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loss of methodological rigor

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Near the start of Barthes’s lectures on the Neutral:

I hope (I dare to believe ) that my topic is not so manic, for I took the Neutral for a walk not along the grid of words but along a network of readings, which is to say, of a library […] Then, what library? That of my vacation home, which is to say, a place-time where the loss in methodological rigor is compensated for by the intensity and the pleasure of free reading.

I negotiate with myself constantly about my own reading patterns. There is this horrible image that my wife and I cackle about sometimes. We were at one of my tenured colleagues’ house for dinner, one of the first dinners we had here. She took the baby upstairs to breastfeed, and they shuffled her (graciously, graciously) into their bedroom as a good spot for that sort of thing. And she noticed once there, stacked right next to the bed, an enormous stack of books, obviously his bedtime reading. X in the Victorian Y. X, Y, and the Victorian Z. A in the Victorian B. C and D in the Victorian Moment. That sort of thing.

The fact that we cackle about this marks us as who we are. My wife can get away with this sort of attitude, as she’s not an academic, but me? Look, I read the stuff, but not as willingly as what simply drifts up to me, what lands on the shelf of to be reads without direct professional import.

More important: almost every good idea I’ve ever had has come to be out of the random shuffling of books and websites, newspaper articles and other junk that I read irresponsibly. It is no wonder, really, that Barthes is one of my favorites, one of my great teachers, even if I’m gearing up to write something very nasty about him, his politics, the relationship between his aesthetics and his politics (or lack thereof…) But, really, I shouldn’t be reading him tonight.

Written by adswithoutproducts

March 8, 2007 at 1:33 am

Posted in academia

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