Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Jameson on the politics of culture and pedagogy

The presupposition here is that undergraduates -as more naive or unreflexive reader (which most of us are also much of the time) -never confront a text in all of its material freshness; rather, they bring to it a whole set of previously acquired and culturally sanctioned interpretive schemes, of which they are unaware, and through which they read the texts that are proposed to them. This is not a particularly individual matter, and it does not make much difference whether one locates such interpretive stereotypes in the mind of the student, in the general cultural atmosphere, or on the text itself, as a sedimentation of its previous readings and its accumulated institutional interpretations: the task is to make those interpretations visible, as an object, as an obstacle rather than a transparency, and thereby to encourage the student's self-consciousness as to the operative power of such unwitting schemes, which our tradition (i.e. the Marxist tradition) calls ideologies... all of the [usual interpretive schemes that students acquire in contemporary societies] find their functional utility in the repression of the social and the historical, and in the perpetuation of some timeless and ahistorical view of human life and social relations. To challenge them is therefore a political act of some productiveness. The reading of novels is to be sure a specialized and even elite activity; the point is, however, that the ideologies in which people are trained when they read and interpret novels are not specialized at all, but rather the working attitudes and forms of the conceptual legitimation of this society. One may of course come at these ideologies in other, more specifically political (or economic) situations; but they can just as effectively and sometimes even more strikingly be detected and confronted in that area seemingly so distant from and immune to politics which is the teaching of culture.
-Fredric Jameson, "Interview with Leonard Green, Jonathan Culler, and Richard Klein" from Diacritics 12:3 (1982)

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