20.573 classical texts for the moment?

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Sat, 14 Apr 2007 08:36:59 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 20, No. 573.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Sat, 14 Apr 2007 08:30:49 +0100
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: classical texts for the moment

"The notion of producing a commentary on the Gorgias", E. R. Dodds
comments in his Preface (1959), "took root in my mind when at the
outbreak of the last war I found myself lecturing on it to
undergraduates who were soon to be soldiers. The circumstances of the
time brought sharply home both to me and to my audience the relevance
of this dialogue to the central issues, moral and political, of our
own day... Of this relationship Victorian editors like Thompson and
Lodge naturally had no inkling. Nor did their commentaries provide
even the minimum historical background which is essential if the
student is to perceive both the resemblance and the difference
between Plato's situation and that of the intellectual today." Dodds
goes on to explain why he postponed work on the commentary, and why
additional time elapsed after he got back to the project before it was begun.

Although all of us, I suppose, would wish the sharp lessons of war to
be a thing of the past, one can see in Dodds' reminiscence an opening
for digital editions of the future. Don Flowler noted in "Criticism
as commentary and commentary as criticism in the age of electronic
media" (Commentaries -- Kommentare, ed. Most, 1999) that the digital
kind has the unexciting but consequential capacity for accumulation,
but here is something more than that, perhaps: the ability to
preserve the networks of relations or frames within which a work such
as the Gorgias can speak to recurrent human situations. How, one
might wonder, did -- or does -- the Gorgias speak to those about to
go into battle? What did it say to the students at Oxford at the
outbreak of WWII? How might a Platonic dialogue be used as a tool of
insight into a modern historical period? How might anything be
rendered into a form better able to speak to anyone anytime?

Do we have any idea what the design might look like?



Dr Willard McCarty | Reader in Humanities Computing | Centre for
Computing in the Humanities | King's College London |
Received on Sat Apr 14 2007 - 03:48:44 EDT

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