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Humanist Archives: Nov. 22, 2018, 6:05 a.m. Humanist 32.211 - releasing the hares; stemmatics

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 211.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
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    [1]    From: Stephen Clark 
           Subject: Hates and such (21)

    [2]    From: Dr. Herbert Wender 
           Subject: Sperberg-McQueen on "Bédier's paradox" (51)

        Date: 2018-11-21 11:02:14+00:00
        From: Stephen Clark 
        Subject: Hates and such

On metaphors: to state the obvious- the complaint that a metaphor is a cover-up 
is itself metaphorical (and also very foolish).

Saying that it’s pointless to pursue uncatchable hares (or ask unanswerable 
questions) is also foolish.

1. What can’t be answered now may be answered later, with the help of 
present speculation.

2. Trying to answer one question may uncover many answerable questions 
that would otherwise be unnoticed.

3. Even if the only result of the pursuit is to realize that a question 
can’t currently (or ever) be answered is a clear gain

4. The pursuit itself is fun - and possibly life changing - even if nothing 
is caught and we never give up trying.

Stephen Clark 

        Date: 2018-11-21 20:29:36+00:00
        From: Dr. Herbert Wender 
        Subject: Sperberg-McQueen on "Bédier's paradox"


in the "clutch of meta-hares", firstly misfiled under "On Annotations", 
the following statement was irritating; probably meant as indicating 
a triumph of computational methods in hardcore stemmatics it fails, 
I think, to see the hidden hare:

"Joseph Bedier's statistical argument against stemmatic 
textual criticism waited sixty-odd years for its definitive answer by M. 
P. Weitzmann (Bedier's gut feelings about the probability of two- and 
three-branched stemmata turn out to be wrong, and his argument collapses 
as a result)."

"Collapses" ?  Which "argument" ? Trusting Paolo Trovato, the following:

"The strongest argument against the genealogical method, known as Bédier's 
paradox, is the fact that, out of 110 stemmata of French manuscript traditions 
Bédier examined, 105 were two-branched." (Trovato 2014, p. 80)

The debate between '(Neo-)Lachmannists' and 'Bédierists' was not about the 
observation (Trovato: "the fact") but about the reasoning behind Bédier's 
mocking reflections: the supposed psychological origin of the observed 
'forest of two-branched trees' in the 'flora of philologies'. Surely, as 
Trovato remarks, Weitzman's simulated variations of trees describing the 
surviving mss. over time are very good things in didactic contexts. But 
theoretically it seems that it was clear as early as Maas (1937) and 
Fourquet (1946) that statistical explanation prevails against Bédier's 
psychological suspicions. [1]

Ironically, I mean, the efforts to catch this hare (or should I say: to 
shoot the mocking bird) have enforced the above mentioned argument insofar 
as all are accepting Bédier's observations as realistic in substance. It 
seems worth to remember also the other, the first half of his observations, 
omitted, so far as I see, in recent mentions of Bédier's paradox: the prevalence 
of bipartite stemmata only holdds in editions of whole works where an editor has 
studied the manuscript tradition of the given wort 'from end to end', while in a
rticles or methodological examples mostly stemmata with three or more branches 
was drawn.The real question after Bédier's observations was and is, 
I mean: How valuable is a genealogical stemma of surviving mss. when the tree is 
losing all branches except two in the process of editing the whole work and 
and studying the whole tradition, and if the overall distance between the origin 
and the reconstructed archetype(archetype/2 in Trovato's terms) allows to impute 
conjectures at will?

Pointers to any answer, inside or outside the field of Digital Philology, will be welcome.


[1] Cf. Hoenen/Eger/Gehrke 2017: How Many Stemmata with Root Degree k?

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