The Shaping Force of Electronic Texts and Journals on Our Professional Work

Vitanza, Victor J.


The Introduction

David Blakesley
Purdue University

Victor J. Vitanza's hypertext, “The Shaping Force of Electronic Texts and Journals on Our Professional Work” was a featured presentation at the 2001 Conference on College Composition and Communication in Denver. I had the pleasure of introducing Professor Vitanza and of watching and listening to the presentation with many others, the lights turned down, the background music barely audible, the stage surrounded by electrical equipment blinking, projecting, filming; everything whirring in sync. Here is my introduction from that day, as well as some technical notes you should bear in mind before proceeding to the work.

Victor J. Vitanza's record of achievement in our field is remarkable for many reasons. In 1980, he founded Pre/Text: A Journal of Rhetorical Theory, one of the major journals in our field and long noted for its adventurous style and theoretical rigor.  Since that time, he has authored and edited numerous books: Realms of Rhetoric: Phonic, Graphic, Electronic (1991, with Michelle Ballif), Pre/Text: The First Decade (1993), Writing Histories of Rhetoric (1994), CyberReader (1998) Negation, Subjectivity, and the History of Rhetoric (1997), and Writing for the World Wide Web, or W4 (1997).  His articles, essays, and reviews have appeared in CCC, Pre/Text, Rhetoric Review, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, JAC, and  electronic book reviewProfessor Vitanza is also the founder and moderator of the Pre/Text discussion group, one of the original and most interesting lists in our field. On many “Re/inter/view” (REINVW) occasions, the list has become a space for what I would characterize as a “wrangling in the marketplace” that even Burke could not have imagined.  The numerous Web-projects that have grown out of his work with Pre/Text confound and inspire as they enact a radical reformulation of the meaning and possibilities for collaboration, textuality, and visual rhetoric. This Pre/Text Publishing Webwork  is a tour de force, a packet of energy at the margins of postmodernity, a “whatever” in the deepest philosophical meaning of that term.

In all of his work, Victor Vitanza has consistently pushed the envelope of our understanding—of rhetoric, philosophy, composition, writing, technology—and invited people to pause and reflect deeply on the nature of our discourse with each other.  His work is provocative.  It is sometimes intentionally elusive and experimental.  It always gives pause. He has also been a compassionate mentor to many people in our field for many years.  They include his many terrific students at the University of Texas at Arlington (where he has taught since 1982) and people like me who have appreciated his work from an internet distance.  He inspires in his students the sort of appreciation Michelle Ballif expresses in the dedication to her new book, Seduction, Sophistry, and the Woman with the Rhetorical Figure: “To D. Diane Davis for Everything and Victor J. Vitanza for Nothing.” (That’s “Nothing” with a capital “N.”) If you know Victor’s work as “inventor of the Negative” extraordinaire, you know what Michelle means. (I hope future generations of readers know!)

Now, as "we come to technology . . . " Victor is here and there leading the way once again as an alchemist, agonist, amalgamist, ameliorist, and re-animator. I hope you are as eager as I am to hear what this magician has up his sleeve, what spells he will cast as he shares his eclectic and electric prophesies on “The Shaping Force of Electronic Texts and Journals on Our Professional Work.”

Please welcome Victor Vitanza . . .

The Shaping Force of Electronic Texts and Journals on Our Professional Work

This text was an invited submission reviewed by TWI editors following it's delivery at a CCCC featured session in March, 2001.
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