Tag Archives: theory

What Type of Way: Post-Structuralism and Rich Homie Quan

Since its release in 2013, Rich Homie Quan’s masterwork, “Type of Way” has drawn the attention of rap-enthusiasts and literary critics alike. It could be argued that “Type of Way” is a vapid song whose vague lyrics refuse even to describe how, exactly, the speaker feels. It has been said that Rich Homie Quan’s song does not state a particular feeling, rendering the lyrics “feel some type of way” meaningless. After all, doesn’t everyone always feel some type of way? As the author refuses to describe the particular type of way the narrator is feeling, the entirety of the song is unclear. Which type of way does the speaker feel, critics wonder, and to what intensity do they feel this way? However, a closer, and critical, examination of Rich Homie Quan’s masterpiece reveals its true genius. The profound nature of Rich Homie Quan’s “Some Type of Way” is revealed only through a thorough and theoretical examination of the idea of a “type of way”; a detailed reading reveals that describing an emotion as “some type of way” is the only way to truly and accurately describe a feeling.

Approaching the song from Sign Theory, as described by Saussure, we can see that by intentionally neglecting to name a particular feeling, Rich Homie Quan creates a positive, and therefore unique, relationship between his feelings and the words used to describe it. Saussure describes the nature of speech by saying that, “in language there are only differences. Even more important: a difference generally implies positive terms between which the difference is set up; but in language there are only differences without positive terms” (Richter 848). In Saussure’s view, concepts in language are defined only by what they are not; in is in because it is not out, hot is hot because it is not cold. Were Rich Homie Quan to name a particular emotion in his song, he would be defining his feelings only in the negative, describing them only as not being other feelings. However, our brilliant song-master does not do this. Instead, Rich Homie Quan leaves the particular way that he is feeling unnamed, thus refusing to define it in the negative. Thus, “some type of way” becomes a positive statement, eliminating the arbitrary nature of language and defining feeling on its own terms.

Similarly, a reading in the tradition of Foucault indicates that referring to a feeling as “some type of way” does not create arbitrary distinctions between feelings, thus accessing the “thing in itself” of feeling in a way that naming a particular feeling does, and can, not. According to Foucault, the act of creating a word creates a conceptual distinction, thus creating a category. These distinctions define ideas by their similarities, thus ignoring their differences. In creating the category of “cat”, one groups a series of animals by their similar characteristics, ignoring their individual differences is size, temperament, and color. Foucault argues that these distinctions are manufactured, and necessarily inexact. Rich Homie Quan rejects this convention, however, by refusing to categorize his feelings. By feeling “some type of way”, as opposed to “sad”, or “happy”, Quan does not create categories that ignore the complex and fluid nature of feeling, describing feelings as they are in reality.

After thoroughly analyzing “Type of Way”, it is clear that the song is a masterwork, calling into question our ideas of feeling and the nature of language. In this work, Rich Homie Quan forces us to wonder, should we really create distinctions between feelings, or should we reject our false system of naming, thus accessing feelings as they are, not just as they are described to be? These age-old questions have yet to be answered, but perhaps Rich Homie has brought us just a little closer

Or, you know, it’s a really awful, vague song. Either way.

Works Cited
Richter, David H. The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007. Print.

Decolonial Options for Writing Consultations

I have been a writing consultant for nearly 7 years and I have seen many students struggle with the nuanced rules and regulations imposed by academic writing and convention. These rules and regulations are troublesome for native speakers as much as international students. Often times instructors suggest that students come to The Writing Center for help on their “Standard English”. In many ways, “Standard English” is the vehicle of furthered colonial oppression due to the fact that there is no actual standard. Disciplinary writing is standard within a discipline, and sure there are specific rules that are generally applicable in most contexts, but all of these rules can and are broken daily in successful well thought out ways.

As a consultant, I see my job as support for students attempting the balancing act that is academic writing. Over the last few weeks I have engaged in a personal exercise to further my understandings of Decolonial theory in the context of writing center consultations. In this post I  weave the concept of options for Decolonial thought, as laid out by  Walter Mignolo and Shawn Wilson, into productive tools for understanding the larger academic system and the expectations this system imposes on students’ writing.

Why is this important you ask? The answer to this question is a difficult one, because academic colonality functions on multiple levels and not all of these levels are evil. In a writing context, understanding the “language of the oppressor” (Fanon, Richardson, Perryman-Clark) holds power that enables students to pass, to achieve, to graduate. None of these things are bad, but there is a sense of oppression that often times goes un-discussed.

I see it as part of my job to enter this discussion. When I am working with clients and we are struggling together, I find it useful to reflect on why this process is necessary. Last week I was in the middle of a consultation with a student who was struggling with understanding the function of the article ‘the’. This was an instance where I found myself providing options to understand, but in the end I had to acknowledge that the inclusion or exclusion of ‘the’ does not impede comprehension. This student stated bluntly that they needed to know why their instructor focused so much on grammar when the class that they were in was Marketing.

This presents an interesting situation to me, as a consultant, because English was not this student’s primary language and was in fact the third language they were learning/knew, but there was a continued push for this student to conform to “Standard English”. Within the discussion to understand articles, we talked about how neither of the languages the student knew used articles, and we came to the conclusion that the focus on grammar thus becomes a tool to function within the academe, not some life sustaining knowledge that provides meaning and depth to live, but a hurdle to acknowledge and choose to overcome, or not.

As an active learner of Decolonial theory, I see this acknowledgement as a Decolonial option for students. This is one example, but an example that occurs frequently. How do you explain to a student who possesses mastery of multiple languages that these formalities are not a reflection on their intelligence but rather an issue of passing? I have found that talking about the students options often times helps us both get to this point, because we both know internally that “Standard English” serves a function in academic discourse, but rarely reflects where students are in their classrooms. As a consultant, I believe it is my job to help empower students and sometimes this means providing options, other times it means breaking down the academic structures to be understood as optional. I try to help my students understand the outcomes of resisting theses structures as well as following them, but these conversations are situated on the client’s terms and needs, not mine.