Last year, I was involved in a wonderful seminar made possible by an Andrew W. Mellon grant to lead a graduate research seminar, Mapping Death. One of the stipulations of the seminar was that it had to be interdisciplinary. The question that arose for me is how do I run a seminar on a topic - in this case Mapping Death - when the individual fellows weren't going to be working on the same project or be in the same field? I resolved this problem by making method and theory our common ground - to share how our different fields approach our subjects.
This turned out to be very rewarding as I hope the
I put up last year showed. I worked very hard to critique the historical approach I was trained in, and to try to develop some kind of approach that would allow movement out of the postmodern no man's land where the author is dead and texts relate to texts as the reader fancies.
In this post, I want to lay out some of the serious questions I have about historical critical studies as I look to move forward with my approach which I am calling Network Criticism:
- What does it mean to the historical enterprise when texts are forced to fit the logic of a modern person, when modern logic is privileged at the expense of the logic of the subjects themselves?
- What does it mean to the historical enterprise when historians snag what they can from the sources to construct systems of backgrounds, influences and linear causal developments that may never have existed in history?
- What does it mean to the historical enterprise when we construct an author’s intent, and then understand this construction as primary and authoritative?
- What does it mean to the historical enterprise when we understand the message of the text to be separate from the extended conversation that the text was part of and fueled?
- What does it mean to the historical enterprise when we treat texts as disembodied discourses, as intellectual histories with no real connection to the material human beings who produced them – to their tangible material bodies or to the material culture they inhabited?