In her text “Challenging Theories of Knowing,” Patricia Dunn issues a WWE-steel-cage match-smack-down of the classical definition of literature as the alpha medium–and, to a more radical degree, the only medium– for “knowing.”
(Firstly, I would like to note that she does herself no favors in utilizing the very classical method she is campaigning against in order to make her point–I’m sure she might have gained more sympathy for her cause had she practiced what she was preaching instead of opting for a wordy, elevated, essay about the evils of….wordy elevated linguistics…Maybe more pictures next time?)
She brings up some great points. Based on the assertions she referenced, clearly many were misguided about the role of literature in regards to knowing. Of course literature and texts does not take place in a vacuum (it’s impossible to aptly communicate concepts, such as color or sound without a photograph or soundbite) and, while it’s true that literature is fantastic for exposing realms of reality, it is certainly not the only way. In this vein, her definition as composition aligns fairly well with our class.
And then I believe her objective deters a bit and falls out of alignment.
Apparently, Dunn believes that all methods of knowing are at an equal. This sounds wonderful in theory, but in practice it is not the case. Art, sound, and even video are severely limited in their expressive abilities in comparison to language. Consider Michelangelo’s Pietá, or Slavers Tossing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming on, or The Oath of the Horatii, or the thousands upon thousands of art works I could totally name-drop right now because I’m just so damn cultured (and buff) (and handsome) (….ladies?). Alone, they are simply sculptures of figures, pictures of ships, or illustrations of men with swords doing some kind of freaky dance, respectively. It’s not until we add language through titles, and essay, and speech that we reveal the true essence of the works and the “knowing begin.” We “know” the figures are supposed are mother and son; the boats and seascape symbolize a larger social issue; and that the Horatii are not fist-pumping, but in fact swearing their allegiance to Rome, and etc.
But again, while writing is more substantial, it is not the only way. Steak and bacon are great, and, yeah, you could live off them–but it’s not until you add the ranch dressing, cheese, and deep-fried onion rings (the alternative mediums in this metaphor) that you unlock the true potential of the meal.
It is not until you have a steak, cheese, bacon, ranch, onion ring sandwich that you fully begin to comprehend and understand the world at large.