[Humanist] 24.864 literature brought virtually to life

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri Apr 8 07:52:17 CEST 2011

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 864.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Thu, 7 Apr 2011 11:09:15 -0700
        From: Jascha Kessler <urim.urim at gmail.com>
        Subject: re Mr Piez...

who wrote an interesting and cogent comment ... until near his close, when
we read, "these institutions are no one but us, and like all living things,
their choice and ours is only whether to renew ourselves or die."
There is not "or" about any of this.  We die in any case, in the longer or
shorter run, to allude to Keynes'  famous remark.  The questions in this
venue, it seems to me, are about digital humanities "machines" involved in
reading.  Most of the list here, I suppose, is composed of a very small
minority of educated to read readers.  But reading in the deepest way is an
achievement of a very small number of people everywhere and anywhere.
Education?  I published online a review of a book out on 4th April.  It may
be found at: www.calitreview.com
Title: IN THE BASEMENT OF THE IVORY TOWER, by Professor X.   I make a few
comments about reading en passant in that review.
Piez mentions poems.  In my dotage, I teach a Freshman Seminar at UCLA each
Fall, titled FIAT LUX, part of an Honors offering that teachers from any
part of the University can do for fun and relaxation, rather informally,
since it wants to attract students from all disciplines to sort of bum
around.  1 credit; pass/fail; requirement: only to show up for 10 hours in
the Quarter.
Universally, they and most people, upon reading a poem, to themselves, or
viva voce, begin to talk "meaning." I forbid such talk. I ask merely for one
written page that tells the group, What does the poem SAY?  It is the
voice.  I narrow the field to 3 fundamental modes of human speech [in
poetry, which is mainly expression, not "communication[s]"; Elegy, Satire,
One would be surprised to find how this elementary approach to the
elementary proves very difficult for the most interested and eager.
Of course, all these students read from a printed collection I made
haphazardly, and they write and read more via their screens, of course.
As for Piez remarks about his age and memories and the sources of
inspiration and/or enterprise, let me recall Thoreau's acid remark in
WALDEN, which is a sort of Memento Mori: "One generation abandons the
enterprises of another like vessels stranded on the shore."
Oddly, what we call Humanities is our study of all the lost, and fossilized
enterprises that are recorded.  And that is where digitization may be the
means for past present and future.
As for meanings, each of takes them away to the Aldila, and most are lost,
as I notice, to most memories after the aging thing gets going in each, for
each, and according to who knows what neural chemistry endowments.  All one
may hold to, is the memory of youth's courage even at "setting out."  Yeats
laments this in "Among School Children."

Jascha Kessler
Professor of Modern English & American Literature, UCLA
Telephone/Facsimile: 310.393.4648

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