Thursday, May 19, 2005

One of the great things about journaling, blogging, scribbling, whatever, is the freedom. The invitation to just write, and not cite, not work out every detail of the argument, not worry so much about how others are going to read what you write. I worked on my Scott McCloud big triangle paper for about two hours this morning, and I added material, but as I started adding I immediately started wondering--am I going to deep? Will my readers get lost in the detail.

Then I thought about pulling back, and all I could imagine is all the readers / listeners saying, "what about X, what about y"? Tricky stuff, this writing. It seems to me that eventually I get locked in--I figure out the right amount of detail, I settle on a dominant or likely audience, and then I stick to a game plan. Not always easy, and I often switch my game plan too frequently. I have gotten better at saying to myself, "well, those are just two different papers, both equally good, both do-able."

I actually had a few moments this morning wondering just how big the McCloud project could be. His critics have complained about his theory or description of "involvement," and that topic alone could be worth a chapter in a book. I was writing about that last night in my non-posted 10 minute spew. I keep thinking about Kurt Spellmeyer's little phrase that art calls us and media feeds us--that seems like a chapter or full blown essay that he condensed into a single pithy phrase. I keep thinking about "taste," too: high art and low art used to be so clearly(?!) or at least vigorously defended, but that distinction is increasingly fuzzy. The modern invention of rhetoric, in one version of its history, offered up the cultivation of taste as an appropriate and necessary antidote to the emergence of the modern market / capitalist system. The father of modern economics, Adam Smith, was also a modern rhetorician/philsopher who developed a whole treatise on "moral sentiments".

McLuhan is an interesting example of one of the first modern scholars, despite his Cambridge PhD, to not openly reject the bad taste of popular culture in the way that his contemporary Northrop Frye did. What the heck does that have to do with McCloud? Comics, I guess, are still trying to get out from under the bad taste label.


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