Foucault Facilitation: Smantha

In class notes:

Does Foucault care about agency? Is agency possible with Foucault?

Foucault is not quite concerned with subject. His subject is not the same with others’ ideas. Foucault shifts the focus of the subject. Because he is more concerned with govern-mentality and power. Psychology, linguistics, philosophy, rhetoric, and other issues are his concern. His extensive interest in history and the the present.

Foucault is constantly changing his theory according to interviews. His mind changes from time to time, which made different versions of his ideas on individuality, and so on.

Resistance versus agency? How could we resist panopticon?

Cooper’s subjest, and Foucault’s death of the subject in the postmodern sense.


No subject, Althusser.

How consciously and unconsciously we make choices in a system. For instance, credit score may impact one’s job hunting. Consumer consequences that you can choose, for example. The tactic to subverting the system, such as the term “agency”. The paradigm,  the apparatus, and the system. Capitalism, consumer, and protests, even violent revolution.

Creating a gaze: you don’t have to actually been in the panopticon, you just have to feel like you have been watched.

Before we structured the panopticon, we are in chaos. That makes the gaze possible between and among people, between people and institutions, between the internet and us, etc.

Althusser thinks  ideology interpellates individuals as subjects(115).

Anything I think is unnatural, but everything I touch is natural.

The Task for Agencies of Change: Reflections On Giroux’s Critical Pedagogy

Giroux’s piece is especially appealing because I can see myself as an agency who always advocate a wind of change in the classroom, I am not necessarily always aware when I make some of my politically neoliberal assertions. However, that’s what every instructor will do, right? No matter what kind of ideology we have, we inevitably advocate what we want in the classroom. Not because of what we really what the students end up, but because of who we are. The subjectivity in ourselves makes it politically so.

Then, what should we do as agencies of change in the classroom? How do instructors balance their role as a subjective agency? Because we are in the postmodern and transnational world, our students’ cultural background is diverse, which means diverse identities, diverse ideologies, and intricate power relationships among us. Social and individual forms of cultural and agency produce discourses, which renders culture our critical object (59-60). United States, as the frontier of multi cultural and multi ideological communications, provides us fertile soil to rhetorical and therefore, cultural and political practices.

I agree with Giroux’s idea that culture is changing and being interpreted differently as time goes by (60). And I think the view of culture as an educational site is important because we don’t often relate our pedagogies to culture. Often times we ourselves are subjected to certain identity formation and state apparatus. According to Giroux, cultural studies theory provides possibilities for “new democratic transformations” such as “democratic politics,” “dynamic of resistance,” and “capabilities for social agency” (60).

Giroux’s view point that formerly pedagogy rarely focused on public politics to a broader extent (60), saying that cultural studies benefits educators in helping students’ school learning, rather than social practice (61). Referring to different theorists, Giroux seems to emphasize the importance of recognizing the relationship, or dynamic among learning in school, the social environment, and institutions. Similarly, Giroux advocates that pedagogy should become more political for cultural studies, and politics should become more pedagogical for educators (61).

Students’ identity construction and the social politics that empowered the identification is central to Giroux’s cultural study view because pedagogy involves politics outside school (62-63). Having this in mind, it is not hard for us to appreciate Giroux’s point that there is a need in our pedagogical practice to deepen and expand theoretical and political horizons of critical pedagogy (63). I cannot agree more with Giroux’s idea that we as instructors can help students to understand and maintain “their relationship to others and the world”, and “energizing students and others to engage” in their “struggles that further possibilities for living in a more just society.” I think this is quite revolutionary in essence because when students make changes, that is not merely one region, one society, but the whole world provided that our students are from different parts of the nation, or the globe.

Just as Giroux mentions, compassion and social responsibility is of vital importance to instructors if we are to better “racial justice, economic democracy, and the just distribution of political power(64).” To say that pedagogy is “contextual” (65) is quite important because we have to understand each individual, each community, and each nation’s historical context when we embark on a road of change. Logically, it requires us to deal with different issues from smaller identity and access issue to a broader environment. Transdisciplinary collaboration is conducive to creativity and deepening of knowledge (66-67), which is notably important to instructors, so does the prosperous visual and digital rhetoric. Moreover, we have to note the importance of public memory (67-68), which does not limit to our own memory, but the narratives of different people from different social class, community, and so on.

I see Giroux’s piece as excellent in his effort of bridging the gap between academia and the society. This piece is kind of a guide to what instuctors do to make knowledge our power to change, to use the classroom as the frontier of open debate on various issues that is related to the fate of the entire human race, and more importantly, to walk out of the classroom and take actions. In service learning, this is already happening. I believe more and more instructors are taking their responsibility of agencies.

