Expert Loneliness

“To evaluate a work of art is, among other things, to estimate its potential value for others; but while our ability to make that estimation correctly certainly increases in time with all our general and specific knowledge, it also decreases in time as we become less and less like anyone else, and thus less able to predict anyone else’s response on the basis of our own.”
–from Contingencies of Value: Alternative Perspectives for Critical Theory by Barbara Hernstein Smith:

At a certain phase during research, you feel the joy of special knowledge–of realizing that no one has ever looked at the material quite this way. You see something different, and you value that seeing deeply.

But being an expert can also isolate you. I remember one day when The Future Mister Doctor Jones came home from work, I was all excited about seeing a certain poet’s knees on video. And it was impossible to explain.


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