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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Being Blown Away

As I teach the Graduate Theory course I am continually blown away by the brilliance of concepts (whether or not I agree with the particular perspective of the theorist. Whorf's description of synesthesia, for example; or Levi-Strauss's critique of approaches to myth the precede his own. Gadamer's analysis of the importance of writing. Adorno's idea that art must resist pleasure.

My own agreement or disagreement almost seems beside the point. I'm not talking about taking an acritical approach either. We can argue about the points and raise objections. But if you don't feel that sense of awe then you aren't doing theory right. You need the "dance of the intellect."

An awesome idea is one that leads to other consequences, shaking up our minds. The idea that theory somehow diminishes our pleasure in literature itself is surely one of the most idiotic ones in existence. Of course, one can get addicted to the hedonism of theoretical play and be less interested in the hedonism of reading texts.