Lohmann, the inspector, and Professor Baum, the physician, are standing next to the dead master brain on the dissecting table in the anatomical institute.
Lohmann: His legacy? You speak of Mabuse's legacy?
Baum: No. Yes. Of course, not a testament in the accepted sense of the word. Just some of his notes. Of interest only to physicians and men of science.
Lohmann: I'm afraid, Professor, that you underestimate the number of subjects in which I take an interest.
I have always loved this dialogue in Fritz Lang's The Testament of Dr. Mabuse of 1932. Lohmann's reply became a hidden motto for my dissertation, which is titled "Kommissar Lohmann," and which tries to explore the limits and possibilitites of a new critical rhetoric. What are the claims of authority that go along with our readings? How do we have to read "just some notes" in the first place to make them into a "last will"? How do we cope with our desire to be exclusive?
I like to start my readings in places that people do not care about or where they feel safe and in control: illustrations, headlines, footnotes (that I like to write myself in various ways, because they allow me to rethink the page), biobibliographic statements, title sequences in movies, departmental websites, prefaces - all these inconspicuous little texts at the margins that nevertheless program our readings.
In class, it helps to realize that when it comes to reading, all people in the room have one thing in common: they do not know. A situation with somebody in front who pretends s/he knows and a group that responds by pretending not to know is not productive. At the same time all participants also know more than they dare to know. I am interested in working on environments of learning, where everybody can function as each other's informant.
Left banner image courtesy of the Charles Babbage Institute, Unversity of Minnesota
Right banner image courtesy CuriousExpeditions.org