Re: Reassessing our practices

Bob King (kingbx@HAMLET.UNCG.EDU)
Mon, 12 Feb 1996 18:40:26 -0500

On Mon, 12 Feb 1996, Mike Hamende wrote:
> But isn't the "essay" the rhetoric device by which knowledge gets
> forwarded in the academy? Don't those at the top of the chain, use it
> to make their reputations? Earn their bucks? Get tenure? Get to the
> top?


This is *exactly* the point I was trying to make about the political and
ideological investments which are embedded in the essay. If one's idea
of the point of life is to get to the top, then mastery of monologism is
indeed crucial, and mastery of the essay is one piece of that "mastery"
puzzle. If one has a more quizzical attitude towards mastery as an
ideal, as I do, then one has a more quizzical attitude towards the essay.

As far as "mastering the essay in order to master the essay masters" I
would agree with Noam Chomsky's notion that it's a bad idea to use the
tools of the master unless you want to be just like him. If you have no
problems with a dominance-and-submission model, then you have no need to
problematize the essay. I'm trying to figure out how to effectively
problematize the dominance-and-submission model because I don't like it
so much, and from where I currently stand it seems to me material
practices or "discursive practices" are a good place to intervene,
particularly for those of us currently in academic culture, a culture
where discouse is literally currency. Alas, another question which seems
to resolve to one's stand on the distribution or redistribution of

> And then isn't it the thinking of those thinkers at the top (research)
> that business uses to develop the capital to control the system and
> retain the factory model?
> So isn't the device useful to whomever might apply it? In whatever
> context they choose? If its good enough for [insert your favorite
> theorist here], isn't it valuable enough for the freshperson? And
> important enough for us to teach?

Depending on what kind of world you want to help create, yes indeed "the
device" is useful to anyone who uses it. I just don't think it's
particlarly useful to anyone not wanting to reinscribe the world in its
present contours and within its present parameters. Hence it's not
particularly useful to me. And, I'd still say it's pretty useless
training for most freshpeople and undergraduates unless they are
planning on being among the next crop of discourse masters.

Bob King