17.138 nesting

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Mon Jul 07 2003 - 05:48:00 EDT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 138.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

             Date: Mon, 07 Jul 2003 10:29:43 +0100
             From: lachance@origin.chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
             Subject: nesting, framing, resting


    I have been meditating upon the "nesting" thread.

    I wonder if the "reading" narratives initiated in a given textual
    sequence as residing one inside the other is not due to the application
    of a particular content model. [Of course, I, myself, am skewing the
    discourse here with the term "textual sequence".]

    I am suggesting that certain design parameters of languages like XSLT
    used to process XML may favour attention to "nesting". Empty elements
    that serve milestone functions, i.e. elements that introduce a
    before/after structure, are available in XML. XSLT can handle
    transformations of such "textual situations" but other languages may be
    suited to the task.

    I raise this because I believe that an encoders experience with what is
    possible affects what they perceive to be the structures of a textual
    sequence or situation. And it is not only the language one may be using to
    encode that affects encoder outlook. It is worth considering in this
    context the impact of the introduction of the <div> element in HTML 4.0
    and try to imagine the sense of text that one develops when non-nesting
    elements such as <p> provide the main rule to guide text production (and
    reading). Consider also the case of COCOA used to markup text for TACT --
    an act or a scene ends when the next begins, a line of verse or a stanza
    ends when the next begins. What I am seeking to do is to try to
    understand to what degree the "nesting narrative" question is inflected by
    considerations of navigation and to what degree considerations of
    transformation affect the what is navigated. Am I moving from anchor to
    anchor or from node to node?

    Nesting is haunted by a need for closure.
    Nodes have middles, beginnings and ends.

    Wendell's invocation of narratology can point not only to the analysis
    of narrative but also to that of narration. For, even the infinite
                              There was a storyteller who began a story
                              "There was a storyteller who began..."
    has a finite frame.

    Frames are the spectres of beginnings.
    Anchors end in the middle of a beginning.
    Anchors begin the end of the middle.

    "Frames are often taken to be equivalent to schemata, plans and scripts
    [...]" Gerald Prince, _Dictionary of Narratology_

    Frame switching is very much about machinery for staging. The
    narratological concerns of markup certainly touch upon theatricality.

    I am indebted for my next example to Pat Galloway who kindly pointed me
    to _The Diving Bell and the Butterfly_ by Jean-Dominique Bauby, trans.
    Jeremy Leggatt, in relation to the theme of "machine-for-the-other".

    ESARINT [...] The jumble appearance of my chorus line stems not from
    chance but from cunning calculation. More than an alphabet, it is a hit
    parade in which each letter is placed according to the frequency of its
    use [...] It is a simple enough system. You read off the alphabet (ESA
    version, not ABC) until, with a blink of my eye, I stop you at the
    letter to be noted. The maneuver is repeated for the letters that
    follow, so that fairly soon you have a whole word, and then fragments of
    more or less intelligble sentences. That, at least, is the theory. In
    reality, all does not go well for some visitors [...]

    A machine translation would be able to restore for every character the
    string prior to the blink.


    Nested narratives? Not quite. The point I want to emphasize is that the
    serial performances are nested in a retrospective reading. Julia
    Kristeva's terminology of genotext/phenotext is useful here (For a brief
    explanation and bibliography see Irena Makaryk, ed. _Encyclopedia of
    Contemporary Literary Theory_). Markup is not just about recording what
    is perceived but also about constructing what is imagined.

    In markup, an event, a reading experience, becomes reified and becomes
    retold as event, a re-staging of the event of reading. For me, this
    activity speaks to the intersections of Poeticity, Theatricality and
    Narrativity (for an exploration of such intersections in the context of
    possible world semantics, see

    I don't know if I have succeed in reframing the nesting question. I do
    know that the investigation has allowed me to dwell upon once again
    performance in the name of form and revisit the pleasure, bittersweet, of
    that odd incipit:

    The End.

    Lachance, Scholar-at-large http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance

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