Blog Post

Generative Space in the context of literary theory

In my last post I wrote about the need for intimacy in digital scholarly spaces. As I continue to contemplate the factors that make a space generative for thought, I’ve come to rely on literary theory as a source of evidence and further analysis.

I think of generative space in light of postcolonial theorist Homi Bhabha’s “Third Space of enunciation”, but also in what Jamaican poet, Olive Senior, calls “the condition of resonance.” She describes such a site as “crucial in defining ‘home’ that is a place where you speak and someone answers. […] ‘Home’ is a place where there is a condition of resonance, or sound returned; that is, a place where you speak to a community and it speaks back to you.” Bhabha’s famous definition is in conversation with Senior’s comments. He writes that Third Space “makes the structure of meaning and reference an ambivalent process, destroys this mirror of representation in which cultural knowledge is customarily revealed as integrated, open, expanding code.” I believe that when applied to generative space, Bhabha and Senior both speak to the intimate and private (though not individual) experience of collaborative thought.

To translate Bhabha and Senior’s theories onto digital platforms suggests that effective communication has to come from a personal space. Perhaps, artistry or even multi-modal narratives, which capture the non-definable, visceral state in which thought begins is the way to go. Clearly, digital spaces that leverage mixed media are examples of such sites. That said the most collaborative feature on a site like Tumblr is its reblogging tool. I wonder if scholarly websites could move towards the multi-modal conversation that defines Tumblr and other social media sites, but still affect productive collaboration.

Works Cited

Bhabha, Homi K. "The Commitment to Theory." Vol. 1. The Norton Anthology of Theory & Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2010. 1 vols. 2540-72. Print.

Senior, Olive. "The Poem as Gardening, the Story as Su-Su: Finding a Literary Voice." Journal of West Indian Literature 14.1-2 (2005): 35-50. Literature Online. Web. 2 Feb. 2013.


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