Monday, July 29, 2013

The Future of Invention--of knowledge and learning

Learning is certainly a kind of "invention" or discovery, and Muckelbauer delves deeply into this topic in his chapter 5 "Itineration: What is a Sophist?" He continues his own inquiry into rhetoric's relation between the Model and the Copy, but as he says "on a different terrain" (79). I think this is a key quote: "Both the sophist's and the philosopher's knowledge are images insofar as they are derivative of the Original or the Model (what Plato elsewhere calls the Idea)" (88). Each one holds knowledge that is a pretender, but the Philosopher's is better because it a "true resemblance" rather than a "resemblance-effect." However, the key term in the above quote is "derivative." Muckelbauer uses the word "filiation," but something that is granted the status of "knowledge" must have some grounding, some backing, some warrant, some family resemblance or genes to confirm that it is "true." Today we attempt to construct this basis for knowledge from scientific research. In any case, what counts for knowledge is based upon some authority.

But as Muckelbauer states distinguishing between the "two pretenders to the Model's image" is difficult, and puts the entire enterprise of dialectical thought at stake (i.e. the search for truth). The two types of images, he labels,
Copies= true resemblences, products of Copies
Resemblance-effects= products of Simulacra-Phantasms
Simulacra appear proportional to the Model from the outside, but are not internally proportionate. As I wrote last time, M. says that something must be added to our vision to distinguish between these two images--the movement of differential repetition where the subject's beliefs must be at stake in the encounter (93).

Later in the chapter, M. discusses the metaphor of "itinerant travel" (as it relates to invention and learning). He says, "in order to hunt down the sophist, one must travel--but not because the sophist is located elsewhere, rather, because itinerant travel is the necessary condition for the act of locating" (94). I have already compared this itinerant travel to grounded theory's orientation toward theory creation and its methods of constant comparison and theoretical sampling (what could be more itinerant than theoretical sampling?). But this may just be me and not true to what M. is indicating. Although I can't say I fully understand M here, he equates the Simulacrum with the differential movement of the sophists: "the sophist is, quite, simply, the differential movement of the Simulacrum" (95). While this gets a bit confusing for me, the next chapter is very interesting. So let me move on.

In a section titled "Future Travels" I think M. gets at the heart of the meaning of "future" in his title. One might be mistaken in thinking of future as some new creation or iteration on the horizon--a new dawn of invention. But notice that he includes the word "travels" with future. Future travels might be an entirely different way of saying "invention" or "discovery" or "learning" for that matter. In this section he discusses the relation between the Model and the Copy and the idea of preexistance and knowledge. At this point, I think I am going to string together key quotes:

"The Copy recognizes quite clearly that, at the very least, the Model cannot be known in advance, that as we have seen, knowing true reality requires the repetition of differential encounters. In terms of lineage, the Copy insistently demonstrates that one cannot know the father except through the act of paying tribute.
"But further, if the Model cannot be known in advance, then neither can its existence be apprehended. There is no way to know, before the differential encounter, if the Model even exists at all--nor would their be any reason to suspect that it did. In fact, if the Model does preexist, and out guide repeatedly insists that it does, one can only know of this preexistence through traveling. In other words, the preexistence of the Model must come later, it must be an effect of sophistic travel. ... through the Copy the Model is simultaneously realized and posited as preexisting. More precisely, through the Copy, the Model is realized as preexisting: the future is differentially encountered as the past. In other words, the exterior movement of the Copy produces the very existence of the past in its gesture toward the Model. This is why Socrates' [sic] consistently articulates learning as recollection: within the dynamics of the Copy, the future-oriented movement of learning is necessarily linked to the simultaneous emergence of the past." (96-97)

He refers to this "temporal movement of the Copy" as "retroactive production" (97). It is a form of recognition. We don't know where we started from until we arrive, and we don't even know where we have arrived until we fully comprehend where we started from. This is learning. But notice that it has this recognition to it that seems to come only later after some reflection. I believe this quote captures in more Platonic terms why post-task retrospective reflection is so powerful. The future is differentially encountered as the past. In my beginning is my end; in my end is my beginning. The future of invention, as the future of learning, is only "known" or experienced through this retroactive production. 

What I think M. is getting at is a way in which knowledge and learning is constructed (or invented). This construction happens through this "itinerant travel" that is a style of dialectic that he calls differential movement. My last connection to M.'s ideas here is to Linda Flower's idea about how "task representation" is constructed with her model of Noticing and Evoking Within the Process of Task Representation. 

