Confronted with Outer Darkness

So I'm introducing N. Katherine Hayles' How We Became Posthuman to my graduate seminar last night when a student declares "in my experience, the less a person knows, the happier that person is."

I really like this class (and they are doing great work), but I'm amazed at how consistent this critique pops up in graduate English courses. I sense that it is a reaction to having someone assign a difficult text. I empathize with having to do the kind of work that seems so foreign (Hayles' text is pretty dense, and many of my class members are from different countries). While I find it really difficult to explain why knowledge is better than ignorance, I can't really come up with anything better than Michael B's blog post on how he explained sadness to his son Jamie.


Ruijie Zhao said...

Some people just want to make their lives simple. I think it is different from being ignorant.

Doc Mara said...

But is "knowing less" any simpler? The story I linked to in the post is about a developmentally disabled son of an English professor (and a very gifted and theoretical professor at that). The story relates to when his son found out that sadness not only goes away like waves, but that further waves of sadness lie in the future. Jamie certainly faced some pain with that realization, but I don't know if that knowledge made his life any more complicated or less filled with happiness (after all, even if you do not know WHY something is affecting you, it still can affect you. Knowledge is not necessarily more complicated, is it?)