a politics of reading and writing

For the term [litter] is defined by contrast to human neatness and orderliness in the first instance and to human projections of order in the universe in the second. If litter is an anthropocentric projection, so are the words law, order, and neatness when applied to the world. [William James] also picks out the term to suggest that it tells us something essential about our relation to both our desks and the larger world. Our experience of the world is more comparable to the relation we have to our desks in the middle of a project than to the desk after the project has been completed. There are always subterranean energies, volatilities, and flows that exceed our formal characterizations of being. (William Connolly)

The (classic) polished and published essay or book is one of the most prevalent lies pedaled in academic and literary circles. As is the (classic) polished and complete work of art. Or the neat correlations presented in social, political, and economic statistics. Polish renders invisible the constitutive litter of the creative process. Or, in other words, it hides the confusion, failures, gaps, hesitancies, and frustrations that animate, punctuate, and halt the creative-productive process. Drafting, re-drafting, editing, and polishing may all be vital elements of such a creative process, but it can also have the effect of rendering material inaccessible or unachievable. That is, a potential reader will either not read a paper (say) because it appears too dense or difficult, or read it and ascribe to the author an unachievable level of greatness (“genius”). This is a politics of reading and writing, and it is ripe for challenge and resistance.  

As I begin the process of researching and writing my PhD, I wanted to create a space where this “litter” could be at least partially on display. A space where I could share research and thoughts-in-progress, or conjoined projects, or completely un-conjoined projects. Hesitancies, frustrations and all. Some material might “make it” to the completed PhD, some might not, or perhaps the process will result in a reorientation or abandonment of the project. That can’t be predicted in advance. Hopefully, some interesting things will happen along the way.

Here is where I’ll share whatever it is I find interesting at the time. It could be, like now, a reflection on a quote. It could be an update from a conference, or an idea for a PhD chapter. Even if there is only one reader (me), it will, at least, constitute the building of an organic timeline of research-in-progress. Messy and full of litter.

Conor Heaney