the memory of it are never identical”

“recollecting always implies remembering, and actualized memory follows (upon the successful act of recollecting)”

“recollecting must imply in those who recollect the presence of some spring over and above that from which they originally learn”

“This explains why we hunt up the series (of kineseis) having started in thought either from a present intuition or some other, and from something either similar, or contrary, to what we seek, or else from that which is contiguous with it.”

“Recollecting differs also in this respect from relearning, that one who recollects will be able, somehow, to move, solely by his own effort, to the term next after the starting-point.”

“For remembering, as we have conceived it, essentially implies consciousness of itself.”

“recollection is, as it were a mode of inference”

“Infants and very old persons have bad memories, owing to the amount of movement going on within them” I wonder if this also applies to someone who is an infant in a social community. Will a newbie have difficulty with memories of the first con because they have too much movement within them as they are learning a lot of new things at the same time?


Memory, From Children to Fandom

by Dr Davis on October 15, 2014

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0For the ongoing research for my chapter on cosplay and memory, I have been reading a lot of different works in a lot of different fields. While I am primarily addressing rhetorical memory, memory also is studied in other fields and there was a stated desire/interest in a multiplicity of fields or interdisciplinary. Though this was probably for the book as a whole, I have continued to read in a variety of areas to ascertain what work has been done in those fields and, perforce, what has been done that is related to my chapter.

As I have forayed into new arenas of information, my grasp on the concepts each has offered has been strengthened. What I am working towards here, in this post, is a presentation of the process my studies have followed–attempting to create a narrative of my wrestling with new topics in new fields. Though the focus is and has been on expanding the knowledge I have to apply to the work within my chapter, one additional thing I hope to garner from this is an archive of the learning process from which I can speak to students. Feel free to read along or ignore this potential sideline exercise.

girlwithabook via art inconnuThe Larger Text
Reading in Memory and Methodology edited by Susannah Radstone I have been introduced, reintroduced, and immersed in both psychological and psychoanalytical presentations of memory–sometimes within the same chapters. The problem of forgetting, politics and archiving, reinscriptions, and screening trauma were topics for the first section of the book. Memory and subjectivity, particularly in the female autobiography, children’s narratives and memory for identity, and women’s anxiety are in the next section.

Simply looking at those topics or chapter divisions alone gives me an interesting perspective on this. Public memory was almost all written by and about men. Private memory is almost all written by and about women. Do children count as women? Or are women children? I think, perhaps, the focus in the private memory section is on the people whose memories have been ignored in the past; certainly the chapter on children discusses the problems with previous studies of childhood–which have presented childhood as a move towards becoming an adult. Within the studies of private memory though, subjectivity–as opposed to the higher-valued objectivity, abandonment and rescue, anxiety or fear, and a metaphor of madness are being examined. Rhetorically this offers fertile ground for discussion, but it actually moves me away from the ideas I came to the text for. So, as diverting and potentially beneficial as the close examination of the private memory chapters as this ontologically focused rhetoric is, I temporarily at least recuse myself from this and realign my focus.

medieval woman writing detailMethodology
In this particular book I have taken a pencil (rather than a pen or highlighter) and underlined various sections of words, occasionally inscribing questions or markers for ease of later re-examination in the margins. I purposefully chose a pencil because this is not an area that I know well and pencil would allow me to remove my underlinings later, if it turned out that in ignorance I underlined too much or vapidly.

Because this book is outside my area and a quick perusal after purchase (done online and without benefit of exploring the contents) indicated it would be less applicable to the chapter than I had hoped, I created skimming notations–short notes in the top outside corners of the pages–to allow me to flip rapidly through the pages without having to re-read everything I underlined.

place of memory (39)
definition of memory (40)
generational identity–also sf? (45)
sf? (46)
two kinds of memory (49)
genres re-inscribes (65)
visual memory–film cosplay? (81)
sf film (82)
memory as source–positive association (84)
memory = non-linear, related to fantasy (87)
implant or refunction memory (95)
subversion (97)
related to sf cosplay (100)
modern novel, sf application (113)
Bahktin memory (115)
cosplay? (123)
memory definition for cosplay (127)
definition of memory (129)
linguistics (134)

These skimming notations identify general areas of possible related information for my chapter and areas that I might refer to for classroom development (the latter was the point of the linguistics notation).

