12.0351 basic problems

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Thu, 21 Jan 1999 19:41:36 +0000 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 12, No. 351.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

[1] From: <msollars@cctr.umkc.edu> (5)
Subject: Re: 12.0346 basic problems in humanities computing?

[2] From: Francois Lachance <lachance@chass.utoronto.ca> (35)
Subject: prime primitives

Date: Thu, 21 Jan 1999 19:44:35 +0000
From: <msollars@cctr.umkc.edu>
Subject: Re: 12.0346 basic problems in humanities computing?

Just a note to say that your comments were extremely informative and
thought provoking. I intend to look more into the interdisciplinary
aspect of textual analysis. I am working in both literature and
philosophy as co-disciplines at this time. Thank you very much for
your insights.

Mike Sollars at the University of Missouri at Kansas City

Date: Thu, 21 Jan 1999 19:44:47 +0000
From: Francois Lachance <lachance@chass.utoronto.ca>
Subject: prime primitives


I am wondering if the search for primitives should not begin with the
language that contstructs the object of study. I here am reminded of
an assertion by William Gass to the effect that "Modern criticism has
lived like a shrew upon paraphrase and explanation." There is, and
Gass would admit this, pedagogic value to paraphrase and back
translation especially if they part of an set of exercises in
variation (I have here in mind Erasmus's _De Copia_). I also have in
mind a more recent example, "Coda - is it morphin' time?" by David
Greetham in Kathryn Sutherland (ed), _Electronic Text: Investigations
in Method and Theory_ (Oxford, 1998).

Gass, of course goes on to distinguish between art which is concerned
with the signifier or, in his terms, the shape and sound of words and
communication which is concerned with semantics or, in structralist
terms, with the signified. Gass's remarks were collected a little over
40 years ago and even then he recognizes that the distinction upon
which this division relies (the physical token --- conceptual type
distinction) involves many subtlties.

Tokens, types and their transformations. One is tempted to invoke
music and mathematics as the template disciplines. But any discipline
that asks of its materials "how could they be arranged otherwise" in
order to understand how they came to be arranged as they are can
serve as the exemplar of method.

There does remain the meta-primitive: when is it appropriate to ask
the question of the otherwise in order to ascertain the
what-might-have-been. This is, of course, to infuse the search for
primitives with an ethical dimension -- deontology displaces ontology.
It may be a mere aesthetic preference for a time beyond and behind the
_what is_.

The seminar - the collective working through of questions - may
indeed be the most primitive of primitives

but then I may be semantically shifting the word,

"structure, content, format"
-- not just nouns --

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