Sketpicism and Autobiography: Don"t Be Too Sure...

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RonPrice
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Sketpicism and Autobiography: Don"t Be Too Sure...

Postby RonPrice » Sun Oct 19, 2008 8:00 am

A basis for sketpicism about how one sees one's life--I leave this with you all.-Ron Price, Tasmania :arrow:
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In spite of these complexities and enigmas of our lives, our past, the past, my past, has occurred. It has gone and can only be brought back again in thought by the autobiographer or by historians and social scientists working in very different media: in books, articles, documentaries, inter alia. The actual events, of course, can not be brought back. The past has gone, history is what historians make of it and autobiographers, too, when they go about their work. In Re-thinking History, Keith Jenkins describes history as “a discourse that is about, but categorically different from, the past.” And so it is that my autobiography is categorically different from my past. And so it is that my autobiography is not simply a telling of a series of critical incidents. As the present becomes the past, it too slips into my autobiography little by little day by day.

I interpret my past experiences, then, by means of a composition process involving my life in the present. It is a life that has adapted to, resisted and sometimes reached beyond the master narratives of the many dominant cultural and social institutions that have affected my life. And these institutions possess many master narratives which are inevitably woven into my personal story and my lived experience with and within these institutions. Motherhood, social class, industrialism, capitalism, socialism, democracy, religion, socialization, social control and authority are but a few of these institutions. Each of these institutions and many others have their own story and to write that story in a comprehensive and systematic way would lead to prolixity and such stories are beyond the compass of this narrative. This concept of "institution" associated with the above terms is part of the language of the field of sociology, a language, a discipline, I first came in contact with in 1963 and which has been part of my study and teaching program for over 40 years.

I could take each of these master narratives and focus or skew my autobiography as Jean Piaget did his series of autobiographies. In his study of Jean Piaget's life, Vonïche deals with the particularly interesting case of Piaget’s multiple autobiographical identities. Jean Piaget, the famous Swiss psychologist, wrote several autobiographies aimed at different audiences, thus presenting himself in different ways and on different scenes. In all of his autobiographies, Piaget is both the same and different. The facts are the same. The anecdotes are similar. But the outcome is entirely different. People use their autobiographies as a form of self-presentation that varies according to the target audience. They organize and re-organize the plots of their lives. According to the target audience, Piaget can be a post-Bergsonian metaphysician, a scientific psychologist, or a disillusioned philosopher turned scientist. And so is this target-oriented approach to autobiography an approach I use as well and perhaps at a future time I may develop it more fully. For now these 2500 pages in four volumes will have to suffice in all their heterogeneity and what many readers may find to be a blooming and buzzing confusion.

I have tried to avoid the telling of such a series of incidents, like vignettes, that concentrate upon episodes and especially those which identify specific life activities and practices. A real danger in this critical incident approach is that, if uncritically used, critical incidents and their respective literary accounts come to have a great and compelling explanatory power. This explanatory power exerts a conservative force on the overall narrative which cannot be underestimated. I like to think I have used critical incidents critically, conscious of their explanatory power, their affect on the overall narrative and, thus, placed them in this narrative in a balanced and judicious way.

I like to think I have done what Goodson advises autobiographers to do; namely, “to move from life stories to life histories, from narratives to genealogies of context, towards a modality that embraces stories of action within theories of context.” “In so doing,” Goodson suggests, “stories can be ‘located’, seen as the social constructions they are, fully impregnated by their location within power structures and social milieux.” For life is not all stories, not all a narrative.

As the distinguished historian E.H. Carr put it: “facts of the past exist independently of the mind of the historian, but historical facts are only those data selected from the past that a historian finds relevant to his or her argument. The historian can never know the past “as it really was,” but only how it might have been, since our information about the past is partial and inevitably mediated.” It seems to me this is true, a fortiori, of the autobiographer and the memoirist. Neither I nor the historian enjoys the scientist’s luxury of being able to conduct and replicate experiments about the past, my past, under controlled conditions. I can test one theory about my life against another theory, as can the historian about some aspect of history. This allows me as autobiographer, and historians as story-tellers, to develop theories that are more viable. But we can never establish the truthfulness, the validity, of that theory. History and autobiography are both attempts to explain our experience of the present by constructing a viable account of the past such that if it had taken place then the present we live in would be the case. History is not only an attempt to account for the way things were, but also to account for the way things are. George Landow writes: “at that point in human history when choices become so abundant, autobiography, the justification of one's choices, becomes increasingly important as a literary mode.” There is certainly much of this justification of my choices here.

Artists and writers, critics and thinkers, indeed, the entire intellectual apparatus of society of which this work is but an infinitessimal part is based on, finds its raison d’etre in, a vision of social agency and of creative process. If the term intellectual is a little too pretentious I am happy to use the term thinker. After living in Australia for 35 years I am not happy with the term 'intellectual'. As broadcaster Robert Dessaix discovered when he conducted interviews for a book and radio program on the topic, Australian intellectuals are wary of being called intellectuals. Unlike their French counterparts, "Any Australian whose name was included in a Dictionary of Australian Intellectuals would very likely sue for libel." For me, too, a more modest term is preferred if, indeed, a term is required for the process of what I am trying to do.