Interestingly, Flower has at the bottom "Updating the image." The image is the writer's understanding of the "model" within their understanding and in their text (i.e. "the copy). Flower recognized just what M. discusses in this chapter--the Model/image is not "known" in advance but is constructed through the learning process (the differential encounter). Noticing and evoking are here terms for the dialectic that goes on: the writer notices something in the draft and compares it to the mental image they have of the Model. Then adjust: plan, review, and update. Repeat.  Based upon this updated image,  then the "representation" (the text) is revised. 

Whereas M. seems to present this learning as retrospective recollection, Flower presents a model closer to my sense of rhetorical reflection that happens all along the way. It isn't just that we only understand where we have been once we arrive--we figure out where we have been, where we are, where we are going as we "travel." Perhaps the discovery that comes with this post-task recognition then is deeper when we have been uncovering, learning, bringing the image more and more into focus through the entire writing process.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Future of Invention--mimesis

As I review chapters 4 and 5, I see that the single theme of these chapters is the relations between the model and the copy. He starts in chpt. 4 with Imitation (or mimesis) and Invention. The demise of classical imitation pedagogy in the face of the romantic sense of subjectivity and emphasis on creativity positions imitation and invention in opposition to each other: imitation = repetition/reproduction and invention = novelty/creativity. But Mucklebauer believes this story of opposition is too neat (52).

Mimesis, he says, deals with the power of appearances and traditionally has had three meanings with fit with three domains:
PHILOSOPHY--"the Platonic notion of an image making faculty which produces extensions of ideal truth in the phenomenal world"
LITERATURE--"the Aristotelian notion of the representation of human activity" (think "hold the mirror up to nature"
RHETORIC--"the rhetorical notion of copying, aping, simulating, emulating models" (54)

Muckelbauer says that this catagorization of mimesis "lends itself to an anachronistically rigid sense of disciplinary boundaries" (55). He looks to Terry Givens to offer another approach: "Rather than focusing on the type of imitated object (the model) or the nature of the imitation's product (the copy), such an approach would attend to the dynamics of repetition and variation that circulate through any given practice of imitation" (56) Givens notes there are three basic components of mimesis:

The MODEL -------------------------------------The COPY
                           some relation of likeness

We have not attended as much to "the relation that exists between the model and the copy"(56), and Muckelbauer proposes applying his affirmative inquiry approach to create a different taxonomy of mimesis. Through this work, he identifies three "rhythms"--which he also calls "inclinations" and "orientations" within imitative repetition.

The three "singular rhythms" of imitation are:

Repetition-of-the-same--the copy is an exact duplication of the model. Plato talks a lot about this kind of reproduction of the "idea" in the phenomenal world (which is of course inferior to the ideal). Variation in the copy is seen as bad or as a failure.

Repetition of difference--"variation is necessarily an internal principle of imitative repetition" (65). This form of imitation or repetition does not have to deal with "the regulating ideal of identical reproduction" but operates by other laws: "in order to repeat, one must vary" (66). Muckelbauer quotes Aristotle's statement about how poets don't have to narrate events as they happened. Tolstoy famously discussed the same thing in how novelists in recounting historical events are not limited by facts and actual events. For repetition of difference "it can no longer be concerned with simply reproducing the model as accurately as possible..., but must attempt to reproduce the effect of the model"(68). This form of mimesis is "primarily concerned with appearances ...[and] on the capacity to produce effects (70).

Inspiration: Difference and Repetition--"the nature of the model changes... . Within this inspiring encounter, the model becomes responsiveness itself" (73). The previous two types of imitation "offer two different ways in which subjects might respond to their models in order to repeat them" (73).  I must admit that this third form of repetition is a bit unclear to me. He speaks about the "dynamic of losing oneself in response to a model" and quotes Quintillian about how what students learn from imitation "is the capacity to respond itself" (74).

