Re: Foucault and Normativity

On Thu, 13 Apr 1995 CROSBYJL@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx wrote:

> As for what follows, my first instinct is to simply ignore it. But then I
> have also been frustrated by what can seem to be intentionally obtuse
> writing particularly within certain strains of pomo thought.
> kgw@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx states:
> >I'm very interested in the intellectual meta-language employed here. I'm
> >not sure what exactly your are saying. As with much hyper-theoretical
> >writing, here is so much abstraction that the reader (like the viewer in
> >art) is left to do a lot of interacting and interpretation (open spaces?)
> >with the object or text. I wonder if it would be tooo much of a
> >challenge to ask you to discuss these various concepts here in grounded
> >terms, concrete examples in the living color world of practices? As the
> >lawyer sez in Gump, "tell it to me like I'm a six year old."
> >Kathleen Williamson
> I think that it is very important to remember that Foucault is writing
> about things that are not easily expressed in language as we have it.
> Sometimes this can result in the using words in unfamiliar ways,
> employing phrases that seem empty or hyper theoretical. Heidegger and
> Foucault are both concerned with issues of space. Through resisting
> normative structures and institutions we can 'open spaces' where what
> could not be said or thought before can be said or thought. If this is too
> difficult to understand, I apologize. Foucault isn't meant for a six year
> old, and I must say that I refuse to make what I do fit into the criteria set
> up by a movie as banal as "Forrest Gump".
> I can give concrete examples, which is an integral practice in philosophy,
> but I cannot eliminate the necessity of interpretation. I consider
> philosophy to be interactive, and refuse to eliminate that aspect.
> I would ask that if someone doesn't understand something said on this
> list that they request for an explanation without recourse to the American
> tendency to dismiss intellectuals, or blaming the person who posted for
> what is not understood.
> Joanna Crosby
> crosbyjl@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
I agree with all of this. I want to add one point and pose a question.

Not only was Foucault interested in expressing things not easily
expressed in current vocabularies, he also was very much a part of a
tradition that challegned the belief that there was one, normal,
transparent, language into which we can translate our "jargons." For him,
deconstructionists or someone like Rorty, words are deeds (Wittgenstein),
and thus he is supremely interested in the very "density" of the words he
used (and convinced a bunch of "us" to use).

But this raises a question for me. Learning always involves some kind of
translation of the unfamiliar into the familiar. As Joanna implied, in
our culture the burden of doing the work is often put on the intellectual,
rather than the
"student." This is an interesting power relationship, especially because
both intellectuals and their students feel disempowered. What do others
think, either because of classroom experiences (from either end) or from
research on this?

Erik D. Lindberg
Dept. of English and Comparative Lit.
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Milwaukee, WI 53211
email: edl@xxxxxxxxxxx


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