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The Silent Social Order of the Theory Classroom

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I offer an ethnographic analysis of two “theory” classes in an elite American literary studies program. First, I examine the classroom's bureaucratic form, as it is structured by power, time and space, and made visible in syllabi and attempted pedagogical reforms. I then turn to pedagogical practice, examining the forms of knowledge and power implicit in classroom discourse. I show that ideological stances toward theory vary according to individual status in the theoretical field. I consider the epistemic fetishism of the “text” within classroom knowledge-making practices. Finally, I draw out some implications of my analysis for reflexive academic research, with particular attention to Bourdieu's reflexive social science.
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