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Alternative Scholarship

It's impossible to define a field or movement with a limited set of practices or list of concerns. At the same time, there are aspects that make clear the meanngs, motivations, and methods of alternative scholarship

  • Affirmative

    It is all about the yes-and. Too much scholarship is based on arguing against the ideas of others. What if there are other possibilities that we overlook?

  • Speculative

    When we know in advance our questions and conclusions, we reinscribe rather than reinvent knowledge. Can scholarship itself become emergent and open-ended?

  • Embodied

    We lose something when we cordone scholarship off to intellectual realms only. Emotion, performative modes, and physical response can open channels for scholarship.

  • Material

    Engaging with the material world has long been a part of scholarship. What happens when we forground the material aspects of composing as we theorize? 

Yes and Yes-and: Time in the Compshop

Scholarship in the humanities is far too combative. A typical move is to review what has been said by others, and then to lay out problems with their analysis, evidence, or conclusions--a refutational mode captured by the phrase yes, but.

But what if we take an approach borrowed from improvisation, the directive to accept and extend the ideas of others? This piece imagines some of those possibilities by composing with affirmation. Writing without ever using the phrase however is harder than it seems. And rewarding.

Untitled Improv Typing

How does listening to music shape composing? What if the composition itself is shaped by the song? And what if we add performance? Screen composing knows that capturing live typing changes the words that emerge. Taking up ways of knowing in this space casts the ephemeral explorations as scholarly writing.


One way of developing alt-scholarship is through shifting modes. Moving projects from print to audio or prose to image interprets texts as the message and qualities are recast. It's a mode akin to translation. Remixing offers a productive, speculative way of engaging poetry.

Moonmoth (Recast from the poem by Elizabeth Bishop)

It's a moving thing

With a leaf for a wing

It's a moon moth


It's the silhouette

You make when you get

Near the sky


It's the ceaseless track

That keeps bringing you back

To the night


It's another year every year

And you never hear

Anyone cry


It's the place that you stand

With your hat in your hand

In the light


It’s a single tear

And it’s crystal clear

As it longs to escape from your eye


And you turn 17

And you turn 59

And you turn and you turn

And you try


It's another year every year

And you never hear

Anyone cry


It’s a scene from a dream

And it floats through your screen

It’s a moon moth


It’s the way you return

To the lesson you learn

In goodbye


It's the endless scrawl

When you’re crawling the wall

To get high


It's another year every year

And you never hear

Anyone cry

Affect & Embodiment

Rhetoric has longed recognized that there are multiple modes of communication--from the status of a speaker to logic to emotions. What happens when we extend the primary, logical mode of argument with these other possibilities? A good deal of scholarship has been written about affect and emotions. Not much has been written through them.


One possibility for opening avenues for new modes of scholarship is multimedia. Sound, for instance, has a material dimension that differs from text on a page. As we process waves of sound, meaning becomes embodied. This piece explores the role of affect on our understandings. Music, the sounds of owls, and trains passing pursuade us that, as we move into emotional registers, the body and sensation become key elements of scholarship.

Speculation & Ambiguity

Contemporary theories of knowledge express concern over approaches that know in advance the outcome of their investigations. Ideas and the world take shape in ways that are networked, emergent, and ephemeral. How can we pursue scholarship that is similarly open ended? And what happens to notions of certainty that are typically yoked to academic investigations? Can the scholarship we produce participate in the same rich possibilities we associate with the creative texts we study? What happens when we compose with the aim of deploying ambiguity and moving from concrete to abstract claims?

Alt-Scholarship Videos

The red wheelbarrow

so much depends


a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white