14.0093 thoughts on commentaries

From: Humanist Discussion Group (willard@lists.village.virginia.edu)
Date: Tue Jul 04 2000 - 18:28:44 CUT

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                    Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 93.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Tue, 04 Jul 2000 19:24:49 +0100
             From: jod@ccat.sas.upenn.edu (James J. O'Donnell)
             Subject: Re: 14.0089 thoughts on commentaries & humanities computing


    Raptim, I would say that the "commentary" is an artifact of the written
    (MS or print) word, depending on technologies of maintaining hierarchy
    (the authority of the text that is object of the commentary) and of
    presenting simultaneity (putting words on page next to each other in
    structured way). "Oral commentary" maintains hierarchy (we know what text
    is being commented on) but does not achieve simultaneity (the spoken word
    can't be looked at simultaneously, and fades).

    Other than shovelware projects (e.g., http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/jod/conf),
    will there be genuinely similar commentary in cyberspace? I doubt it.
    The technologies of presenting simultaneity are certainly developed to new
    degrees of sophistication, but the ability of the anterior text to retain
    its authority and place in the hierarchy will certainly fade. On what
    text written in 2010 would anybody ever write a cybercommentary? In this
    regard, I think *Pale Fire* a precursor, a text in which the
    text-commented-upon disappears, is often read second after the commentary,
    and is arguably unnecessary for at least one kind of reading. I said
    "arguably" and would happily argue that, but my point is just that
    Nabokov's game has the effect of rendering questionable all that one
    thinks natural and normal about the commentary genre.

    My largest reservation about the Most collection is that it concentrates
    on the intellectual act and the relationship of text and commentary, but
    does not put sufficiently in play the physical nature of the commentary as
    object and its development over time. Other than what one can infer from
    histories of classical scholarship and the like, I don't see that *this*
    task has ever been properly done. (Rutherfurd's volume of Scholia
    Aristophanica entitled "Being a Chapter in the History of Annotation" is
    quite old but quite good on a piece of this, now that I think of it.)

    Jim O'Donnell
    Classics, U. of Penn

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