McGann 2014

From Whiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

McGann, Jerome. A New Republic of Letters: Memory and Scholarship in the Age of Digital Reproduction. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014.

"Here is surely a truth now universally acknowledged: that the whole of our cultural inheritance has to be recurated and reedited in digital forms and institutional structures. But as the technology of cultural memory shifts from bibliographical to digital machines, a diffi cult question arises: what do we do with the books?" (1)
" textual and editorial scholarship, often marginalized in humane studies as a narrowly technical domain, should be shifted back to the center of humanist attention. Understanding the technologies of book culture is the beginning of wisdom for any practical approach to the so- called digital humanities. But you can’t do that well unless you have an intimate acquaintance with the scholarship of textualities." (2) -- resurgence of philology

Sachphilologie -- "a philology of material culture. The word signals an object- oriented and media approach to the study of history and culture. It solicits a larger perspective on the documentary record— in our context, the bibliographical as well as the digital record— and thus sets the agenda for what I am calling, after Susanne Langer, “philology in a new key.”" (3)

even with digitization, book will remain; so "What kind of research and educational program can integrate the preservation and study of these two radically different media?" (4)

"We’ve been experimenting with jerry- rigged approaches for over twenty years. But as the digitization of the traditional archive has gained inertia— a very good thing, let me reiterate— the problem for humanists has not diminished— if anything, it has grown more urgent. " (4)

philology: "the knowledge of what is and has been known"

"How then are we to save the traditional inheritance in its original material forms; and to integrate those objects— the realia of the depositories— to our new born- digital cultural works? We are living in the Last Days of book culture; that is clear. Of course this doesn’t mean we are in the Last Days of reading culture, least of all of our textual condition. But it is also clear that as we proceed to digitize our print and manuscript objects, and hence as our engagements with those objects become primarily digital engagements, the living culture that created and sustained them becomes itself an object— something, in Connerton’s words, “that is known about” rather than “something that is known . . . in one’s continuing life” (32). For the literary scholar, it is as if we had entered a bibliographical Day of the Dead." (10)

Why Textual Scholarship Matters

"To the philologian, all possible meanings are a function of their historical emergence as material artifacts. The investigation of those artifacts is the foundation of literary and cultural studies. The Lower Criticism devotes itself to the analysis of the textual transcriptions; the Higher Criticism studies the sociohistory of the documents." (19)
"Digitizing the archive is not about replacing it. It’s about making it usable for the present and the future. To do that we have to understand, as best we can, how it functioned— how it made meanings— in the past. A major task lying before us— its technical diffi culties are great— is to design a knowledge and information network that integrates, as seamlessly as possible, our paper- based inheritance with the emerging archive of born- digital materials." (22)
"The (alphanumeric) critical edition— developed and modifi ed over many centuries, and well before the coming of print technology— is one of the most remarkable machines created by the ingenuity of Man. Its importance cannot be overstated, for it is a complete model of the enginery that has come to sustain nearly the whole of the cultural memory of the West. Its design fl exibility is amazing both with respect to the numbers and kinds of materials it can represent, and to the network of social relations it both models and engages. " (25)
"The edition is a model, a theoretical instantiation, of the vast and distributed textual network in which we have come to embody our knowledge." (26)

"The Inorganic Organization of Memory"

reading Stiegler's response to Lyotard

"Replacing traditional science with a science of the unknown, Lyotard saw the need for disciplinary change at the institutional level. Refl ecting on legitimation crisis, Lyotard, and the Theory Movement in general, Stiegler recovers the fi xed forms of instrumental reason. Facts, data, ontologies, and the network of academic institutional structures comprise an archive of occluded human memory." (40-41)
"The special virtue of the knowledge internetwork shaped as philology is this: it is a research method, a science, for preserving a practical memory of the importance of memory." (47)
"At the moment we think our PhD programs in humanities do not adequately prepare students for the knowledge and information internetwork that continues to develop around us. Because that is true, we also think about programs in Digital Humanities. But thinking that way, humanists help themselves forget what our resources and skills are for: to work with the entire archive of human memory. Python, XSLT, and GIS are important, but one might better think that descriptive bibliography, scholarly editing, theory of texts, and book history are now even more pressing programmatic needs." (47)
"From a philological vantage, the elementary act of preservation marks the value of these materials when their normal values, whether for use or exchange, have been lost. More crucially, philological attention continues to be paid even as we recognize that the value of what we preserve may never again be realized. “Never again” is crucial. For the philologian, materials are preserved because their simple existence testifi es that they once had value, though what that was we can never know completely or even, perhaps, at all. If our current interests supply them with certain kinds of value, these are but Derridean supplements added for ourselves. For the philologian, the dead and their trace memories are precious and honorable as such. And besides, they may even return to consciousness." (48)