I should wrap this post up, but I want to process these rhythms of imitation in terms of my own teaching. I can see how much of my teaching hinges on the "repetition-of-the-same." And this includes the grading. I grade off of an internal ideal model, and (of course) the real thing can never rival this model. It is interesting to contemplate the possibility of "learning" as a form of imitating or repeating. When we ask students to "apply" principles or things they have learned, we really are asking them to repeat them. Let me show you. Now, here, you do it. I will have more in my next post about this relationship between the Model and the Copy and how it relates to learning and reflection.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Future of Invention--the affirmative stance not so strange

Muckelbauer outlines in his book a style of scholarly engagement which he describes as a way to extract singular rhythms and read and write affirmatively. Leaning on Deleuze and Guattari, he makes a distinction between "being oriented toward the dialectic (proof and argumentation) and being oriented toward the singular rhythms secreted through the dialectics" (42). He brings up D&G's distinction between "tracing" and "mapping." I can't say I fully understand this distinction, but quoting D&G he says, "the map has to do with performance, whereas the tracing always involves an alleged 'competence'" (qtd. in Muckelbauer 42). Attending to singular rhythms "requires a kind of performance, an immersive response [a form of inhabiting]" (42-43). This immersive inhabiting, again pointing to D&G, Muckelbauer describes a fundamentally a form of experimentation and exploration. Contrasting it with "tracing" and a scholarly engagement shaped by negating and filling in gaps, he says, "Rather than extracting claims to be advocated, critiqued, or developed, and rather than just diagnosing the performative movement within the writing, an affirmative inclination encounters writing as an experimental pathway on an intensive, inventional circuit" (43). Although Muckelbauer used different language (and metaphors), I believe his ideas are familiar to me.

I can think of two similar descriptions of a "scholarly engagement" that resemble Muckelbauer's ideas. The first is grounded theory with Glaser and Straus's dictum that grounded theory is about theory generation rather than testing. Their entire approach to "coding" and data analysis resembles this goal of extracting singular rhythms. Another loud bell ringing in my ear is Donna Qualley's book Turns of Thought: Teaching Composition as Reflexive Inquiry. Qualley goes back to the roots of the definition and history of "the essay" to see the word as a verb--to essay. To attempt. She describes an essayistic stance which is fundamentally making writing a form of exploration--an attempt. Crucial to this "attempt" is reflexivity which she generally describes as a reflective encounter with an "other." This "other" should be different and through this contrastive experience help lead the writer/inquirer to new, transformative responses.

Muckelbauer's affirmative strategies/styles are
  1. Principle of generosity--a generous, fair reading
  2. Avoid orientation toward intentions--for the same reason reader-response theory avoids the intentional fallacy, but here also the reader does not want to be limited by the author's intentions (or perhaps even the readers intentions)
  3. Principle of Selective Reading--not oriented toward providing some kind of adequate representation of a work. A "slice of data" (using GT terms) is examined for what it will show and reveal.
  4. Principle of connnectivity--proposition does not govern structure of the writing, connections and openness to other contexts does
  5. Principle of non-recognition--from the best I can tell, this means not naming and fronting theories or theoretical frameworks, but let them work from the background as they inform (but not define) the inventive exploration
I can say that this engagement with a scholarly project and these strategies seem to resemble grounded theory to me. I'm not sure I have summarized his strategies fairly (or generously), but this is what I am taking from them.

I will probably have another post digging into his ideas about repetition and the relation of the model and the copy, but I want to connect her his complicated notion of the "differential movement of repeated encounters" that he says is the means by which "true clarity" is achieved and some distinction made between a copy that is a "true resemblance" and one that is a false resemblance (or a "simulacra"). He says that "to encounter reality, something more than mere perception must be involved: in the encounter, the subject's beliefs must be at stake" (91-92). He characterizes this encounter as a "movement of difference ... characterized by the very movement differential repetition ... in which the subject must consistently be at stake" (93). As I read this, I am thinking about grounded theory and its method of constant comparison. Within constant comparison is Dewey's double-movement of reflection from data to theory and back again and again. If the researcher allows his beliefs, preconceptions and theories to be open (and "at stake") with each act of coding and constant comparison, they will be more open to discovery and growing their theory. Qualley highlights the crucial factor of "reflexivity" in this process and how encountering the other and the different can be one of the strongest catalyst for this discovery and growth in inquiry.

Missing from this "differential encounter" (at least from the perspective of grounded theory and reflection theories) is the importance also of confirmation within this encounter. Perhaps this puts things too much in Mezirow's terms of "negation and confirmation," but even in grounded theory the basic movement of constant comparison looks fundamentally for likeness and differences, and examining likenesses can be as revealing as examining differences. My last thought here is to express a bit of anxiety over the movement of difference (and similarity) as too simplistic. Ian Dey in his book exploring grounded theory (with a fairly good affirmative stance) opens up more complex ways of coding and encountering reality (data/phenomena). Unfortunately, I was more on the basic level for my coding and found the difference/similarity lens enough for me, but Dey points to much more complex things happening in this differential encounter.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Future of Invention --response 1

John Muckelbauer's book (2008) is a challenging and enriching text for any scholars interested in invention and postmodern thought. As someone caught in modernist thinking, this book has been fairly mind-blowing for me. In the next few blog posts, I plan to offer some responses to the text that will help me understand the text better.

