Readings, and Related Inspirations

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Comprehensive Exam Progress

It has been a long time since I posted. I keep meaning to. I have a lot to say. I read Adam Banks’s book Digital Griots over a month ago – but I just keep on reading, and not blogging. So I took a moment to snap a few photos of what I have been doing and where my thinking is going, and I thought people out there might want to see how I am going to pull off my comprehensive exams in October.

As you might already know, I am a highly visual person. I’m that person who can draw a map to someone’s house based on directions over the phone, leave the map behind, and still make my way there, no problem. So I decided to map my thoughts as I read for my comprehensive exams.

Below is a wide shot of the map as it is developing (if you zoom, you might be able to make some of the details out).


The map is split into two sections – Materialism on the left, and Visual/Digital on the right. The idea is that the ideas from both with begin to meet in the middle and I will make my biggest connections right in the center.

Here is the left – where I have been spending most of my intellectual time. I want to get the material theory down first before I start applying it to the digital.


And here is the right. As you can see, I haven’t hit this too hard, but it’s coming.


So there you go – feel free to steal this idea and use it yourself. I bought a 7ft roll of paper at the art store and thumb-tacked it right to the wall. And I use pencil so I can erase and move. Ideally, I would have painted the wall with whiteboard paint, but I don’t own, so… paper it is! The plus side is that I can roll this up and take it places later, and if I need to start over, I can just take it down and replace it with new paper. Hooray!

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Marx, Engels, and the Real

In my last entry, I talked briefly about Terry Eagleton and my foray into Marxism. I’m just getting started, and I must openly admit that I have not actually read Das Capital or The German Ideology. That’s coming this summer when I take Ted Friedman’s Post-Marxism course. Thank goodness my buddy Nick Sciullo will be there to tell me when I’m saying something crazy (or to get me to just say even crazier things than normal).

This time around, I read an excerpt by Marx called “Social Being and Social Consciousness” – in which he talks about the relations of production and of material productive forces. What I find myself most interested in is how he addresses consciousness: “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness” (31). To me, this is a reminder that Marx is not lucky enough to be smacked in the face by post-modernism every time he opens a book, or has a coffee house conversation. And as I begin this journey, I need to keep in mind that the rhetorical situation surrounding the information I’m sponging up.

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Moving from the speck of Marx above to Engels’s micro-discussion of Vulgar Marxism, and Realism, I am caught by his use of the term ‘real life.’ I’ve always struggled with the designation of the real – especially when I am informed that I don’t live in the ‘real world’ – as though somehow my status in academia means I don’t eat, sleep, or need to make a living since my life is somehow less ‘real.’ That quibble aside, Engels brings in important historical distinctions that include the real: “According to the materialist conception of history, the ultimately determining factor in history is the production and reproduction of real life” (39). Later on the page, Engels (thankfully) defines realism, saying that it “implies besides truth of detail, the truthful reproduction of typical characters under typical circumstances” (39). This, however, does nothing to clear up my issues with the way we, today, use the word ‘real,’ except in that even the academy must produce and reproduce in real ways that relate to relations of production and labor forces. Especially when we apply this to the ways in which we create and provide labor in the lower division composition classrooms.

But I’ll save that conversation for another day.


My Foray Into Marxism

I just changed my ‘about’ page to reflect the changes that are happening in this blog.

I formally welcome you all to my comprehensive study response blog – where I will write my thoughts on the readings I am doing for my comps.

Just to give you an idea of where I’m going with this – my comprehensive exams are divided into 2 categories: Material Theory and Visual/Digital Rhetorics – all with emphasis on Critical Pedagogy.

I have no idea what I’ll write my dissertation on at this point, but I have been told by a reliable source that I’ll figure it out as I read – and  think she’s right (thank you Laurissa!).

So I decided, in order to create a solid base, I would begin by reading some post-Marxist theory. I’m about 7 sources into my list and so I’m going to break up my thoughts on those seven into several entries. Below, I address a little Eagleton.

Patterns I’m noticing that I am most interested in in the vein of post-Marxist theory have to do with production/reproduction, value, and the myth of individual freedom.

Terry Eagleton, in the intro to his book Marxist Literary Theory, says “Part of the crisis of Marxism would seem to be that it is no longer easy to say what counts as being a Marxist, if indeed it ever was” (3). This claim makes me feel a lot better because I’ve never known what people mean when/if they claim to be Marxist. Marxism, Eagleton explains, is a body of work, not a man. It is not just Das Capital, and it does not actually solve anything. He also claims, curiously to me, that “If postmodernism is right, then Marxism is wrong.” I assume this has to do with the structural nature of Marxism and its birth in the Modernist traditions.

What I’m wondering at this point  is – How is Marxism at play in our developing futures? – I will come back to this question again when I get to Jameson – I’m sure you ‘Marxists’ out there may know what I’m going to say already – you’ll just have to wait.

So that’s what I’m starting with now – but this week, I will cover Marx/Engels, Benjamin, My New Crush Raymond Williams, Alick West, more Eagleton, and some Frederic Jameson.

Please feel free in joining me on this journey into my comps and I welcome any of your perspective shifting questions, or comments about my thoughts.