October 7, 2013
For graphics see pdf: Appease or confound
Appease or Confound vs. Conciliate and Wonder
Introduction: I can’t read
Delagrange talks about an old way of learning and of wonder. Using Wunderkammer she shows both how exploration and a sort of ‘writing’ or at the very least a transfer of information can happen pre-digital age and how that same experience has been adapted to digital with the impressive interactive website documenting it (Delagrange). Delagrange posits digital texts need not be formatted with the simplest structure or the easiest transmission of information possible; that digital is not just for the masses but also capable of serving the academic, the contemplative, and to accomplish a sense of wonder.
I keep thinking about this in combination with an idea that has really stuck with me from English 323: English for teachers. It was directed at struggling readers grades six through twelve in a book called, When Kids Can’t Read, and how to “think aloud” to show them how to “struggle successfully” (Beers, Kylene). And indeed I and many of my fellow graduate students have commented on how we are not used to struggling with reading and writing. That’s our thing – the classes we were good at as undergraduates – it’s what we majored in. It’s why we chose to be studying in graduate school in the first place.
So I refer back to Beers as a pep talk to myself – I have a handful of personal factors that amplify my self-doubt in my abilities – reminding myself that I chose this challenge and I need only find a ways of struggling successfully to succeed.
The problem is that the struggle is avoided unless imposed. Digital media can encourage a reader response of wonder and exploration where plain texts will not for a majority of its readers. I propose to explore this problem of reader struggle through various theorists’ perspectives under the reader-response theory and through looking at the theory and creative pieces of Michael Joyce.
Early Exploration and Struggle
Before I realized that I needed to enjoy the struggle and that a big reason I came to graduate school is because I was not feeling challenged in addition to being estranged from that which I most love to contemplate and immerse myself in (that would be writing, composing and creating specifically), I was completely terrified and at a loss. I never liked theory. I didn’t like anything I was reading; even the good ideas were a chore to unbury through draconian and dry academic-ease and/or translated text. Even though quitting was never really an option, when I felt cornered by Heidegger or Kirschenbaum, the thought did cross my mind.
It was with much relief that I heard that there was such a thing as reader-response theory. While a creative writer (and I would presume an academic writer as well) does write best when being to ‘true’ to the one writing, the study of creative writing as I experienced it was focused on experience – it was focused on the reader. This, I thought, this would be my home base. This would be how I would struggle and enjoy it. Like the home base created in my procrastination/sanity break/creative release device known as Minecraft. I am bad at it, even though I enjoy it (perhaps not unlike reading theory and philosophy at the graduate level and pace). But I have figured out how to not get lost in the world I have named “Gradearth” (Grad Earth). I have made a ‘bed’ for home base and even if it is not an ideal location, it works for me to come back to and as a way of practice, understanding. Reader-response theory is my home base for this semester (until I find a better one, as I already seen potential for areas of contention with one of the main theorists, Mr. Stanley Fish).
After my initial Wikipedia reading on reader-response theory, I started looking up all I could on the major players. I must explore and understand this theory fully to utilize it. I think of it of learning a new language and they say once you learn one new language; it is allegedly easier to learn another new one after that. I also started research Michael Joyce as I found his Afternoon a welcome legitimate distraction from Kirschenbaum’s heavy theory and attention to detail in various mechanisms for writing. I was delighted to find Joyce reference Haraway within the first few pages. I revisited Haraway and looked again at who she cites. It was only the weekend before the midterm was due, steeped in writer’s block or an ignorance of what to do next, that I finally got the citation mapping we did in class. I spent some time on this in a program I found called Wordy Up that I wouldn’t recommend because of cost (you can only use it once and only you can view it unless you shell out some digital bank numbers) but it is interactive.
Excited but still a bit without direction, I have since attempted to clarify the difference between theory and criticism, as different sources used them slightly differently. At first I thought they were interchangeable but that is not quite accurate. Jonathan Culler cleared it up for me in the preface of his book, Literary Theory: a Very Short Introduction, “Many introductions to literary theory describe a series of ‘schools’ of criticism. Theory is treated as a series of competing ‘approaches’, each with its theoretical position and commitments.” Culler goes on to discuss theories actually working together, not in competition – which brings me to my literature that I want to use. The following is not a review yet and not even quite an annotated bibliography. I do not know if it is realistic to use all of them but it is what I have to understand hypertext, reader-response theory and theorists, and tie it with the course theme and goals.
1) Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction Jonathan Culler
This work may not be cited directly but is as easy to navigate as Wikipedia but with reliable, complete information. I am reading through it as needed for reader-response, which pulls together nicely how that might look through a feminist lens, or post-structuralism for example (63). He also explains the existence of so many theories in a way that makes sense to me in this way, “Treating contemporary theory as a set of competing approaches or methods of interpretation misses much of its interest and force, which come from its broad challenge to common sense and from its explorations of how meaning is created and human identities take shape” (preface). I anticipate reading this in full by the end of the school year if not the semester as it has not been the priority of any of the graduate courses to expound on this though they all use theory.
