Tuesday, May 1, 2012

On Feeling Naive (as an Experimental Rhetorical Carpenter)

This post is an aside about feeling naive while doing the work of rhetorical carpentry.

Because we are colleagues, I had the pleasure of discussing my "Alien Relationships" experiment with Devin Johnston, whose Creaturely and Other Essays both partially inspired the experiment and provided the text I sampled in it. (Creaturely is surely an alien phenomenology.) Talking with him over a beer, I described how I felt composing the project and how anxious I was about making it public (and for more reasons than just fishing for a complement). I said that I felt silly and awkward. I felt like a naive sophomore enrolled in his first creative writing class.
My son's "collection" as he calls it. Full of sticks, leaves, pine cones,
and chunks of stone and brick, this collection is full of wonder. Ian
Bogost argues that wonder has two senses: "it can suggest awe or
marvel" and "it can mean puzzlement or logical perplexity" (121).
"The act of wonder," Bogost writes, "invites a detachment from
ordinary logics, of which human logics are but one example" (124).

As a successful creative writer, Devin's perspective is especially valuable. So I was rather pleased when he said how glad he was to hear that I was feeling that way: feeling silly and naive indicates productively (if not successfully) moving out of your comfort area. He then went on to describe his own process of writing the essays in Creaturely: how hard he worked to get the essays to approach, without appropriating, other creatures.

This conversation helped me a great deal and I share it because I think it might be helpful to others interested in experimenting with rhetorical carpentry. Carpentry is going to be hard, it's going to feel silly and weird: carpentry will be naive and full of wonder, which Bogost makes much use of in Alien Phenomenology (see the above picture taken of my son's "collection"). My conversation with Devin has also got me thinking about the possible value of team-ups or at least of leaning on our colleagues. I think carpentry might be an interesting, if not inherently, interdisciplinary venture. How might rhetorical carpentry be a good way to make things together?

1 comment:

  1. For some reason this reminds me of the opening scene in The Last Temptation of Christ, where Jesus, in his carpentry shop, is fashioning crucifixes commissioned by the Roman authorities, for the moment perfectly (un?)aware of the irony.

    Careful about your conclusion, though: it sounds like you might walk backwards into thinking the dialectic would be an interesting method! --