Carrying the Ball Around

On the elliptical Thursday, lolling slowly-idly through spacetime (i.e., winding across 3+ miles, ending up nowhere). Reeaading Elbow’s “The Doubting Game and the Believing Game–An Analysis of the Intellectual Enterprise,” the well-known appendix essay in Writing Without Teachers (1973) and an essay I am considering assigning for the first meeting of ENGL516 next month. In a future entry, I may have more to say about the essay, its premises, and whether anyone still reads it or finds the believing/doubting dialectic useful anymore. But it’s this passage on basketball that (today) still strikes me as odd-fitting:

If you are playing basketball and someone starts carrying the ball around without dribbling or keeping score wrong, what you do next is not part of the game but part of real life. You can shoot him, you can try to have him locked up, you can cry, you can say you won’t play with him tomorrow, or you can try to persuade him to start playing again by talking to him. Here, I think, believing game has an inherent advantage over the doubting game. The activity of the believing game (trying to share perceptions and experiences) is more likely than the activity of the doubting game (trying to find holes in the other person’s view) to keep people willing to talk to each other if the game breaks down. (174-175)

This must be a pick-up game.  There are no referees, no arbitrators of the game’s rules outside of the game itself. In fact, decorum is, in this case, so delicately kept by participants in the game that it is possible, if anyone in the game decides it is the best solution, to shoot the rule-breaker. That the miskept score or the carrying of the ball would warrant–under any circumstances–shooting the rule-breaker creates dissonance with the idea of hermeneutic propriety (the gains to be had in a generous intellectual manner more willing to try on ideas than to rush into critique). So it’s the extremism of the scenario that, in this particular passage, distracts me from the larger point Elbow seeks to make. The point is that the believing game could restore basketball-rationality to the scene. But it is startlingly difficult to believe these alternatives to verbal negotiation.  Locking up the rule-breaker? Crying? This list leaves me with doubts about whether the believing game holds up when absurd, hyperbolic alternatives enter into play.  Another way: do absurdity and hyperbole gain traction in the predominance of a doubting manner?

E Pluribus Trivium

I wrapped up Scholes’ Rise
and Fall
on Monday morning while I was waiting in the auto shop. 
Since then, I’ve been reconsidering it from a distance–the full displacement
brought on by a hearty paper load, full-time work, and other important
stuff-o-life.  I keep coming back to a few basic ideas set up by Scholes in
chapter four, "A Flock of Cultures."  Throughout, Scholes uses a
split chapter system, so, for example, chapter four has a postlude called
"assignment four" in which he details–in practical terms–an
application of much of the theorizing he summons in the early portion of the
chapter.  Before the "assignment" section, he proposes a
design  for a general education curriculum parsed into grammar,
and rhetoric. Scholes introduces this threesome under the
heading, "A Trivial Proposal."  He’s having fun with the
connotations of "trivial,"
enlisting it as something of lesser consequence (than the Western Civilization
and Great Books canonical approaches) and also as a modern resurrection of the
medieval model for foundational education–the basis preceding advanced
scholarship in "arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music." He
explains the subtle differences between each of the course-types.  For grammar,
a course called "Language and Human Subjectivity" would comb over
pronoun usage and alienation in language structures.  A second grammar
course would concern "Representation and Objectivity." 
Anthropological perspective, ethnography, the objective discourses pervasive in
the observational sciences: these would be done up in this second grammar
course.  For rhetoric, he suggests a course on "Persuasion and
Mediation," which "would obviously include the traditional arts of
manipulation of audiences but would also point toward the capacities and limits
of the newer media, especially those that mix verbal and visual textuality to
generate effects of unprecedented power" (125).  To round this one
out–and because Scholes spends relatively little time on it–I would toss in technology

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