Languaging '99

This a brief travel log describing my experiences of Languaging '99 at the University of North Texas (UNT), in Denton, TX, March 4-6, 1999. This was the first literature/linguistics conference I've ever attended. The text is intermingled with images I saw along the way.

Thursday, March 4

Literary Plenary Address


Reed Way Dasenbrock put forth the idea that language does not have meaning only in the text, but rather it's meaning is brought about through community and convention. For example, a popular t-shirt read "Its a black thing, you wouldn't understand it." He quoted a lot from Austin (the author of How To Do Things With Words) and Thomas Kuhn to further exemplify his ideas. "The game of language is not as codified as the set of rules suggest", he said. Other quotes from his presentation include:

Friday, March 5

Rhetorical Theory Craft Talk


Mark Turner This "craft talk" provided an opportunity to talk about and share ideas on Hellenic rhetoric. It was a sort of workshop on how to do rhetoric. One of the first ideas expressed was the idea of schemata, or form/meaning pairing. Rhetoric is about constructing the most effective form/meaning pairs where the form may be verbal or body language. "If the language is not presented in a form, then the meaning is lost." There are a whole range of form/meaning pairs or schemes. An example form includes: X is the Y of Z. Readily understandable examples include "Richard is the father of Eric" or "Necessity is the mother of invention".

Dead Girls Don't Say No

"Broken Dreams"
"Broken Dreams"

Lauryn Angel-Cann . She does some analysis of 19th Century literature necrophilia including Frankenstein , Withering Heights , and Dracula . She described how these works exemplify a love of death.

Kathryn Strong . She alludes to the emphasis of sexualized, eroticize death in a novella, the Double Marriage.

Becky Hanson . An analysis of Poe's " Ligeia ", " Morella ", and " Berenice " was given and how the heroines of these stories ultimately destroy the male narrators of each by giving each of them strong necrophilic feelings.

Amy Gingrich . Clockwork Orange, and Blade Runner were used to illustrate how women are made into "dollies" for a necrophilic's dream and ideal women. They are forms for the necrophilic gaze.

Kelly Herd . She describes Lester Ballard in Child of God as the hero of an adventure story and why.

Session D


Sue Crowson . She analyzed Dr. Laura Schleshenger's rhetoric through Schleshenger's books, newspaper columns, website, and syndicated radio broadcasts. Crowson describes Schleshenger's rhetoric as one of control and providing certainty in a world of uncertainty.

Christine Bobbit Voth . FAQs are supposed to be useful and intended for new users, but, because of the way they are written, they presuppose the intended users have experiences beyond the "newbie" stage. Consequently, FAQs are not as helpful as they are intended to be.

Creative Writing Plenary Address


Richard Pau-Llosa . A poet and art critic, he presented himself as an artist living in a true multi-cultural environment. The works of art displayed in his presentation exemplified the imagery of Latin America and how it is contrasted with the logocentric cosmology of North America.

Saturday, March 6

Session C

Denton Town Hall
Denton Town Hall

Lisa Lundy . The thesis of the paper was Hawthorne affected Melville's writing. Weak male characters are said to be prevalent in this era's literature. Examples include Melville's Ahab in Moby Dick and Hawthorne's Aurther in the Scarlet Letter . In short, Ahab and Aurther are very similar characters.

Glen Broadhead . He talked about a concordancing tool, a set of macros in Microsoft Word written by Chris Tribble . The tool is useful for studying the rhetorical, literary, and linguistic structures of texts.

Session F

A "busman's holiday"
A "busman's holiday"

Christopher Lindquist . Discussed the role of the poet in Gary Snyder's Myths and Texts. "A poet is a social catalyst bringing together texts and cosmology or myths...The poet can show you how to become 'knowledgeable' through a bio-regional awareness."

Matthew Murry . Murry described how the subject/object lines blur in works by Melville. It becomes difficult to distinguish between self and the setting. "Self is beyond the epidermal limits of a person's body."

Languaging Luncheon

Sticks and a nude
Sticks and a nude

Everybody attended a luncheon Saturday afternoon, and for "dessert" we analyzed a poem by Robert Haas called " Meditation at Lagunitas ". Interpretations included the fleetingness of thinking, passion and love, as well as incest.

In the afternoon I played frisbee at Veteran's Park, in Arlington, TX.

Linguistic Plenary Address


Donna Jo Nanpoli. Nanpoli listed and demonstrated four rules for good writing. If memory serves correctly, three of the four rules were:

She is an extraordinary story teller.


The purpose of my attendance to Languaging '99 was two-fold. First, I was encouraged by my boss to attend a conference that would stretch me. I had never been to a literature/linguistics conference before, and since it had be classified as a philosophy as well as literature/linguistics I thought it might serve as an opportunity for growth. Second, with the development of the Alex Catalogue , I wanted to get a feel for how it's features might serve the needs of academic readers and writers.

Considering my experiences, the conference helped me fulfill the purposes of attendance. I learned a great deal. I learned there is a distinction between people who study literature and people who study linguistics. It seems the literature people are less systematic and more expressive whereas linguists are more systematic and less expressive. The former tend toward artistic means of understanding while the linguists seem to emphasize the scientific. The distinction between the two is similar to the distinction between "library" science and "information" science. In any event, this is another case for arscience.

I also learned the meaning of "logocentric" and I began to learn the role of deconstructionism in modern philosophy and linguistics.

Many of the sessions I attended were presented by graduate students of UNT. I got the feeling these people were stretching their wings and becoming socialized into the academic culture. Their ideas were stimulating and insightful, but they read their papers. I mean they really read their papers. I found this quite unusual, but after inquiring with a couple of other attendees, I learned that reading papers is expected practice. I wonder how prevalent this practice is in other academic disciplines.

Finally, I learned the Alex Catalogue could be useful to the sort of people attending Languaging '99. Nobody had heard of Alex, but there were only about 50 people there and I didn't talk to everybody. Of the few people to whom I did talk, Alex seemed like an interesting tool.

I look forward to the opportunity to attend another literature/linguistics conference.

Creator: Eric Lease Morgan <>
Source: This text was never formally published.
Date created: 1999-03-08
Date updated: 2004-11-24
Subject(s): literature; language; travel log; Denton, TX;