Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Does this qualify as Irony?

Does this qualify as Irony?

Longtime readers will know that I am not really fond of theory qua theory. I mean, I think it's important to be able to identify a Marxist, or Feminist, or PoMo, etc., approach, but I tend to switch lenses like a crazed lighting director changes gels. For me, the sources and questions they inspire sort of dictate my approach to them, and theory is something that sneaks in around the edges. I admit that I really do need to read more, but I'm not sure that I have to read *that* much more theory to understand what Judith Butler's 'performative acts' and how that may or may not inform my readings of Althoff and Buc on ritual, for example. Yes, I realize that those things are in and of themselves 'theory' ... but I tend to think of such things as bring really straightforward, so, um, right.

Anyhow, here's the possibly ironic part. Nice Colleague is teaching our methodologies and historiography class this year. She's working from the syllabus I put together when I taught it, which still needs some work, because I'd never taught it before. But basically, we decided that, since it's a departmental requirement, anyone who wants to teach it should contribute to the syllabus and agree to teach the same basic assignments, although we would all teach within our own general fields. She's an Americanist, and is using lesbian pulp fiction as part of her discussion of gender and feminist theory. I'm kind of jealous, and am so using the Rykener case next time I teach it.

But anyhow ... we realized that we really want to do a lot of things with this course that are really sort of, well, theory. Damn you, gender construction, for hooking me!


Anonymous said...

My experience with theory has been much like mine with coffee; it used to be something that other people did but that just gave me a headache and made me feel ill, and then I found the stuff I actually liked and suddenly I was talking twice as fast.

That simile shouldn't work that well. Theory doesn't keep me awake though. That would be really handy.

Susan said...

I think theory is a tool, that you use as needed. There are times a particular lens really helps. So you use it. And gender studies gets you because our disciplines were not designed to take account of gender. So we need theory...

Bavardess said...

I find reading theory in general very engaging (I can kind of feel my brain stretching as I read), but I'm a bit like you in terms of picking and choosing what best fits when I'm trying to get something out of a particular source. The Rykener case is fascinating on multiple levels - I think there's lots you could do with it as a source for teaching, especially in the realms of queer/feminist theory.