14.0101 on commentaries

From: Humanist Discussion Group (willard@lists.village.virginia.edu)
Date: Fri Jul 07 2000 - 09:21:22 CUT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 101.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance) (85)
             Subject: Raptim & Rapture

       [2] From: "R.G. Siemens" <RaySiemens@home.com> (38)
             Subject: Re: 14.0096 on commentaries

             Date: Fri, 07 Jul 2000 10:16:57 +0100
             From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
             Subject: Raptim & Rapture


    Slowly, I am saddened that a distinguished scholar of Augustine would
    rehash orality/literacy dichotomies in order to argue in a
    technologically deterministic fashion that certain material
    practices entrench hierarchies. J. O'Donnell wrote:

    "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)


    Well let's be fair. The genre of "commentary" is said to _depend upon_
    which is not exactly a ringing endorsement of technological determinism.
    And as O'Donnell continues, we learn that hierarchies are also maintained
    in an oral context. It seems if I read the message correctly that the act
    of maintaining itself depends upon simultaneity. But this may be a
    misreading since the "and" with which O'Donnell links maintaining
    hiearchary and presenting simultaneity may be disjunctive.

    In any case, if I read the presentation of the argument correctly, the
    hierarchy seems to depend to some extent upon presenting (creating an
    impression of [?]) simultaneity. I can not help but think how Augustine
    the great philosopher of time would theorizing such a simultaneity. I do
    want to point out that over the course of the short paragraph the terms
    have shifted from written word in print or manuscript form presenting a
    simultaneity to the oral delivery not acheiving simultaneity. In a
    paranthesis, O'Donnell claims that

    (the spoken word can't be looked at simultaneously, and fades).

    I am perplexed. In Augustine's _Confessions_ there are narrated words
    spoken and there are words read and there is commentary on this narration.
    And yes like Plato's dialogues the text is transmitted partly by a
    material support that conveys the graphic form and partly by a community
    of readers that also speak to each other.

    It is in the power of the mind of the listener or the reader to conjure up
    the necessary intertextual relations. Commentary would be the exchanged
    traces of the workings of such powers.

    I am not arguing that the mix between oral and written modes in any given
    textual community does not have an impact on the forms commentary might
    take. I am arguing that the forms of life in textual communities need not
    lend themselves to the mapping of hierarchical relations. An example to
    try to reinsert the technological considerations in an institutional
    framework without recourse to the dichotomization: Julia Kristeva gave
    lectures on Proust; those lectures are recorded on audio tape; a book
    appeared in print; even without audio tape -- there were note takers
    present. This gets even more interesting when we consider that the content
    of one of those lectures on Proust arose from a preface of Barthes to the
    work of La Bruyiere and that Kristeva participated in seminars given by
    Barthes. Was it what she heard or what she read that made her say and
    write what she did?

    And here I must confess the pleasure of reading an email message that
    began "Raptim" for it lead me to a commentary placing in parallel a
    passage in Augustine's cxxx epistle with one in Book V of Hooker's
    Polity_. It is tempting to produce a reading which ties the sexual
    politics of prayer with theories of commentary


    And this is a prime example of how pointing mechanisms designed for a
    bound volume do need a bit of adaptation to make the hyperlinks work. The
    URL cited above lists footnotes to the eleventh volume of the second
    series of the writings of the Post-Nicene church fathers. There is no link
    back to the commented text. A link not easy to reconstruct for the
    non-expert given the table of contents:


    A bit of robot-like repetive searching (built on the assumption that
    the web version encodes a printed version with cross-reference
    builty on a consecutive numbering system) yields the commented source
    as the second book of Cassian's Institutes of Coenobia which deals with
    the canonical system of nocturanl prayers and psalms:


    Sometimes awake at night, I harbour the suspicion that short prayers like
    short commentaries are designed to deprive the receipient of sleep and
    thus induce an altered state. There are textual communities that seek to
    avoid such states and those that enhance them and there are textual nomads
    that find delight in conversing cross-communally. Suffice it to state that
    the rapidly jotted text when revisited slowly with a religious
    regularity can lead to rapture (or is it the rapture that transforms the
    experience of time?).

    On textual objects, textual communities and technologies, see

    Brian Stock
    Augustine The Reader: Meditation, Self-Knowledge and the Ethics of

    Brian Stock
    Listening for the text: on the uses of the past

    John Mowitt
    Text: the genealogy of an antidisciplinary object

    Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
    Member of the Evelyn Letters Project

    --[2]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Fri, 07 Jul 2000 10:18:12 +0100 From: "R.G. Siemens" <RaySiemens@home.com> Subject: Re: 14.0096 on commentaries

    Dear Willard and fellow-HUMANISTs,

    For the past few days, I've followed with interest the discussion on commentaries, and I am nagged by concern related to this discussion and very associated with a current project of mine. (Apologies in advance if this is too self-indulgent.)

    Though existing in relation to another text, it has been noted that many of us feel that commentary -- or, perhaps better-stated, specific historically-significant commentary -- comprises significant text in its own right.

    If so, I ask, how is such commentary ideally (and yet pragamatically) represented in an electronic scholarly edition?

    By way of example, I'm at work on a slow-moving project which will ultimately see the production of an electronic edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets that borrows from several available models of such editions. As with the works of many authors from traditions other and much earlier than that of vernacular English, cumulative commentary far outstrips initial text and its various states.

    Wishing to preserve the tradition of commentary surrounding such a text, in a way that honours that tradition as much as it honours the text itself, more than seems to be an overwhelming task: it is, for a popular text, a near impossibility.

    Is there an answer to be found, as has been suggested of several recent print editions of the work I'm considering, in abandoning all hope of treating even very significant commentary in a manner equivalent to that of its 'originating' text?

    Or is there an answer to be found, as was suggested a decade ago of Shakespeare editions in general, through cooperative ventures that see, over time, the availability of commentary in the form of electronic editions in their own right (or, more likely, as part of individual editions that the commentary serves) -- such that the commentary can, at some point in an ideal future, be given an equivalent treatment?

    Or are there more useful approaches?

    Ray Siemens

    ___________ R.G. Siemens English, Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo, BC, Canada. V9R 5S5. Office: 340/131. Phone: (250) 753-3245, x2126. Fax: (250) 741-2667. RaySiemens@home.com http://purl.oclc.org/NET/R_G_Siemens.htm siemensr@mala.bc.ca

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