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Lesson Plans


Re: Teaching 'Culture'

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
henry (taylorh)
Tue, 25 Jun 1996 13:03:38 -0700 (MST)


On Tue, 25 Jun 1996, Russell J Rosener wrote:

> > On Sun, 23 Jun 1996, Russell J Rosener wrote:
>
> I should have specified avoidance of all dogma, but since postmodernism,
> under its various guises is "THE" current dogma I singled it out. There is
> no oxymoron there. Anyone who has gone to grad school for an MFA in the
> last 10 years or so knows that Po-Mo is the current monolithic academic
> theory.

As I am going to grad school working on a Masters in Art Education I know
what you mean. Be thankful that you did not need to suffer the
kind ministries of "critical pedegogy". But surely it took only a few
weeks reading to see the inconsistencies of those french theoretical
absolutists? Once I got over that little hump it was easy to see that
most of the blather had little to do with postmodernism and everything to
do with politics. Yes, the books and instructors can lay claim to
governance of a monolithic theory but theory is only another word for myth
after all.

Deconstructing so called "postmodern theorists" is an excellent pastime
by the way. Anything a theorist or instructor puts forth is open to question
after all. The only viable answers to questions or tests on postmodern theory
are none-of-the-above and maybe-maybe not. There are no facts to be
tested on! Anyone who would instruct you in postmodernism as practice or
fact is taking on a patriarchal role relative to you. Are you going to
put up with that.

> Theories may start out as subversive, but soon end up as "paradigm"
> which I consider to be a "jargon" word. Once established they
> are part of the authority.

I disagree. (Of course, I should note that I'm using "paradigm" as Suzanne
K. Langer used it decades ago and rather resent its appropriation as
jargon for "theory/category".) To begin with, paradigm in this context,
PRE-EXISTS any theory relative to it. Theory is an initial attempt to
describe or define an emerging paradigm or context. Whenever we begin to
consider the rules that lie behind whatever reality we perceive we are
talking about a paradigm. (In the old greek sense, from which the word is
derived, paradigm simply means "compared patterns" something very familiar
to us in the arts, and hardly jargon in that sense.) To my mind the
notion of theory becoming a paradigm seems pretty unlikely and much more
of a modern notion than anything else. I can not support it.

Also, the notion of a theory establishing itself as part of the authority
seems something to be questioned. (Not that individuals do not make the
attempt by-the-way.)

OK. Maybe where you "are", what you describe is a reality. Maybe you
accept that, maybe ypu put up with it. However, I'm not willing to put up
with it in my life. If it is OK for you, fine. I can't say its "wrong" or
anything. Its a big world and there is room for many ideas or (that scary
word again) paradigms. I don't have the time or interest to spend on
postmodernism where discussed as a monolithic theory. It is not a
mythology I can believe in and, as a variant, premier tho it may be, it
is not worth much discussion. There are other, more accessible
postmodernisms, that I value much more.

> This is simply practicing good skills of intellect and logic. This is
> really pre-modern in that the individual relies upon his own powers of
> reason and observation rather than on experts or authorities of specific
> topics.

Another excellent point, Russ. Postmodern practice corresponds with
the pre-modern much better than the modern ever did. [An interseting aside
is the consideration of how closely the pre- and post- modern corresponds
with the practices of oral cultures (the pre-literate and post-literate?)
While the modern practices rely on the serial limitations of text.]

> That was one of the drawbacks of Modernism. Just because I use my
> brain does not mean I am contributing to some sort of collective
> "post-modern" revolution.

Rather it is HOW you use your brain Russ. That is your contribution to
and your participation in a postmodern era. It has little to do with
theory put forth as a model TO BE FOLLOWED. More interesting is theory as
an attempt to describe that which is found and their relationships. Only
a fool works or designs to conform to theory which is only a good guess
at best.

> One of the things I loathe about post-modernism is its hackneyed
> appropriation of history.

How ironic, Russ! Such a concern and loathing of appropriation reflects
"Postmodern Theory" in its classic form. and there "appropriation"
appears to me to be deployed as a most excellent example of PoMo jargon.

> Calling Emerson a "proto post modernist" (YIKES!
> Jargon!) Is like calling Isaac Newton a Modernist. One cannot simply lift
> ideas and figures out of their complex historical context to wave the
> current idealogical banner. They existed in a specific time and place,
> which is how one must evaluate them. Not to say we can't draw present
> relevance from their teaching and thoughts for our own inspiration..

Please don't misquote me and call it jargon. Specifically, I wrote "EARLY
postmodernist" and the claim of a connection of a connection between Dewey
and Postmodernism predates me by the way. Postmodernism did not erupt
into the world fully formed and written down. The notions leading towards a
postmodern attitude go back a long, long way, just as the ideas leading to
the establishment of the modern era predate the era by many centuries.
History may not be a neat and tidy as you seem to assume. If it works for
you, by all means hew to your line, but I have my doubts. The problem is
that WE do not exist in the SAME time and space and so any attempt to
evaluate them in an authentic context are probably quite questionable.

History, like theory, is another face of its ancestor -- myth. A map full
of deletions and no doubt a few " creative additions" as well. A useful
tool if we do not confuse it for a perfect, objective, verbatim transcript.

Historians may practice "history for historys sake". The rest of us have
more pragmatic and practical requirements. I read history not to find out
what happened but to learn what is happening now... to learn the patterns
of cultural and individual behavior, how they flow and evolve and what
they mean NOW in MY CONTEXT. I don't pretend to write history. I'm
interested in patterns and correspondences and how such things apply to
my own social ecology. I don't teach "facts" but methods of reasoning
about patterns-- pre-modern, modern or postmodern. (Tho I must
acknowledge some bias against the modern even where it appears in pomo)

> At least the current theory has made the
> atmosphere a bit more democratic. Hopefully those who follow any
> intellectual or academic theory realize it is only a theory, and only
> exists in that realm.

I'm glad we agree here, Russ.

> Most academic theories will prove or disprove themselves where the
> rubber hits the road.

PROOF? :-)

Sorry to be so "picky" today (must be the heat). For me proof only
exists relative to tautologies and some areas of mathematics etc.
Someone, somewhere suggested the theories and ideas are really rather
hardy and never actually "die"; only go dormant until "revived" elsewhen.
We can confirm or disconfirm what we NOW know, but proof will almost
always elude us. If anyone offers you "scientific proof" RUN!

> "Banter about art is little better than useless."
> -Cezanne

It must have worked for Cezanne, but look how he worked and related to the
world (women in particular). Apparently Cezanne didn't choose to engage in
banter. He sure knew his form tho. All I can say it that it works for me.
Maybe it's my "form"?

henry
(this is fun!)