[Humanist] 28.851 precise terminology

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Thu Mar 26 07:26:40 CET 2015

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 28, No. 851.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Aleš Vaupotič <ales.vaupotic at ung.si>                    (25)
        Subject: Re:  28.850 precise terminology?

  [2]   From:    Arianna Ciula <ariannaciula at gmail.com>                   (106)
        Subject: Re:  28.850 precise terminology?

        Date: Wed, 25 Mar 2015 12:09:18 +0100
        From: Aleš Vaupotič <ales.vaupotic at ung.si>
        Subject: Re:  28.850 precise terminology?
        In-Reply-To: <20150325105158.6C5A0C97 at digitalhumanities.org>

It is worth mentioning that Auerbach's Mimesis is taking into account the
so-called technical imagination in its very core, since it connects the
"modern realism" of Stendhal etc. with globalisation which is a consequence
of technological means of transportation and communication:

»[...] the progress then achieved in transportation and communication,
together with the spread of elementary education [...], made it possible to
mobilize the people far more rapidly and in a far more unified direction;
everyone was reached by the same ideas and events far more quickly, more
consciously, and more uniformly. For Europe there began that process of
temporal concentration, both of historical events themselves and of
everyone's knowledge of them, which has since made tremendous progress and
which not only permits us to prophecy a unification of human life
throughout the world but has in a certain sense already achieved it.«
(Auerbach 459)

The digital humanities could be considered a response to such an
overwhelming flow of information.

Best regards

doc. dr. Aleš Vaupotič
vodja centra / head of the Centre
Raziskovalni center za humanistiko / Research Centre for Humanities
Univerza v Novi Gorici / University of Nova Gorica
Vipavska 13, SI-5000 Nova Gorica, Slovenija
ales.vaupotic at ung.si
+386 5 3315 269

        Date: Wed, 25 Mar 2015 14:40:33 +0000
        From: Arianna Ciula <ariannaciula at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  28.850 precise terminology?
        In-Reply-To: <20150325105158.6C5A0C97 at digitalhumanities.org>

While I look forward to reading the forthcoming article on the precision of
the particular by McGann, this recalled for me some analogies to the debate
around close-up and sky-views within historical methods and in particular
around what it means to do microhistory. Rather enlightening is the article
by Ginzburg:

Carlo Ginzburg. Microhistory: Two or Three Things That I Know about It.
(translated by John Tedeschi and Anne C. Tedeschi) Critical Inquiry, Vol.
20, No. 1 (Autumn, 1993), pp. 10-35.

He contextualised his analysis of the term and concept (when called with
other names) within sometimes evidently related, sometimes much less so
historical approaches. He mentions that the focus on microhisory
(particulars) emerged for different historians as an expressed
'dissatisfaction with the macroscopic and quantitative model that dominated
the international historiographical scene between the mid-1950s and

A snippet on p.26:
"A battle, strictly speaking, is invisible, as we have been reminded (and
not only thanks to military censorship) by the images televised during the
Gulf War. Only an abstract diagram or a visionary imagination such as
Altdorfer's can convey a global image of it. It seems proper to extend this
conclusion to any event and with greater reason to whatever historical
process. A close-up look permits us to grasp what eludes a comprehensive
viewing, and vice versa."

He also stresses the intimate connection between microhistory and
historians' narration (apparently for Kracauer microhistory was a
synonymous of monographic research...).

What Ginzburg was influenced most by was microhistory as practiced by
Italian historiography (from the 70s onwards) and focused on the

"An object, as we saw, may be chosen because it is typical (González) or
because it is repetitive and therefore capable of being serialized
(Braudel, apropos the *fait divers*). Italian microhistory has confronted
the question of comparison with a different and, in a certain sense,
opposite approach: through the anomalous, not the analogous. First of all,
it hypothesizes the more improbable sort of documentation as being
potentially richer: the "exceptional 'normal' " of Edoardo Grendi's justly
famous quip. Second, it demonstrates, as accomplished for example by
Giovanni Levi (*L'eredità immateriale*) and by Simona Cerutti (*La Ville et
les métiers*), that any social structure is the result of interaction and
of numerous individual strategies, a fabric that can only be reconstituted
from close observation. It is significant that the relationship between
this microscopic dimension and the larger contextual dimension became in
both cases (though so diverse) the organizing principle in the narration.
As Kracauer had already foreseen, the results obtained in a microscopic
sphere cannot be automatically transferred to a macroscopic sphere (and
vice versa). This heterogeneity, the implications of which we are just
beginning to perceive, constitutes both the greatest difficulty and the
greatest potential benefit of microhistory." (p.33)


Dr Arianna Ciula
Department of Humanities
University of Roehampton | London | SW15 5PH

On Wed, Mar 25, 2015 at 10:51 AM, Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 28, No. 850.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                        www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>         Date: Wed, 25 Mar 2015 09:24:10 +0000
>         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>         Subject: precise terminology
> In his "Epilegomena to Mimesis", added as an appendix six years after
> the book was first published, Erich Auerbach considered the problem of
> inexact terminology in comparative literary studies. What he wrote
> applies convincingly, I think, to the discourse of digital humanities
> from the perspective of that Janus face of ours which looks into the
> humanities and speaks to those disciplines:
> > It is in the nature of our subject that our general concepts are
> > poorly differentiable and are undefinable. Their worth... consists in
> > that they elicit in readers or hearers a series of ideas that
> > facilitate for them an understanding of what is meant in the
> > particular context. They are not exact. The attempts to define them,
> > or even only to collect completely and without contradiction those
> > characteristics that compose them, can never lead to the desired
> > result - even though they are often interesting, for the reason that
> > someone produces in the discussion a new point of view and thereby
> > assists in the enrichment of our ideas. One must beware, it seems to
> > me, of regarding the exact sciences as our model; our precision
> > relates to the particularÂ…. A person with a classificatory taxonomy
> > that works with exact and set conceptions of order cannot succeed in
> > drawing together the aspects that intersect multiply into a synthesis
> > that does justice to the subjects. (Mimesis, 50th Anniversary edn,
>  > pp. 572-3)
> Much has happened in and to the sciences since Auerbach wrote. It seems
> to me there are strong reasons for regarding them as far closer to our
> concerns now than seemed in 1952.
> Many here, I hope, will be interested in Jerome McGann's essay, "Truth
> and Method. Humanities Scholarship as a Science of Exceptions",
> forthcoming in Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 40.2 (June 2015), in
> which he discusses the precision of the particular.
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
> Humanities, King's College London, and Digital Humanities Research
> Group, University of Western Sydney

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