And here, we arrive at an end

In a few minutes, I’ll email you all our class picture and my comments on your final projects. It won’t be enough.

What I can’t fully say is how much I learned from our discussions, how you taught me to see new things, to grapple with materialities of writing in a way that I find intellectually interesting and professionally productive. As I said when I opened the class, the I chose the topic because it was one I wanted to think more about, not because I was an expert. And now, we are all experts! In as much as anyone can be about such things as materialities and writing.

In our last day of discussion, which many of your refer to below, I felt honored by the ways you talked about your experiences in the class. I worry sometimes about being “soft” because I don’t call people out when I know they haven’t done the reading (yes, sometimes I notice) or because I let students find their own way, or because I do not have rigid standards about who you should cite and how. I’ve often felt that those practices only have the aura of rigor, and that collaborative, supportive, warm makingspaces where people feel comfortable failing are the best spaces to learn. You’re all top-notch smart. And so I enjoyed seeing you try, and fail, and try, and make, and succeed, and fail, and try again. This course was my own trial, and sometimes it failed, but largely, I think, it succeeded because you brought your energy and willingness to think and to play together.

Once a connection is made, it’s always, in some way, there. So keep in touch.



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(no title)

Some people asked about how to link to documents within documents. Here’s how I did it: Insert–>Object–>From File–> then basically you will just select the file, click on the little boxes “Link to File” and “Display as Icon” if you want it to look the way I had it.

User beware: linking back and forth and back again can only go to a certain point before Microsoft just won’t do it anymore.


It’s been fun, everyone. There was a lot of curiosity in this class. And so many different ways of thinking about any one topic. Rigorous thinking, at that! I’ve never been in a class like this before, and don’t know if I’ll ever be in one like it again. Glad to learn aside everyone else.

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see yinz later!

Hi everybody! I’m not really sure what to say here– I have an overactive sense of nostalgia, so things like this are a little rough on me since it makes me feel like I’m never going to see anyone again, even though I’ll probably see most of you next week or something.

Like Anna, I really liked that last discussion, and I really valued this class. Especially, as I mentioned, I’m all super into the idea of experimentation– not only because experiments are fun, but there’s something more generous about them. I think we all surprised ourselves in this class, and we probably surprised each other. And I don’t know about you, but I ended up with something that (to my, uh, surprise) totally related back to my general research and reshaped it into something that is actually a lot more compelling than before.

So, you know, you all are awesome. It’s been great experimenting around with you guys. I look to more surprises and more glorious failures.

Carrie Lyn Hall

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Thank you for such a warm and inspiring environment in class this semester. It was awesome to be making things with you guys and sharing them.

People don’t do that enough in the wide world, is what I’ve concluded. Making things leads to making other things, and sometimes making things inspires other people to make things too, or build on what you’ve done. That’s what I like best, I think.

Lately I’ve been making these origami hearts. Here’s one special for you guys:


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alt f4

Nothing lasts forever, even this semester, and I’ve been trying to figure out for a few days now exactly how to say farewell.

I’m very pleased that the last word is going to the blog, because I’ve found the blog to be one of the most hilarious/interesting/inspiring/important parts of this course. It’s only fitting that a class focused around the word in the world, the physical word, would rely on multiple ways of making language reveal itself. And I never expected how much I would come to love this way in particular.

This isn’t the only course to have had a blogging component, but for some reason – perhaps the size of the class, perhaps its atmosphere – I had the feeling that both blog and seminar were continuations of a conversation we had begun and were not going to interrupt. In that way, class happened all week. It happened whenever I checked this space, or posted to it, or found a story that reminded me of it; it happened in 512 and in whatever room I used my laptop in; it was about fifty things at the same time, because we were able to sustain fifty trains of thought by recording them here.

I am a pretty quiet person, especially when I’m learning how to be bad at something. (As of yet, no one has hired me to design fonts.) But because “going to class” and “speaking in class” started becoming less and less distinguishable from this space, because there was such a sense of digital and analog camaraderie as we arranged files and built Twitterbots, “learning how to be bad” became kind of a joyful thing. There was not a sense that, in making something that didn’t work quite right, we had wasted time. There was a sense that making, even making off-kilter sentences and unhatched thoughts, was exactly how your time should be spent.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: right now, at the end of the semester, I have more questions than I ever did before, and that is really, really cool.

Noel asked if we ever decided what was and wasn’t writing. I don’t think there is an answer to that. But I think, right now, that you could interpret everything as writing, and to see the world like that – well, that’s pretty cool too.

