What I dig about Critical Theory

February 13th, 2009

There’s a reason I’ve always felt an affinity for critical theory. Early on, it was more of an intuition, like right, these folks are really on to something.  Max Horkheimer, of course, is more articulate in his 1937 definition of critical theory as:

1. “a theory dominated at every turn by a concern for reasonable conditions of life;

2. a theory which Condemns exisitng social institutions and practicies as ‘inhuman’;

3. a theory which contemplates the need for ‘an alteration of society as a whole.”

Is it any wonder this is my theoretcial framework, my intellectual orientation and foundation? It just seems so simple, so obvious and so sensible.

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The last hoop

February 20th, 2008

I have always thought of the PhD as a somewhat painstaking process, interrupted by various requirements that act as benchmarks along the way. Each benchmark catapults you to a new level, leaving you a bit smarter, a bit wiser, and slightly more world weary. These benchmarks serve as obstacles or (if you’re in a better frame of mind) challenges that remind me a  bit of circus tricks. The student, as circus poodle, runs frantically around centre ring, leaping through fire-burning hoops for the pleasure of the audience and the satisfaction of their trainers. Course work, comprehensive exams, thesis proposal – these have been my circus tricks, performed more or less successfully to an increasingly interested audience – my committee of three.

Yesterday I completed the last of the PhD benchmarks in the lead up to the grad finale (thesis defense, of course) and presented my thesis proposal to my committee. The proposal has been a work in process: I wrote the first draft for Rick Gruneau’s method’s class almost two year’s ago. When I dusted it off last November, a lot had changed in terms of my knowledge base, but the heart of the project remained the same. I rewrote it, added some stuff, took out some stuff and in this process, realized that this document was really a synopsis and synthesis of the work I’d been doing since I entered the PhD program in 2004. Neat. It’s really nice to look back on a cumulative, interactive body of work.

Anyhoo. There were minor “issues” and a lot of good advice, plus some sincere encouragement. It looks like I have the draft of a first chapter, which is cool. And it’s very nice to be on the other side of this last hoop, finally staring down the homestretch of this long degree.

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