Thursday, January 15, 2009

What will we be known as? Or using office hours productively!

I just had one of the most fascinating conversations about postmodern theory with the most unlikely of people--my favorite librarian who specializes in government and military history. I stopped by to inquire about getting my old summer job again. Then, one thing led to another, I was already late for my office hours, and I decided to stay and continue talking to her about this most interesting topic we arrived at. After the witty banter and catch-up, she sort of posed this odd question that took me a while to answer: "In the future what age will the 20th century be known as?" I was kinda stuck on the answer. She continued with some great speculation and started to explain her reasoning. She mentioned how in all the centuries before use there were some many adjectives and qualifiers to describe the time: Augustan, Victorian, Renaissance, Neolithic Era, etc. And then she got to the point of mentioning the reason, which was she never understood why we ("English majors") came up with postmodernism. Why not just have a new word altogether. Of course, I then got onto my spiel about Grand Narratives, explained some stuff about capitol letters and lower case letters. Ultimately, she stumped me yet again with semantics that I had not really put together.

"It would seem that every age or time period were modern if you in it in the present moment so using modernism as a designations seems strange."

Of course, I started to draw on some pop culture references and mention words like technological age or post-industrial as a good qualifier. And yet, at the same time were seemed not necessarily to really be talking time periods but rather about the concept of experience. (One of my newly discovered favorite imaginative and intellectual wandering topics.) She posed a rather great question that made us both laugh, "How do I know my desk is in my office if I am not in there?" I immediately thought of Toy Story having just mentioned it was one of the few VHSs that I have left. And yet it so true. And all this ultimately got me to think about last night's Contemporary American Lit course and our discussion of Adrienne Rich's "Diving Into the Wreck."

I was so completely ready to call the book of myths patriarchy. Patriarchy is fueled off of adventure and exploration; it is how a man is made. And patriarchy is where the name of woman does not exist. For the name of woman cannot exist in patriarchy, for in patriarchy man creates the name of woman. Man names. Woman is named. I was working up this great speech that I left undelivered for class about how the book of myths feature women merely as props for male fantasies and how myths are romantic and adventurous and, yet, woman becomes nothing more than a prop or creation of man within them. And how, of course, Rich would want to associate myth with patriarchy because she wants to unmask the myths that patriarchy has, have, and will continue to perpetuate within society.

That is why the experience of Rich and the experience of reading her poetry is so interesting and fascinating. Of course, everything will be modern for someone in the present moment, just how every person can only see through there own eyes and there own experiences. Azar Nafisi said that it is when we accept difference and attempt to embody difference--to immerse ourselves in the lives of the Other--do we truly appreciate and understand our own culture. We know ourselves much more than we let on, and it is only through an understanding of others--walking in someone else's shoes--that we can truly learn or experience something unique.

4 comments:

saragraph said...

i enjoyed this post very much. maybe the name of our era (late 20th century, early 21st century) could be called something like...

Globalist/ism Age
Age of Multi-ism
The UNLABEL-ABLE

or maybe we could just go with an uninterpretable symbol, like Prince. i'm serious.

Laminated Fragments said...

I like the whole uninterpretable symbol. I think that would be very 20th/early 21st century.

okie said...

michael, you are so thoughtful...i just love you!

DLWG said...

Quite interesting. I am surprised you have a favorite librarian, what a shock. Seems like it was a delightful discussion **** see you can learn something from anyone, you just have to listen.