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Humanist Archives: Dec. 20, 2018, 9:47 a.m. Humanist 32.277 - ways of forgetting?

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 277.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org

        Date: 2018-12-20 02:28:40+00:00
        From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca
        Subject: Archived Bauble Remembered


I am looking forward to your solstice musings again this year -- the year
as the French say when Humanist was _rescape_ -- rescued maybe even
reshaped. During the hiatus we had the archive and it is there that I plunged
recently to revisit like a cherished Christmas bauble the missives you
sent out in anticipation of the returning of the light. I was particularly
intrigued by your 2001 posting that quotes Greg Denning (which I read with
a note of envy since Readings/Writings is not available in my local
research library). You begin by quoting a vivid image which reminds me of
the tracery of the lines in one's hand and how reading the past and
writing the future is as  tenuous as palm reading (my own
interpolation of an image of body and scrying).

The webs of significance of any event, place or person are fine-lined and
faint. It takes a lot of looking to see them. And the answers to any
question that we have of them are never obvious, because the questions we
ask of them are not the questions the people of the past were asking of
themselves.... The most unhistorical thing we can do is to imagine that
the past is us in funny clothes. Our imagination has to allow us to
experience what we share with the past and see difference at the same


You go on to invoke Peter Shillingsburg who 'asked in a talk he gave in
London recently, do we hear that which goes without saying? "Imagination
is hearing the silence", Dening suggests, "because we have heard some of
the sounds around it. Imagination is seeing the absent things because we
have seen so much else. Imagination is an act of human solidarity, or
rather, imagination is an act of solidarity in our humanness." (p. 209).'

This year's hiatus of Humanist was punctuated by your reassuring messages
that the venue and forum would soon again serve the purposes of knitting
its subscribers in solidarity and conviviality. Some silences need not be
imagined because they are experienced and sometimes it is good that they
fade, become fine-lined and faint ...

Which of course leads me to pose a question: are the ways of forgetting
that served the past similar to the ways of forgetting that serve the
present? It is perhaps counterintuitive to ask about forgetting when so
much of the work in humanities computing is about preservation but I ask
nevertheless since without forgetting one can have no joy in rediscovery.
I am of course assuming that forgetting takes on a very different nuance
when and where archives exist.

Francois Lachance

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