Albert Anker 1865 children writing pub domThe last text I read, which was also for this chapter, and added skimming notations to was a text that applied fairly directly to my work and the skimming notations are all markers for other topics of interest to me that I might do research on at a later date.

In the present text, the skimming notations allow me to ignore the underlinings that were tangential or part of the process of building my knowledge of psychological and psychoanalytical understandings of memory. In the earlier text, they will in the future allow me to pick up the text for a different study and find the appropriate/relevant citations quickly.

They are, in effect, my own Search function. These are physical texts without ebook options and I have learned the value of Search (as well as its limitations) in my use of ebooks.

Perhaps I will come back to this point and develop it more as a part of the technology liaison position. It is certainly worth examining, even if it does not end up being as useful as I would like.

Serusier's 1892 The Grammar woman writing book pub domThinking Through a Chapter
How might the chapter on children, memories, and fantasies relate to cosplay?

The beginning of the chapter, and my underlinings, focus on the different approaches to studying children/childhood in related fields and contrast them with the approach of this study.

“Cultural studies, social psychology and psychology…regard childhood as the raw material for later life” (133)
“we … attempt to reconceptualize childhood in its full specificity” (133)
“For psychology …. the subject is already formed” (135)
“psychoanalysis … questions the notion of a unitary, coherent individual who develops smoothly from one stage to the next” (135)

After the last quote I wrote would say we don’t. I am agreeing with the psychoanalytical conception here of a problematic earlier presentation of identity as a simplified trajectory. What I am also doing is setting the stage, in my own thoughts, for the possibility that this particular childhood study might apply to my chapter. After all, fantasy and pretending to be someone else is allowed and even encouraged in children, while discouraged and/or forbidden for adults, yet cosplay is adult use of alternate identities. Might there be, I am wondering, some rationale behind cosplay besides fun.

Which makes me think I should read in fun. Is there a specific discipline that examines fun?

“child’s knowledge becomes both greater and better organized, and second s/he develops strategies or methods of remembering” (136)

When I underlined this, though it is really about how cognitive psychology looks at children, I was thinking that a new fan in fandom might have similar growth patterns and cosplay might also be impacted by this. A new fan, in my ideas, is one who is new to fandom, not necessarily new to actually being a fan of science fiction and fantasy. (Horror usually has different fandoms and conventions.) My definition of a new fan developed from the fact that I was a huge sf fan long before I ever heard of conventions as something I might actually attend (a twenty year difference) and the idea of fandom as a culture that inducts and inculcates.

two Velmas ShD“developmental psychology hints that memory is intimately involved in social endeavours” (136)

Fandom and cosplay are social and I am arguing that memory–and the development of memory–is involved with cosplay specifically. Cosplay as topoi?

“for psychoanalysis, memory can never be viewed as unproblematically unfolding” (137)

Fandom and cosplay are problematic in that they are not the norm and are unique, though less looked down upon than in other (recent) times.

“memory and fantasy work together to deal with loss, absence and frustration, a continual dynamic” (137)
“memory and fantasy are in play in relation to unacceptable wishes and desires” (137)
“There can never be remembering or forgetting without fantasy” (137)

Cosplay is a physical performance of fantasy and likely to some extent responds to loss/absence/frustration through the desire (and action) to be/play someone (or some part of someone) else. However, cosplay is not necessarily dealing with (unmet) hopes and aspirations which are unacceptable or unapproved, though they may be.

a very cold Weepng Angel RonCertainly a monster or menace (since monsters have been described as created mostly by young men and I created a cosplay of the Weeping Angels [WA]–big bads of Doctor Who) would be unacceptable or unapproved as a way of life–by me the cosplayer as well as by the rest of society, but I don’t actually want to be evil and controlling, nor do I want to only live within the control of other people’s eyelids (as the WA cannot move unless/until there is no one watching them who has been watching them before).

