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Just a Thought...

kobieta's picture

I talked very briefly with Professor Franklin the other day about my experience in this class. I told him that I often find myself very opinionated and biased coming into class, and very confused going out. I told him it reminded me of entropy. But beyond that, it reminded me of a text we read in my ESEM last semester, called The Library of Babel, written originally in Spanish by Jorge Luis Borges. The main idea he had was that the Universe is filled with these hexagonal rooms, a representation of the amalgamation of the knowledge that everyone knows. One of the things I picked up from the text, is the whole notion that any attempt to establish order will always result in more chaos and disorder. He said, "Other men, inversely, thought that the primary task was to eliminate useless works. They would invade the hexagons, exhibiting credentials which were not always false, skim through a volume with annoyance, and then condemn entire bookshelves to destruction: their ascetic, hygenic fury is responsible for the senseless loss of millions of books. Their name is execrated; but those who mourn the "treasures" destroyed by this frenzy, overlook two notorious facts. One: the Library is so enormous that any reduction undertaken by humans is infinitesimal."

Although the context is different, the message is loud and clear. In the text, Borges is trying to exhibit how "Purifiers" who thought they were limiting, and therefore, organizing the different volumes, the different bits and pieces of knowledge, only made things worse when they destroyed them. Similarly, the more we as a class try to define genre, try to find a way to actually make a distinction between each one, the more we realize that there is much too many overlapping and vague definitions that we find ourselves going around and around.

I guess what I'm trying to say is just as Borges says "the Library is limitless and periodic," so are genres. After all, genre is the way we classify the Library, isn't it? It only makes sense that the very rules of the content, apply to the container.


Anne Dalke's picture

"what rules govern travel through this space?"

Given that you're having these conversations with your bio prof, you (both!) might find it interesting to read Chapter 5, "The Possible and the Actual," in Daniel Dennett's book, Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meaning of Life. Dennett talks there about four (nested) grades of possibility--the logical, physical, biological, and historical; and then steps off from Borges’ Library of Babel (= all possible books) to imagine the Library of Mendel (= all possible genomes: a vast, but finite,  #); and then asks what I think is the most interesting question in this arena: "what rules govern travel through this space?"