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[Xmca-l] Re: The history of science fiction and imagined worlds


I've been trying to construct a materialist history of English
language teaching; that is, one that doesn't view it as one fashion
atrocity after another. The first thing I did was to divide its six
hundred year history into roughly three two-hundred year periods--an
"interpersonal" one which begins with Henry V and Katherine de Valois
and basically works the way that phrasebooks work today, given
tremendous impetus by Caxton's introduction of the printing press.

To me, the printing press contains within it the key insight (or
rather, as you would say, the key pipe dream) of structuralism: the
idea that word is made of interchangeable parts, rather like one of
Henry Ford's Model T's. But the interesting thing is that nobody
really managed to get that dream out of the material artefact of the
printing press until Saussure. Verily, the word is only ready when the
concept is; or in this case, the vehicle of the idea is only read when
the driver is!

So Caxton's printing press was used to sell spices and beef bouillon
across the English channel. It wasn't until the Saint Bartholomew's
Day Massacre (1573) that anyone even tried to do more than trade with
English, and even then it was only for one generation--the 300,000
Huguenots (ten percent of the English population in those days) were
all fully bilingual, and the move died out.

Now, the Huguenots were extreme rationalists--Cartesians, if you like.
Today we are quite familiar with the idea that conservatives are more
interested in philosophy than policy--since they want everything
except individuals, families and corporations to disappear, they have
no interest in changing society or government. That was the Huguenots:
they believed in Haidt's five values of purity, authority, ingroup
solidarity, justice...and forgiveness...in preciselythat order, the
reverse of what Carol Gilligan and Nel Noddings posited (rather closer
to what Piaget and Kohlberg wanted).

And when they left France, they didn't take all their ideas with them.
The remaining rationalists, in the form of the Jansenists, retreated
to Port Royal and created the first really scientific grammars of a
modern language (French, as it happened, but it was actually designed
as a universal grammar of any and all human languages). Pascal was one
of them. And I think I see, in the idea of a prescriptive grammar that
would provide scientific explanations and laws binding on any human
language with no exceptions whatsoever, the real birth of the concept
of the sentence as composed of interchangeable parts.