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I was thinking about our discussion from the last day of class. Mostly, I like to think about that discussion because it was so open and warm and emotional. It reminded me of the last day of summer camp::: it has been a long, long time since I experienced a “last day” in that way, so I find it pleasant to dwell in those moments. However, I have also been thinking about the course more topically, about what Noel asked on Wednesday::: “Did we ever answer the question of what counts as writing?” (loose paraphrase). And I thought about how we can never really answer that question. But deciding a question cannot be answered is not the same as deciding that a question is not worth asking. I have had similar thoughts again and again in graduate school. We write and think about how slippery language is. We write and think about how a certain conceptual model cannot account for everything. We are always pointing out what has been left out. But I did not really understand why incompleteness was so important before this class, even though I would regularly produce iterations of such thoughts via writing. Writing is one way in which we try to capture something as it slips away from us. Making things is another way to find something incompletely. In Alien Phenomenology, Ian Bogost quotes Edumund Husserl::: “A painting is only a likeness for a likeness-constituting consciousness.” We cannot define writing completely because we notice our inability to really define, and we also wonder if anything else that exists would try to define, in the ways that we do. If not, how much does definition actually do, in the scheme of the universe? And yet, we attempt to represent, to construct, to define. We take things apart and tell ourselves that we have discovered how they work. We know that we are looking at the smallest sliver of reality from the smallest sliver of reality that is our own consciousness. But those slivers have formed a relationship that did not exist before we embarked on that project. We live for the feeling of understanding a little bit more than we did before.


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Encounter (n): The fact of meeting with (a person or thing), esp. undesignedly or casually. Const. of, with.

Just ne more reading/writing materialities photo
Just ne more reading/writing materialities photo

Dear Writing Materialists,

I have been thinking a lot about this word encounter. It is a meeting, a meeting potentially with tension or conflict, but I choose a more positive notion of the term. It is, as the OED has defined, “the fact of meeting with.” It is a given that we encounter a lot in graduate seminars. We encounter one another physically and ideologically, we encounter new ideas through readings and encounter our own expanded ways of thinking as we move to accommodate, extend, or even subvert the ideas we encounter. But the fact of the encounter is that it is always presenting. It happens now and we expect new encounters at each class meeting and at each post to this blog.

And now those encounters will become archived through this blog. Dated in the past, no longer the present. Encounters become memories, are taken in and brought to new lived experiences in new present moments. I am already nostalgic for you all and for this blog and this course. Many of us spoke fondly about how we will never see our writing and reading materials the same ever again — that our ways of reading our ways of writing are forever changed. For that I am grateful. I think of all of you each time I look at my kitchen table at my south-facing windows and document the materials scattered about, as they are now. I think to document it now and often.

I am grateful we have this archive to return to as traces of our very fruitful encounters this semester. I will miss the weekly warmth and generosity from you all. Warmest thanks, and all good things.

~ Moriah [Tablet]

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The last.

Since I’ve been reading Johanna Drucker all semester, it seems fitting to close my comments on this blog, where we have so often discussed the challenges and surprises of making, with something Drucker says in an interview for Journal of Artists’ Books 21 (2007):

I think the act
 of making experience over into form is fundamental to that process of ‘figuring out what is.’ I don’t separate the ‘is’ from the making, the ‘being’ in the world/experience from the ‘representing.’ I don’t know how to know what I know except by trying to represent it to myself.

It’s been a pleasure to work with all of you this semester: to read your posts, interact with your signments, and discover all the unexpected, weird, wonderful things you know how to do, things that would have probably stayed secrets in any other seminar.

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Concluding Fragments.

…I think the most impressive part of this seminar was the way every week’s readings could’ve gone in a thousand different directions, precisely because we all offered lots of unique knowledge to shade them, point them up or down, and generally mis-read them–I am thinking of myself, here…–alas, the seminar is shuttered, and we’re all wondering about PGH unable to NOT notice materialities and the fibers that extend from them…e.g. I can’t help but connect everything I’m reading to the main questions we asked in class…Ruskin talking about the “costly tyranny” of an iron fence…Sir Philip Sydney on the history of poetry…craft essays on fiction…recipes for meals…

…I think the only antagonist to our class would be an angelic/ethereal/entity, should those exist…

…Watching Neil DeGrasse Tyson talking about matter last night in COSMOS made me think about how non-material we are…how if every atom were blown up to the size of a cathedral, the nucleus would be as tiny as a mote of dust floating in the middle…and how we never really touch anything because of the force that our electron clouds create against other ones…it only appears as if we are touching…

…should so much of the universe be empty, then what does that say, or is there anything to say, about writing after that fact?…

…I think the materialities of writing can’t be a micro- or macro- discussion, but a practical one. That is, one could say that Everything is a materiality of writing, but that does no one any good…It must be contextual and must make a difference to practice.

Thus, I think our earliest conversation about what we need for writing was an insightful way to get at materiality in writing…

May you all be in possession of a surfeit of whole pants and comfy, shod feet.

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As I was trying to think of a good way to begin my farewell post (which I started over a week ago), I realized — just about everything makes me think of materialities in some way or another. Just lately in my newsfeed:

– The competition for the oldest message in a bottle
– The famous last words of a vicar before his tragic drowning: “Do you think I am mad? Answers please, on the back of a piece of seaweed.”
– A short feature on the controversial art of skywriting, with “Engine-heated paraffin oil mixed with exhaust to produce fluffy streams of white smoke that pilots loop-de-looped into letters on the sky’s canvas.”
– The debunking of the “switch to Garamond and save a ton of money” situation.
– More typewriter art, in an anthology.

…and much, much more.

(ETA: Comic sans apparently got a makeover.)

Ending there: it was so much fun to see everyone’s projects today — and I am so delighted by all of the pigeon anecdotes you left for me! Would anyone mind if I digitized and shared them here (at least a select few)? I’m tempted.

Happy finals, all!

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