So why, if not because of an actual desire to be dangerous and evil, did I create the Weeping Angel costume and wear it, even though it was limiting physically (size of wings, weight of costume, etc)? When I made it, I did it because I thought I could. I saw a WA on someone else, selling for a very high price, and thought that I could do that as well as they could and for a much lower monetary outlay. In fact, parts of the costume were much better than the high priced online version I saw, though other parts were more limited. However, when I wore it, when I think of wearing it, what I liked, what I want, is the attention. Yes, many people are afraid of the WA–a reaction I personally did/could not imagine as being transferred/applied to a WA cosplayer–but most often people react and respond in a “big way.”

Cosplay enjoyment is partially the cosplayer’s playing out of a character but it is also the community involvement and response to the cosplay. More people know/recognize Velma Dinkley of Scooby Doo than know Leela of Futurama. I personally enjoy playing Leela more, because it is a more involved and “interesting” costume; it took more work to build and I have more parts that can be shared or used to draw others in. However, when I think about cosplaying at a con, I am more likely to wear Velma because she is more likely to be recognized and cosplaying when people don’t know who/what you are takes part of the fun out of it.

Ron's instagram of me as LeelaLiterary cons would not have many people recognize Leela because the show is newer and not a children’s show, while Velma is recognizable to most people who grew up in the United States, even if they weren’t avid television viewers. On the other hand, ComicCon, where I first wore Velma (interesting rhetoric on my part) would recognize Leela. The positive responses from others I have had to Velma was at ComicCon, not the literary cons, perhaps because the cosplay wasn’t elaborate enough to be recognized as cosplay? Or because literary cons have tended to eschew cosplay and only the very bold costumes draw response? Think about this some more.

“struggling to make sense of their own and others’ worlds and attempting to locate themselves and others within the social and cultural spheres” (138)

The authors specifically are talking about children but also say “like adults.” Even if they didn’t, I would have marked this because I think there is an element of this “struggle” to cosplay. Perhaps not make sense… Perhaps organize (or is that making sense?) or expand/extend?

Certainly cosplay is a means of locating self very specifically within a social/cultural sphere and, depending on the elaborateness/recognizability of the costume (though I dislike the word for this and thought fashion/clothing/other), might also be a means of simultaneously fitting in and standing out.

ShD head steampunk blueCosplayers fit in because they understand/know enough about the culture to recognize legitimate characters to create/re-create and stand out because they created something particularly unique. –My steampunk cosplay is mostly unelaborated and fairly simple to overlook, but my boots are amazing and I often have people stop me and ask to take pictures of them and not the whole of my costume. That is part of the reason I continue to look for pieces I could wear as steampunk while not often doing steampunk. (Notice the rhetorical idea of doing versus playing. We don’t play these genres, we do them. What does that mean?)

“emotion effects profoundly what is thought and perceived” (138)

This is why the WA cosplay has garnered so strong a response. Fear/terror, whether real or remembered, is a strong emotion and as a WA, people jump, squeak, scream, and “participate” in the play.

Also, unlike other characters, WA have very specific and limited actions, so I can quickly and easily recreate them (and thus cosplay my character, act out my character) even in a large, crowded con.

“For psychoanalysis, children’s play involves unconscious processes… and the achievement of a new relation to external reality. … working-through is also achieved through play” (139)
“working-through … clinical term to describe the endeavour … to make insight more effective and change possible” (151)

9Worlds 2014-6180Though the working-through mentioned here is destruction, I think it might possibly be related to cosplay as well. Certainly cosplay has been an approved (by the social community of fandom) means of adopting different sexualities and/or genders; one of the first cosplayers I ever saw was a young male adolescent cosplaying Sailor Moon and one of the most recent was a major English female cosplayer who had adopted two standard personae–Lando Mollari of Babylon 5 and a Musketeer.

Quite possibly the new relation to reality is an integration of a characteristic that the cosplayer desires and may or may not have already. At least, when I underlined the quote that was what I was thinking of. So how might a cosplay create a new characteristic in a cosplayer? Certainly it is a means of “trying on” a new identity, something more acceptable and expected of adolescents than adults. Also many long-term cosplayers begin to adopt cosplay in their mundane life (mundane = word from the fandom to mean not fandom).

