Ignorance vs. Lack of Understanding

While exploring the accumulated tags of this class blog, I was struck by the discussions on ignorance. I have found that each of the main characters we have focused on throughout this class have displayed some level of ignorance. There seems to be some kind of lack of understanding about themselves that leads to or perpetuates their failure. For the purposes of this post, I am operating under the assumption that those who are ignorant have good intentions, but simply a lack of knowledge. The idea of ignorance as it pertains to failure is quite interesting, as when I think of one who is ignorant of certain knowledge, it is not by choice, but simply because they have not been exposed to that knowledge. Someone at an old job said to me once, “You can’t know what you don’t know.” Many of the failures we have explored, however, have been rather active. Characters have made choices, or refused to make choices, that have ultimately led to their failure. I think it’s interesting to explore the idea of something passive, such as ignorance, an unintentional not knowing or understanding as it compares to and leads to an active, even if in the form of inaction, failure.

In their blog discussion of ignorance and knowledge as it relates to James’ The Beast in the Jungle, hayleykboyd writes in “Knowledge and ignorance of the past in Beast in the Jungle”  about Marcher’s mysterious ignorance of his previous conversation with Bertram, and the seemingly improbability of forgetting such a moment. They discuss the creation and construction of knowledge and history, and the the influence of one’s experiences in this process. I was particularly interested in this idea as it relates to alternative knowledges and understandings. The theorist in me would like to question whether basted off of this idea, that the changing understandings of knowledge and history, if there is a certain alternative knowledge in ignorance. Perhaps there is a queerness in ignorance, as it leads to the construction of queer time. The social justice warrior, on the other hand, would like to argue that the only alternative knowledge in ignorance is a justification for oppression and inequality. I question whether alternative knowledges as a result of ignorance are even a failure at all, while I can definitively say that failure results from social inequality at the hands of ignorance. Is there a queerness in ignorance as it creates alternative knowledges or is ignorance what erases these alternative knowledges, or is it possible for these to exist simultaneously?

In “Irritation: Helga vs. Bartleby,”  mmacg123 compares Nella Larsen’s Quicksand with Melville’s Bartleby. They discuss the uncomfortability of each character as a result of their refusal to take advantage of the many choices and opportunities afforded them. They make the point that if each of these characters had simply done what readers knew was the right choice, there would not be a failure at all. They finish by saying that the irritation is caused by a lack of understanding of why something is happening. The reader does not understand Helga’s physiological motives for the choices she makes. I am interested in this form of lack of understanding as it compares to ignorance, and I question whether they are even the same. While the reader may not understand why Helga makes certain choices, I would be pressed to say that Helga herself does not understand her own motives, even if if the only motive boils down to the simple fact of her not being satisfied. Helga is not unknowledgeable of her motives, she is ignorant of them- seeing them come up without the ability to fully process them. The reader lacks understanding and is also ignorant. These are separate from each other, perhaps also leading to the production of alternative knowledges. Lack of knowledge may lead to the creation and construction of different understandings and knowledges.

I have used this blog post not to solidify my ideas, but more to explore them, yet have perhaps created more questions for myself than I have clarified them. It seems that there is not one universal way of being ignorant, as there is also the lack of knowledge. While I believe that a knowledge is inherently queer and exists in queer time, leading to the creation of and imagination of time and history, there is a flat failure in ignorance. Ignorance leads to nothing, while the queer failure of lack of knowledge still leads to the production of new understandings. Ignorance is a black hole that sucks up knowledge, while lack of understanding creates new understandings. Ignorance is passive, leading to a passive failure, while there is a dimension to a lack of knowledge that leads to an active and queer failure.

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