[We’ve had opportunities to hear some of these arguments from Marvin Bram, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Mikhail Epstein earlier in the year. I would like now to flesh-out these points more concretely, and consider the phenomenological apperception of what one anthropologist has termed the experience of “liminality” — a state in which one’s usually well-delineated cultural distinctions become blurred, even foreign.]
By virtue of natality and the ability to act, each new individual poses a threat to civilization. The child carries barbarism with him or her. (Einer Øverenget, Hannah Arendt, 217)
Let us first agree that modern cultures, and most especially the Western Curriculum, are about making distinctions. Language, and of course writing,1 is a vital accomplice in this activity that “cuts” the world up into so many discrete entities, creating a sense of order where formerly there was just (dare we say it) ordinary stuff. The logic of a culture’s language (syntactic, grammatic, and logistic structures) will determine in large measure how these distinctions are drawn and what categories are applicable within different contexts, establishing diverse horizons of meaning.
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