Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Reading as Method

My sabbatical project has me doing a lot of things, including a lot of reading. As described in my proposal, the aim of the project is to engage in reading several different discourses and to put them in conversation--including but not limited to the discourses surrounding information literacy, critical pedagogies, ethics of technology, and Christian anthropology.

This morning saw me reflecting about this practice of reading, and its connection as a method to the way I engage, move through, and exist in the world. I asked myself the question:

What is my method of being in the world? 

I'm sure the answer to that question is actually a multiplicity of methods, but there is one in particular I want to free-write on in this post, and that is the method of reading the world (and all the things in it) as text(s).

What follows is an exercise in articulating what I mean.


The book I was reading this morning is a text.
The notebook I was scribbling my notes and quotes in, using color-coded pens, is a text.
The project I am pursuing this summer is a text.
The communities I am a part of, and with whom I am in dialogue, are texts.
My individual and communal relationships with people in my personal and professional life are texts.
My daughter is a (beautiful) text.
My marriage is a text.
My sabbatical experience is a text.
My anxiety is a text.
My faith (and the theology it's rooted in) is a text.
The Christian liturgy is a text.
The pain experienced daily by those I love and care about is a text.
My own pain is a text
My family is a text.
My 'professional learning network' is a text.
My 'digital footprint' is a text.
This blog post is a text.
The public personal-professional identity this post helps construct is a text.
The Twitter interface is a text.
#critlib (both the hashtag and the concept it signifies) is/are a text(s).
Professional documents are texts.
Library catalogs and databases are texts. And they make accessible (or not) texts.
The books on our library shelves are texts, but so is the configuration of space in which those books are made available.
Library space is a text.
A garden is a text.
Histories are texts.
Data sets are texts.
Bodies of work are texts.
Bodies are texts.
Thought processes are texts.
Memories are texts.
Lived experience is a text.

When all of these things (and more--the list could go on, of course) are understood as texts, it means they can be read. Reading in this sense is dynamic participation in meaning-making with and in relationship to texts.

Seeing the world as a text made up of infinite yet particular texts (and beautiful in their particularity) does not reify the world and its parts, but instead invites meaning-making out of and within the world (and its parts!), because it means I as a subject can read these texts and grow my own understanding from that reading act. And so can you.


As I was having these reflective thoughts earlier today, it led me to look up textuality in Wikipedia, in an effort to better remember ideas I learned about in the undergraduate literary criticism course that was part of my English and American Literature major. Here is a small excerpt that almost poetically gets at what I'm referring to in this post as my method of being in the world:
Textuality is a practice. Through a text’s textuality, it makes itself mean, makes itself be, and makes itself come about in a particular way. Through its textuality, the text relinquishes its status as identity and affirms its condition as pure difference. In indifference, the text "dedefines" itself, etches itself in a texture or network of meaning which is not limited to the text itself. (Source)

My thoughts on this are still developing--in the process of being written as a text, if you will. But this method connects my faith, my developing understanding of social justice, my information literacy and library work (including the pedagogies I aim to use in that work), and my engagement with technology. And these are all the things I have set out to read during my sabbatical.

I'm a week and a half into my sabbatical part two, which lasts twelve weeks in total. I'm looking forward to seeing where reading as method leads me in the coming months.

This is a picture of my daughter making something out of string.

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