14.0001 HAPPY now we are 13 BIRTHDAY

From: Humanist Discussion Group (willard@lists.village.virginia.edu)
Date: Sun May 07 2000 - 18:54:49 CUT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 1.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Sun, 07 May 2000 19:47:35 +0100
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: HAPPY now we are 13 BIRTHDAY

    Dear Colleagues:

    Thirteen years ago today Humanist began as an experiment on the strength of an
    inspiration that somehow something good would come of it. Many good things
    have, for me the most important of them quite unexpectedly. You may not
    count these yearly editorial ruminations among those good things :-), but I
    do hope that you, like me, welcome the chance to stop for a moment and
    think about Humanist in the context of our field(s) of activity and the
    loosely bound, widely distributed community of people -- some of them of
    long-standing, some of them new and, alas, some of them gone -- that
    Humanist has helped to define. None of us has the time to review the past
    year-in-Humanist, and I trust none is so foolish as to attempt prediction
    of the one we begin today. I'll certainly do neither. Cook's privilege is
    to taste the cooking, editor's to say whatever he or she likes. Permit me
    to combine those roles in a very personal way. I often think that what I do
    under the rubric of editor is to stir the pot, so here goes.

    Permit me also, please, to draw on experience without your attributing to
    the act the qualities of age that may seem inseparable from it. Especially
    the greybeardedness. That colour and my beard are not unrelated, but the
    sedentary gravitas and settled authority that greybeards can so easily put
    on I find personally dead wrong and professionally suicidal. I hope that
    it's entirely unnecessary to say that the joy of being alive is simply too
    unsettling to make greybeardedness an attractive mental state, or as my
    poet Ovid wrote about a not entirely dissimilar situation, "non bene
    conveniunt nec in una sede morantur / maiestas et amor..." (Met 2.846f). As
    for our field, it changes too quickly. New vistas -- such as new media
    studies, now not so new -- open up, and suddenly we need to reconfigure
    what we think and how we think, publish and teach it. Greybeards are likely
    to end up, to quote Peter Batke, feeling as if they're sitting in the
    middle of the road with tire tracks up their back.

    Perhaps the most valuable thing I can say about the very beginning of
    Humanist is the autobiographical fact of its originating inspiration. It
    came to me, suddenly in a meeting of like-minded, more or less unrecognised
    and quite disgruntled academics 13 years ago, that there was 'something for
    me' in the effort to bring us together and define what we were doing -- no
    more, really, than a whiff of something good on the wind. I think the
    professional analogue to this personal incident and the crucial role of
    sudden inspiration in my life that it points to is, again, the vital
    necessity for our being alert. We're not at the bleeding edge of
    technological developments, thank God, but as new things come over the
    horizon we have but a short time to see what we might adopt, adapt or take
    note of for our colleagues in the humanities and for our students.

    The most valuable thing I can say about the practice of editing Humanist is
    again to quote the Hebrew proverb, "Do what you do only out of love." If
    years ago I'd had sight of the future, and I'd seen what good things
    Humanist would do for me professionally, I might have been irresistibly
    tempted to go for it out of hope for professional advancement etc., but
    blessed blindness to the future saved me from being tested and very likely
    found wanting. By the time it became clear that Humanist would be useful in
    that way my love for it was too strong to be unseated by those strange
    gods. In any case, the privilege of being involved through Humanist in the
    beginnings of humanities computing is very great indeed, and I can only be
    profoundly grateful.

    Many are to thank -- some who have helped deliberately, others accidentally
    and a few who intended a rather different result and taught important
    lessons thereby. Allow me, however, for the first time to dedicate the
    moment to Don Fowler, late of Jesus College Oxford, who was just the sort
    of colleague and friend we need to remind us of why we do this thing and
    why greybeardedness is not to die for. "Therefore choose life!"

    Many thanks.


    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
    voice: +44 (0)20 7848 2784 fax: +44 (0)20 7848 5081
    <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> <http://ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/>
    maui gratias agere

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