Whatever the terminology, my focus is a mixture of author-as-creative-individual, writer-as-literary-intellectual and historian-as-autobiographer. For an artist-writer to be an intellectual it is less important to have a theory of writing than to possess a vision of how their literary work might operate in society and to assume responsibility for it. For me this vision is expressed in a number of ways one of which is what might be called a new "sociological poetics" that "connects literary work to the outside world.” This vision is also expressed as an individual, personal, rendition of a Baha’i
interpretation of history and society.---I leave this to you--all you skeptics--food and fodder for your thought.-Ron Price, Australia :idea:
married for 48 years, a teacher for 32, a student for 18, a writer and editor for 16, and a Baha'i for 56(in 2015).

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Re: Sketpicism and Autobiography: Don"t Be Too Sure...

Postby surrounded » Mon Oct 20, 2008 1:55 am

:sleep:

Matthew Ellard
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Re: Sketpicism and Autobiography: Don"t Be Too Sure...

Postby Matthew Ellard » Mon Oct 20, 2008 2:11 am

RonPrice wrote:I leave this to you--all you skeptics--food and fodder for your thought.-Ron Price, Australia :idea:


Dear Ron, I haven't a clue why you posted here. You should post on literary forums. You should also consider keeping your posts to one brief paragraph.

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Re: Sketpicism and Autobiography: Don"t Be Too Sure...

Postby Flash » Mon Oct 20, 2008 10:11 pm

Ron.
You seem to be interested in the philosophy of history, eh? But I think your piece is a bit rambling and all over the place.
The now dead Japanese film director Kurosawa made an interesting movie ( I think it was Rashomon, although I am not sure) where a particular tragic incident is narrated four times by four different participants. In effect, the movie consists of four movies about the same historical "fact". All versions are credible and the viewer never finds out "the truth" because the point Kurosawa is making is that there is no such historical "truth".
When I feel like exercising, I just lie down until the feeling goes away. Paul Terry

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Re: Sketpicism and Autobiography: Don"t Be Too Sure...

Postby Matthew Ellard » Mon Oct 20, 2008 10:15 pm

Flash wrote:Ron.
You seem to be interested in the philosophy of history, eh? But I think your piece is a bit rambling and all over the place.
The now dead Japanese film director Kurosawa made an interesting movie ( I think it was Rashomon, although I am not sure) where a particular tragic incident is narrated four times by four different participants. In effect, the movie consists of four movies about the same historical "fact". All versions are credible and the viewer never finds out "the truth" because the point Kurosawa is making is that there is no such historical "truth".


Kurosawa stole the "four views of the same incident" from the Twilight Zone. I will try find the episode at lunch.

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Re: Sketpicism and Autobiography: Don"t Be Too Sure...

Postby Flash » Mon Oct 20, 2008 10:21 pm

Really? The old black and white Twilight Zone narrated by that serious guy in a suit Ron or Rod Sterling? Go and figure. :wink:
When I feel like exercising, I just lie down until the feeling goes away. Paul Terry

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Re: Sketpicism and Autobiography: Don"t Be Too Sure...

Postby Matthew Ellard » Mon Oct 20, 2008 10:32 pm

Flash wrote:Really? The old black and white Twilight Zone narrated by that serious guy in a suit Ron or Rod Sterling? Go and figure. :wink:


Rod Serling should be a national american hero! I can never work out if he was "nutty" or having fun. However he was a bright boy and he co-wrote the screen play for the original Planet of the Apes ( a fantastic anti-religious film). There is a fantastic opening scene in the Twilight Zone with Rod Serling at an airport introducing the show. The "Point of view" of the camera has a airport direction arrow going through Rod's head with the words "TERMINAL" written above. It is very funny.

A frenchman Pierre Boulle, wrote the original SF story "Monkey Planet" that became Planet of the Apes. He then wrote "Bridge over the River Kwai". What a strange frenchman to leap from SF philosophy to WWII drama, and excel in both. Yep, there are some good weird people on the planet.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rod_Sterling

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Re: Sketpicism and Autobiography: Don"t Be Too Sure...

Postby RonPrice » Fri Jan 22, 2010 10:53 am

Apologies for taking more than 15 months to get back to you but life is busy even in retirement--and I was not aware of the responses to my initial post. That post was probably a little long for many here as the feedback suggested. There are certainly many views of events in history making the whole idea of 'truth' difficult to pin down. That is why different organizations have what is sometimes called 'official' history. Then the question that arises is the legitimacy of the authority behind that history. I will leave this question for now and thank those who responded on this thread to my initial post.-Ron 8-)
married for 48 years, a teacher for 32, a student for 18, a writer and editor for 16, and a Baha'i for 56(in 2015).


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