Lester Faigley and Aleister Crowley

I should be finished with Mankiw by Tuesday evening, I think, after which I’ll be able to start on Resnick and Wolff’s comparison of neoclassical and Marxian economic theories. Tonight, I’m taking a little break from Mankiw after going through a few chapters on macroeconomics, and taking Donna’s suggestion to look at Lester Faigley’s Fragments of Rationality. Faigley’s was actually the first monograph in composition that I’d read, when I was working on my MFA and had just been awarded a teaching assistantship, and was taking a comp theory seminar.

I think an aside is appropriate here. New to the field, I confused (as several people in my situation have done, from what I hear) Victor Vitanza with Victor Villanueva while trying to make a point in the abovementioned seminar. So there was a little mirth at my expense, and I was corrected. (People will say, “How could you? They’re so different!” To which I reply: well, I dunno; if you look at the Marxist angle… But really, it was the Vs. Just the Vs.) But anyway, it started a list for me, of people to never confuse with one another:

1. Victor Vitanza and Victor Villanueva.
2. Sade and Slade. (On a bin in the record store I frequented as a teenager, someone wrote, under “Slade”: “Pronounced Slar-Day.” And, yes, my musical tastes then were such that I was looking in the “Slade” bin.)
3. Patti Smith and Patty Smyth.
4. Alistair Cooke and Aleister Crowley.

You can add to the list, I’m sure.

Back on topic: needless to say, Faigley went completely over my head, and I don’t remember any of it, except that I thought the chapter on “The Networked Classroom” was kinda neat. I was also just finding out about folks like Foucault and Benjamin (my undergraduate days were, how to say, dissipative), so you can probably get an idea of what a big buzzing theory-muddle my head was. But I was enjoying it; I was learning more at one time than I ever had before. So: some initial thoughts on revisiting a barely-remembered Lester Faigley.

Faigley does a nice job in his introduction of summarizing the links between cultural and economic aspects of postmodernity, using Jameson and Debord to investigate the links between production and consumption that have shaped contemporary society. And, in fact, his first chapter is a brilliant condensation of many of the primary disputes in composition in the Eighties and Nineties, although given its bibliographical nature — he drops about umpteen billion names — it’s easy for me to see now why my head swam when I first read it.

Later in the chapter, he describes the tension at the beginning of the 1980s between “‘inner-directed’ theorists such as Flower and Hayes” and “‘outer-directed’ theorists” such as Patricia Bizzell, from whose (most excellent) essay “Cognition, Convention, and Certainty” (PRE/TEXT, 1982) he draws the following quotation: “thinking and language use can never occur free of a social context that conditions them” (Bizzell 217, qtd. on Faigley 31). I would say that I line up much more on the Bizzell side, but I also think that the fact of the material experience of class give that social context a spin back towards the inner-directed side. Finally, towards the end of the chapter, he takes several pages to rehearse the Habermas-Lyotard debate. There’s some interesting stuff there, which I’ll have to go back to tomorrow to make sure I understood, but it doesn’t seem all that connected to what I’m looking at with this research.

More interesting is Faigley’s early invocation of the rationale that students will have to write for their jobs as composition’s reason for existing. I still have trouble with this idea. This weblog itself, I want to say, stands to me as evidence that people write to learn, to figure things out, and not just to fire off a memo to marketing. Am I being na

Lester Faigley and Aleister Crowley