Classical Good and Metanoia the Internal Agency: the Kairos-Metanoia Interdependency

Myers’ metanoia piece reaffirms our discussion on rhetorical action. Due to the limitations of classical rhetoric, Myers’ argumentation cannot possibly go beyond the classical realm of rhetorical reasoning. However, she tries to pull agency and metanoia in for the hope of relate the “supra-rational”(17) in philosophical rhetoric(2). The metanoia reminds me of Bildungsroman, that epiphany that every individual will encounter if we are to transform internally and then take action and influence the outside. She brings the visual, the spiritual, and the action  taking together in rhetorical process, but I really lament that the classical rhetoric seems splitting with the postmodern present, at least when it comes to the pursuit of the good. It seems only Medieval rhetoric has some market now. I guess the classists job is a hard one according to this piece. Myers talks about pursuing goodness (10), about religious repentance and spiritual transformation (8), therefore not ostensively postmodern.

Proposing metanoia—”the affective dimension of kairos,” Myers stresses the importance to be aware of the long ignored “dramatic spiritual conversation” within oneself (2). Tracing evidences in Greek and Roman literature and paintings on both Goddesses (3-8), Myers rhetorically analyses the need to mark the afore forgotten metanoia. The sudden realization of one’s own fault and the mistakenly missed opportunity, which to Myers is what matters as a rhetorical change of “mind and heart” (7), and repentance equals religious conversion(8). Referring to Augustine’s spiritual changes in his Confessions(9), Myers suggests that metanoia does not come easily. Augustine’s example demonstrates (9-10) how the meditation on philosophy and the world come to human knowledge and whether true knowledge can be learned (9-10).

Myers also mentions the distinction between metanoia and anamnesis, saying that different from anamnesis’ mere remembrance of innate knowledge, metanoia leads us to new knowledge, the “brightest of realities,” “the Good” or eventually the truth(10). Therefore, when repentance and transformation happens, Myers’ huge internal power will begin to influence the outside. However, she also says that the outside forces such as the divine presence and a wise teacher should be noted (10) because metanoia is two fold: a. divine inspiration or anamnesis, and b. divine presence or trusted teacher (10). This is exactly how the adult ritual of epiphany happens in a transformation novel or Bildungsroman. Thus, our transformation is completed from metanoia to kairos. After this adult ritual in each event or rhetorical action, we become aware of the time and space when we should seize the opportunity rather than wait and lament what should have been done. Due to the two fold nature of metanoia and the nature of transformation process, action must be taken—choices must be made (10). This choice making or action taking issue then becomes crucial and Myers concerns whether this choice making or action taking can be learned, especially in classroom setting (10). However, because transforming to kairos from metanoia requires both experience, skills and intuition, the choice making and action taking can only be partially taught(11). Nevertheless, Myers deems the partial navigation of the two as a significant learning process because it will “lead to transformation of mind and heart”(12).

Myers illustrates the importance of the kairos-metanoia dynamic by analyzing Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermon(13-15). King’s rhetorical power to make the audience pause, think, repent, and take action seems exactly fit for Myers argument that kairos and metanoia should be considered as important rhetorical devices. She further refers to Sharon Crowley and Stanley Fish’s viewpoints on how the “belief” or ideologic conversion is a “powerful emotion” and  “painful process” (15). Kairos and metanoia putting into context and specific moments, can help us to build dialogue between or among different and “passionate commitments” (16). Therefore, Myers encourages us to use the two as a process of rhetoric as well as the end goal of rhetorical end goal (16).

Myers brings forth a retrospect to classical rhetoric. When I ponder on her mentioning of “supra-rational” (17), I thought of the unconscious, even the neurphenomenology. She stresses “how mind, body, emotion, and logic are blurred” (17), which is kind of a postmodern pointing to the uncertain, the study of the mind. I particularly noted that Myers says at the end of her article that the dichotomy of kairos and metanoia will dissolve and the partnership between the two will surface (17). I guess she suggests us to make full use of the interdependent dynamic and use metanoia to reach kairos and therefore rhetorical goal. I don’t know why, but the make believe rhetoric maybe conducive to religious piety, but what if this is misused? The old talk of leading the soul freaks me out because I am so afraid of the expedient.

