the twit


    bow ties and the venn diagram of all things

    from a recent email to a dear friend

    Just got back from a conference in way upstate New York (SUNY Plattsburgh, which is like an hour south of Montreal). Presented some research I'm pulling together around an oral history project I've been involved in. Exciting to frame, package, and present work. In conversations with others at the conference, it seems like I'm not completely off track. Can't wait to press the big pause button this summer and start connecting the dots. And, if nothing else, write.

    That being said, it's hard defining one's interests by negation, which is seems like I'm doing a lot of. Walking around with a bundle of ideas A, B, C in my hands, and peering in doors 1, 2, and 3 to see if I want to bring my things inside, and winnowing. Mostly a sense of: no, I don't really walk into the Literature door; no, I don't really want to walk into the Composition door; I'll but a little sticky note by the Rhetoric door but I'll walk around some more; oh, I haven't thought about the MFA door in a while; didn't there used to be a Cultural Theory around here? A Postcolonial door?; hey you, just walking out of the Writing Studies door, what was it like in there? Of course, the fantasy is that the direction would be reversed. That I could stand on a park bench somewhere with a big sign that says: "This guy wants to think about the following things: (a) the rhetoric of community identity and community change (b) social networking, user adaptive databases, and public discourse, (c) Mississippi ethos shifts in the post-segregation moment, (d) public discourse on cultural symbols and the legacy of race, (e) national conversation about governance and social policy and the right wing of American politics, (f) the composition of pedagogical exchange and distribution, (g) et cetera." And then have the occasional person come up and say, "Hey, a bunch of other people and I are thinking about similar stuff. We should hang out. Do you mind teaching undergrads? No? Cool. Sign here."

    I'm sure it's somewhere in the middle, as most things. Certainly not a linear hallway with discrete, mutually exclusive doors. Maybe closer to the Library of Babel. Or the Venn Diagram of All Things. And maybe not a park bench, but a school dance. The tying of ties, the two step.


    Anonymous said...

    Manuel Castells is the only person I know covering all these things at once. But anthropology first popped into my head then African American Studies. Then I thought you should send this exact description to ten researchers in each field and see what they say. Its interdisciplinary studies no matter how you cut it. It used to be just plain political economy/social philosophy the way depth psychology used to be just myth. Incidentally, Merton went the other way - adding other threads later.

    Aunt Susan (another (dharma) six fields of study in search of a (sangha) sutra/sacred thread

    Patrick T. Reardon said...

    David --- I'm a writer, and I'm working on a history of Chicago. And one of the people I'm hoping to focus on in the book is your great aunt, Sister Mary William Sullivan. I see by your 2009 posting that you've done an oral history with her. I wonder if it would be possible for me to see it. Also, is she still available to interview? Please contact me at 773-743-2209. Thanks. Patrick T. Reardon