20.482 fixing the MLA's problem

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Sat, 3 Mar 2007 09:30:57 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 20, No. 482.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

   [1] From: "Timothy Mason" <timothyjpmason_at_gmail.com> (12)
         Subject: Re: 20.478 fixing the MLA's problem

   [2] From: Del Thomas Ph D <deltom_at_comcast.net> (129)
         Subject: Re: 20.478 fixing the MLA's problem

         Date: Sat, 03 Mar 2007 09:17:43 +0000
         From: "Timothy Mason" <timothyjpmason_at_gmail.com>
         Subject: Re: 20.478 fixing the MLA's problem

I'm wondering whether many of the students of English have not, fairly
deliberately, chosen their subject to get away from the digital and
nerdish. If you tell them that the numerate have also taken in hand
the future of Romance, they may well feel a little miffed.

Speaking of which, the following is very funny, and may give food for
thought. You have just called the HelpDesk :

Timothy Mason
Université de Paris 8
Web-site : http://www.timothyjpmason.com/
Blog  (Tracks) : http://timothyjpmason.com/wordpress/
         Date: Sat, 03 Mar 2007 09:18:05 +0000
         From: Del Thomas Ph D <deltom_at_comcast.net>
         Subject: Re: 20.478 fixing the MLA's problem
Hi all,
Languages are emerging with the technology.  Example IM speak.
I suggest that it is the discipline(s) not the 
content that is not natural.  Text flattens and 
reshapes the content.  Lectures promotes being 
told... students learn to be told what is on the 
exam. Hypertext is an improvement.   But based on 
the use of PP most presenters have seen  have not 
moved beyond the old slide shows.   Most PC labs 
have just flattened PC's to typewriters. Perhaps 
digital technology will like the 
tube  http://delswork.net/tube.htm  liberate us from disciplines.
And so it goes.  Faculty resent gamers.   One of 
the places I know of that is going in a different 
direction is Hampshire college in Amherst 
Mass.  No grades no exams students assemble 
portfolios...they give dimension to learning.  On 
the grounds the National Yiddish book center 
after rescuing the literature is digitizing it.
Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty
<willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>) wrote:
 >               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 20, No. 478.
 >       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
 >  www.kcl.ac.uk/schools/humanities/cch/research/publications/humanist.html
 >                        www.princeton.edu/humanist/
 >                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu
 >         Date: Fri, 02 Mar 2007 06:38:20 +0000
 >         From: Richard Cunningham <richard.cunningham_at_acadiau.ca>
 >         > should the Town  Crier cry?
 >Further to the discussion on the recognition of digital scholarship
 >started by Ian in H20.472 and continued by Willard in H20.475, I'd
 >like to add a couple of anecdotes.
 >Toward the end of the Fall term, 2006, in an English class devoted to
 >the study of New Criticism and New Historicism / Cultural
 >Materialism, in which I sought to provide students at the Honours and
 >MA level with a sense of the history of their discipline, I made the
 >comment that English, in its current state, is a dinosaur looking for
 >a tar pit in which to lie down.  I had tried to show my students that
 >the discipline is NOT the natural way of doing things, but is created
 >and re-created (and indeed recreated) through institutional and
 >social pressures, and through the intellectual commitment,
 >engagement, and playfulness of its membership.  I was trying to do in
 >a small setting for English studies what Kuhn did on a larger scale
 >for science--provide a history of our own discipline.  I then showed
 >them several e-texts, concluding with Volume 1 of the Electronic
 >Literature Collection (at http://collection.eliterature.org/ ).  I
 >assured them that students of their vintage, nearing completion of BA
 >or MA degrees, would in the near future compose interesting and
 >engaging PhD dissertations on e-literature.  That, to borrow again
 >from Bob Dylan, "the times they are a-changin'."  My students were,
 >to put it mildly, unimpressed.  In fact, they were a little shocked,
 >and a little incensed.  The anger came, I think, from having spent
 >four or more years devoting themselves to a discipline they had now
 >been disciplined into believing in, rather than questioning with the
 >critical reasoning English scholars so often so loudly proclaim is
 >their raison d'etre.  Their shock came from finally being told the
 >church is not sacred, fixed, and eternal from one of the priests
 >themselves, but their failure to be impressed is the more worrisome
 >component of their response.  I suspect the Jesuits and Lenin have
 >been here before me: we have to get them while they are young if we
 >are to change the way they think (and, dare I say, believe).  Perhaps
 >if we could start teaching e-literature in first year classes we
 >could inculcate the revolution in thinking that seems necessary for
 >people in the profession to re-conceive what it is we do before the
 >majority, whose weight is carrying the rest of us along, finds that tar pit.
 >My second anecdote came to mind when I read "Although there are some
 >who are awake and puzzling over the changing present as it is
 >constituted, as it reveals possibilities for every discipline and
 >area of enquiry, the crowds of sleepwalkers are everywhere" in
 >Willard's note.  It called to mind Katherine Hayles' assertion, in
 >Writing Machines (I think) and also (certainly) in "Print is Flat,
 >Code is Deep: The Importance of Media-Specific Analysis" that we have
 >been ""Lulled into somnolence by five hundred years of print, [and
 >that we] have been slow to wake up to the importance of
 >media-specific analysis. Literary criticism and theory are shot
 >through with unrecognized assumptions specific to print" ("Print is
 >Flat," 68).  This came to mind because I recently visited another
 >English Dep't in which I taught Hayles' concept of MSA to a class of
 >their students, and while I was there was told, in as many words, by
 >a university administrator that the English dep't was in need of
 >being "dragged into the 20th century."  And yes, this administrator
 >was aware that we are now in the 21st century.  The point being made
 >was how far English studies seems to be lagging behind where it might
 >be (and, I would argue, as I suspect would most readers of Humanist,
 >where it should be).  The concern here is that English is perceived
 >by someone a) outside the discipline, and b) in a position of some
 >power over it (us) as, well, if I may say so, a dinosaur looking for
 >a tar pit to lie down in.
 >I'm not sure the "revolutionary" idea of teaching first year students
 >that e-literature is both valid and vital will come in time to save
 >us.  And by "save us" I don't mean 'prevent the university from
 >closing the English department.'  If there's one thing that moves
 >more slowly than English its the institution in which it
 >operates.  But surely we have that most natural of instincts, the
 >desire to survive?  If students abandon us in droves, as I suspect
 >they are likely to do as they find our connection with their lived
 >existence less and less visible and less and less relevant, then we
 >will be in need of saving, and by then it'll probably be too
 >late.  It's an "if" but it strikes me as one worth worrying about, if
 >not by everyone, at least by those "who are awake and puzzling over
 >the changing present."
 >Before ending, I'd just like to say that I recognize the irony in my
 >embarking on such a discipline-specific dialogue in response to
 >Willard's call to remove the "blinkers of disciplinarity
 >(departmentalism)."  I'm not sure how heavily those in other
 >disciplines feel the 19th century pressing down on them, competing
 >for the future of so many aspects of their work.  I do know that
 >there are others in my own discipline who share my concerns and
 >frustrations (both intellectual and professional).  I wish I could
 >say that the blind a-historicism that impedes us is generational and
 >that all we need do is wait for a few more retirements, but I see
 >daily, in my students but also in others in my profession, people
 >younger than I am who seem to regard the computer and the digital
 >revolution as a fancy that will pass.  On one point they and I agree:
 >something is going to pass away, but for my part I'm convinced it
 >won't be the digital revolution.
 >Thanks for reading.
 >Richard Cunningham
Received on Sat Mar 03 2007 - 04:41:08 EST

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