14.0074 thought-experiment on commentaries

From: Humanist Discussion Group (willard@lists.village.virginia.edu)
Date: Wed Jun 28 2000 - 04:43:05 CUT

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                    Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 74.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: Jascha Kessler <jaschak@earthlink.net> (45)
             Subject: Re: re commentary

       [2] From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance) (45)
             Subject: Re: 14.0073 a thought-experiment

       [3] From: "Osher Doctorow" <osher@ix.netcom.com> (7)
             Subject: Re: 14.0073 a thought-experiment

             Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2000 05:39:02 +0100
             From: Jascha Kessler <jaschak@earthlink.net>
             Subject: Re: re commentary

    As an ignoramus in lexology, to coin a term? I might think first, of course,
    of asking to know the standard search and retrieve things, Boolean, etc.,
    the major libraries and etc., use, and how things are catalogued. UCLA has
    just spent a fortune on the new ORION2, and it came along very late and very
    buggy, and they are being sued and penalized, having taking on more than
    they imagined they were doing. So there is cataloguing and then there
    comes, I imagine, the abstraction of the formal structures of the Talmud. I
    think a bot might be devised to learn from all the threads of commentary
    upon and within and recursive in the Talmud, which is not the Library of
    Congress, but a small and finite number of volumes. I wouldnt be surprised
    if this project either exists or is under way in Israel. But, I think it a
    model for complexities for the scholiasts. Chinese would be a horror,
    because of the vastness of the library, and the fact that they never indexed
    at all. I would begin with the Talmud, the first thing that came to my
    mind, because it is not a free for all, but a historical accretion and
    layering with threading and a finite number of commentators, and adjuncts,
    etc. It is not the Bible, but commentary, which makes it suitable, the
    Bible being already ready, or rather the Pentateuch, and all the other extra
    volumes, all of which exist in English in the ongoing Doubleday Bible, all
    the books of which line my shelves, with notes and all. The Talmud is
    special, since it, I think, hermetical in nature, so apt for a model.
    Make any sense to you? Talk to Steinsaltz, who has been bringing the Talmud
    to English, etc.

    > From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
    > Date: Fri, 23 Jun 2000 06:23:38 +0100
    > To: Jascha Kessler <jaschak@earthlink.net>
    > >
    > Jascha,
    > Ok, but how would you envision an electronic Talmud, if at all?
    > W
    > At 10:51 AM 6/22/00 -0700, you wrote:
    >> I should have thought the magisterial model for commentary is the Talmud,
    >> all of it, as it goes and grows.
    >> Jascha Kessler
    > - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    > Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
    > voice: +44 (0)20 7848 2784 fax: +44 (0)20 7848 5081
    > <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> <http://ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/>
    > maui gratias agere

             Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2000 05:39:25 +0100
             From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
             Subject: Re: 14.0073 a thought-experiment


    Very often the visions of the future are grounded in the experienced
    realities of the past. For me, the ideal commentary would be like Robert
    Hollander guiding a tour of the Dante Database Project.
    At the prompt type "connect dante" and press enter.

    Commentary becomes an instantiation of an expert system. The commentary
    would speak with the voice of a scholar steeped in learning. Like the
    scholar, the expert system would understand that a consultation may be
    directed to recall (proportion of relevant hits or matches retrieved by a
    query) or directect to precision (proportion of retrieved hits or matches
    relevant to a query). And like a scholar, an expert system would remember
    the types of queries generated by previous consultations and become truly
    excited by a fresh suggestion.

    These interactive aspects do not need a full multimedia personna for the
    interface to be effective. They exist whenever a commentary offers
    opportunities for good navigation, accessible annotation and interesting
    model manipulation.

    Commentary supplies good navigation or builds upon good navigation --
    segmentation of the encoded text takes into account different analytical
    structures that may arise from various readings of a text or set of texts.

    A good commentary is itself structured so references can be made
    to it. An outside annotation can send readers to an exact spot in a

    These two desiderata are within reach with xpointer. They are not one bit
    foreign to scholars used to processing words.

    The third is perhaps a technical stretch for people not used to
    spreadsheets. A good commentary allows one to depict the textual object
    under discussion. A good depiction allows one so zoom in and out of
    different views. A better depiction allows for differenct views to be
    compared and even intersect. Take a simple distribution graph of the first
    occurance of names in a novel and plot it against the shifting distance of
    the hero from a given goal (can lead to a revisiting of the picaresque
    novel). Or take a narratological view and compare it with a phonological
    analysis (imagine how such a commentary can open up the complexities of a
    Faulkner novel with its subtle repetitions and displacements).

    Scalable navigation is the key to such dynamic modeling.

    In the end any such commentary makes me want to reread the text which has
    generated the worlds which been the object of such attentive affection.

    Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
    Member of the Evelyn Letters Project

    --[3]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2000 05:40:13 +0100 From: "Osher Doctorow" <osher@ix.netcom.com> Subject: Re: 14.0073 a thought-experiment

    From: Osher Doctorow osher@ix.netcom.com, June 23, 2000, 10:05AM

    Dear Colleagues and especially Willard McCarty:

    I know that this is not a standard type of request, but since I am presently occupied with other matters, could you give a one-paragraph summary of what Glenn Most's book says about commentaries? I could then more readily try to reply to your other question/suggestion.

    Yours truly,


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