Oddly enough, it seems simultaneously necessary and irrelevant for me to talk about myself at this point. I suspect it doesn't matter to you who I am, and perhaps you'd be suspicious of a page like this anyhow after I've raised concerns about getting past the implied author to the "real" author. On the other hand, it seems unfair for me to spend so much energy proposing a methodology of scholarship based on the individual, and then hide my own self-consciousness. I won't tell you too much about myself--just enough to shed some light on this project.
My own scholarship has been strongly influenced by my undergraduate discovery of poststructural thought. In particular, I was taken with Jacques Derrida, and the passion, spirituality, and longing that runs through writing that can initially seem very dry. Moments in his writing seemed to show that there was meaning and purpose behind all the play and chaos, and a reason to sift through it and have faith even when you couldn't be sure where that faith was directed. I picked up Thomas Pynchon and John Updike in a class on contemporary fiction, but we never really juxtaposed the two authors, although both of them seemed to me to be connected through a chase for something indescribable and continually deferred. My work gradually became more involved with trying to sift through a world that seemed random and haphazard, but still left room for me to have faith and to experience grace. My quest has taken a somewhat Romantic bent, and I suspect that this longing for a something has contributed greatly to my desire to pull personal experience, chaos, and contingency into a form of wisdom.
Speaking more physically, I'm currently in a master's program in American Studies at the University of Virginia, in a career path that's veering more and more towards the doctoral. Not surprisingly, then, I've chosen that field as the discipline through which to run my case study of the new approach. Our heavy training in web design has revealed new possibilities of communication to me. In some ways, what I've been thinking about since my undergraduate days could have been realized in any number of places and programs, but it wasn't; it was realized here, in a particular way in a particular place. The texts I've come to have not appeared completely randomly, and it has been through sifting out the narrative constructed through my program that I've begun to wonder about the nature of traditional linear constructions and methodologies. I also have to wonder, though, how I fit into the narrative. In arguing for such an individualized approach to scholarship, do I somehow just continue the standard American mythology? Have I just read Emerson's "The American Scholar" one too many times?
My first semester here, I wrote a paper examining the influence of social context on the political interpretations of music. I began by trying to focus on a very simple analysis of Jay-Z's version of "Hard Knock Life" and, after realizing what disparate views Jay-Z and I held, I found myself traveling through John Coltrane and Amiri Baraka. In unraveling it all, I discovered that my thoughts originated in the timing of my discovery of Jay-Z. I first heard "Hard Knock Life" while taking a class on the Civil Rights Movement, and my reading of this cross-racial covering was largely governed but my simultaneous consideration of musical performances of the 1960s. This discovery opened by eyes to the necessity of self-consciousness in research. I don't know how clearly I (or anyone else) can perform self-analysis, but I do believe that by relying on individual context and the contingencies of knowledge accumulation, we can greatly increase our possibilities for gaining wisdom.