David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

On 24 September 2014 14:40, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:
> Fascinating
> David, your comment:
> "and the rationalist belief in the inflexible, innate laws of grammar"
> can be placed alongside Peirce's comment:
> "The scientific imagination DREAMS of explanations and laws"
> For Peirce the origin of new ideas and scientific hypothesis were
> particulary important questions. Peirce was not a romanticist, as he wanted
> to produce a harmony of creativity and logic and in order to find this
> harmony Peirce reformulated logic in a radical way.
> He composed the *logic of relatives* a new logic of interpretation which
> allowed for the change and growth of SYSTEMS of thought..
> There seems to be a play of *transversals* that involves science fiction
> Larry
> On Tue, Sep 23, 2014 at 9:22 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com> wrote:
>> Yes, I was impressed. But mostly I was impressed by how cramped,
>> ethnocentric and also present-centric Saler's view of imaginary worlds
>> is.
>> The argument, as I understand it, is that the colonization of
>> imaginary worlds only begins with Sherlock Holmes, because it is only
>> with Sherlock Holmes that people began to deliberately "believe" in a
>> fictional creation and "disbelieve" in the actual creator. That is,
>> adult play only begins with people who were the peers of my
>> grandparents. Hoaxes, myths, and religions may also be imaginary
>> worlds that are inhabited by large numbers of people, but they do not
>> signify, because the effort of believing in them in order to inhabit
>> them is not differentiated from believing in them because you think
>> they are true.
>> Of course, the distinction between the conscious, volitional
>> "suspension of disbelief" and non-conscious, non-volitional delusion
>> is very much older than this. At the end of Don Quixote, the old man's
>> neighbors try their very best to convince Don Quixote to go on
>> inhabiting the novelistic world he has created for them, and fail;
>> there is no suggestion that they do this because they believe the old
>> man's world is real. There was a spate of similar novels in English in
>> eighteenth century (e.g. Charlotte Lennox's "the Female Quixote"), and
>> Jane Austen's first novel, Northanger Abbey, is a romance about a
>> woman whose whole attraction is that she actually assumes only the
>> very best motives in real people, and reserves her fascination with
>> ill will for the reading of Gothic novels; when she meets with a
>> genuinely nasty character (General Tilney) for the first time, she
>> imputes Gothic motives to him where there are only mundane and
>> mercenary ones, and the novel ends with the half disenchantment of the
>> heroine and half enchantment of the General's son, both quite
>> deliberately acts of metacognition.
>> But as with so many things, the Chinese thought of it much earlier.
>> "Journey to the West" started out as "fan fiction" of a particular
>> kind of Buddhist adventure novel, and became parodistsic. "Dream of
>> the Red Chamber" is about a stone left over from when the world was
>> made, which is reincarnated by a sensitive young man who falls in with
>> one cousin and marries another. It is also about a garden, built for a
>> one day visit to her family by one of the Emperor's concubines, which
>> eventually bankrupts the family. But the children of the family are
>> allowed to run wild there, and they indulge a wide variety of fancies:
>> at various places we are told that various parts of the novel, and
>> even whole families, are simply willful fictions in the minds of
>> others. Actually, in the days before mass printing, almost every
>> fiction manuscript was passed around in a community (rather as Jane
>> Austen's manuscripts were shared in her family) and "Dream of the Red
>> Chamber" was probably finished by someone else (the last third of it
>> was written well after the death of the author, but computer analysis
>> has not definitively proven that it was written by someone else).
>> I think that the reason we tend to make howlers like Saler's is that,
>> like fish, we just can't see the water we swim in, and we keep
>> thinking that our own age is somehow uniquely modern, and the
>> preoccupations of our own brands of irrealist and realist thinking
>> (e.g. between art and science, between rationality and wonder) are the
>> last word and not merely latest one. I spend a great deal of the time
>> that I spend writing half-listening to eighteenth century operas,
>> which are in very obvious ways imaginary worlds which we enter only by
>> voluntarily checking our linguistic assumptions in the cloakroom. In
>> less obvious ways, it seems to me, these imaginary worlds are
>> interested in a clash that we no longer take very seriously. It's the
>> clash between a form of knowledge which is broadly humanist, because
>> empirical, and one which is narrowly rationalist, because puritanical.
>> The humanist agenda demands that the opera must end in an act of
>> forgiveness (as the Count is forgiven in the Marriage of Figaro). The
>> strictly rationalist agenda forbids this (because forgiveness by its
>> very nature is a kind of diremption of justice). Don Giovanni gets
>> around this problem by making repentance a precondition for
>> forgiveness, and then by arguing that the truly damnable will never
>> repent, not even as they are actually being damned.
>> We still see traces of this clash between empiricistic humanism and
>> merciless rationalism in my own field, language teaching. There is the
>> humanist belief in words--empirical, temporary negotiations of meaning
