What I try to instill in my grad students and post-docs is the idea that theory-talk is just another tool for trying to make sense of the complicated shitte you are trying to understand. On the one hand, it is impossible to examine any object–a text, organism, physical system, etc–without having some conceptual framework, and so talking about theory is just making explicit that which would otherwise be implicit. On the other hand, if you excessively reify your theory, you blind yourself to empirical reality that is inconsistent with your theory.

So theory is a tool, and one needs to be careful about how that tool is used, and be aware of the limitations of the tool.

If you want to talk about theory with some humanities peeps, go here.


  1. Cuttlefish says

    If I could gold-plate the last sentence of your first paragraph, or have it tattooed on my students’ writing hands, I think I might just be a little bit too powerful. But I want to do that.

  2. Olav says

    I do have to wonder how much of your weblogge-persona actually seeps through in your teaching. Those are probably very interesting courses.

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