17.202 nesting and the Symposium

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Wed Aug 27 2003 - 04:45:03 EDT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 202.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

             Date: Wed, 27 Aug 2003 09:33:38 +0100
             From: lachance@origin.chass.utoronto.ca
             Subject: re 17.179 nesting and the symposium


    The recent discussion of the Symposium and the levels of narrative nesting
    has if I recollect correctly turned around the question of truth value and
    irony. There is an interesting set of sexual politics involved in a
    hermenutical move that would place a [fictional?] female figure at the
    kernel point of a series of nested narratives focalized through masculine
    perspectives. One could be tempted in an move imitative of a 1980s
    feminist discourse to query the penetrative focus of "nesting" and wonder
    about the possibilities of imaging such texts as accretions. Or
    agglutinative alternatives. In picking up the fine distinction introduced
    by Wendell Piez, one could think in proleptic terms and imagine such texts
    are open at both ends: a future author could have Diotima tell a story and
    another or the same author could take up the story of Plato writing The

    Markup may be about thinking about hooks: the places where the products of
    interpretation may be attached to a textual representation. At least that
    is where I think reflection is tending to go (witness the recent [text,
    group] | [body, div] thread on the TEI discussion list). I am also aware
    of some other venues where the discussion has been taken up. For example,
    Vika Zafrin in a July Wordsend entry has recorded an interesting set of
    notes on Marie-Laure Ryan's May plenary talk at the ACH/ALLC meeting (See
    http://www.wordsend.org.log/archives/2003_07.html ). Particularly
    suggestive is the vocabulary of deep versus sprawling markup which with a
    tilt of the head look like different takes on granularity.

    This question regarding the place of sprawl and depth derives its
    particular suggestiveness when it is coupled with the report of Ryan's key
    term: stack. To understand narrative in terms of stacks of course betokens
    a computer term. A quick trip to the Maclopedia refreshes my memory and
    indeed like narratives stacks are dynamic data spaces.

    The stack metaphor and the computing model helps refigure the geometry of
    the loop (infinite nesting) in terms of variation on Turings Halting
    Problem. The halting problem is an example of the application of recursive
    function theory to problems of computability. In its classic form the
    problem is unsolvable. It is impossible to determine with a finite
    procedure if for an aribitray input a machine will halt. The problem may
    help encoders redescribe certain inputs. For example the infinitely
    nesting loop.... a woman is telling a story of a woman telling a story...
    may not be a "loop" but a long long long long strand with insufficiant
    differentiation to provide a shift in depth and trigger a halt (pause). A
    variation on the halting problem can then be expressed: will the machine
    come to a stop if fed another input? Vika Zafrin's juxtaposition of sprawl
    and depth is just the ticket. To produce depth, initiate sprawl.

    a {insert: adjective} woman is telling {insert: adverb} a story of a woman
    telling a story...

    {tempo: slow} a woman {insert: coma} is telling {tempo: more rapid} a
    story of a woman telling a story...

    Encoding, however descriptive it may be, is indeed a prescripting
    activity. It is also a comparative exercise. It relies on two inputs:
    first reading and subsequent reading. And as both Wendell and Vika in
    their contributions to the nesting thread attest processing, and in
    particular rendition, are not far from the encoders mindset. It is a
    variation on the old old task of parsing in to order to appropriately
    reading aloud. See M.B. Parkes _Pause and Effect: Punctuation in the West_
    Markup in a sense invites the machine/human to treat an instance as a
    representation of a model. A stream is marked. A before and after emerge.
    Another mark is made. A between emerges. Now a hierarchy can be
    established: before, between, after (or some other ordering of the
    There is also a fourth space -- the not between -- which may or may not
    be discontinuous depending upon the relation between before and after.
    Nesting, it appears would depend upon a relation of continuity of the
    before and after space. Metalepsis does not necessarily require such

    Genette's use of the term "metalepsis" signals a phenomenon that Gerald
    Prince characterizes as an intrusion: the intrusion of a being from one
    diegesis into another diegesis. I've played with the directionality of
    Prince's description. His syntagm moves from the "intrusion into one
    diegesis" to the provenance "from another diegesis". Let me quote him:
    "metalepsis. the intrusion into one DIEGESIS (diegese) of a being from
    another diegesis; the mingling of two distinct DIEGETIC LEVELS." Instead
    of metalepsis being an exception that needs to be explained by a tale of a
    collapse of levels or the transgressive passage of a being from one space
    to another, could not the problem be rephrased as the emergence of local
    ontologies? How does difference arise out of the pre-mingled?

    Enter the heap. Maclopedia: "If your application makes unusual demands on
    the stack, the stack can grow down in memory to collide with the heap.
    This can cause disaster as the stack frames stomp all over your
    application's heap."

    Return to the Symposium.
    Just how does Aristophanes's story of the origin of three sexes affect the
    interpretation of Socrates's story? Or Aristophanes's hiccough? Or even
    the intervention of Phaedrus asking Agathon not to answer the questions of
    Socrates (their talk threatens to derail the turn-taking speaches)? And
    what of the moment where Aristophanes is silenced by the arrival of
    Alcibiades? Is the waking of Aristodemus necessary to inscribe a witness
    to Socrates outlasting Aristophanes and Agathon in the drinking bout as he
    gets them to agree to that the genius of tragedy and comedy is the same?

    A hiccough, a band of revellers, a spoiled order, great quantities of
    wine, a collapse of distinctions, a bath.

    Plato is silent on the reaction of the interlocutor who asked Apollodorus
    to recount Socrates's speech at the banquet. But there is a magnificent
    LIFO (last in first out) form to the entrances and exits of characters in
    the dialogue -- exactly how a stack operates. But Diotima is a creature of
    the heap. She is a sort of memory manager relocating the beautiful blocks
    each in their own way. From the heap, Diotima can look past the stack to
    the globals and draw upon the generative power of the loop that endless
    strand of tape to halt and continue at will. Diotima's beauty is sublime.
    Infinity crashes the machine and calls upon the human to add the
    granularity to make the eternal manageable.

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

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