Friday, March 12, 2010

just a bit more

I want to add one following point to the discussion of the narrative function of crafts, this also from Jerome Burner's Acts of Meaning:
Having considered three characteristics of narrative—its sequentiality, its factual "indifference," and its unique way of managing departures from the canonical—we must turn now to its dramatic quality. Kenneth Burke's classic discussion of "dramatism," as he called it nearly a half-century ago, still serves well as a starting point. Well-formed stories, Burke proposed, are composed of a pentad of an Actor, an Action, a Goal, a Scene, and an Instrument—plus Trouble. Trouble consists of an imbalance between any of the five elements of the pentad: an Action toward a Goal is inappropriate in a particular Scene, as with Don Quixote's antic maneuvers in search of chivalric ends; an Actor does not fit the Scene, as with Portnoy in Jerusalem or Nora in A Doll's House, or there is a dual Scene as in spy thrillers, or a confusion of Goals as with Emma Bovary.

Dramatism, in Burke's sense, focuses upon deviations from the canonical that have moral consequences—deviations related to legitimacy, moral commitment, values. Stories must necessarily, then, relate to what is morally valued, morally appropriate, or morally uncertain. The very notion of Trouble presupposes that Actions should fit Goals appropriately, Scenes be suited to Instruments, and so on to completion, are explorations in the limits of legitimacy, as Hayden White has pointed out.
I think that you can see that craftsmanship, where the craftsman has pushed the limits of his or her own creative imagination, physical and technical capacities is the breeding grounds supreme for "trouble." In the piece shown above and in the earlier post, much of the trouble was presented by the challenging nature of the materials used and resolved through the inlay of stones. The walnut stock with its many imperfections challenged the craftsman's creative response. Take away the trouble, the resultant "dramatism" and crafts become as humdrum as a breakfast of toast, no butter, no jam. A craftsman, seeking growth and knowing the value of narrative, pushes his or her own limits. Those limits may be limitations in materials, or in tools, or in expertise, or in creative imagination. Can you see that crafts can be as rich an avenue for the expression of cultural narrative as any form of discursive art? As the craftsman wrestles to find solutions in the successful completion of work he or she works to resolve moral uncertainties and the work is seldom fictional. It is not merely pretense nor imagination, it is the real deal, the maker's moral character expressed in wood.

Can you see why woodworking in schools was proposed as a component of formative education? and that it was proposed for all regardless of educational aspirations? To make something of useful beauty is one of the highest expressions of human caring and capacity... Something that can and should be taught in schools if we want our children to creatively engage the 21st century.

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