2) Hypertexts: Twelve Blue and Afternoon by Michael Joyce
It is not surprising that Professor Joyce studies and/or writes poetry after reading excerpts from these hypertexts. They are intensely visual scenes that draw me in. I may not have time to fully critique both of them, for the interactive format and visual stimulating writing actually makes for a slower, more contemplative read (compared to other recreational reading, it is on par for academic writing for me).
3) Moral Tales and Meditations by Michael Joyce
I hope to compare his written for text short fiction to his hypertexts. He qualifies his writing the first line of the introduction stating, “I have never considered myself a short story writer (and it may well be that these short-short stories confirm that opinion) but the stories here came to me almost as visiona dn in a way, over the course of a spring and summer, I could not resist” (ix). It was published in 2001.
4) Of Two Minds: Hypertext Pedagogy and Poetics by Michael Joyce
This is the book upon investigating that inspired me to reread as best I could Haraway. This book, as the title suggest very much investigates coming together of two seemingly very different forms.
5) Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: the Reinvention of Nature By Donna Haraway
On first reading I thought, “cool, but what am I to do with this?” Joyce’s application helped my writer-biased mind to combine theory, love of sci-fi and composition. I am not certain if I will add on feminist theory to critique the problem of struggle deterring wonder and reader responses and expectations. It seems like most readings we have done so far stick to one theory so I don’t know if it would be too difficult to include two perspectives. However, she is often cited and works heavily with technology and I discover new things each time I read over Cyborg Manifesto. I do not know what my end product looks like as I am bumbling along and learning as I go.
6) Technologies of Wonder by Susan Delagrange
Delagrange, like Haraway, I find I start to understand with further application and rereading. Again, it is feminist theory but her close inspection of what is happening with digital works indirectly and directly addresses what is happening with the audience, whether it be the general population or (more often) the audience/reader of academia.
7) Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination by Mathew Kirschenbaum
Kirschenbaum of course will be used in the study of Afternoon. I don’t think that I will utilize it much beyond that however, because while the reader is aware of the mechanism with hypertexts especially, I don’t think that readers think about the art of the minute parts and the effects, big and small that is has on text and its experience. I think that is Kirschenbaum’s point, to draw attention to that which is being ignored by most because even though sometimes the details get a little boring, it is pretty amazing what is possible (…off topic).
8) Modern Criticism Chapter 3 “The Specter of Relativism: A Critical Review of Norman Holland’s Models of Reader-Response.” By Nouri Gana
This was a find in multiple way: first that I learned how to request a part of a book not on campus through Illiad, second that it both expounds on an early theorist of reader response, Norman Holland, and references many theorists I already read a bit on or heard of. Gana connects the pre-founder I.A. Richards and also afterwards/simultaneous, Iser and Fish. Gana gives a detailed account of the psychoanalysis that was behind Holland’s reader-response critiques. This is both informative and interesting; it pairs up reader-response theory so that I have multiple angles to analyze within one theory. Also, this matches with my own work of an investigative poetry project on depression as an illness (which I attempted to put on my website but had issues with formatting – among other things). Psychoanalysis applies to content and to reader-response. It is unlikely that I will utilize said poetry project as it is very incomplete, however, this brings home to me the importance of a sort of home base theory to get working with.
The next five texts will be to understand reader-response theory. They are books but I do not anticipate reading or using them in their entirety.
9) Rhetorical Faith: The literary Hermeneutics of Stanley Fish by Phillip J. Donnelly
10) Justifying Belief: Stanley Fish and the Work of Rhetoric by Gary A. Olson
11) Figures of Dissent by Terry Eagleton
12) Postmodern Sophistry: Stanley Fish and the Critical Enterprise edited by Gary A. Olson and Lynn Worsham
13) Is there a Text in This Class? The authority of Interpretive Communities by Stanley Fish
Conclusions: Confounded, Wonderment, and Conciliation Pending
I think what is obvious is that this proposal or mash up of ideas and processes is in need of a lot of development to get to a critical piece of multimodal text that both shares information and potentially a space for wonder. I think on the latter, it is more realistic to say ‘play’ or explore. Whether or not my progress is acceptable is useful information for me. However, I am more concerned about conversations on a more concrete and specific thesis which I think will come with more time spent with the content. Ideally I would be further along but I see no way to skip the step of understanding theory and have theorists overlap and work together; no other way to learn how I learn at this level but trial and error.
I would love to be able to create and write in a way that recreates my process, but that is actually pretty time consuming, as it turns out. And I am aware that multi-modal does not just mean including graphics or video – or if it does, then multi-modal does not guarantee complex ideas.
Proper Works Cited Pending
Zotero will save me time in the long run, but as I am still learning it, and in this case the content and listed texts above is perhaps (hopefully, maybe) more important, and I am out of time and writing run-ons, it is one of the many factors that may lead to the dreaded, ‘B’.