philthecow: (hitchcock)
[personal profile] philthecow
Today I went through 350 backlogged e-mails and managed to delete 300 of them. This is a sort of reading that's not much fun--a lot of looking at subject and sender and deciding on that basis whether it even needs to be re-read, a lot of feeling guilty about not having responded to people sooner, but also a cleaner inbox when it's done, a cleaner inbox which will only fill up with crap again. Terrible.

I felt an obligation to have some sort of final wrapping up entry for my "reading journal," but what to talk about? I've been doing much more academic reading, which prioritizes efficiency over anything else, and that's all I've really been able to notice about my reading habits... who ever said reading was fun?

[ profile] _swallow gave me an idea for my personal reading memoir while we talked (and I cried) in front of the circulation desk and the library.

I mentioned that, well, my reading and my sexuality would make a good topic, but would also be, uh, totally inappropriate for a class assignment. (Although a history of reading pornography would be an interesting final paper topic.) Anyway, we agreed that I would think about this (since I think about it all the time) and write it in my LJ instead of in a paper.

But Lauren said that it would be interesting if I could explain a statement I had made to her earlier, when I was trying to explain why I hated Philosophy, and I said that I liked History because I thought the most important and interesting you could do was narrativize human experience. I thought any sort of theory was meaningless in the face of narrative. Although the interesting thing about "narrativizing" is that it does require some abstraction from experience, since you can't just have a record of everything that was ever done, you need to shape it into a narrative.

It was stated better than that, but that was the idea--that I think the world would be a better place if we placed narrative over theory, and that certainly my life always turns out better when I place the lessons of narrativized experience over the lessons of abstract theory, and that I think "How can we make this into the best possible narrative" is the most compelling question of all, and no other question really makes sense.

...I'm tired and this isn't turning out well. It seems to relate to our discussion of The Pilgrim's Progress today... what lasted was the narrative, what changed was the theology and the baggage and the crap. But really--how did I come to make this strange statement, and what do I mean by it?

What is "narrative," and what am I opposing "narrative" to if not just "assholes from TASP"? I could write an entire reading memoir on TASP and how it permanently altered my practices of reading--is that all this is about? I don't think so--I think there's some sort of distinction to be made between narrative ways of seeing the world and theoretical ways of seeing the world, and I think these two ways are each most forcefully understood through reading, and I think the second way is terrible and horrible and leads to bad things, and I think I should shut up and go to bed.

I'm having a bad day.

Date: 2007-03-28 06:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It sounds like you're saying that narrative is more reliable in how it contextualizes experience than abstraction, if you'll permit an abstraction regarding the essence of narrativization. I think this is why novels exist - that and the ability to communicate a lasting impression of an idea through an experiential context. Oh, and for entertainment.

Date: 2007-03-28 08:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Two things about myself:
I'm optimistic
I like dark humor

So when I look back through my own lj archives and I see myself making an optimistic prediction (i.e. if i work really hard on this assignment, i will finish it on time and to my satisfication) and I now know that this did not come true, I laugh. The narrative view makes me feel better, it makes the bad things in my life seem more like the bad but funny things that happen to sitcom character or in webcomics. If I were taking a strict theory/analytical approach, those entries would feel doubly horrible because not only did something bad happen but I also failed to make the correct prediction. Of course, there are other ways of narrativising human experience and your own personal experience that wouldn't work so well. Hmm...


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