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[Xmca-l] Re: Winn's Exploring the Literate Trajectories of Youth across Time and Space
OK, I hit send accidentally. To continue:
From: Peter Smagorinsky
Sent: Monday, March 30, 2015 4:02 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: RE: [Xmca-l] Re: Winn's Exploring the Literate Trajectories of Youth across Time and Space
I'm going to do some exploratory thinking here, so please pardon the half-baked nature of what follows (half-baked is a long-time value on xmca in its embrace of thoughts in emergent process).
Winn's article has gotten little traction as a discussion topic, so I'll combine it with something that's gotten even less attention, an article that someone (Annalisa, I think) sent awhile back and that I'm re-attaching here.
I'm focusing on the early section about Ilyenkov's notion of the ideal, which I can't say I completely grasp. So please bear with me as I grope my way through this effort to link the two articles. I'll paste in the section of the attachment that I see as potentially, if I'm getting this right, helpful in understanding Winn's essay:
Although there is a considerable literature in the West that focuses on
the rôle of language in the social production of consciousness, what sets Ilyenkov apart is
his distinction between language and the ideal. For Ilyenkov, language is not the ideal, but
its ‘objectified being’,27 its material form. he ideal does not exist in language for Ilyenkov,
or in other material phenomena, but in forms of human activity. His entry on the ideal in
the 1962 encyclopædia-article defines it as ‘the subjective image of objective reality, i.e. a
reflection of the external world in forms of human activity, in forms of its consciousness
and will’.28 One can think of the ideal as the significance that matter assumes in the process
of its transformation by human activity. In other words, it is only in-and-through human
activity that matter takes on the character of an object with significance.
To be clear, Ilyenkov was not referring only to parts of the material world that individuals
directly transform, but to all matter that society comes ‘in contact’ with. Idealisation is, for
him, a social phenomenon. In the same encyclopædia-entry, he wrote:
An ideal image, say of bread, may arise in the imagination of a hungry man or of
a baker. In the head of a satiated man occupied with building a house, ideal bread
does not arise. But if we take society as a whole, ideal bread and ideal houses are
always in existence, as well as any ideal object with which humanity is concerned
in the process of production and reproduction of its real, material life. his
includes the ideal sky, as an object of astronomy, as a ‘natural calendar’, a clock,
and compass. In consequence of that, all of nature is idealised in humanity and
not just that part which it immediately produces or reproduces or consumes in a
>From this perspective, all matter appears in individual consciousness already transformed
and idealised by the activity of previous generations, and this ideal informs the individual’s
activity in the present.
OK, back to me. What I'm wondering is this: Is "literacy" idealized differently in the two communities of practice (school and outside-school)? In school, at least formally, literacy is idealized as the "proper" use of language in textual production and composition, with only the most formal versions acceptable as evidence of literate performance. Adherence to formal rules is the only way to meet the scholastic ideal. At the same time, as soon as kids leave class and go into the hall, other ideals become available, at least for 5 minutes of passing time.
Outside school, the whole world of literacy possibilities become available, with many ideals to guide production. The discourse genres that govern spoken word performances for the communities of practice that Winn focuses on are one possibility, but there are countless possibilities that suit different trajectories.
Well, hope that makes some sense. I'm entirely open to the possibility that I've misunderstood Ilyenkov in seeking a way to understand him via Winn. As we say in the South: What do y'all think? p