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[Xmca-l] The Heart of Romantic Science

In Melbourne, here in Australia, there is a stone cottage in the gardens of
the treasury where the first huge gold deposits were winkled from the
miners (by way of licencing fees) and kept. It's a very small cottage--just
a sitting room and a bedroom on top of each other, like a two-storey,
two-room flat in a modern housing project, except that there is a stable
attached where animals lived cheek by jowl with human neighbors. It is not
a replica--it's the exact house where Captain James Cook lived as little
boy, bought up by the city of Melbourne for reasons better understood by
Australians, and transported, stone by stone, from rural Yorkshire in
England, about a century and a half after the man himself had set foot on

Cook was a man a bit above his class (not much, because the glass ceiling
for the son of an agricultural laborer was thick and low) and a bit ahead
of his timet: his ideas about anthropology were an unstable emulsion of
Rousseau and rationalism, and his erratic behavior to the more realist
Hawaiians eventually cost him his life. But there were two ways in which he
far outstripped his age, and perhaps they are both worth thinking about as
we go to Quebec City for ISCAR, because that was where his breakthrough to
romantic science really occurred.

It was on the banks of the Saint Lawrence, during the "Guerre de Sept Ans"
(the French and Indian War, for Americans), that Cook learned to use a
plane table: to take two known distances with exact precision, and compute,
using the angle between them and a bit of basic trig, the third segment of
the triangle. He then freehanded the third segment and obtained a map of
the approaches to Quebec City. Unlike rigorously surveyed maps and unlike
purely freehanded maps, this one could be made as rigorous or as free as
you liked, and that's what made it possible for Cook to jiffy-chart the
"traversee" leading to Quebec City and to jerry-rig, overnight, a system of
moored lifeboats to show the way for British man o' wars.

This is actually quite similar to what we do in a lot of romantic science,
including in text analysis. Say, for example, you want to understand how
capitalism has, in our time, managed to produce an education system that
enables working class navy men like Cook to operate a gun and even a plane
table but somehow disables comprehension of the Communist Manifesto. Using
a system-network, you can show the exact choices made by the author of the
operating manual and the authors of the manifesto to any degree of delicacy
you choose (clause type, indicative type, declarative type, process type,
etc.) and derive the semantics and then the context from that. You can also
"freehand" it by working backwards, from the context to the semantics to
the lexicogrammar.

It seems to me that it's THIS  combination of rigor and freehanding, of
verbal science and verbal art, that is the real heart of a romantic
science, not some unsteady amalgam of Rousseau and rationalism. And when we
bring this resource to bear upon our two texts, we find what Ruqaiya Hasan
found: the difference between the operating manual and the manifesto lies
not so much with the lexico-grammar as with what Bernstein called the
semantic code orientation--the psychological orientation of the speaker
towards her or his context of situation, and beyond that, towards his or
her context of culture.

David Kellogg
Macquarie University

Recent Article: Vygotsky, Halliday, and Hasan: Towards Conceptual

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