@ Narrative – on connections

I spent the last few days in St Louis for the International Conference on Narrative. The paper presentations I listened to were all very thought-provoking for a variety of reasons, but in particular I find myself thinking about Amy Elias‘s presentation about dialogics in our current cultural moment. Her ideas intersect with mine, and that of many others too. In her presentation she noted that critical, aesthetic, and philosophical discourses today are permeated with terms that underscore the shared, dialogic, and relational. She outlined three viewpoints of how these terms from various disciplines intersect that ranged from formal to relational dialogics. Obviously, there are many ways of configuring what the relationship of the arts and larger culture is, and how both “high” and “popular” expressive forms engage the social, the interactive, and the relational. Interestingly, Elias links this to the other large trend in scholarship today: the transnational, global, and/or planetary. I find the possible link between the localized and communal (even at a possible planetary scale) to be revealing and the obvious popular place to see this is social media.

Right now, I am sitting in a NY café. And of course it is full of people sitting in front of their laptops. Although the comment has been made over and over, the link between the possible “interconnectedness” between each individual and the world through the Internet (if indeed that is what she or he is doing), and the disconnect between each of us in this physical place is astounding in its ordinariness. That leads me to again ponder about the quality and nature of the relational and interactional that Elias observes in critical discourse (and I completely agree with her). What is it that we are interacting with? Is it simultaneously an autoerotic connection, through others, really a connection to ourselves? The theories of the post-postmodern have emphasized as a point of difference between the postmodern and that which has now come after, the wish to reconnect to the human, what it is to be human, and how we can connect to each other. While authors such as David Foster Wallace seemed to relate to that issue with some trepidation and skepticism (“Fiction’s about what it is to be a fucking human being“), others seem to revel in the possibility of an almost transcendent quality of inter-human connections, however brief, transient or shallow (an interesting example of this is Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate).

And here the tapping of fingers on keyboards continue and the only sounds are the music, the coffee machine, and the staff calling out orders…

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