Re: a note on primary texts

Beth W. Baldwin (bobaldwi@HAMLET.UNCG.EDU)
Thu, 10 Oct 1996 12:29:05 -0400

On Thu, 10 Oct 1996, Cindy Wambeam wrote:

> But Beth, this assumes that a timeline is responsible for accuracy, yet
> those things that come first are not necessarily the best, the most
> accurate, or the most central texts. Primary and Secondary infers a
> literary criticism approach -- as if we're examining a text to criticize
> it, and that those things which come later are somehow further removed
> from the Truth.

No, it assumes that you can verify the accuracy about what a text said
by referring yourself to that text.

> I think this works if we talk about primary texts as that which is being
> examined -- your initial statement, the bible, an article, Las Vegas, a
> shopping mall, a mountain, a film... But if we're discussing theorists
> who examine the "text of postmodern culture," the primary text is not the
> theorists' writings but the text they are examining. It is important, if
> one is theorizing on the relevance of film in our postmodern society to
> 1. read Jameson, and 2. watch films. I would argue, however, that the
> primary text is the film, not Jameson's work.

My argument is that many theorists cite other works and interpret what
others say and that it is our responsibility to verify for ourselves
that the other work did so state such a thing or that the interpretation
is credible. We are individually responsible.

> I'm all for historical analysis and a thorough reading of the writings
> which inform theory -- I think these are too often ignored and obscured.
> But I don't want to assume that because someone wrote first, theirs is
> the most primary or central.

I'm not making a claim about whose work is better or more worthy of

I guess that I agree with your stance, but I
> think that the term primary text indicates something different than the
> theories from which postmodern criticism arise.

This point I'm coming back to soon.

Beth Baldwin, Ph.D. *
Office of Continuing Education *
University of North Carolina at Greensboro *
Greensboro, NC 27412-5001 *
910-334-5301, ext. 44 * *