Sunday, August 5, 2007

I books for beginners

i've been reading a few of those books "Introducing ..." and "(so-and-so) for beginners" lately.

even though i've basically done 2 arts degrees (and half a law degree), there are enormous gaps in my understanding of what i would consider "fundamentals." i've been filling in (the enormous) gaps in my understanding of Foucault, Butler, Derrida, concepts like "the gaze", postcolonial theory, critical race studies, ... there are a lot of things I've done some reading in, but not enough to say i know even basics of the area.

as an aside, it's funny that i even structure the world like this - into "fundamentals" and other stuff. in many ways it's so elitist and hierarchical and often putting dead white men (or someone similar) up on pedastools, as if their thoughts are more valuable ... and yet all of those i am devouring at the moment are radically anti-establishment; in some ways they are the establishment of the "counter establishment." i think it's deeply ironic and anti-democratic, but yet i am nourishing my intellectual appetite.

the personal irony for me here is that when i first enrolled in uni, i wanted to study "the fundamentals" but i was very oriented towards the establishment's values - i studied Classics (Latin), Pure Mathematics, Philosophy, English literature (Shakespeare, of course, with some Modern classics too), and chemistry (it's not Physics, but it was what i excelled at). Pretty quickly, my foundations were shaken and I realised that English lit was full of postmodernism (which I couldn't get my head around until several years later), I took a linguistics course (in order to learn better grammar so I could understand Latin - and by second year I had added Ancient Greek and Old English to my repertoire), but instead of being told what's right and wrong, linguistics opened up a whole new, critical, world. then I got beaten up by cops at a protest, fell in lust with chicks and gradually realised that the establishment is boring, got involved in activism, later got burnt by activism, ...

anyway, here i am returning to my roots in some ways. because i do thrive on rigorous intellectual engagement. in some ways i miss maths and chem, the part of me that delights in brilliance, whether i myself am involved, or whether it's vicarious (like reading other people's brilliant ideas). but today my intellectual engagement is intrinsically coupled with an ethical awareness and commitment. At the heart of my ethical values is diversity, and here's where I am challenged - for many of the ideas that i am enthralled by are elitist ... my flash of inspiration in this thought has just fled me and i am left groping for coherence ... i think this all has something to do with class, which i confess i don't have much insight into. i am profoundly middle class in my orientation, passions (classical music anyone?), aesthetics, ambitions, ...

anyway, i have (physical) pain that i need to go deal with now. thanks for reading :>

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