In the first half of "Box Logic," Sirc offers examples of artists and authors who used boxes to achieve their ends. He devotes most of his attention to Marcel Duchamp's The Green Box and The Large Glass, Walter Benjamin's description of unboxing his library, and Joseph Cornell's art in the 1920s and 1930s. There's a bit about George Maciunas, the founder of the Fluxus movement as well, but Sirc really only brings this in to bridge his argument about boxes to discussions of new media composing. That is to say, Maciunas receives the least attention. Much of the text parallels Sirc's argument about boxes by presenting a box: he strings together a number of block quotes and the text in between serves little more than making the associations among the quotes. Put another way, he lets his subjects speak for themselves at length, but he also weaves hem together to make his argument. It's a witty strategy that displays how students might move from more rudimentary boxes to elaborate arguments. For example, if a student created a box about boxes, such a box might include Duchamp, Benjamin, Cornell, and Maciunas' work. Still, it's cumbersome and leaves a lot of unanswered gaps:
1. Sirc depicts the boxes that students create in composition classrooms as comprising notes and annotations. In that sense, they offer a more interesting alternative to something like annotated bibs or research paper proposals. Still, these boxes feed into traditional research paper writing. Sirc offers no real alternatives either in the theoretical section of his article or in the assignments that make up "Box Logic's" second half. He also ignores how students would move from these boxes to more cohesive arguments. I believe that he avoids this discussion on purpose. First, he's more interest in students developing their own symbology. Second, it would undercut his grander project of attacking "traditional" approaches to writing. In other words, he'd have to admit that at some point students still need to work consider the rhetorical situation. They aren't writing for themselves. If they are, if that is the goal, it's less worthwhile then acclimating them to writing for academe. At very least, academic writing teaches students that writing does something in addition to allowing one to explore his/her/their own opinions and thoughts.
2. Sirc's entire argument rests on his primary goal for composition courses: "to show [his] students how their compositional future is assured if they can take an art stance to the everyday, suffusing the materiality of daily life with an aesthetic" (119). I do not share this as a primary goal. I also do not find it justified or even particularly well articulated in "Box Logic."
In any case, I'm working in a new Freshmen Studies team at St. Edward's this fall called "Austin Then and Now." At St. Ed's, Freshmen Studies links a lecture course sections of fyc. The goal is to provide students with inter-, or maybe more accurately multi-, disciplinary approaches to a theme. We're still hashing out the details about our theme, but in general it is meant to introduce students to Austin and some of the issues pertinent to the city and the people who live here (e.g., cultural, economic, and political issues). In our initial discussions, our team addressed wanting to move away from traditional research papers while still teaching students about scholarly research. I reread "Box Logic" because I thought that it would help us rethink the research proposal/annotated bibliography and research paper sequence common to fyc curricula at St. Ed's. Initially I thought Sirc's "Arcades Project" assignment might stand in for the paper, but upon rereading his article, I am leaning more toward replacing the proposal/bib with a Sirc-inspired box assignment where students create websites to contain their thoughts throughout the semester. We're considering organizing the lecture around different themes like Food, Music, etc. Students would create individual pages on one site to explore theses themes and contain their notes from lecture and fyc readings. They'd also create a research-project specific page where they hone in on an aspect of one of these themes; they'd use the page to work toward a more formal project. At this point that more formal project is up in the air, but students have an audience for their projects as the lecture comprises 3-4 sections of fyc; they can write to or for the students in the other sections as well as the students in their section. We've discussed having students share their projects through the lecture at the end of the semester.
I suppose that rereading "Box Logic" served some purpose in helping me consider a more engaging alternative to the container I use for certain projects, but it really hasn't won me over on the aestheticization argument. I think it falls apart in the face of considering how these assignments might relate to actual audiences and present students with rhetorical situations, but then, Sirc hates rhetoric, right?