In his study of Filipino heritage, Assistant Professor of Writing and Rhetoric Peter Mayshle explores the relationship between public memory and “presence.”
Mayshle, who joined the faculty in 2014, is in the process of revising his Ph.D. dissertation — “Walled Memoria: Presencing Memory Sites in Intramuros, Manila” — for publication. The dissertation examines Intramuros, the ancient walled city of old Manila.
“Intramuros has largely been imagined as a Spanish heritage site of Filipino nationhood by the Intramuros Administration (IA), the government agency responsible for its restoration and promotion,” Mayshle says. “However, several memory spaces and practices within its walls question and complicate the dominant discourse that IA continues to perpetuate. Moving from the concrete, physical space of a museum to the peripatetic space of a walking tour to the ephemeral spaces of websites and blogs, my dissertation traces how presence informs the public memory-making practices located within each site and considers what and how meaning is made from such presencings.”
Mayshle’s project “reinvigorates memoria or memory, the fourth canon of rhetoric, by interrogating the concept of presence, as formulated by Chaïm Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca in The New Rhetoric.” His work also “broadens the scope of spatial rhetoric and public memory studies by focusing on a non-Western space.”
With this project, Mayshle hopes to expand the notion of “presence as occurring beyond the textual,” as it occurs in “the material, the spatial, and even the performative. Ultimately, presence can serve as a useful tool for scholars to help delineate the contours of memoria‘s partiality and can become an invaluable resource for marginal and marginalized publics to mobilize power against a dominantly imposed representation.”
As a rhetoric scholar, Mayshle imagines his work as part of a growing interest in non-Western rhetorics and transnational subjects and their formations.
“With the growing ethnic and immigrant population, I see multiculturalism playing a bigger and bigger role in challenging traditions of writing and rhetoric studies,” he says. “As more students from diverse backgrounds enter the university and the field of writing and rhetoric studies, writing and rhetoric, in this multicultural backdrop, would become writings and rhetorics, the plurality in the terms recognizing the plurality of experiences.”
But first and foremost, Mayshle considers himself a writer. He spent years working as a copywriter, eventually becoming creative director of his own boutique agency in Manila. He went on to earn his M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and his Ph.D. in composition and rhetoric from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, all the while writing and publishing fiction.
As a result, he says, “my approach to teaching and writing has largely been interdisciplinary, in the sense that I look at writing genres and their conventions and figure out with my students how to excel within those conventions, and later on, how to break out of those conventions.”
This semester, Mayshle is teaching WRRH 100, Writer’s Seminar, and WRRH 202, “Going Places,” the department’s travel writing course, and hopes to expand the curriculum to include a course on professional writing designed around visual rhetoric and advertising, as well as a course “that combines my interests in spatial rhetoric and public memory.”
That course would take two forms. In the “home version,” Mayshle says, “I would have my students explore the varied ways that Geneva constructs its public memories by examining its memorial spaces. I envision a course that would devote some time to exploring significant public spaces, e.g. museums, parks, memorials, public events, in and around Geneva. Similar to what I’m doing in my own fieldwork in Manila, I shall ask my students to engage with officials, residents and tourists and investigate the following questions: How are public memories uniquely constructed in Geneva? And how do these singular memorial spaces inform, shape or resist how Geneva as a city and the Finger Lakes as a region are imagined by larger publics?”
The “study abroad version” would ask students to “explore and compare the memory sites of two capitals that once shared a fraught relationship as colonizer and colonized, Madrid and Manila.”
“This will take some time to design, of course,” he admits, joking that “thinking about the logistics of it all would give me nightmares,” but Mayshle sees its potential as “a rich experience for our students to experience and see up close the built environments that constitute the continuing legacies of colonial histories between Europe and Asia.”