Wed, 26 Mar 1997 16:23:23 -0600

So I'm reading to write to read to write and I come across this
passage in a text in _Diacritics_ on "Poetry, Community, Movement"
by Jonathan Monroe (fall/wint 1996) and I'm thinking about the
ways we have been talking about language and -- feeling not in
a "Carl" mood, and knowing I'm underpaid though not as underpaid
as others, and being tired and knowing my daughter is coming
down with a cold but is resting now so I can do some writing --
I want to pass it along to you all"

"The phrase "critical thinking" ...began to feel to me in the ways
it was used as if it were the Unthought itself, a kind of mantra
teachers and administrators of writing and others could use with
almost invariable success to affirm the value of our activities within
the university. What happens when critical thinking itself (as value)
becomes the unthought? Why critical thinking as the apparent raison
d'etre of all reading and writing? Why not "understanding"? Why not
"compassion"? Why not "cooperation"?...
What is the "other" of "critical thinking"? Is it "dumb thinking"?
"ritualized thinking"? "normative thinking"? "routinized thinking"?
"rote thinking"? thinking "otherhow"? What if, not only in the
university but earlier in grades K-12, the educational system
were to use all its resources, including the teaching of poetry
and philosophy [here he means the reading and writing of], to question
the dichotomies that currently structure university curricula
between reading and writing, between the creative and the critical,
between instrumental and playful uses of language? What if the goal
of teaching/learning were not so much "mastery" -- understood in
a limited sense as the routinzed acquisition of particular genres
or modes of thinking/feeling/writing -- but something like *awareness*,
as exemplified through particular modalities of attention (including
mixed modes), not for the sake of innovation as an end in itself, but
toward something like a more genuine *freedom*, not as the other of
discipline or rigor, but as its companion?..." (10-11)

He continues for a while addressing specifically how "antigeneric"
writing (out of traditions of prose poetry and into "language" writing
-- I wont get into it here other than to say that one of the motivations
for the special issue of the journal is to investigate how and why
it has become troubling to continue to distinguish between "theory"
and "poetry" and "philosophy" and...) can help this project and comes to
a place that I heard Richard Miller articulate at 4C as "discursive
versatility" in this way:

"One of the goals of teaching antigeneric poetries might be to help
enable students to resist the passivity of remaining within one discursive
location and instead cultivate a capacity to move with more fluency
and fluidity among various discourses."

I heard someone say in the Miller session that she would never imagine
using words like "site" and "discursive" and "ideology" in her classes
with her students, and so I'm wondering if we are identifying with
these words just the quirkiness of how we talk to each other (or in some
cases talk past each other) in these words or are we also indicating
what we do (and don't do) in our classrooms and in the writing
center when we engage with students in pedagogical situations.

Now the argument can be made that I'm taking what started out in
good faith as a fun exercise about how we talk to each other and
making of it something that is no longer fun and witty. That may
be the case, but as Victor Vitanza is often continually reminding
the field, humor has its place as intellectual work. So what I'm
saying simply is that the humor of the list of words has pushed
me to think again, that the joke is more knowledge-able than I
anticipated when I started writing here.

Pete Gray



The Margin: