As Jonathan Culler explains, theoretical writing ought to delve into fields of study beyond that which it may superficially appear to discuss. In a wonderful and enlightening parallel, he does the same in discussing theory while also alluding to psychological occurrences, linguistic styles and patterns, and the construction of cultural and/or societal norms and expectations – all of which I personally (and the public, too, I believe) am at times conscious and at other times blissfully oblivious.
Foucault’s “revision of the history of sexuality” and Derrida’s interpretation and analysis of Rousseau’s logic, supplemental in their roles as mere examples, alone challenged me to further meditation and mental debate. My highlighter hovered in mid-air – to highlight or not to highlight? Derrida’s specific conclusions were not, after all, Culler’s focus; instead, Culler sought to utilize the broader example of Derrida’s argument and presentation as a whole. But, the other voice whispered, what valuable information and rhetorical insight to overlook and abandon to pure black and white oblivion, unobstructed by attention-catching neon! And Foucault, why, his reflections on sexuality and society, which mutually influence each other in an endlessly cyclical pattern, brought back multiple lessons from my sole psychology course, “Principles of Behavior,” as well as an honors cultural visions seminar titled “Language and Identity: Gender.” The seminar especially emphasized the way in which language and society shape, maintain, and reflect the other, much in the same way as sexuality (in and of itself) and society’s conception of sexuality shape, maintain, and reflect the other.
Do you see my problem? The examples were so engaging and intrigued me to the extent that I had to constantly remind myself not to lose sight of Culler’s focus on theory and its multi-faceted approaches and purposes.
In addition, the four emerging characteristics of theory are strikingly scientific, particularly the third and fourth. Essentially, we assume nothing – no concept, idea, nor opinion. We must constantly question and assess the level of inquiry at which we find ourselves, and from there we must look beyond to the level on which our present level is founded. In some strange way, I revel in the idea that theory is endless. It both entices us to delve deeper, discuss more, and yet at the same time, these questions only result in more questions. The further we go, the further we have left to go. This journey appears both daunting and promising in its lack of concrete discoveries.
The proverbial journey is greater than the ultimate destination. Discourse, rather than the final conclusions and impressions, is the root of my passion for literature and its study. The myriad of arguments, perceptions, interpretations, and analyses presented in discourse on works of art, their context, and their construction enrich the process, which fulfills my ultimate goal (as opposed to a goal of working to form a single coherent conclusion or agreement).