I am inspired by the recent work of Kathleen Fitzpatrick. She has undertaken to share in public preliminary work about what I would call an academic ethics. She is working to flesh out what she calls “generous thinking”. Key to that generosity is the manner in which we listen. She writes:
I am primarily focused on the ways that we as professors and scholars communicate with a range of broader publics about our work. And some focused thinking about the ways we communicate with those publics is in order, I would suggest, because many of our fields are facing crises that we cannot solve on our own.
In case you think this turn to reflect on broader publics is facile, consider how it is characterized as difficult work:
But I want to acknowledge that adopting a mode of generous thinking is a task that is simultaneously extremely difficult and easily dismissible. We are accustomed to a mode of thought that rebuts, that questions, that complicates, and the kinds of listening and openness for which I am here advocating may well be taken as acceding to a form of cultural naïveté at best, or worse, a politically regressive knuckling-under to the pressures of neoliberal ideologies and institutions. This is the sense in which Rita Felski suggests that scholars have internalized “the assumption that whatever is not critical must therefore be uncritical.”
My own modest contribution to this dialogue is a comment riffing on humility as a way to recognize the experimental and the experiential as worthy objects of generous thinking.
Your invocation of humility brought to mind a formulation found in Catharine R. Stimpson. Where the Meanings Are: Feminism and Cultural Spaces: “humility, a recognition that the self cannot be an exemplum, only an experiment”. I am looking forward to reading more. I think that somewhere along the way you and your readers will be broaching the link between the experimental [which we associate with the sciences] and the experiential [which we associate with the performing arts] — the humanities seem to occupy the metadiscursive space that examines and comments upon the experimental and the experiential.
At the acuity of humility … a case to hear out…
And so for day 1750