Pedestal as Canon

Sunday, July 24th, 2005

My friend Neha Bawa in a comment writes

Heck, there are times when I think that post-structuralists like nothing better than to sit around a square table (round is too structured for them, I think) and knock every [sic] theory against the wall either out of pure spite or complete laziness.

On the other hand, you’re talkin’ to a Lit major here…I would never reject that feast listed up there…but I would challenge the pedestal.

I would disagree with this. Post-structuralism as a large set of approaches–which include critiques of medicine, law, and literature–to reading “the world” has produced highly rigorous and interesting points of view: I find Foucault readable and interesting. As in any area of human affairs and talk, there are bound to be cranks, hacks, and opportunists. But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the work seriously. But I agree with Neha about challenging the pedestal, hence the call for other lists of “reader” points of view. This is why I don’t like top one hundred or top ten lists as totalizing paradigms. Perhaps the world does indeed stand atop an infinite stack of turtles (plugged metaphor).

2 responses to “Pedestal as Canon”

  1. susan says:

    While I, of course, am not about to make any scholarly suggestions, I too wonder about what criteria is used since there are truly so many ways of perceiving and appreciating a work, as Neha points out. Is a work reviewed by knowledgeable peers, and wouldn’t they use a different appreciation than someone who calls himself a literary reviewer or a scholar, or enthusiast?

  2. Neha says:

    When all else fails, structure comes to the rescue. Literary themes, poetic devices, valid social issues and human connectedness all play into deeming some books “greater” than others…yet the circle goes round n’ round. Yet at some point, all parameters seem arbitrary, no?

    In my mind, post-structuralists understand foundations, but challenge them. They understand “greatness”, but also know that by itself, the term is hollow. As are all words. As are all other things around us. The world is deeply connected in its search for meaning that can’t be found. What do I mean by all of this? Absolutely nothing.