My first semester of graduate school, one of the courses I took was on Critical Theory with Dr. Bluemel. As we went from theorists as varied as Eve Sedgwick, Stanley Fish, and Roland Barthes I noticed a pattern forming during our discussions. A number of my contributions to the discourse were referential to not only outside sources, but even some outside of what is normally considered “literature” by most students. My professor told me to try to stay within the bounds of literature in order to not lose or confuse other students, which was fine by me. Still, I was troubled that I received blank stares from my classmates when bringing up David Hume, John Dewey, or even a popular contemporary like Zadie Smith. I had an extremely hard time trying to stay “in bounds” which it came to our classroom discourse.
In History Of Sexuality, while discussing the unity of power and knowledge in discourse, Foucault offers this definition of discourse:
We must conceive discourse as a series of discontinuous segments whose tactical function is neither uniform or stable. To be more precise, we must not imagine a world of discourse divided between accepted discourse and excluded discourse, or between the dominant discourse and the dominated one; but as a multiplicity of discursive elements that can come into play in various strategies (100).
As an undergraduate, I took a number of extra courses to attain a minor in Philosophy. I did this in order to supplement my literary studies. What I learned from Dewey, Hume, Nietzsche, Arthur Danto, and others went with me back to the English classroom to accentuate my work there. Perhaps this is why theoretical concerns are more compelling to me than the standard close reading associated with English, but I see no reason for not extending into other fields for further enlightenment and thought. Just talking about English in English classes bores the hell out of me.