Thursday, January 30, 2014

january 30

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Listen to the Music" by The Doobie Brothers; "Upside Down" by Jack Johnson]

My favorite elementary school announcement: "Free Play!" Little did I know then that "Free Play"is also a philosophical concept created by Jacques Derrida. Derrida argues that when there is no "center" or structure, that all ideas/actions are relative and "play" off of each other. Does your head hurt yet? No? Then let's apply this to Shakespeare: when Harry gives the St. Crispian's Day pre-game speech at the Battle of Agincourt, he depends on established rules ("Obey your king") and mutual/shared understandings of abstract concepts (honor, e.g.).  These shared structures are the reasons why none of the soldiers say, "Oh man, who cares? Who died and made you king? What's the point of existence anyway?" It's clear that everyone understands the rules of engagement and the central purpose for the fight, and the only question is whether they can rise to the occasion.  If they were in a state of "free play" the soldiers would be free to invent roles, use their organization for an altogether different purpose, or strike off on their own for any reason real or imagined (or absolutely no reason at all).

To summarize/simplify through gross over-generalization: To a child on a playground, "free play" means a fun opportunity for independent decision-making. To a philosopher, "free play" means that everything is relative and lacks structure.

When do you think structure is important, and when do you think lack of structure is important?  You may consider this in the context of literature, learning, or life outside the classroom.

1. Journal
2. Derrida's concept of Free Play
3. Discussion/application

1. Study & Reflect.  For tomorrow (Friday, 2.1) you should have a solid handle on the two Dickensian lectures, this week's lit terms, your lit analysis book, and Derrida's concept of structure/free play (so please at least read the Wikipedia entry and skim the Stanford Philosophy entry).
2. Reminder: finish your lit terms for tomorrow (Friday)
3. Reminder: finish literature analysis #1 for tomorrow (Friday) 


  1. I really enjoyed today's lecture! It would be nice to continue talking about it.... *hint* *hint*

  2. When I clicked on the Stanford link and the first thing I saw was "deconstruction," I laughed.

    Too bad I'm already biased against this thing, huh?

    1. Amazing to learn how effectively xkcd can shape your bias in 4 panels. Literature and philosophy have a strange role in our culture. They are arguably the most important "meta" disciplines we have; they attempt to extend our insight into the most abstract areas of thought, thought itself, and the way we communicate our thoughts. At the same time, they aren't (generally) money-makers, and they are easily misrepresented by/to people who don't have the vocabulary, reasoning skills, or ethics to master abstract theoretical frameworks. (It's worth noting that the foil in the comic isn't deconstruction or lit crit, but the students who can't tell the difference between a charlatan and a real expert.)