Contingency and the Individual Context : Playing at Scholarship

Cober, Justin Matthew , Department of English, University of Virginia
Howard, Alan, Department of English, University of Virginia
Sullivan, John, Department of English, University of Virginia

In this project, I examine ways to enhance scholarship by utilizing individual context and the contingency of knowledge accumulation. I explore some of the problems that contemporary academics face, including the dangers of paradigm entrapment. An over-reliance on paradigmatic views can prevent new ways of thinking. I believe that this over-reliance causes us to simplify our conceptions of the world and to miss important questions. Drawing on the works of Thomas Kuhn and Gene Wise, I consider new possibilities to approach academic work, and suggest that a heightened sense of self-awareness and a functional use of seemingly arbitrary relationships can greatly aid our critical thinking. One way to do work in this way involves forming a triangulation between two juxtaposed texts and ourselves. From this perspective, we can examine our relationship to each independent text, their relationship to each other, and the effects of these two relationships on our thinking. In the work of Umberto Eco, particularly in Travels in Hyperreality, I find some aspects of the type of criticism I call for. Eco utilizes his personal context quite self-consciously in developing his arguments. Although I recognize the dangers of assuming the integrity of the "real" Umberto Eco, I use his work to show the possibilities of my argument. I also examine the effects of my context on my own work, and provide a sample paper on Jay-Z and John Coltrane as an example of how effectively examining one's context can greatly influence one's work. In a separate section of my project, I provide a demonstration of my argument in action. I create a paragraph in which every group of words links to a new site, usually a pre-existing hypertext or a critical page of my own creation. Through these links, I can both demonstrate my view of the learning process and also provide my readers with a chance to create their own work based on my seemingly haphazard juxtapositions. I conclude that we must use our context and contingent relationship to develop fresh thought.

MA (Master of Arts)

Originally published on the XRoads site for the UVA American Studies program. Years range from 1995-2005. Content is captured at the level of functionality available on the date of capture.

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