[Humanist] 29.573 solstitial darkness and Christmas cheer

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Dec 22 07:36:51 CET 2015

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 573.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Mon, 21 Dec 2015 11:26:18 +0200
        From: Corina Moldovan <corimoldovan at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  29.569 solstitial darkness and Christmas cheer
        In-Reply-To: <20151221090041.C615D79DE at digitalhumanities.org>

Dear Professor McCarty
Thank you for this beautiful letter.On behalf of the Transylvania Digital
Humanities Centre, DigiHUBB, I wish you the best in the year to come. Happy
Corina Moldovan

2015-12-21 11:00 GMT+02:00 Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>:

>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 569.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                        www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>         Date: Mon, 21 Dec 2015 08:41:39 +0000
>         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>         Subject: solstitial darkness and Christmas cheer
> Dear colleagues,
> Since 1987, with a brief hiatus (when Humanist was Canadian) I've sent
> a message at this time of year on behalf of us all to wish all of us the
> best of the solstice, the winter one for those of us in the Northern
> Hemisphere, the summer for those of us in the Southern. A few here will
> not need to be told the brief history of these notes, but the great
> majority will by this point in the reading of this one, I hope, no
> longer be puzzled. To invoke something the British do supremely well,
> this was once for everyone a cozy message from the cold and dark of the
> solstice to others enjoying the same conditions. But now we are much
> more numerous and widely scattered, some celebrating the time of year in
> the heat of Christmas, even on the beach. (I recall the shock when,
> reading Kate Grenville's The Idea of Perfection for the first time,
> encountering that phrase, "the heat of Christmas"; it has stood the test
> of time as for me the marker of difference such global distance makes.
> Distance that, I hope, this and other postings from Humanist partially
> overcome.)
> Then, too, Humanist was the only means of the few in digital humanities
> to communicate with each other. Now there are many ways, most of which
> (to show my age and inclinations) I have only heard of and determinedly
> not exercised. In spite of those many ways Humanist continues to grow.
> We have, I think, spent far too much energy arguing over what to call
> the field that Humanist was created to serve. I don't think, however,
> that anyone has yet reflected on the great flexibility of the current
> term, "digital humanities", which can be both singular and plural.
> "Humanities computing" had the advantage of being rather more obviously
> (as one Australian immigration officer, curious about what I did for a
> living, remarked humorously to me) an oxymoron. I remain convinced that
> our discipline is built on a fruitful contradiction, which is to say
> that its genius is kept alive by the via negativa of algorithmic
> reasoning -- hence as some wisely insist, the necessity to have or to
> have had one's hands into coding. But the stubbornness of "digital
> humanities" in reminding us of the simultaneous unity and diversity of
> the field is indeed also a great gift.
> Forgive the philological musings. A brief time in childhood and a longer
> in parenthood have schooled me to put and find gifts under a tree at
> this time of year, to participate in a wrapping up and unwrapping and to
> go on celebrating as long as possible. So here we are. In one of the
> following messages, for example, will be an announcement of research
> associate positions in the Digital Humanities Research Group at Western
> Sydney University. And more quietly, unannounced here, are other signs
> of vigorous growth of digital humanities in Australia. The field grows
> everywhere it has been planted. Major branches are pushing out.
> Diversity is insistent. I find the biological metaphor useful, since for
> one thing it reminds us that life is insistent, finding a way in stony
> ground (as it was in 1987 for anyone humanist associated with
> computing). But in the cultural arena of disciplines the metaphor can
> mislead us into thinking that this disciplinary growth happens all by
> itself, independent of what we do, and that just isn't so. Diversity must
> be insisted on, helped, guided. In Chance and Necessity geneticist
> Jacques Monod brilliantly works out an elegant mechanism for life,
> describing three major properties: teleonomy (orientation to an end),
> autonomous morphogenesis (generation of new forms) and
> reproductive invariance (preservation of a specific structural standard),
> or in the terms of this note, the future we desire, the diversity we insist
> on through disagreement and political initiatives and the unity we must
> struggle to maintain. This, it seems, is an age when diversity, even
> incommensurable separateness dominates the attention. It's a
> counterbalancing, of course. But when it takes the form of the
> revolutionary, catastrophic "post-" malady, which identifies a radical
> turning point and denies historical continuities, we must put weight in
> the opposite pan. For the moment at least the imperative, I'd think, is to
> recover and exhibit those continuities, that unity.
> Isn't this what Christmas and other solstitial holidays can accomplish?
> So, chucking off the moralizing, allow me in a celebratory spirit,
> without politics, to wish you a happy time and a very fine New Year --
> in May the start of Humanist's 31st!
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
> Humanities, King's College London, and Digital Humanities Research
> Group, Western Sydney University

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