To wrap my head around a concept, I allow my mind full immersion. This is how I first attempt understanding. Sometimes I let it wash over me twice. When the final spin cycle stops, I am pretty successfully brainwashed. So yes, at this stage I?am complicit in allowing theory to use me. I let it shape my view so I can better see what the theorist saw when composing their thoughts. Not to worry. This is a temporary state. My mind tends to get dirty again fairly soon.
Once brainwashed, I have a new lens with which to view the world – with an entirely new, if not foreign, perspective. At this stage, I no longer allow theory to wag the dog. It’s fun to do Rubinesque readings of my wedding or draw parallels between a theorist and Star Trek villains. (I think I’m generally still dizzy from the spin cycle, having a good time while high on trace detergent.) This is the last chance to play with free association?before getting down to business.
I’m not interested in pulling this stuff out at cocktail parties, but I do find it difficult to refrain in my classes from connecting dots between my classes, picking and presenting bits in Theory, Modern Poetry, Victorian Lit and Fiction Writing… I also like to offer tasty bites to my husband over coffee, saying things like, “Did you know that, as a lawyer, you’re part of the oppressive state apparatus? That is SO not cool.”
Placing class discussion under the category of group work, I find this most helpful in discovering theoretical contradictions or failings. My greatest problem is my inability to ask good questions of the text, leaving me unable to discover where shortcomings lie until issues are brought up in class or raised on blogs. I could be standing smack dab in the middle of a contradiction and still looking for it.
HOW TO REACH GREATER UNDERSTANDING
What I already do:
I have a variety of tricks to root myself more deeply in what I’m trying to learn. In Norton, the introduction is always helpful. I’ve also stuck my nose in Barry’s book. I do a quick search for “.edu” sites hosting additional info on the theorist too. In?all, I’ve?learned where theorists fit into the historical context, where their main influence comes from, and how their ideas impact the world.
What I’d like to do more of:
Commenting on classmates’ blogs after class discussion is?a far better exercise of my more complete knowledge, particularly since my own posts are generally half-formed ideas and tinkerings. I will even go so far to say that I’d be willing to change gears, contrary to my original opinion, posting to my blog after the class discussion. Had we taken this approach from the start, it would have been helpful in pulling together the theory carnival. This way we wouldn’t be high fiving each other saying, “Yeah, I saw that too!” only to find that our self-derived information was erroneous and spreading like a nasty virus.