Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Taxonomies of Electracy

In his analysis of the shi in ancient Chinese poetry, Julien reproduces a taxonomy of poetic forms created by an 8th century literary critic. Julien writes, “Wang Changling, the author of another list of strategic dispositions in poetry, this one written more than a century earlier, resisted the temptation to be so cryptic; his catalog is easier for us to learn from. In this list we are not distracted by external examples of gesture and posture; the text itself says everything, and we need only interpret it. It might be worth pausing to study it” (118).

An instruction that could be developed from Julien’s focus on the taxonomy of 8th century Chinese poetry in his extrapolation of shi is to locate and “interpret” electrate taxonomies. Important to remember in this instruction is not so much the individual categorizations themselves, but rather the method of categorizing employed by the author.

To do so, we must also partner with Julien in moving away from the dismissive stance that the taxonomy is nothing more than a “desultory, whimsical rumination” and consider the possibility that there may be “discreet and subtle links beneath the apparent disorder” (123).

Possible areas to explore might the sudden proliferation of “list” articles that is currently bombarding social media (buzzfeed in particular comes to mind). Following Julien, it might be more accurate to focus on lists whose subject matter would be inherently difficult to categorize in a rigorous or exhaustive manner (such as poetry). What can the connections initiated through analysis of these categorizations tell us about an electrate metaphysics?

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