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.

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