I Don't Care About Your Life

Jason Guriel, The Walrus, Apr 15, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I realize that you don't care about my life (at least, not nearly as much as I care about it). That's OK, I can deal with that. But when I was taking religious studies courses in the 1980s I first encountered the 'confessional' course, where we were studying religion not only as a phenomenon but also as an expression of personal faith. Not having faith, I fared poorly, and it was my only 'C' in a string of As. But why is this relevant? Because it sheds some light on what's actually happening in this article when the author writes, "the confessional voice is dangerously attractive; as Virginia Woolf put it, 'under the decent veil of print one can indulge one’s egoism to the full.'"

Is the author simply using the term 'confessional' incorrectly? Or, as is more likely, is he confusing the objective voice with the context-free voice? A mixture of both ('confessional' as reflecting "our declining belief in a tradition or canon (whose dead white masterworks once ensured that critics shared a set of reference points outside the self)"). But my background knowledge is what tells me that the author is opposing the idea of criticism as belief or point of view. If he simply stated his point so plainly, the grounds for objection would be clear. But the argument needs to be extracted from its shell, and you, the reader, have the right to be informed about the mechanism I used to do that, which in this case was my personal experience of confessional courses in the 1980s.

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