20.541 synthetic work & its possible fallout

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2007 07:29:07 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 20, No. 541.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2007 07:19:42 +0100
         From: Neven Jovanovic <neven.jovanovic_at_ffzg.hr>
         Subject: Re: 20.536 synthetic work & its possible fallout


your idea about "constructing allusions" is quite familiar to students of
classical Greek and Latin literature. The implication --- that, by
construing a "horizon of possible allusions", we construct a new reality,
a reality that (quite possible) did not ever exist --- has also, I guess,
occurred to many reading the "loci similes" lists of 19th c. critical

What stopped philologists from thinking this idea through is the fact that
by "construing something that did not exist" you are, in fact, creating a
work of art, and not a "work of scholarship". So the "modelling for" is
--- to my opinion --- similar to what Steven Ramsay and Stefan Sinclair
have been proposing, and are doing, with their transformations of texts.

One further point is: who is reading our imagined web of allusions?
Because an allusion --- however probable or unprobable --- cannot exist
*without readers*. Now, if you have a potentially vast jungle of
allusions, what you want to see is, it seems to me, a map of all the paths
and wanderings through this jungle. A means to record these webs of
allusion that have been realized, the roads that have been travelled.

And then --- here I am thinking aloud and ad hoc --- when you have this
map of all the paths, you have to have somebody who will read the map.
Who will read the readings.


Neven Jovanovic
Zagreb, Croatia

> Now let us say that the original is not merely absent or has
> disappeared from the world but never existed at all. What are the
> possibilities? One I can think of involves literary allusion. Let us
> say for purposes of argument that we have in digital form all
> relevant literature, reasonable representations of historical events
> and whatever else might be considered possibly relevant. Let us
> suppose we have a theory of how allusion actually works and are able
> to write this theory into software that then uses the available
> materials to construct some intelligible representations of possible
> readings. In this fanciful example we're not specifying the readings
> and working back to the mechanism (which would be analytic, yes?),
> rather we're working from the poem, according to a theory of how
> allusion does its thing, outward to results. Since it's now easily
> imaginable that we'd have in digital form more literature than any
> individual could hope to have read in a lifetime, there would be no
> "original" readings to compare our results to. Then there's the tough
> part. Since allusive connections would themselves affect the
> possibilities of further such connections, my imaginary "model for"
> would be evolving, not simply playing out what had already been in
> some sense foreseen. This "model for" would then have the status of
> an almost primary artefact.
> Comments?
> Yours,
> WM
Received on Thu Mar 29 2007 - 01:37:13 EST

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