April 9, 2008

Spatial Stories: A CCCC Call

Filed under: writing — jrice @ 11:48 am

Continuing with the previous posts. We are telling spatial stories, what de Certeau calls “proliferating metaphors – sayings and stories that organize places through the displacements they ‘describe.’�

Weburbanist hosts pictures and descriptions of abandoned buildings. Detroit, represented on this page by Highland Park, is known for its ruins and abandoned spaces: homes, movie theaters, restaurants, hospitals, auto plants, retail stores. The abundance of abandoned spaces makes Detroit’s topos that of a city abandoned. True or not true, leaving space is as important as entering space. Abandonment is as much a metaphor as a physical thing. Metaphors displace, as de Certeau notes, while they also organize experience. Some abandoned spaces lure us in through the metaphoric experiences either described to us or described by us.

One experience regarding abandonment is despair. Note the outcries regarding Katrina and New Orleans. Despair can be accompanied by outrage. Another experience is nostalgia. Same example, but now the tone shifts to “authenticity,” “what once was,” “this is where such and such was…such good memories.” Another example is disdain. The “serves you right” motif. Detroit is no stranger to this rhetorical gesture. A rhetorical gesture is “filling in the space.” The Stalking Detroit collection treats Detroit in this way. How can we fill in its spaces, the various contributors ask? Digital Detroit works somewhat from this position; every space, the book so far seems to argue, is already filled in. Networks work that way.

And me? I tell spatial stories all the time. I can’t help it. Blog posts ago, I sketched out stories via McLuhan and Burroughs, two of Missouri’s notable writers. My work on Detroit is all a spatial story that I cannot stop telling. In class yesterday, I was fascinated by folks’ descriptions of Missouri town names: Mexico, Paris, Cuba. Cuba, Missouri? “Where is that?” I asked. Nobody knew. But they knew it is somewhere. What is the story of Cuba, Missouri? What is my story of Cuba, Missouri? I don’t want to pull up Google Maps, though I could do that. I want my own map. Maps – the metaphor for spatial stories – trace and organize the iconic so that experiences can be had or noted.

So why not walk down the street in New Orleans and tell its current story about a hurricane, a disaster, racial discrimination, and bad engineering? No reason not to tell that story. But once it circulates to the extent that it is too familiar – like a sitcom or action movie plot – I want another kind of story.

Next year’s CCCC is about a story: 60 years of CCCC. And it will take place in a storied space: San Francisco. Many of us enter and leave the CCCC, San Francisco, and even composition on a regular basis. What kind of story might we tell that is spatial, not representational? In other words, a panel that maps in spatial ways. 1949. College Composition and Communication. San Francisco. Three points on the map that can be connected to many others. Anybody want to do a panel on spatial stories and the CCCC?


  1. I don’t know if this counts a space in the sense you’re writing here, but:

    Corbett/Browne in CCC
    Lennon/Ono in Montreal

    Of course,’69 was also a year that CCC paid attention to space in moving the 71 meeting out of Chicago in protest of the violence against demonstrators in ’68.

    Comment by Mike — April 9, 2008 @ 12:41 pm

  2. Hmmm… I’ve been moving around Jello Biafra, mosh-pit ethics/ ethos, and how punk is often intertwined with both a rage at what is and the hope of arrival at somewhere else. Punk as the noise to jam the signal. San Francisco where the UN was envisioned, a new world order began its territorialization, but also City Lights, a place of deterritorialization.

    1949, Germany released from Allied control.
    1949, release of “The Bicycle Thief”/”The Bicycle Thieves,” a punk film, raging against the post-war order.
    1949, the beginning of the arms race as USSR tests its own atomic bomb.
    1949, date of mass murderer, Howard Unruh’s killing of 13 and America’s first mass murderer.
    1949, a prophetic year?

    Comment by dave's not here — April 9, 2008 @ 4:29 pm

  3. I have much to sort out – just now starting to out some of my thinking…and the ’08 Cs was my first.

    I’ve started something on the how the image/fear of “the overheard conversation” constructs concepts of public space…

    Comment by Jason — April 11, 2008 @ 12:57 pm

  4. Oh yeah, and the “ambient narrative” work could unfold some…

    I’m new to blog space; sorry if I over-appear…

    Comment by Jason — April 11, 2008 @ 12:59 pm

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