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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Monday, December 17, 2012


Of course Gadamer's main concept, one of his main concepts along with Bildung, is dialogue. So what I need is not disciples but interlocutors. What is troubling about Lorca is that he cannot answer back, literally speaking. The past is dead, though it still speaks to us. What it tells us is what we want to hear; it can correct us, but there is still doubt as to whether it corrects us according to our own cognitive biases, even when it seems to go against the grain of our thinking.

So the best kind of dialogue is with living folks. What happens is not an echo of one's exact position (boring) but a displacement or refraction, similar to what happens in translation. The fact that someone never hears you exactly right, exactly the way in which you want to be heard, is a good thing. But then again, a "diálogo de sordos" in which no understanding takes place is as bad as a mere confirmatory bias.

So this morning I sent my introduction to Lorca 2 to two people who would understand it and maybe say something about it. What would be helpful?

Of course, the first element is phatic. You are reaching out to someone. Are you there?

Secondly, there is mutual respect on a personal level, implicit in my sending it to someone who I know already respects me.

Thirdly, you expect someone to appreciate you. The warm glow. They might say something nice. You are on the right track; your work has value.

Fourthly, they might clarify your position by saying, "Jonathan, what you are really doing is ..." Simply rewording your ideas is helpful.

Fifthly, they might say, no, I don't get it. What are you doing right there? That seems "off" to me. Sorry. You think you are doing x, but you are really doing z!

The mere disciple could only offer the phatic pleasure and the warm glow of admiration. Mind you, I do enjoy people telling me how great I am, but I also recognize it for what it is, rather transparent ego-food, even if based on my legitimate accomplishments. The real satisfaction is in the engagement itself, the dialogue in the fourth and fifth step.

You have to cultivate interlocutors. In some cases, like the people this morning, I will be citing their work in my own, but this work in which they have already cited me. This is not a random or casual process. Nor is it superficial professional "networking."

So dialogue is also Bildung, but not my personal Bildung as an individual, but Bildung in a larger sense of something shared.


profacero said...

This might be your best post, in my view, of the ones I have read.

Interlocutors over disciples, definitely.

Jonathan said...

Yes. I think I made a breakthrough here. It was fun to write.