[Humanist] 24.867 literature brought virtually to life

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Apr 9 07:16:31 CEST 2011


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 867.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org



        Date: Fri, 08 Apr 2011 14:00:16 -0400
        From: Wendell Piez <wapiez at mulberrytech.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.864 literature brought virtually to life
        In-Reply-To: <20110408055217.7BDBF12AC9E at woodward.joyent.us>

Dear Willard and HUMANIST,

On 4/8/2011 1:52 AM, Jascha Kessler wrote:
>                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 864.
>           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
>                         www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                  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.

I know ... as I was writing, I was remembering W.H. Auden's recantation 
of his own great poem "September 1, 1939". Maybe I was echoing more than 
I knew from his words:

   There is no such thing as the State
   And no one exists alone;
   Hunger allows no choice
   To the citizen or the police;
   We must love one another or die.

Later (as least if my memory is not betraying me) the poet accused his 
earlier self of sentimentality, and changed his text. Of course we love 
one another *and* die.

And yet I decided to go with the first version, arguing with myself that 
it could be true in a less literal sense, if we ask what is the failure 
to love, or the failure to renew ourselves. For the most part, what 
difference there is between merely persisting and dying is not a 
question the young have to ask: but that is exactly the point.

As to the rest, I am happy to leave that to Dr Kessler, and to Auden, 
this time from his elegy on Yeats of the same year:

   Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
   And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
   To find his happiness in another kind of wood
   And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
   The words of a dead man
   Are modified in the guts of the living.

This does have to do with us, especially as the words of the dead are 
modified, not only in our own guts, but in the guts of our machines. To 
me, it seems always an open question whether such modification will be 
renewal, or only encapsulation and embalming; and this is the question I 
wished to pose about us and our students. Absolutely, as Kessler quotes 
Thoreau, "One generation abandons the enterprises of another like 
vessels stranded on the shore"; I don't feel it should be otherwise. It 
still matters what shore we have landed them on, whether the spit of an 
atoll, or a continent.

Respectfully,
Wendell

======================================================================
Wendell Piez                            mailto:wapiez at mulberrytech.com
Mulberry Technologies, Inc.                http://www.mulberrytech.com
17 West Jefferson Street                    Direct Phone: 301/315-9635
Suite 207                                          Phone: 301/315-9631
Rockville, MD  20850                                 Fax: 301/315-8285
----------------------------------------------------------------------
   Mulberry Technologies: A Consultancy Specializing in SGML and XML
======================================================================





More information about the Humanist mailing list