Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

A Chart to Explain Ideology Critique

with 6 comments

It simply couldn’t be simpler:

four approaches to ideological analysis

As an experiment, I generated this for the back of the second paper prompt in my American Literature course, following up on the flowchart I’d made for the back of their first prompt. In my mind, at least, this clarifies the sorts of choices one has to make about a text before one begins to perform an ideological analysis of it, as well as showing visually (through the greyed-out 45° line) which sorts of texts intellectuals tend to valorize and which they tend to scorn.

I’ll let you know if the experiment works in actually clarifying anything for students…

Written by gerrycanavan

February 22, 2013 at 12:22 pm

6 Responses

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  1. The flowchart might make more sense with the accompanying lecture attached, but the basic gist is:

    * an author’s intentions in writing a text are murky and unknowable — useless to us
    * the text itself is a material thing we have that we can refer to
    * but texts never come to us unmediated — there’s always some sort of popular and/or critical filter of reception they pass through
    * and this is the space of our intervention — we intervene in that dialogue by forwarding, transforming, or calculating the consensus around the text
    * and we use reference back to the material artifact of the text as our evidence for this

    It’s basically the first part of adswithoutproduct’s great post on “critical perversity” distilled into flowchart form.


    February 22, 2013 at 12:28 pm

  2. Just noting some feedback I got on Twitter, because I think it’s crucial:

    @traviswccooper: What about texts highly critical of society that eschew the labels (i.e., left-wing)? Thinking of religious fiction, etc.

    Yes, that’s one of the crucial ways we take apart the chart once we have it as a reference. You have the possibility of texts that can be “moved” from one quadrant to another (my example was Twilight), or diagnostic texts that view the left as hegemonic — say, Ron Paul, or the right-wing version of Nietzsche — and define themselves in opposition to that. The chart defines a particular sort of reading strategy used by a particular sort of reader; it’s not universal.


    February 22, 2013 at 12:37 pm

  3. One more note from Twitter: “Part of the point of the diagonal was that texts clump around that line (at least from perspective of this reading strategy. So you wind up with the upper-right quadrant being populated by right-wing philosophers, and almost nothing in the bottom-left.” Great reply from @epiktistes: “The bottom left is Internet commenters.”


    February 22, 2013 at 12:47 pm

  4. Interesting and useful. I once teased out a similar schematic for television shows — affirmative, critical, redemptive. Affirmative shows are the cop procedurals where justice is served and the freaks are suspect, e.g. Law & Order, although I can’t speak with much authority there. Critical shows are like The Wire, and there aren’t many of them. Redemptive shows would probably go in your (empty) upper right quadrant — like Friday Night Lights, which demonstrates an abiding faith in the social institutions that it critiques, e.g. Coach Taylor redeems the criticisms of masculinity made through just about every other adult male character.

    So what goes in the box with the internet commenters?

    Josh K-sky

    February 22, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    • I like those examples (and that naming system for each of the quadrants) a lot! That’s helpful.

      It does make the bottom-left quadrant somewhat intriguing; it seems like in this scheme it would be something like pure exploitation television, like that Locked Up thing MSNBC airs every weekend about prisons, or To Catch a Predator, other reality TV of that sort, even pornography…


      February 22, 2013 at 3:23 pm

  5. I do like, and I always champion, the bottom left quadrant.

    Steven Shaviro

    February 22, 2013 at 6:22 pm

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