>> between human beings--and the rationalist belief in the inflexible,
>> innate laws of grammar. But elsewhere it seems to have been subsumed
>> in the general opposition between art and science that we find in
>> Saler's talk. Part of the point of my book is really to try to revive
>> it--in the form of a humanizing dialogic tendency in story telling
>> versus a more rationalizing narrativistic one.
>> David Kellogg
>> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
>> By the way...the index of the book has at last been fixed, and
>> everybody and their grandchildren can download the first two chapters
>> for free at....
>> https://www.sensepublishers.com/catalogs/bookseries/imagination-and-praxis/the-great-globe-and-all-who-it-inherit/
>> (Yes, even xmca postings sometimes carry promotions...think of it not
>> as an interface between the virtual world and the real one, but only
>> as yet another interface between this virtual world and the next one!)
>> dk
>> On 24 September 2014 12:10, mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu> wrote:
>> > Just trying to keep some minimum level of continuity in the discussions,
>> > Greg. Maybe its just my problem alone, but I think one or two others
>> suffer
>> > from the same difficulties.
>> >
>> > My intention is to watch both and consider them together. If that's a
>> > mistake, my loss! I do not watch TED talks as a general rule, but when
>> they
>> > are specifically called out by xmca members as relevant, seems like a
>> > relatively painless way to figure out what other participants in the
>> > discussion are trying to communicate.
>> >
>> > Easier than reading, for example, *Who's Asking*?  !! :-)))
>> >
>> > Rockin chair mike
>> >
>> > Thanks
>> >
>> > On Tue, Sep 23, 2014 at 7:38 PM, Greg Thompson <
>> greg.a.thompson@gmail.com>
>> > wrote:
>> >
>> >> I thought the other tread was beginning to descend into "reality" more
>> than
>> >> I care to (or perhaps worse, spiraling downward into the abyss of an
>> >> epistemologically-minded social constructionism - is there a there
>> there?).
>> >>
>> >> Seemed like good reason to soar in the imagination (yes, Mike, I know
>> that
>> >> you prefer to invert that metaphor and "ascend to the concrete" - which
>> >> makes me wonder what you mean by "the concrete"? Reality? Or something
>> >> else? A "made real"?).
>> >>
>> >> But I'd agree that it is on point with a "making"-oriented social
>> >> constructionism (trying to avoid using that awful word "ontological"?).
>> >>
>> >> Anyway, I think this is the Haidt talk that John Cummins was proposing:
>> >> http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind?language=en
>> >>
>> >> I'm wondering if people are a bit fed up with the Ted talks since it
>> can be
>> >> tough to find 20 minutes to watch/listen to a Ted talk and they can be
>> hit
>> >> or miss.
>> >> But I would again strongly recommend the Saler talk I originally sent in
>> >> this email. I thought David Ke, in particular, would find it interesting
>> >> (or at least point out where it is wrong). David?
>> >> Others?
>> >> -greg
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >> On Tue, Sep 23, 2014 at 6:59 PM, mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu> wrote:
>> >>
>> >> > I thought the other tread involved imagination as a central component,
>> >> > Greg.
>> >> > So not clear why this is a distraction. (Or am i in the wrong
>> >> conversation
>> >> > here?).
>> >> >
>> >> > Can you find the Haight TED talk that was recommended to us? Perhaps
>> the
>> >> > two talks will aid the discussion.
>> >> > mike
>> >> >
>> >> > On Tue, Sep 23, 2014 at 7:37 AM, Greg Thompson <
>> >> greg.a.thompson@gmail.com>
>> >> > wrote:
>> >> >
>> >> > > Apologies for distracting from the "real world" discussions on the
>> >> other
>> >> > > thread, but I came across this Ted talk and thought that others
>> might
>> >> be
>> >> > > interested in the history and role of imagined worlds in politics:
>> >> > > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUtErxgz7Mo
>> >> > >
>> >> > > But perhaps it is worth tracing otherworlds and "the otherwise" to
>> >> works
>> >> > > such as those of Jonathan Swift, Laurence Sterne, and Rabelais.
>> >> > >
>> >> > > Seems like imagining other worlds has always been a deeply political
>> >> act.
>> >> > >
>> >> > > -greg
>> >> > >
>> >> > > --
>> >> > > Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
>> >> > > Assistant Professor
>> >> > > Department of Anthropology
>> >> > > 882 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
>> >> > > Brigham Young University
>> >> > > Provo, UT 84602
>> >> > > http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson
>> >> > >
>> >> >
>> >> >
>> >> >
>> >> > --
>> >> >
>> >> > Development and Evolution are both ... "processes of construction and
>> re-
>> >> > construction in which heterogeneous resources are contingently but
>> more
>> >> or
>> >> > less reliably reassembled for each life cycle." [Oyama, Griffiths, and
>> >> > Gray, 2001]
>> >> >
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >> --
>> >> Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
>> >> Assistant Professor
>> >> Department of Anthropology
>> >> 882 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
>> >> Brigham Young University
>> >> Provo, UT 84602
>> >> http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson
>> >>
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> > --
>> >
>> > Development and Evolution are both ... "processes of construction and re-
>> > construction in which heterogeneous resources are contingently but more
>> or
>> > less reliably reassembled for each life cycle." [Oyama, Griffiths, and
>> > Gray, 2001]