Thursday, August 14, 2008

Damn the Canon

It seems like a month of Sundays since I've blogged...syllabi, research, and baby created the perfect storm that pulled me away. But, alas and alack.

So, to that end...those last two sentences are what I love about blogs...the context and constructedness of the reading and writing that happens there. The discourse can be hokey (see above), high brow, insightful, or inane. The geographical texture is just amazing and, being a Compositionist, I'm grateful for it because I'm allowed a ton of latitude and unfettered reflexivity that other spaces don't provide.

All of this sentimentality plays in to the debate that happened recently when Clay Shirkey "dissed Tolstoy". My pal Mike Brown turned me on to this melee. Check it out at:

http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge251.html#rc

The story is about halfway down the page and includes many responses worth a skim through.

What I like about the debate is that it's an old one and I'm hoping that Shirkey's point gets examined to the degree that it deserves. Broadly speaking, he is right to claim that no one reads Tolstoy and the like AND that new practices of "reading" as well as the "texts" that get "read" are not novels or contingent upon historical notions of logocentrism. If he is fetishizing the web, "The Wire", and whatever else the same way that Tolstoy gets fetishized by self-deluded professors of literature, then shame on Shirkey. However, I don't think that 's his game. I hope he's not bound up in the the same teleology that canonists are...my take is that Shirkey's simply stating that this is the space that's been authored. Like it or not, it is what it is...it's the use(s) of literacy that the populous has authored. Vulgar Marxists be damned.

As we embark on consideration of this proposition, let's first ask ourselves: if Shirkey is correct then who has to give up power (lit profs) and who obtains access (teenagers)? My take, pretty cool possibilities...back to the syllabi.

2 comments:

Alan Cordle said...

So what kind of baby did you have? Congrats!

Anonymous said...

Give up the power?? NEVER!!!!!
Self-deluded lit prof