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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Theory of Nuance / Nuances of Theory

Nuance is the main thing. If my approach is nuanced, if my writing follows the contours of my nuanced ideas, then I will be happy. The application of theory can lead to unnuanced approaches for two reasons.

(1) Theory can act like a bulldozer, running over the analytical material and imposing a single view of it; or a hammer hitting nails ("If your only tool is a hammer, then everything starts to look like a nail"); theoretical jargon sometimes imposes a view of things and doesn't allow for nuanced prose.

(2) Sometimes the critic's understanding of the theory is not very nuanced in the first place. Is the critic relying on a "canned" version of Foucault, or the farmer's market version?

7 comments:

Andrew Shields said...

What I try to do when I bring in theory (which I've done very little of in the past decade) is to give the text of the theory the same attention I give to the primary material. I "close read" the theory, as it were. And I try to make sure that I am not just "using" the theory to read the primary material, but also using the primary material to read the theory.

Jonathan said...

That's what I mean. So few people do that, do that fine-tuned granular reading of the theory as well.

Shedding Khawatir said...

If you could do a "how to apply theory" post that expands upon this idea and what Andrew said, that would be very useful. I am currently struggling with how to choose a theoretical framework for my dissertation, and the options I'm finding at the moment seem as though they will lead to the first problem you mention. I also find that your second problem is common in my subfield, so that adds to my confusion.

Jonathan said...

What's your field, Shedding? What theories are in the running for being chosen for your dissertation? I'd be glad to attempt a post on that, but there are some field-specific parameters that need to be considered.

Shedding Khawatir said...

SLA (sort of), but depending on what that makes you think of exactly, what I actually do may be closer to education and/or anthropology. Current contenders are critical and poststructuralist theories, neither of which are really working at the moment.

Jonathan said...

Those are more general categories of theory, rather than theories in the concrete sense. Poststructuralism encompasses a vast array of theorists with differing, even contradictory viewpoints.

Clarissa said...

"A "canned" version of Foucault, or the farmer's market version" is one of the most valuable definitions that I have ever encountered. It gives so much to think about. Make sure you include it in your motivational book because it is truly priceless.