Santos on Fish on Donoghue Take Two

My last post came on little sleep, so I thought I might try again. Actually, I already tried again in an email exchange with an old friend. He wrote to get my thoughts on Fish's piece. Here's my (hopefully) more coherent response:

As a rhetorician, I'm in a weird spot. I am a member of the humanities, sure, but not necessarily the Humanities [the remnants of the Arnold's liberal arts, those non-utilitarian caches of Culture]. I do things, I produce things, I engage actual people and practices. Although I work with "high theory," I attempt to reconcile high theory with everyday life. Rhetoric has been disparaged for the last 200 years by the very disciplines that Fish sees as dying.

Chances are this is some remnant of the Clark experience. The whole "peas in a pod" thing, our social obligation, blah, blah, blah.

Still, there is a part of me that believes education involves periods of pointless exploration (in rhetoric we refer to this as "invention"). The H/humanities excel at such intellectual wandering. Yet, in an era marked by increased demand for results, education is more and more becoming exercises in accountable delivery. It is hard to measure wandering. So we resort to teaching rather than attempt to learn.


Casey said...

Not to get too Derrida on you, but maybe it would help to clarify what you mean by "everyday life." Connecting your high theory to the actual experience of sitting in front of a cubicle-computer for the rest of one's life may be interesting in theory... but is that as interesting as connecting rhetoric theory to things like political discourse, friendship, theology, etc.?

And then there's this: could anything be more pointless than punching numbers into a computer for the rest of one's life? Talk about useless!

Insignificant Wrangler said...

But the course I am currently teaching isn't focused on the cubicle. Students are selecting their own topics--and I've seen them choose a broad range of topics: from customizing cars to engaging politics to the place of faith in contemporary society to parenthood.

I guess my point is that human things like political discourse, theology, and friendship can be taught differently than the Humanities approached them. As something to be taught.

I am not necessarily sad to see the Humanities perish. But I think we still need to be invested in the humanities. If that makes sense...