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Instituting Criticism

Notes towards Day 4 of Critical Feminist Studies
Instituting Criticism

Packets? Accessing Readings on-line? $$?
For Tuesday, Linda Kaufman's "Against Personal Testimony"

Rich range of second/third thoughts in this week's course forum
about "Reading Ourselves"....

Summarize what was important/useful/insufficient/troubling about Schweickart's essay?

Nicole: Our first approach...should not be resisting, minded

Abby: Does a feminist reading require one to suppress her instincts?
Or at least, to always be wary of what she feels and thinks...?

Does "reading as a feminist" teach us to distrust ourselves? And others?

Where does trust come from? What can we trust?
(Do you trust yourself? me? this classroom?)
Another example from the Social Justice Workshop...

What's "trust" got to do with reading?

What is the role of trust in professional life?


Today we are moving from feminist activism to feminist reading to...
being a professional (reader).
Write for a few minutes imagining your own (future) professional life:
what will it be like? What will your relationship with
your colleagues and your work be?

Go 'round: what metaphor describes your "professionalization"?

What metaphor best describes Sosnoski's understanding of it?

Jessica: He tells us that "in the present academy, competitiveness and falsificity are inextricably bound together." I believe neither that this statement is true, nor that the latter element is neccesarily a force of evil.

Emily: I love Sosnoski's argument that competition is not even close to the best method of achieving verification. For competition to work there needs to be a right and wrong.

Kathryn: He explains how modern literary criticism was brought about due to an increasingly competitive atmosphere of professionalism and the “vertical movement” or climbing of career ladders....In striving for equal rights and participation in predominantly male institutions and politics are we too participating in a world of ‘Magister Implicatus’ and simply perpetuating the status-quo?

What's Sosnoski's theory about what theory has been/is could be?

has been
intellectuality=competitive family quarreling
systematic knowlege, modeled on science
symbolic capital: quantifiable, measurable, cumulative
falsification: discriminate correct/incorrect readings,
sound/unsound arguments
rule-governed striving: contest for prize
for particular performance, not available to all

could be different
correct/incorrect pure conventions
not-knowing is a precondition for knowledge
error is heuristic
intuition: strong incisive powerful knowing

What's his definition of this different sort of literary criticism?

  • acting together to solve a problem
  • theater for intellectual play requiring
    • compassion
    • commitment
    • collaboration
    • concurrence
    • community

Piaget distinguished between Accomodation and Assimilation, the two complementary processes whereby we take in the world.

Sosnoski re-defines these as

  • "appropriation" (arrogation, confiscation, seizure of concepts;
    ideas owned and sold at will, are proper-ties) and
  • "intuition" (in-appropriate, not appropriable,
    nothing gets accumulated, diverse, diffuse).

Let's try it out with the work of two Bryn Mawr alums:

Nadia Abu El-Haj's work on Facts on the Ground:
Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society:

“Serious people are outraged when people who are rank amateurs come in....It’s insulting. Brain surgeons would be offended if a medical technician criticized their work....The problem, of course, is that she is politically driven"....But Dr. Abu El-Haj also has many supporters...who say her book is solid, even brilliant, and part of an innovative trend of looking at how disciplines function....

Jane Tompkins' work on Sensational Designs:
The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790-1860

What makes a literary classic? not the intrinsic merit of a text, but rather the circumstances of its writing. Against the modernist belief that art, in order to be art, must be free from propaganda, Tompkins contends that writers like Brockden Brown, Cooper, Stowe, and Warner wrote in order to alter the face of the social world, not to elicit aesthetic appreciation.Thus, the value and significance of the novels, for readers of their time, depended on precisely those characteristics that formalist criticism has taught us to deplore: stereotyped characters, sensational plots, and cliched language....This challenging book works towards a redefinition of literature and literary study. The texts the author examines are viewed not as works of art embodying enduring themes, but as attempts to redefine the social order.

What do you think? What counts? Why count?

Some local examples/test cases of literary /artistic work:

Poetry of Mary Wilson

Two Poems by Andrea Friedman

Steph: Schweickart does not allow for the possibility of a male feminist.

Abby: Can men become savvy feminist readers too?

"A Mindless Man-Driven Theory Machine," by
James Sosnoski, an English prof @ University of Illinois, Chicago

now involved in projects such as
Distance Learning Classroom Using Virtual Harlem

Virtual Harlem Main Page

Electronic Visualization Laboratory

(For more on alternative reality games,
see on-line conversation with Brian Clark,
an experimental narrativist, on
Narrative, Science and Unpredictability)

Clear trajectory from Sosnoski's 1989 theorizing re:
theorizing and current work on constructing alternative realities....

How about Ourselves?? What will our trajectory be???

Discussion continues in the Course Forum Area....
go there and add your thoughts!