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Notes Towards Day 25: Recovering the Creature?

mlord's picture

I. 11:25-11:55: for today, we asked you to read Walker Percy's essay on The Loss of the Creature
in part, as a non/guide for what you might do while exploring the city alone:
what advice would he give you, on taking this trip? (beware of maps!)

look over your notes, what you marked in the text-->

go to the board and put up 3 key terms/ideas you got from the essay

let's talk these through:
what is the "live creature"?
why does it need "salvaging" from the educational package?
(how can it be salvaged?!)

key terms:

"sovereignty of the knower,"
"the fallacy of misplaced concreteness,"
handing our experence/knowledge over to the experts,
circumventing the educator's presentation with ""the indirect  approach"....

Some years ago, reading this essay induced a crisis for a 1st year McBride:
it reminded her why she'd stayed away from formal education: brainwashing!

Cf. also Abby's posting: Clifford Geertz’s Deep Play: Notes on a Balinese Cockfight,…talks about how when the stakes on a bet are ridiculous, when any rational man would and should turn his head and save his money, Balinese men continue to bet, putting their faith, pride, and place in the social hierarchy before their logical reason….the system facilitates the deep play… the men are more or less oblivious to the fact that they are participating in deep play. For Geertz, deep play seems to be the little voice inside of someone that eggs them on past all reason, but this voice has solid groundings in who that person is within their society…Geertz’s portrayal of deep play is much more narrow than Ackerman’s…while I don’t think I’ve had one of Diane Ackerman’s experiences with deep play, I could potentially have been a part of one of Geertz’s. But I still don't know if I'm buying it.

II. 11:55-12:10: how applicable is this advice to your planned forays into the city?

what we've got so far:

3 park benches, 2 museums, 1 mural-visit,
1 recital, 1 church, 1 city hall,
1 pottery studio, 1 art-making by the river…

tomahawk: birdwatching
Abby: Park bench
Claire: Rosenbach
Everglad: Beacon Project, North Phila
Jessica: Expressive Hand
mmanzone: classical recital near Rittenhouse Square
Tessa: City Hall tower, Macy’s, Harry’s Occult Shop
nightowl: making art on the Schuylkill, a la Goldsworthy
Frindle: sitting by the Love Statue
Yancy: stone horses @ the Penn museum
Agatha: Ukrainian Cathedral in Northern Liberties

how much was your selection guided by the experts?
are you pursuing a "live creature"? how might you access it? (via what method?!?)
in what simple, critical and/or deep play do you imagine yourself engaging?

III. 12:10-12:45: how applicable is Percy's advice to your revised essays about the Barnes?
Put your statements/questions on the board/
match people up by topics --then break out to brainstorm:

How is it deeply playful?
What terrain does it light up? (And what terrain does it hide?)
Is it possible to reimagine your question as deeply playful?
(What do you do to perform this operation?)

Test it in your group.
How many believed? What did they bring to their believing?
How many doubted? What did they being to their doubting?
When you opened up the discussion, what doubting or believing was
interesting/compelling/potentially useful to you?
What lenses do you think will be useful to write a paper with this assertion?

How might the Walker Percy essay impact how you think about this paper?

IV. reviewing weekend's homework:

* go into the city ON YOUR OWN

hand out SEPTA tickets as needed...

warning re: weather prediction--an inch of snow....

* meet up @ Anne's place @ 3 p.m. on Sunday, planning to stay til 5:
bring w/ you an object you have gathered from your travels, which you
will use to represent a key dimension of your experience; we will share these...
and serve Chinese take-out: are there allergies/preferences we need to know about?

* web event (revising your experience @ the Barnes) is due @ midnight on MONDAY

* for Tuesday, we'll be discussing some selections from Susan Sontag's Against Interpretation
(read it if you can...)

Anne's Reading Notes from Percy's essay, which is
structured as a series of ancedotes/travel stories

* Cardenas's discovery of the Grand Canyon
* the sightseer who comes to view it later
* an American couple seeking an unspoiled place in Mexico
(and want an ethnologist friend to certify it as real)
* a young man in France, who also seeks the sanction of experts for his experiences
* New Mexican natives who discover artifacts on their own, not certified as genuine
* a neurotic who wants his symptom certifed "interesting" by his doctor
* a Faulkland Islander who discovers a dogfish

these are all parables, all metaphoric accounts of educational experience:
what it is, what it should be; what Percy focuses on is
the difficulty of salvaging the "creature," the "thing itself," from the educational package:
the sonnet from the theory of the English prof,
the dogfish from the apparatus of the dissecting table
his key idea/value is the sovereignty of the knower

he insists that each of us, as students, must avoid what the philosopher
Alfred North Whitehead called "the fallacy of misplaced concreteness":
mistaking the abstract, theoretical,
"preformed symbolic complex" for the real,
the specimen for the individual
we must beware handing our experence/knowledge over to the experts

Percy offers a number of strategms for "avoiding the approved tour":
* leaving the beaten track
* returning "one level above" it, dialectically
* breaking the symbolic machinery (typhus outbreak!)
* national disaster
* popular art

In education, he says, this usually takes the form of "the indirect
circumventing the educator's presentation w/
1) the openness of the thing before one (not an approved exercise, but a beckoning garden), with
2) the student as a sovereign wayfarer (not a consumer of prepared experience)

Percy proposes an educational technique:
dogfishes in the poetry classes, sonnets on dissecting boards --
in order to return "title" to the knower, the "disinherited" consumer, the "ghost,"
"expertise" to the "layman"