History, Philosophy, Philology

revisiting the "Nietzschean legacy, which has so deeply affected our conversations about history, globalized culture, and human memory since Foucault" (50)

Nietzsche v. Wilamowitz

Pierre Nora v. Paul Ricoeur

The Documented World

"When we speak of “the meaning” of a work (the meaning!) we are invoking the same fundamental ideological commitment. The spell of that (literally charming) ideal gets broken when one realizes (1) that scholarship is itself an historical per for mance executed within the framework of a certain limited (and limiting) set of protocols; and (2) that the scholar’s interpretive intervention alters the object of interpretation and the fields that organize those objects. Scholarship, in short, is itself performative." (79)
" If you are after flesh and blood in interpretation, if you mean to be serious, you begin with what the scholar calls “the history of a work’s production” on one hand, and “the history of a work’s reception” on the other. Those two historical strands together comprise the double helix from which the many forms of culture develop. Acts of interpretation, themselves coded through this double helix, typically select a par tic u lar aspect or view of our cultural inheritance for investigation. What ever our governing interpretive specialization, we necessarily pursue our studies under the horizon of this double and codependent set of sociohistorical determinations." (82)
"every interpretation is an abstract reduction drawn out of the original work or object of attention. Scholars murder to dissect when their interpretations come to occupy the center of interest, rather than the works they are seeking out. Every critical performance is in this sense a deformance. But a useful deformance if self-consciously undertaken." (85)

Marking Texts in Many Dimensions

"How, then, are traditional texts marked? If we could give an exhaustive answer to that question we would be able to simulate them in digital forms. We cannot complete an answer for two related reasons: first, the answer would have to be framed from within the discourse field of textuality itself; and second, that framework is dynamic, a continually emerging function of its own operations, including its explicitly self-reflexive operations." (91)

XML/TEI useful for storing information about texts in allopoietic way, but not autopoietic interpretation desired by most humanities scholars (96)

"This crucial understanding -- that print textuality is not language but an operational (praxis-based) theory of language -- has stared us in the face for a long time, but seeing we have not seen. It has taken the emergence of electronic textualities, and in particular operational theories of natural language like TEI, to expose the deeper truth about print and manuscript texts. SGML and its derivatives freeze (rather than integrate) the function spaces of discourse fields by reducing the field components to abstract forms" (99)
"the primal act of autopoietic connection is the identification or location of a textual element to be "read." In this sense, the transaction of an autopoietic field is a function of the marking of connections of various kinds, on one hand, and of resonances on the other. Resonances are signals that call attention to a textual element as having a field value – a potential for connectivity – that appears and appears unrealized." (102)

Digital Tools and the Emergence of the Social Text

"The ecology of the book is an autopoietic network of social objects whose emergent functions reflect the measurements that their users and makers take for various purposes. As we now try to design digital systems that can simulate the system's realizable possibilities -- the possibilities that are known and recorded as well as those that have yet to be (re)constructed -- the history of book technology will take us back to the future." (124)

What Do Scholars Want?

Philological Investigations I: The Example of Poe

Philological Investigations II: A Page from Cooper

"When interpretation, or theory of interpretation, addresses the Constitution of the United States or a poem by Keats, it makes an abstract of the documentary situation actually in play. Those kinds of interpretive moves have served the humanities long and well because some level of abstraction is a requirement of interpretation. But the question remains for the interpreter: how much am I willing to abstract from attention?" (198)