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Humanist Archives: Oct. 19, 2019, 5:49 a.m. Humanist 33.327 - what we're not ready for

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 327.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org

        Date: 2019-10-18 08:56:47+00:00
        From: Bill Benzon 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.318: what we're not ready for?

Comments below.

> On Oct 15, 2019, at 3:04 AM, Humanist > wrote:
>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 318.
>            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
>                       www.dhhumanist.org 
>                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org


> neighboring disciplines have moved in". Another way of saying somewhat
> the same thing is that interdisciplinary research, to which a
> methodological field like ours is committed, requires a discipline from
> which to be interdisciplinary.

Was there EVER such a discipline? Stylometrics? Library and Information Science
(itself a hybrid)? As you well know, Willard, the term 'digital humanities'
was coined well after the activities had been moving along for half a century,
sometimes under the rubric of 'computers and the humanities'.

> To ask after the problems we are not yet
> ready for, problems that we cannot ignore because they are important and
> will otherwise be ignored or treated incompletely or badly, is to ask
> the still unanswered question, what is digital humanities? A kind of
> sociology? Cultural studies? Philosophy? Or is something emerging that
> looks sort of like these, and others, but has its own agenda? Nothing
> wrong with being an amalgam, like computer science.

I think it's too diverse to be an offshoot of some one thing or even to be a
single new agenda. This whole business of disciplines is a bit dodgy. It's
certainly an administrative convenience, perhaps even a necessity. But
intellectually? The intellectual case is that truth, or validity, is constructed
as a pattern over details. Of details the world has a vast number. Can't look
at them all. So we gather them into bunches, which we call disciplines. But
sooner or later people who've been working with one bunch of details discover
they really need to consider some details in a neighboring bunch or two, maybe
even a distant bunch. And so disciplinary boundaries are breached.

> whole show going. But to serve well without being merely a servant --
> a role our machines are quickly assuming -- one has to have something to
> give. In our case, what is it?

Well in literary studies people could begin to do one thing they have refused to
do, which is to think about literary processes as somehow, in some measure,
computational in kind. And by that I mean doing something more than reading
Dreyfus or Searle and wagging your finger. Actually learn a bit about how
computation works and see what it tells you about literature. Then they're be
something very interesting to computer. Alas, I don't see it happening.

My own thoughts on that issue are in a long paper I published over a decade ago,
Literary Morphology: Nine Propositions in a Naturalist Theory of Form. It's
available online here: https://www.academia.edu/235110/Literary_Morphology_Nine_

I've added an appendix in which I interpret Jakobson's poetic function as
fundamentally computational in kind.

Bill Benzon



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