[Humanist] 29.514 muttering challenges? appropriating old words to new uses?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Nov 29 09:01:34 CET 2015

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 514.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (41)
        Subject: the most contentious challenges

  [2]   From:    lachance at chass.utoronto.ca                                (18)
        Subject: Taming our descriptions

        Date: Sat, 28 Nov 2015 09:41:57 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: the most contentious challenges

How do we assess the assimilation of digital humanities into the 
academic mainstream? There are various external indicators, evidence for 
which could be gathered from Humanist, among other sources: 
appointments, PhDs, studentships and fellowships, grants and so on. 
These are important, but more significant, I would think, is the slower- 
moving change in attitudes and understandings. In particular I'd like to 
know more about what individuals of the famous 'silent majority' might 
be overheard grumbling about as they walk away.  Parades of bandwagons 
and celebrants come and go, what with all the 'turns' and 
'next-new-things' swelling then depleting sessions at the MLA, the Zoo 
and at other large gatherings.

Somewhere Freud remarked about how we chatter our secrets from our 
fingertips. I doubt nervous fidgeting would tell us much of use about 
attitudes toward digital humanities. But anecdotes of individual 
experiences with colleagues, whether individually, assembled in a 
committee or at some gathering, would be valuable to have. What are 
your experiences? What sort of reactions do you get once you're known 
as or thought to be a 'digital humanist'? When someone says much 
by saying little, what are they saying?

The literary critic and concordance-maker Stephen Parrish, in the paper 
he gave at the IBM-sponsored Literary Data Processing Conference in 
1964, describes attending C. P. Snow's lecture, "The Two Cultures and 
the Scientific Revolution", at Cambridge in 1959. "I remember measuring 
the reception from the assembled company of good gray dons and a few 
visitors as cool, if not hostile", he remarks. Those are the sort of reactions 
I'd like to know about in more detail for digital humanities now.

What upsets those who resist by walking away? What about digital 
humanities turns people off? We speak of Luddites, but was there not 
more to them than their manner of protest? If the behaviour of modern 
crowds is an indication, I suspect that some of them were not exactly 
idealists. But even so, even in their violence, they had something to say. 
In the struggle to establish digital humanities at Toronto ca. 1984-1994, 
as I recall, backs were turned but explicit objections rarely voiced and 
never recorded. I wish now that I had made notes at the time.

What are our own "cool, if not hostile" colleagues muttering these days? 


Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London, and Digital Humanities Research
Group, University of Western Sydney

        Date: Sat, 28 Nov 2015 22:51:45 -0500 (EST)
        From: lachance at chass.utoronto.ca
        Subject: Taming our descriptions
        In-Reply-To: <20151128073150.C6B316625 at digitalhumanities.org>


I recently found myself writing about the various versions of Archibald
MacLeish's Ars Poetica and described the Poetry Foundation's digital image
of the June 1926 Poetry magazine pages as a "facsimile". I realized that
technically that is inaccurate - page size being the main factor that
distinguishes a digital image viewed on screen from a print facsimile
edition held in the hand. Still part of me wanted strongly to use the word
to facsimile to apply to the digital image. I am wondering if this were
not an attempt to apprivoiser (tame) in the vein of Le Petit Prince.

- Non, dit le petit prince. Je cherche des amis. Qu'est-ce que signifie
"apprivoiser" ?

- C'est une chose trop oubliée, dit le renard. Ca signifie "créer des

Have others had similar experiences of appropriating old words to new uses?

Francois Lachance

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