What is gratifying, even welcoming, about Muckelbauer's book actually is his fundamental thesis. So much of deconstructionism, post-process theory, and other postmodernist views seem off-putting because in putting forth their propositions and philosophical perspective they destroy, undercut, denigrate, and even ridicule the "foundationalist" thinking they are "rising" above. At least, these are the kinds of emotions I have felt in the presence of postmodern thinking--I am a dull, ill-witted idiot to still think this way (or not to understand what they are saying). But Muckelbauer's book begins offering a different form of invention and responding to the "problem of change." What he notices in BOTH foundationalism and antifoundationalism (modernist and postmodernist thinking and scholarship) is a common pattern of invention:

"foundationalism and antifoundationalism ... actually share a common 'foundational' commitment to a dialectical image of change and to the movement of negation that engineers it. ... difference and novelty only emerges by somehow overcoming or negating particular others." (x)

What he identifies as common within all this scholarship is the firmly entrenched binary of "the same" and "the different" and that both groups operate on the same style of dialectical change: "a style of engagement in which negation is the generative principle of transformation" (4).  Here in a nutshell is the scholarly movement of "making knowledge" with a dissertation (or other scholarship). You start with a problem or a gap, and to answer/solve that problem or fill in that gap you have to show how something is wrong or misunderstood. You have to define your "problem" to initiate your inquiry which by definition sets the scholarly operation of novelty (of generating knowledge) as an operation of overcoming and negating what has come before.

Instead, Muckelbauer offers a style of invention that is "not simply different from"(12) this movement of invention via negation which he calls an affirmative style of invention. Here is where he gets fairly frustratingly postmodern himself by claiming that this affirmative style of invention can't be explained representationally (i.e. defined) but he suggests it might be "demonstrated performatively" (xi). I reveal my own tension with understanding Muckelbauer by seeking to present some representational understanding of what he means in this blog (when I suppose I should be following his affirmative style of engagement). As he says at the end of the introduction, "[the] content of the propositions that I was reading ... may be of less importance than the 'how' of the movement through those propositions" (xii). He is after provoking with his book a style of engagement that challenges the traditional scholarly endeavor which is built on novelty through negation.The affirmative style of change, as he says, is not different from "the appropriative movement of dialectical negation"(30)--we can't seem to transcend this repetitious movement of dialectic--but is about what he terms a style, and inclination, a modulation of this repetition. He notices within the "appropriative repetition of humanism" a logic of identity that enables appropriation (a sort of colonialism within the dialectical movement) that he says has at its core "the extraction of constants" (35).  However, affirmative invention has a different "rhythm": "On the other hand, within any given encounter, an inclination toward intensive, singular rhythms functions through the extraction of variation" (35). Here I have done things he probably would disapprove of as I have tried to define this affirmative sense of change and clarify how it is different in my efforts to appropriate his ideas and label the constants in his discussion. Oh, the postmodern trap.

Yet I think his ideas are very important. I'm going to follow a train of connections that is helping me understand Muckelbauer's different style of engagement with change (novelty, invention). His chapter 2 focuses on why he engages with rhetoric in his book, and in this discussion he charts the rise of rhetoric and postmodernism and their connections. He cites Stanley Fish's statement: "another word for anti-foundationalism is rhetoric" (25). So perhaps different styles of rhetoric may parallel Muckelbauer's different styles of engagement with the repetitious movement of dialectic. He has noticed a single style that seems to dominate, and he is saying another style (that is not just different) exists. This reminds me of Wayne Booth's discussion within The Rhetoric of Rhetoric of different kinds of rhetoric. He talks about "Win-Rhetoric" which is about "the intent to win at all cost" and then "Bargain-Rhetoric" which is likewise a form of "win-win" rhetoric (43-45). Both seem to operate via forms of negation. But he presents another approach to rhetoric that he calls "Listening Rhetoric" where "I am not just seeking the truth; I want to pursue the truth behind our differences" (46). For me, I see something of a parallel between Muckelbauer's affirmative style of invention and Booth's style of listening rhetoric. Both are responsive to the "other" and embrace difference and variation to provide insight (i.e. novelty, discover, invention).

More to come...