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: firstname.lastname@example.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 _______________________________________________ Unsubscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted List posts to: email@example.com List info and archives at at: http://dhhumanist.org Listmember interface at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted/ Subscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/membership_form.php
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