Tuesday, April 7

seven: the study of the true sense

I looked up the etymology of the word etymology a few days ago. and then I remixed that etymology into the title of my last paper-day paper for Postmodernism class. this was last week, at the end of March, which feels very long ago now.

the title was:

"the facts of the origin and development of the true sense of the study of the facts of the origin and development of the facts of…"

and then the rest of the page (legal-sized, remember) blathered on about origins and developments and traces and representations and categories and lines and labels. I read this page to my class as I sat on the floor. to add to the performative interactivity of the whole thing, the copies I'd printed for my classmates had been carefully perforated with the edge of an old pair of scissors. while I read, they could peel and tear and open my legal-sized page into a long, twisty ribbonloop.

to reproduce this page as a blogpost changes it quite a lot. you can't peel these bits and pixels apart the same way you can paper. sorry.

but I can add stuff (like this rambly new preface) and tweak bits of it and take things out that don't fit the new medium here, in a way paper and ink do not quite accommodate. so there's that. you'll have to imagine me on the floor, reading to you. and imagine the feeling of paper tearing in your hands.

the etymology of the word perforate takes us back to dear old Latin, as so many etymologies seem to do. via Middle French we arrive at two neat word-trios of infinitive verbs and prepositions: "to bore through.” “to pierce through." pair with these the resulting perforation: "a hole made through something" and that very specific preposition starts to pattern. it’s right there in the per prefix: "through." and it’s implied in the other half too: forare, "to pierce."

the origins and developments of postmodernism... how do those get represented? do they represent themselves? or does someone/something have to step in as representative? we access postmodernism through others’ words and others’ ideas. so far. and even the ideas that cocoon postmodernism are not here in front of us. we can't touch them. we access them through. Saussure through Foucault and Derrida. Foucault and Derrida through Vitanza and Spivak and Berlin. we are looking at a thing (is it a thing?) called postmodernism, but not directly. maybe we’re stuck in a cave. maybe Berlin is putting on a shadow-puppet show. and we are looking at (is it at? along? or into? around? under? which preposition is the best?) an idea called postmodernism through books and essays and art and memes and emoji. we are looking (are we looking?) at this postmodernism mist through our own arguments and faces and looks and voices and brains and time and pencils and paper and chairs and walls and space. does it all become part of postmodernism as we go? I wonder where our lenses and our specimens begin, or end. is there a recipe we can follow when we want to start mixing the message into its medium?

Victor Vitanza, from his article “‘Some More’ Notes, Toward a ‘Third’ Sophistic”:
We have categories so that we might ‘destroy’/’disperse’ them by allowing them to engage in a sophistic-rhetorical ‘diaspora’—that is, to engage in a holiday from any pull toward the infinite or the transcendental—so that we, in turn, might also ‘drift’ freely. We have categorical—‘knowledge,’ as Foucault says, ‘not... for understanding [but] for cutting’ (154). Does perhaps, then, Foucault mean a... ‘cutting loose’? ...does he perhaps mean a ‘drifting’?” (120)
so labels are for peeling very carefully, obsessively, from around the bottles they were glued on. the peeling might ruin them, but it won’t be the end of the world. no worries.

whatever the labels say or don’t say, none of them are neutral. James Berlin is always saying there is no innocent ideology. no innocent pedagogy. no innocence. I should print these introductory and conclusory bits of “Rhetoric and Ideology in the Writing Classroom” on bright posters and hang them in my office someday, I think.
“A rhetoric can never be innocent, can never be a disinterested arbiter of the ideological claims of others because it is always already serving certain ideological claims.” (447)
“Every pedagogy is imbricated in ideology, in a set of tacit assumptions about what is real, what is good, what is possible, and how power ought to be distributed.” (492)
“A rhetoric cannot escape the ideological question, and to ignore this is to fail our responsibilities as teachers and as citizens.” (493)
to “not ignore,” I must notice, is not the same as "to answer." good. if we had an answer, we might stop poking and peeling at things. as it is, we might never reach the end of the world. how exciting! we won’t ever run out of ways to represent and re-represent what all this theory is. we might never run out of mist and thought and media to look/wander/aim/drift through. a perforation, after all, only really pierces part of a thing. part way through. you have to show up with your brain and your hands and do the rest of the work.

No comments: