the cosmology of truth

Eric Crump (wleric@SHOWME.MISSOURI.EDU)
Thu, 10 Oct 1996 12:24:59 -0500

Or maybe, insted of a center, there are always centers. Thousands of them.
Vast constellations of them. And each constellation of texts, constructed
out of that voluptuous collection of texts that we call literature (in its
generickest sense), is a product of a particular individual, particular
time, particular social context, etc.

The problem with modernist conceptions of 'author' and 'canon' may only be
that they include as *normal* the notion that central texts and concepts
can be controlled, regulated, preserved, handed down. In other words, the
problem isn't that they are 'modernist' in sensibility but that modernism
has been so thoroughly institutionalized that it has become conflated with
the institutional structures that bear its markings.

The reading lists Nick mentions are a case in point. They are artificial
constellations of texts in the sense that they are *institutionally*
determined. Reading lists that grad students wade through are not made
from students' interests and communities, even when students are offered a
chance to suggest titles. As long as the list has to be approved by a
professor or committee, it's an expression of institutional will, of
control over rather than collaboration with.

It's that mechanism of control that is in tension with
pomo/complexity/constructivist sensibilities. The canonical English
reading list is a vain attempt to create a closed system of knowledge. The
open system that knowledge is can only be partially thwarted at best,
though. And the attempt to thwart it simply shackles the naturally curious
minds it pretends to develop.

Curiosity is chaotic. Degree programs are not. Perhaps the very notion of
'primary texts' is a product of institutional programatics, a construction
intended to control the distribution not only of knowledge but of power.
In the interversity, curiosity will out.

--Eric Crump