RE: [xmca] my new questions

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at>
Date: Wed Feb 13 2008 - 16:53:21 PST

Dear Carrie and Vesna (Hi, Mike!)
  I was very interested in everything you had to say about role playing and performance, and I really wish that Carrie had been there last night when a (relatively) famous literary critic Hazard Adams got up and said that there was no real difference between the fiction of an insurance agent (or for that matter a famous literary critic) and one of Browning's dramatic monologues (and he then proceeded to prove this untrue, by telling us "true" stories from his childhood).
  I don't know if you've been following the thread on neoformations, but this is definitely relevant. As I said over on that thread, LSV cites several "critical" ages with neoformations which apparently have a catalytic function, because they completely disappear. For example, babbling disappears with the crisis at age one, and negativism with the crisis at age three.
  With the crisis at seven we are never really told what the critical neoformation is, but we are told that the crisis involves "the loss of childish directness", and this appears to be exactly what Vesna is describing.
  There's this passage in Salman Rushdie's "Midnight's Children" where he's describing the magicians who work the bazaar in Kalkota. Being good communists, they are all dialectical materialists, and consequently do not believe in magic (but what can you do? It's been our family's profession for generations!"). So the magicians spend their days bending reality back and forth without ever forgetting what it "really" is.
  Of course this passage is compatible with several explanations, and the reader is invited to choose whichever she or he finds most improbable, but one suspects that Rushdie is NOT a materialist. We know, at the very least, that he is not a Bakhtinian, or if he is one he is a very ironic one, because he has himself appear in the role of God in the "Satanic Verses".
  I think the explanation I find most improbable, and therefore most compelling, is that there really is something developmentally useful about hypostatizing certain regularities of behavior as a concrete and fairly rigid role. I don't say that it is truthful. I say that it is developmentally useful.
  We know that words like "depth", "breadth", "height" and even "growth" refer to no actual object or even definite thing; they are actually adjectives that have been hypostatized as nouns. "Acceleration" is actually the hypostatization of a hypostatization. But without it Newtonian mechanics would be quite impossible.
  Similarly, we know that novels (with their overbearing narrators who insist on infiltrating every character's thoughts and actions) are hypostatizations, and not lives; the implied theory of experience behind a (monologic) novel says that a whole universe is in some way representable within a single consciousness (if not that of the hero then that of the author). But we also know that they make possible MORE dialogue and more actual intersubjectivity than even a very long and very drama. They make possible dialogic novels (like Dostoevsky's and Rushdie's).
  I'm not so sure what it means to say that performances have more childish directness than later role plays. Does it mean that performances somehow acknowledge their fictionality and role plays do not? That gesture is more "honest" than language? Most importantly, doesn't it mean that it's impossible for the child to create masks and imaginary friends that are independent of physical actions?
  It seems more developmental and even more magical for children to have fiction in a form that allows them to bend it this way and that without forgetting what it really is. What was it Oscar Wilde said? "Ask a man a question and he'll tell you a lie. Give him a mask and he'll tell you the truth."
  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education

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Received on Wed Feb 13 16:55 PST 2008

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