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Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 149.

Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/

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

Willard,

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:

<quote>

[...] 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.

</quote>

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.

Thanks

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

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