Striving for Common Good and Tolerance Through Individual Agencies: Weaving Postmodern Fragments into Wholeness and Responsibility

Reynolds talks about agency in a difference sense, or more traditional sense if agency is a tool to realize changes. I agree with her idea that women should voice and interrupt the male centered narration. She does not offer a very strong desire to change compared to other feminist scholars, but she tries to connect the feminist point of view with composition studies. I love her idea of how students can be taught or instructed to interrupt. She mostly talks about drawing attention, about interruption, about conversation, and means toward agency, which is kind of annoying due to the difficulty of interruption. Cooper is more progressive and focus more on how to achieve agency more effectively or responsibly rather than just trying to get agency realized. In the postmodern era, agency is emergent for both male and female because both are fragmented. However, women are marginalized, race problems exists. Therefore, I think we should take action to solve the problem by combining Cooper and Reynold’s viewpoints on agency.

Cooper’s piece is in accordance with Aristotle and Plato’s ideal that rhetoric should seek for justice and truth. Once again I find the hope of my dream that could bring the postmodern fragments together if not by a common value, then, by tolerant agencies maybe. In our postmodern and transnational era, this could be what Cooper proposes—agency as the saver or “rescue” (420) of the postmodern negativity. She suggests that individual agencies should not only be whoever that brings changes, but that agencies should be conscious of what they are and what they are doing(421). This self-reflective awareness is what she emphasizes by using “neurophenomenology” (421).

In order to argue the “emergent” and “enacted” “individual agency”, Cooper firstly discusses the subject issue. Most of the postmodern literary criticism discusses the fragmented self and the death of the author and the protagonist because everything is fragmented, even the story lines of postmodern literature is highly stream of consciousness that is fragmented itself. The death of the subject causes the lost of subjectivity and the identity crisis of poststructural and postmodern human beings. Cooper says that this process is “posthumanist” and denies the subject’s capability of having agency, for the subject is no longer capable of coherent action(423).

Cooper proposes “the theory of agency requires the death of not only the modernist subject but of the whole notion of the subject (423). She argues how rhetorical theorists and critics are harmed by this notion of subject and not being ale to exert agency’s function to the full extent due to the “subject-object dyad” (424). On the contrary, phenomenologists have been making efforts to get out of this binary. They focus on “connections between the subject and the other and between subjects and their perceived and experienced reality (424)”. Heidegger’s camp even move on to discuss the possibilities of the subjectivity and intersubjectivity. However, Cooper favors Latour’s view that “humans no longer have to make this choice that is imposed on subjects” and that the split between the subject and the object hinders the understanding of the two as a “collective”(424).

Cooper deems agencies as actors—”the collective(s),” who acts and bring changes no matter the actions are physical or mental (424). And, Cooper claims the individual agencies are constantly changing beings who are always interacting with their surroundings and selves (425). I don’t really think this theoretical premise of hers is solid on phenomenologists—whom I love. At least in defense of Heidegger, I believe that he has already moved to intersubjectivity, therefore, a change to the possibilities of agencies already. That very notion of intersubjectivity breaks the subject-object dilemma because intersubjectivity already goes beyond the objectivity that the subjectivity can present. However, I have dipped into psychoanalysis before, so Cooper’s figures are really appealing to me. Figure 2 and figure 3 are extremely interesting and useful I suppose, when analyzing rhetorical agencies via neurophenomenological theory.

And, I found myself quite upset about her separation of the subject and the agency the subject enjoys. To compare agencies with actors is smart, but why just quit subject or subjectivity once for all? I think our postmodern subjectivity is fragmented and constantly subject to changes, but why to replace it with agency? Big question mark! She could have relate the agency issue with the fragmented self I guess? I really love her idea that agency is always in progress, but I really wish she could have discussed it with the progressive and fragmented subject. She makes me want to take some courses in the neuroscience discipline! I was crazy with this unconscious thing when I started psychoanalysis in literary studies.

I actually ignored the Obama speech due to the non-seamless of her theoretical foundation and her examples. However, I enjoyed Cooper’s idea that “agency is a matter of action; it involves doing things intentionally and voluntarily, but it is not a matter of causing whatever happened” (439). She brings together  freewill and responsibility (440), which is of great importance to the chaotic postmodern world that seems losting its judgmental ability. I guess what we need is just the tolerance to other’s freewill and the responsibility that our freewill will not harm the interest of other people’s interest. And, when conflict occurs, we should consider the variants and consequences to make the final decision for common good. For instance, in international affairs, maybe it is sensible to consider the interest of different parties in decision making and judgmental comments. What’s more, we have to be aware of the agency process that sometimes not only involves one individual’s agency, but also involves groups of agencies.

Tisha Savannah

"Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters." - Neil Gaiman

Foundations of Literary Studies: Reading Frankenstein Two Hundred Years Later

English 010 | University of California, Merced | Fall 2018



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