30 mar. 2010

The purpose of teaching high modernism is to construct the students as high modernist subjects, to subject them to that. In other words, the benefits of the Humanities are largely those internal to the Humanities themselves, rather than those general feel-good notions about citizenship and open-mindedness. The habitus of the high modernist subject (as presently constituted) does, in fact, include a series of political beliefs, etc..., some ideas of not being ethnocentric. We are teaching that habitus along with the texts, though the texts themselves might not necessarily embody these ideals.

The contemporary university professor is not likely to be a high-modernist subject. Or rather, he or she is taught to view that part of hir / hes formation with suspicion. The professor is thus a divided subject, teaching the students to be divided too. To be suspicious of their own elite status.

Yet reading that literature changes you, writes its codes all over your soul. In fact, that's most of what reading literature does: it makes you over in its own languages / images. Do you speak high modernism? It is a language of complexity, nuance. It is completely useless outside its domain. Or maybe almost completely, because don't we then apply those habits of mind to everything else too? That is our professional deformation.

When the modernist professor studies Madonna, as he used to do in the 1980s early 90s, he does so as modernist professor, with a great self-consciousness of studying something else. There is a forced quality there.

I'm not sure quite where I'm going with this. I know what the right answers are in terms of the habitus of my field, but these right answers often feel wrong to me. At the same time, my answers seem baldly self-serving. Don't I just want to keep the world comfortable for people like me?

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