Wednesday, December 07, 2005

musings on a central brain...

It is difficult for me to talk about a central brain at this stage of the semester because I seem to have no brain at all (or maybe I have reached a higher state of emptiness? Er, I doubt it somehow...)

Anyway, I'd like to congratulate myself for learning enough this semester to understand what our esteemed professor was writing about; I'd like to congratulate our esteemed professor for writing so clearly on a topic that poses some central questions that I have to negotiate for probably the rest of my professional life. Now that I am finishing my paper, I'd like to pick up on one of the "challenges to an ecological theory of composing" (200):

"If complex systems are not controlled by a central "brain" or processor, how do some agents - particular readers, writers or texts, for instance - come to have a greater influence on such systems and why?" (200)

Now here's a thorny question. My own paper (were there time to rewrite it) would focus on this very topic. My particular area is historical in nature, so the recovery of an ecological environment is almost impossible (before tomorrow at 5pm, at any rate). Shore would argue that we focus on culture and the symbolic realm because of the legacy of Victorian ideas of evolution. I would amend this argument to say this: cultural historians focus on the level of symbol because that's all they have, in many cases. To develop an ecological network can ever only be incomplete when it comes to historical texts. Yet, if a cultural historian is to be honest, he or she must look for some "central brain" that pushes through the culture, particularly in charged atmospheres (colonial Ireland being my particular hotbed of intrigue). If you introduce power structures into the equation, it is REALLY difficult for me to say that a particular cultural form is ecological in nature when a central brain like the English colonial system is coming down on the historical situation like a ton of bricks.

Of course, in my paper I have said that my topic is ecological in nature. And I believe it. But to argue that I have literally had to leave 700 years of colonial history out of my 15 pages. If I got into that quagmire, you probably wouldn't see me for the next decade, and I would probably be waving to you from the bottom of a whisky bottle.

I suppose that I see a chasm between the theory and putting it into practice when there is an absolutely overwhelming psychic trauma going on in a culture and there is very little chance of creating a genuine ecological situation because the information is simply not available. Even if you look at something ecologically in such a charged atmosphere, then the charged atmosphere will inevitably win, and somehow the symbolic argument and the ecological will end up looking the same, ie colonialism was bad, bad, bad, and you can see that everywhere in the culture.

I know that this totally simplistic. But as I said, I have no brain at this stage of the semester. Now, where IS that whisky bottle...?


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