13.0510 Goldhill &al. on contingencies of disciplines and forms

From: Humanist Discussion Group (willard@lists.village.virginia.edu)
Date: Sat Mar 25 2000 - 11:06:14 CUT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 13, No. 510.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Sat, 25 Mar 2000 11:02:32 +0000
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: contingencies of disciplines and scholarly forms

    Simon Goldhill, "Wipe your glosses". In Glenn W. Most, ed., Commentaries --
    Kommentare. Aporemata: Kritische Studien zur Philologiegeschichte, vol 4.
    Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1999.

    In this recent essay on the commentary in classics, Goldhill raises two
    interrelated questions of interest for this seminar. The first is the
    relationship between one's conception of language and the form of the
    commentary (or, as he says, between styles of glossing and styles of
    knowing), the second is the socio-historical contingency of these styles,
    a.k.a. disciplines.

    In addition to concentrating on the epistemological fashions in classics,
    Goldhill provides a number of useful references to studies of the same in
    other fields, including German archaeology, philology, anthropology,
    psychoanalysis (pp. 382, 410-11). I pass the reference along because I
    think that studies of this kind are quite important to our developing
    argument for humanities computing. They help to undermine the disciplinary
    walls in the common way that social constructivist arguments work (see Ian
    Hacking's recent book, The Social Construction of What?) -- by showing us
    that the situation we're in need not be as it is. We're alerted to the fact
    that the disciplinary situation was made by people like us and so can be
    remade by people like us. For all the practical value that these walls
    have, they lead to a narrowness of mind that seems to me one of our
    chiefest impediments. As a number of people have pointed out, an
    interdiscipline cannot be resolved into its disciplinary components; if you
    think in those terms, the crucial interaction is lost. What our field has
    to offer intellectually becomes invisible.

    Goldhill's essay is among several that discuss styles of glossing and
    knowing -- among others Daniel Boyarin's on Midrash -- which wonderfully
    gets down to some philosophical bedrock -- Marschies on Origin, Wagner on
    Lao Tzu, Sluiter on didactics, Vallance on Galen, Krause on the art
    historical scene and the late Don Fowler on criticism and commentaries in
    the electronic age. Many of the particulars in these essays are relevant
    only to specialists in the various conventional disciplines. Nevertheless,
    reading across the collection (letting go, with however much regret, of the
    passages in classical Chinese, Greek, Arabic etc) one sees how, as Goldhill
    puts it, commentaries have been shaped by conceptions of language and
    culture, and how in turn they have been used to close down as well as open
    up meaning. How the mechanical details of the commentary form(s) show
    epistemological roots and have had far-reaching consequences.

    Why, I wonder, do discussions of this sort seem to me like our kind of
    thing? We come on the scene not just with a kit-bag full of nifty tricks
    ("click here and X happens") but with the non-submissive, non-trivial
    question of how these tricks should be deployed ("what do you want to
    happen?"). With a critical focus on the artisanship of knowing. Do we feel
    at home with these discussions because deconstruction makes way for
    reconstruction, and both are preoccupied with how our forms of knowing
    actually work?


    Dr Willard McCarty / Centre for Computing in the Humanities /
    King's College London / Strand / London WC2R 2LS U.K. /
    voice: +44 (0)171 848-2784 / fax: +44 (0)171 848-2980 /
    maui gratia

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