from whence to where?

This is my required question for Lisa’s course on Class Cultures.
Where my head is with all of the above is the convergence among curriculum in all my classes and in my head around the mediated construction of subjectivity.
My question is influenced by the lecture given by historian Dipesh Chakrabartty at Mt. Holyoke on Thursday, 10/28. He talked about two impulses informing historical work that parallel our discussions about embodiment. One impulse is disembodied and leans toward rational, objectivizing distance – essentially (it seems to me) a variant of Bourdieu’s principle of aesthetic distance. The other impulse is embodied – the desire to “inhabit” the past one is exploring, to engage the senses. His argument was that historians need to be more self-reflexive about protecting some of the necessary distance in order to employ a degree of rationality while being responsive to the embodied forms of mass media and certain forms of democracy that have produce different, non-Habermasian publics.

So, in reading about literature and the kinds of subjectivities it instigates (Radways’ Book-of-the-Month Club, Rich’s Reader’s Digest Condensed Books) in terms of analytical, rationalizing, objectivizing ways-of-thinking (illustrated by McElya and Spigel)…I’m wondering about a form of intellectual anachronism (for lack of another way to say it) – a kind of insistence on promoting the “aesthetic distance” that disembodies, that attempts to bracket out our own subjectivity as part/parcel of our work: our interests, desires, the forms they take, the topics we select, the momentum along our own class/race/gender trajectories that is perpetuated by the ways we construct knowledge through emphasizing literature and reading as such foundational influences – even necessities of an intellectual life. My question is, is this a “backward” focus that is more relevant to certain generations? And, if so, when might one draw an historical line that maps a shift (or shifts) in “foundational influences”?

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