“Fantasy and memory come together to create a poignant narrative” (144).

9Worlds 2014 Lady Elsie-6237This is what I am wondering about for cosplay. Do they come together so that the cosplay is a narrative/story? There is a story behind them, both for the character and for the cosplayer. There is story in them. Is this relevant to what I am working on?

“‘unconscious phantasies underlie every mental process, and accompany all mental activity’ (Hinshelwood 1991: 32).” (145)

Does cosplay make the fantasies more evident? Are they part of mental activities and mental processes that may themselves be unconscious, but the fantasies are more visible/known?

“we need memories to define ourselves” (147)

Are the memories we use and evoke in cosplay part of defining ourselves? Definitely. Are they meant to do that? Yes. Can I develop this in a way that embraces the psychoanalytical approach to memory as well as the rhetorical aspects of memory?

Steampunkers-2276The article talks about “Byng-Hall’s study of family myths and legends (1995)” and says that “scripts and myths are used within the family to construct the identity of the family and its members” (147) and I wonder if this is part of how stories are used in cons to create an identity of insiders? I think it must be. The stories of people who have died who were important to the fandom are included in the con and con literature, at least for the first year after their death. These stories tell “who we are” just as much as, but perhaps in a different way, our presence at the con does.

“Most of the children in the pilot study struggled with locating themselves in their families and wider communities, with knowing and tolerating good and bad aspects of themselves and others–in short, with developing a solid sense of self and others” (148).

I wrote next to this “true of adults, too? fandom?” Most adults do have a solid sense of self, but we also don’t like all of ourselves and feel ourselves to be missing things. Fandom can help add dimensions to us that we did not have before and cosplay adds even others. One does not have to be personally sewing or building a costume to be a creative cosplayer. Remixing and piecing things together also counts as creativity and is very visible to those around the cosplayer, if the costume is clearly costume.

“…’human dream of leaving, a dream at least as powerful as its countervailing dream of roots’ (Rushdie 1992:23)” (149)

These dreams of leaving and having roots–of being part of but being different from–seems to be something that fandom creates space for and encourages. We are a part of fandom, but we are different from others in fandom by our personal interests (seen in tracks to participate in) and our cosplaying, whether hall or masquerade costumes. Plus, simply being part of fandom makes you part of a community that is different from your normal workaday world, since most of us don’t live in fandom. I say most, because there are people who make their living and do, in fact, live in fandom. I was amazed/shocked at the number of people at FenCon last month who do the con circuit all across the middle of the US.

DSC_4871The author talks of a child whose family story of his grandfather’s journey to England has been so much a part of his life that the child “introjected it that he had taken the journey in fantasy and it had become utterly real to him–in the retelling it became his journey, his life was being told” (149).

This, too, is part of cosplay. You take the story of a character, either one of your own creation or of another’s creation, and you literally place yourself into the story as cosplayer and become part of the story and it becomes your story.

I don’t think this is always necessary or even desired; I do not want to be a Weeping Angel in real life at all. However, the power of the WA to bring attention, to engage others, to draw them into the fantasy, I do want that in my life and by cosplaying a WA, not just dressing up as one, I gain a lot of that.

“memories evoked and the internal place they provided. They used the narratives to link themselves to others” (150).

This is, ultimately, what cosplay is doing. We are linking ourselves to others, those who see and recognize our character, those who understand it and respond to it, those who interact with and build off of our cosplay. We are taking part in a bigger cosplay, that of fandom, and both linking to and differentiating ourselves from the rest of the people in fandom by cosplaying.



Bacon-Smith on Cosplay

by Dr Davis on October 14, 2014

These are notes from chapters 2 and 3 in the book, specifically related to cosplay (walking the halls and attending panels in costume). Recall that chapter 3 (31ff) primarily is discussing Worldcon, though other conventions and the cosplay there sometimes fits too.

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0Bacon-Smith, Camille. Science Fiction Culture. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2000. Print.

