e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


chew on this...

"Take joy in your digressions. Because that is where the unexpected arises...If you know where you will end up when you begin, nothing has happened in the meantime. You have to be willing to surprise yourself writing things you didn't think you thought. Letting examples burgeon requires using inattention as a writing tool. You have to let yourself get so caught up in the flow of your writing that it ceases at moments to be recognizable to you as your own. This means you have to be prepared for failure, for with inattention comes risk: of silliness or even outbreaks of stupidity. But perhaps in order to write experimentally, you have to be writing to 'affirm' even your own stupidity. Embracing one's own stupidity is not the prevailing academic posture..." --Brian Massumi

Right now I'm in the middle of three different books: _Giving_ by Bill Clinton, _The Golden Compass_ by Phillip Pullman (highly recommended by my friend Steve Climer--not to mention anything the Catholic League condemns must have some merit!), and _Parables of the Virtual_ by Massumi. Today I spent a lot of the day reading the latter. I went to this book because all-of-a-sudden Massumi recommendations and references were flying (from a colleague at my institution, from the blogosphere, from Works Cited pages of stuff I was reading) and also because I'm working on a project in conjunction with my service-learning courses (trying to focus on the teacher-scholar model my school preaches) that seeks to theorize students' emotional investment in / attachment to the rhetoric of volunteerism. It's a text that's proven helpful already...and I'm just starting to understand its assumptions and its vocabulary.

The above quotation is itself a digression, but it also, well, "belongs" there, as a statement of methodology, as a defense of interdisciplinary "poaching," as an acknowledgment that such co-opting necessarily re-vises and "gets it wrong," and as an implicit claim that the aforementioned "wrong"-ness is what gives the humanities its ability to say something that matters. Err, by means of saying something stupid, silly, inattentive, rooted in non sequitor, derivative. I'd like to re-vise Massumi in the ways he advocates and get wrong his theory of the potential of unqualified, pre-discursive feelings, so as to say something (something stupid?) about how my students "feel" civic duty. Hope that I can.

1 comment:

bonnie lenore kyburz said...

i've not gotten to that passage yet (am also reading PoTV but still vibing out w/ the discrete "The Autonomy of Affect," because it is. just. so. rich).

so i'm grateful to have moved on over to your blog to find this passage . . . perfect. perfection. i'm all about it. this digressive, wandering, ambiguous, ambivalent . . . uncertain writing that is okay (if not often superior to polished prose) in itself.

how can Massumi say so perfectly what i sense/believe/argue for so clumsily? (damn it!). it's breathtaking, like reading Rumi or Rilke . . .

and it's PERFECT for your civic rhetoric affect inquiry. sounds like a fabulous project. and it's really really important. i was having a chat w/ a student yesterday about how certain rhetorics (i.e., "not me. i'm no homophobe") compel us to take on a position w/ which we can't fully identify, and so we miss out on a more sophisticated critical stance because we bypass the affective, the investigative search to uncover how we actually register, say, race issues or issues of sexuality (my student had been struggling w/ his paper on why gay PDA bothers him so much; he had all but stopped coming to class because he was ashamed of his draft . . . said shame representing, as i told him, a moment for critical reflection that might help him to move on, at least w/ the writing). but so it's that digressive, wandering, ambiguously positioned writing that i wanted him to take on, sort of (maybe) what Massumi is after.

as teachers, it's easy to want to bypass it in the name of getting to the shiny end. but that's not my comp :)