14 August 2007

Self Taught


Good stuff by k-punk on music journalisms relationship with theory, he can't be alone in getting into cultural theory via occasionally intellectually traumatic reviews and articles in the 'golden ages' of NME / MM etc (hate that phrase: these days must be someone's golden age mustn't it?)


One thing though, he argues that Ian Penman and Paul Morley were 'self taught intellectuals' and that phrase 'self taught' has always worried me: is it a valid concept where academia is concerned? I guess it's often used as a way of saying that someone hasn't been to University though it's hard to imagine a more 'self taught' environment than the University in the 80s/90s where attendance was optional and students were positively encouraged to just read the books. Of course, you were told which books to read - the reading list was it's own form of tyranny - but then which books you choose doesn't seem especially to do with the kernel of the self in any circumstances, more a function of parental guidance, peer groups, geography, newspaper choice (itself dependent on...).

If you'd been brought up with names like 'Foucault', 'Derrida', 'Bataille', 'Baudrillard' etc acting as almost magical words then clearly you're going to be curious about them when the time arises (i.e. when you've got the messy parts of adolesence out the way) or else they'll nag at you until you find time to seek them out (and this continues all your life - I'm still having a go at Deleuze and Guattari, years after The Wire have stopped mentioning them every other review). But, when I read these texts now does this make me 'self taught', simply by virtue of never being told what they're about? Never having them broken down or explained? And what if I start with one of those 'Introducing X' theory cartoon books?


And then we get to the original texts themselves - is my interpretation of them, whatever it might be or however close it gets to the 'intended meaning' (thorny psychoanalytical issues aside) a manifestation of my own self teaching? I'm puzzled because the book is teaching me isn't it? I'm not coming up with these thoughts myself. And in some ways the text itself is an even more insidious influence because when I read the words it's like they're my thoughts and can occasionally be mistaken as them, leading me to have to be careful to separate what I think from what they think. The text appears to be teaching me in a more subtle (and presumably more effective - because there are none of the natural barriers to social influence) way than some guy in elbow patches standing at the front and regurgitating notes.




5 comments:

St. Anthony said...

I liked to describe myself as an autodidact long before I ever got to university - it sounded much more satisfyingly poncey.
The NME was, once upon a time, a wonderful source of info ... picked up on Bataille and Robbe-Grillet through their pages ... in an interview with Kathy Acker, if memory serves.

P. Somniferum said...

It often seems that "popism" is simply a leisure outlet into which you can plug extraneous information.

You mentioned The Wire's haughty use of D&G in "every other review." You're right. And it was rather nauseating to say the least. So much of this is simply meant to impress the gullible...and it's a fucking shame, too. If more people could see through the likes of Tom Smith et al...folks would be a bit more skeptical and less inclined to fall stuttering, gushing in the constipated face of overarching theory, gross overstatement and redundancy.

Loki said...

p.somniferum - good point, well made but do you have anyone particular in mind who's gushing - you can't mean me? ;) i haven't gushed effectively in years...

redundancy, on the other hand, i do better than almost anyone I know...

P. Somniferum said...

Hi...no, nobody in particular. I think my plumbing may be run afoul as well.

info said...

This comment has been removed because it linked to malicious content. Learn more.

Related Posts with Thumbnails