The dangers of starting with and stopping at critique

I'm reading margery wolf's book, "a thrice told tale: feminism, postmodernism, and ethnographic responsibility." Just 14 pages in, one chapter finished, and I can sense my frustration with some of her discursive maneuvers - e.g. Reifying th existence of the other; adherence to "first-world"/"third-world" dichotomizing; pragmatism of ethnographer's authority; difficulty with assuming too reflexivity... It is the same skepticism, I suspect, that a statistician may feel upon reading narrative accounts of

But having been a reader for most of my life - an equally voracious reader of academic texts and those not intended as academic texts (but of course that is quite a blurry line...) - I know to keep my skepticism and discomfort at bay, so that I don't stop reading or, worse, make judgments and assumptions on text I have not consumed or interpreted. This is a danger that plagues not only some of the youth with whom I spend time - "Ugh. This is stupid! The author doesn't know what he's talking about." - but some of the graduate students who opt to take the classes I teach - "This research is offensive and clearly perpetuating negative stereotypes." When we are stuck in the paralysis of critique, it becomes difficult to find a way out. I have erroneously suggested a close re-reading, but as I am newly aware of my own paralytic tendencies, I realize that such a close (re)reading can only be effective if one's reading posture - metaphorical, but perhaps also literal, e.g. from hunched over a table to relaxing on the couch - retains a sense of possibility.

What is the author trying to say? What other texts and discourses are present in the authors' words and assumptions? How is the author using evidence, narrative structure, and language to convey an argument? What do you have to believe in order to take the author at her word?

We lose, it seems to me, our appreciation for the ontological underpinnings for the texts we engage daily. We are poised to agree and disagree. To critique and put down. To point out flaws and shortcomings. We are woefully underprepared - or perhaps unwilling - to consider the possibility of other realities, and to meaningfully engage with others' texts. Such "paralysis by critique" is evident in the overzealous student eager to participate in what s/he assumes is the only tradition of academic discourse; a subway rider expressing disdain for a young man's practice of quietly singing along with his mp3 player; a poltical pundit unable to cede the floor for anyone else's opinion to be heard; and on and on.

Maybe we all just need to learn how to read and appreciate reading (again). Although for some it may be the first time, especially as new reading curricula are stripped of appreciation - a recent casualty being, of course, the beloved "Reading Rainbow"...

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