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Maggie Nelson, “Great to Watch”
Oliver Sacks, “The Mind’s Eye”
Choose 1 of 3:
Cathy Davidson, “Project Classroom Makeover”
Joseph E. Stiglitz, “Rent Seeking and the Making of an Unequal Society”
Karen Ho, “Biographies of Hegemony”
Throughout his essay, “The Mind’s Eye,” Oliver Sacks proposes that blindness and other perceptual disability be thought of less as limitations than as productive and variable forms of engagement with the world. According to Sacks, we should move beyond a singular model of thinking or perception in order to understand better the heterogeneity of experience. Sacks’s argument is, ultimately, utopian; he imagines the idea of the human not as something fixed or predetermined but as plastic and adaptable. Thus, he ends his essay with a provocative and startling claim: “Language, that most human invention, can enable what, in principle, should not be possible” (345). For this final essay, I want you to examine this idea of how language “can enable what … should not be possible” in Sacks’s essay, Nelson’s essay, and one other essay of your choice. In particular, I would like you to answer the following question: What happens to our idea of personhood if we accept the idea that identity is fluid, plastic, and, ultimately, heterogeneous?
Here are some thought questions to get you started on this prompt. Please do not answer these questions as a list for the purposes of organizing your paper – that approach will not lead you to success. Instead, use these questions to begin understanding the prompt above, and to begin formulating your own, independent, textually based response. Remember that your paper must quote all three authors directly.
· What does Sacks mean by “possible” and how can that be used to rethink the forms of limitation described by other authors?
· What are some examples of limitations examined by any of the authors? How do these limitations influence individual identity?
· What does it mean for something to be “possible” or “not … possible”? Is the latter the same thing as “impossible”?
· What is the distinction between “fixed” and “plastic”? Are these opposites or related concepts?
· What does it mean to re-define something? Does it mean to change the circumstances of a situation? Or, in the process of re-defining something, must we re-think the conditions of what makes something possible?
· What does it mean for an argument to be “utopian”? Is your own argument utopian or dystopian?