Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 390. Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London Hosted by King's Digital Lab www.dhhumanist.org Submit to: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: 2019-01-27 23:32:11+00:00 From: Desmond Schmidt
Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.388: humour, objects and the McGann-Renear debate Perhaps Alan Renear believed texts were "fundamentally hierarchical" 20 years ago, but I doubt that he still does. Texts are not hierarchical – markup languages are. Desmond Schmidt eResearch, Queensland University of Technology On 1/27/19, Humanist wrote: > Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 388. > Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London > Hosted by King's Digital Lab > www.dhhumanist.org > Submit to: email@example.com > > > > > Date: 2019-01-26 21:08:05+00:00 > From: Francois Lachance > Subject: What Are Objects? > > Willard > > David Hoover's contribution of "chad" (Humanist 32:383) and its amusing > though likely erroneous acronym has led me to consider that humour is one > way of encountering what Jerome McGann (after Kristeva?) calls the > semiotic dimension of text. > > [quote] > This essential character of poetical text helps to explain why content in > poeisis tends to involve more broadly "semiotic" rather than narrowly > "linguistic" materials. The sonic and visible features of text are, so far > as the poets who make these texts are concerned (or the readers who engage > them), nearly as apt for expressive poetical purposes as the semantic, > syntactic, and rhetorical features. Each of these features represents a > field of textual action, and while any one field may be individually > (abstractly) framed in a hierarchized scheme, the recursive interplay of > the fields produces works whose order is not hierarchical. > [/quote] > > My source text is McGann's contribution to a debate with Allen Renear > (What is text? A debate on the philosophical and epistemological nature of > text in the light of humanities computing research) > http://www2.iath.virginia.edu/ach-allc.99/proceedings/hockey-renear2.html > > As I mentioned on an earlier posting to Humanist, my interest in the role > of humour was peaked by the discourse on overlapping hierarchies. > > I have visited the record of the positions taken up by McGann and Renear > often but it is only recently that I have noticed that one may read the > position statements in reverse order of presentation. That is, starting > with the import of McGann's remarks on linguistic/semiotic and the > hierarchical/recursive dimensions of text, one can tumble the order of the > five theses put forward by Renear: > > intentional: texts are, necessarily, the product of mental acts > > real: they have properties independent of our interests in them and our > theories about them. > > abstract: the objects which constitute texts are abstract, not material, > objects. > > linguistic: texts are linguistic objects; renditional features are not > parts of texts, and therefore not proper locations for textual meaning. > > hierarchical: the structure of texts is fundamentally hierarchical > > > Such a tumbling exposes a different syntagm -- one where the areas of > disagreement are preceded by areas of potential agreement with one core > area untouched. In my reading at this late distance, I believe that Renear > and McGann agree on the intentional nature of text and its independence. > As evinced by McGann's remarks quoted above, there is disagreement on what > constitutes a meaning-inducing feature and on the status of hierarchal > structure. What remains a mystery to me in reading these position > statements is the thesis that text is abstract (or that it is material). > > McGann does comment on "abstract" in an Aristotelian frame > > [quote] > This ground, explicitly "abstract" (Renear 1997), represents a view of > text as essentially a vehicle for transmitting information and concepts > (final cause). Text is "hierarchical" (formal cause) and "linguistic" > (material cause), and it is a product of human intention (efficient > cause). > [/quote] > > Is there another way of viewing "abstract"? Text as a space traversed by > forces, marked by intertextuality. Textual objects are in part defined by > their mobility. Text as a machine for sometimes scrambling information... > a drawing away from? The text would draw away from its material base and > equally from its mental supports. It might be tempting to locate text > _between_ materiality and intentionality but its locus might be > elsewhere.* > > And the collision of textual objects sometimes leads to humour (and/or > discovery) I have in mind here the diagrams on jokes found in Arthur > Koestler, The Act of Creation. > > * That elsewhere might be in the social. McGann in the above quotation > about the place of the abstract references Renear, Allen. "Out of Praxis: > Three (Meta)Theories of Textuality". Electronic Text: Investigations in > Theory and Method. Ed. Kathryn Sutherland. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997. > 107-26. If one were to consult that reference, one would find only one > instance of the lexeme "abstract" > > [quote] > In the jargon of software engineering, content objects let the author or > transcriber deal with the document at the 'level of abstraction' > appropriate to their roles: identifying a text object as a quotation, > paragraph, or verse line is an authorial task, while making decisions to > italicize or centre a title is the task of a typesetter or designer. > [/quote] > > This notion of levels of abstraction read in the light of the positions > expressed by both McGann and Renear leads me to ask if there is not a > useful distinction to be made between text objects and content objects > (note how Renear's formulation accommodates a plurality of objects (in > number and nature?)). > > > > -- > Francois Lachance > Scholar-at-large > http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance > https://berneval.blogspot.com -- Dr Desmond Schmidt Mobile: 0481915868 Work: +61-7-31384036 _______________________________________________ Unsubscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted List posts to: firstname.lastname@example.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
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