Home About Subscribe Search Member Area

Humanist Discussion Group

< Back to Volume 32

Humanist Archives: Jan. 28, 2019, 5:24 a.m. Humanist 32.390 - the McGann-Renear debate

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 390.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.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
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: humanist@dhhumanist.org
>         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: 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.