Home About Subscribe Search Member Area

Humanist Discussion Group

< Back to Volume 32

Humanist Archives: Jan. 11, 2019, 6:35 a.m. Humanist 32.318 - toward a theory of the corpus

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 318.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org

        Date: 2019-01-10 15:17:01+00:00
        From: Jim Rovira 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.311: toward a theory of the corpus

Many thanks for your follow up, Bill.

> Thanks for following the rabbit, Jim. First a question: Do you always
> reject claims about the mind unless they are backed up with neural 
> evidence? If so, you pretty much have to reject a large swath of work, 
> current as a well as past.

That is a great question. No, of course not. My expectations change
depending upon the way claims are being framed. But psychology in general,
when it's not directly dependent upon neuroscience, has been plagued with
this problem since the beginning. To return to my points about Freud, he
intends to be working empirically, describing physical structures of the
brain and how they interact, but respondents like Wittgenstein called his
work a "myth." If we stay strictly within a materialist/ empirical frame of
reference, we run into real problems describing any kind of depth

One of the examples in the working paper comes from Andrew Piper's
> computational work on conversion narratives (pp. 23-26). He uses
> Augustine's Confessions as his primary text. He conducts a statistical 
> analysis of the text and discovers that each of the 13 books is located 
> in a specific region of a high dimensional space, which he projects onto 
> two dimensions. I reproduce his Figure 2 in the paper (on p. 23). 
> Piper points out that the books seem to occupy two distinct regions in 
> that space, books 1-10 in one region and 11-13 in another region. 
> That distinction is quite evident in the graph. Since he's
> numbered the points in his graph according to the books they represent, I
> connect those points together into a path (pp. 25 & 26). I'm claiming that
> is a path through mental space, through the mind. When we read Confessions 
> our attention is following that path.
> When I talk of motions of mind, that's the kind of thing I mean, attention
> along a path. Those two regions are regions in the mind. What else could
> the be?

At this point I don't think I should respond further without reading more
of your work, but the questions that come to mind here --

Is he working with the Latin text or in English?

Would the paths work themselves out differently in different languages?
Suppose he were working in Russian or Chinese?

Either way, "attention along a path" sounds a lot more reasonable to me.
But rather than producing a map of the mind, might we say it's describing
what might be happening in the "mind" while it's reading? But even then, I
can't help but think different minds would follow somewhat different paths.
The facts of the text described by the graph, and I am willing to accept
them as "facts," might be navigated differently by different readers as
attention is drawn more strongly to some points of the text than others,
depending upon the reader. Assuming the points are fixed, might the way we
connect the dots work out differently? Might some readers drop some of
those data points altogether and make other really, really fat? It sounds
like what's being described is an ideal model that would exist in a reader
that gave equal weight to all points in the text, but I don't think such a
reader exists.

I can't escape the thought that there needs to be some kind of theoretical
or empirical framework between the data you're working with and the claims
we might want to make about the "mind" because of it. Would Chomsky help?
Some other linguistic approach? I don't doubt neuroscience is too difficult
a path right now.

Different metaphors for interpretation beyond "hidden meaning"? They are
many. C.S. Lewis used a forensic metaphor in the 1960s, saying the text
only provides the evidence that our questions require of it. Many ask
undergraduates not to look for "hidden meanings" in a text, but to engage
in a process of pattern recognition, which I think resonates with your
approach. Cultural approaches to texts might be said to begin with
externally (culturally)-derived patterns that are sought for within the
text at hand: once a pattern is approximated, we can ask ourselves what
significance the individual text's deviations might have. Out of vogue now,
but myth criticism was a remarkable compendium of pattern recognition
exercises in its day, all derived from environmental phenomena. Reading
Frye's *Anatomy of Criticism *can leave the impression that all literature
has already been pre-interpreted. I suggest also the metaphor of "filters,"
which suppresses some details to emphasize others: what do we see when we
look at an object with red, green, or blue filters? What do we see when we
look at a text with different interests and concerns? What constitutes a
"hidden" meaning varies by reader, as what is obvious to one reader may be
invisible to another, so that metaphor doesn't help much. I would say the
majority of instruction in literature these days, deliberately or not, is
an attempt to teach students pattern recognition in literary texts. Most
instructors don't even care what pattern is followed -- develop a system
and follow it, and see what you get. Let's hear your (the student's)
rationale for it. Present your evidence. There's a reason pre-law student
have been encouraged to get undergrad degrees in English lit.

Jim R
Dr. James Rovira 
Bright Futures Educational Consulting

   - Reading and History
    (Lexington Books,
   under contract)
   - Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms
    (Palgrave Macmillan,
   May 2018)
   - Rock and Romanticism: Blake, Wordsworth, and Rock from Dylan to U2
   Books, February 2018)
   - Assembling the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Essays on the Social,
   Cultural, and Geopolitical Domains
   Chapter 8 (McFarland Books, 2018)
   - Kierkegaard, Literature, and the Arts
   Chapter 12 (Northwestern UP, 2018)
   - Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety

Active CFPs

   - Women in Rock/ Women in Romanticism
   edited anthology
   - David Bowie and Romanticism
   edited anthology

Unsubscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted
List posts to: humanist@dhhumanist.org
List info and archives at at: http://dhhumanist.org
Listmember interface at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted/
Subscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/membership_form.php

Editor: Willard McCarty (King's College London, U.K.; Western Sydney University, Australia)
Software designer: Malgosia Askanas (Mind-Crafts)

This site is maintained under a service level agreement by King's Digital Lab.