17.149 geometric/algebraic?

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Sat Jul 12 2003 - 02:07:08 EDT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 149.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

             Date: Sat, 12 Jul 2003 06:56:48 +0100
             From: lachance@origin.chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
             Subject: geometric algebraic as critical vocabulary


    For a variety of reasons I found myself reading a piece by Dick Higgins,
    "The Strategy of Visual Poety". Higgins establishes a distinction between
    geometric and algebraic approaches to composition. I know about the
    difference between arithmatic and geometric progressions. However I am
    stumped in trying to locate any antecedants or parallels to Higgins
    geometric-algebraic distinction. Any help from Humanist subscribers and
    their contacts beyond list would be appreciated. [The impetus, for me, is
    to trace out some precursors to the discourse on linearity in textual
    criticism.] This is the passage from Higgins that entices and puzzles:

    [...] what syntax there is is geometric rather than, as in traditional
    poetry, algebraic -- cumulative rather than linear. The elements taken
    separately have no particular power or impact. But each line gets nearly
    all its meaning from its relation to the others, where in traditional
    poetry the lines normally make some sense even when isolated. In a
    geometric painting, shapes get their relevance from their relation to
    other shapes, and in a 'Proteus poem' the pattern of the components is far
    more important than just what they happen to be.

    I am intrigue by the possible typology of patterns that the Higgins piece
    suggests but unsure of its claims to the particular linkages between form
    and semantics. Comments and pointers to similar formulations might help
    elucidate the context which allowed Higgins to marshall the
    geometric-algebraic distinction.


    Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large

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