When Boskone (Boston convention) had problems and was uninvited from its venue “costuming was discouraged” (19).

Elisabeth Carey … “Some of the fans … couldn’t see why the paramilitary costume and the Trek costume got different reactions.” (19) from the hotel staff and non-convention guests

9Worlds 2014 Lady Elsie-6237defined one of the subsets of true fans as “Those who form their primary fan identity around a particular science fiction activity or product, such as costuming or folksinging or television science fiction” (32). Says these folks see Worldcon (and presumably other cons) as “a convenient place to gather and share their own part of the science fiction continuum” (32).

Those who form their main fan identity as above “find their solidarity based on the products of the science fiction industry” (33).

“The first line of defense, clothing, reflects the specific communal enterprise of science fiction.” (34)

“Clothing functions internally for the community itself to establish a visible marker of group inclusion/exclusion, and to allow for the expression of individual identity within the allowable parameters of the community” (34).

“creates a visible boundary that shuts out the mainstream culture” (34)

“… many fans add a detail or two from a variety of costume like options to signify the wearer’s particular interest.” (35)

“the participant who wears science fiction fashion [jeans or dirndl skirt and tee] rather than a full costume seems to be expressing primary identification with the group rather than with a personalized vision of a character” (35).

Some of the professionals, who generally dress more formally, also add an element of costuming. Maureen McHugh wears an ear clip. Steven Brust wears a cavalier’s plumed hat (wears all the time, not just at cons). (35)

“Costume marks the territory of the convention as more clearly “other” than science fiction fashion…” (35)

“costumes appear in a wide variety of styles and carry a range of potential meanings that cannot be decoded simply by reading the clothing. To understand costume, we must look at both the coding on the body and the intention of the costumer, which may remain hidden.” (36)

“The costume itself always provides a visual referent, sometimes to a specific character or situation, but almost always to a specific genre, subgenre, or special interest. Costumers walk the convention site like the living books…” (36)

“For many conventioneers, particularly newcomers who have not yet been completely enculturated into their own social networks, the boundary that costumers defend holds them safely inside–safely because their growing ability to read the costumes demonstrates their growing enculturation. Making this easier, costume has engendered a variety of classification systems, including, most importantly, genre.” (36)

9Worlds hexadecimal 2014-6181“Fantasy, science fiction, and historical are the three main costume categories” (36)

“Monsters are often created by young men…” (36)

“For the person who creates and wears the costume, the purpose and meaning can be varied and complex. Participants may costume as an artistic endeavor, as play, or as an expression of a commitment to a special interest or a personal perception of the past or the future.” (36)

“costume is a declaration of solidarity with others who share the fantasy and its presence in great numbers in the convention site creates a visual boundary for the frame of the event” (37).

An entry point into fandom can be through the aesthetic of costume. (47)

Masquerade at Worldcon
The masquerade (costume contest) “has increasingly come under fire by long-time fans. Resentment of the event arises out of the clash of meanings the masquerade presents” (56).

For fans who see fandom as “small, long-distance community of likeminded readers… the masquerade is a waste of resources. It draws and audience that this group perceives as primarily passive receivers of a produced show rather than the active participants these core members value.” (56)

“members of the community for whom costuming provides the primary fan identity have … added to this sense of division” (56)

“For a community suffering the effects of sudden growth and the loss of homogeneity, the masquerade became a ritual of inclusion for socializing newcomers as well as a source of affirmation for many long-term participants.” (57)

“As a ritual of inclusion, it turns the crowd into fandom” (57).

Costume is not the end of Masquerade. Must have performance as well. “the totality of the performance is required for full aesthetic effect” … “not just a pretty piece of clothing but a fully developed concept represented by the costume” (57)

a very cold Weepng Angel RonThis is not always understood by newcomers and sometimes the Masquerade costumes at non-Worldcon conventions are not the best costumes there and also are not presented within a skit or with acting. Sometimes the conventions encourage this by PA announcements inviting folks to sign up for the costume contest.

RMCF (Rhetorical Memory Cosplay Fandom)