When the cubes of ice intended for a refreshing lemonade (or a more severe potable against academic malaise) melt while we are explaining to a student who has telephoned that his or her "C" is only a letter, a convenient form explaining nothing deeply relevant about his or her psyche, we grasp a notion of the arbitrariness of form.If there is a solution to this problem, I'd love to know it. On a slightly more substantial note (though not much of one), Baker's book is excellent not only because of the quality of his argument, but also because it is filled with passages like the above that demonstrate his lightness of touch even with his most complex material (this passage appears in the midst of his definition of the strategy of "mastery of form"--exemplified by Booker T. Washington's mastery of the minstrel mask, enabling him to sound "back and black" to whites). The combined effect is to tun what could be a slog into a rather enjoyable read that balances impressive readings of texts with some heavy duty theorizing without sacrificing the author's character and personality.
Friday, July 20, 2012
Cs AND THE ARBITRARINESS OF FORMS
While re-reading Houston A. Baker, Jr.'s excellent Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance, I came across this humourous (and true!) passage: