Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A bonus post from EMcG?!

For classmates who were interested in some of the implications of THE EMBODIED MIND for literary criticism, I wanted to point you to the William Paulson book, THE NOISE OF CULTURE, which is on the recommended reading list for this course. I was giving Paulson the once-over as a potential source for a paper in another class, and came across the following:

“Biological science is becoming increasingly a science of information, a cybernetics of the living, a science of the codes, the order and disorder that interact to define autonomous living systems. The last concepts thought to be the special province of the humanists are, in their turn, becoming a part of the discourse of science, even as the humanists squabble over them in a debate uninformed by science and dominated by positions of traditionalism and nihilism.” (28)

and

“…if we remain intimidated concerning the prospects for extracting knowledge from a literary discourse that we all know how to deconstruct, we would do well to consider this remark by the theoretical biologist Francisco Varela: ‘Our knowledge, including science, can be accurately empirical and experimental, without requiring for it the claim of solidity or fixed reference.’ That is the closure of Western metaphysics, understood in its productive rather than its deconstructive dimension. If knowledge, and scientific knowledge, can do without fixed reference, then the rigorous and justifiable questioning of the referentiality of literature’s language need not lead us to view literary discourse as a formalism removed from the world….” (29)

Although I haven’t given him a thorough reading, I was intrigued to see a literary critic exploring some ideas from cognitive science (operational closure, autopoiesis) as early as 1988 (and quoting some of Varela's earlier work w/ Maturana), so I wanted to call your attention to/re-recommend the book.

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