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John Vincler on...

1.08 Less Than Folio, paragraph 5

There is something wonderful about this image embedded as it is on this page. The detail here of the comic strip-like illustration at first obscures the text embedded in commentary to which you refer earlier in this section. (The detail image of the “comic” shows the verso only; you must click on this to reveal the whole spread including the recto with the text and commentary.) This immediately calls to mind (for this reader) the meta-critical nature of the text you as author have created: that is a text that opens itself up for comment and critique. While your 21st century text is a dynamic, digitally morphing (not to say living and breathing) thing, the text you refer to is also an example of an earlier interactive project, evidencing a history of interpretation that required thoughtful planning and design to make sense of the polyphony of voices both authorial and critical/interpretive.

So much has changed and yet so much stays the same. This brings into sharper focus the messy business of “print culture.” We see the text embedded in commentary (e.g. the recto page of the photo illustration), we can think of the convention of the scholarly footnote, and then we can see CommentPress providing a newer digital model at work here in your text. (The “comic strip” provided in this same illustration, sets up another very different but parallel example.) This reminds me once again that “print culture” is never fully coherent, it can only point us towards the profound role technology plays in the process of interpreting old texts by adapting old or inventing new strategies for creating new texts. This process is never as neat and as linear as it may at first seem. And certainly not every innovation offers an improvement.

At this moment of profound change in scholarly publishing and experiences of reading, it is particularly useful to be jolted a bit out of the conventions of the book, so that we just might be better able (or at least differently able) to reflect upon the book in its various and sometimes wonderfully deviant forms. I know I’ve read someone else expressing this same sentiment (I think it was Roger Chartier):

Perhaps the computer can provide a site for scholars to better and more clearly examine the nature of the book…

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Posted September 5, 2009  11:59 pm
0.00 INTRODUCTION: The Problem of School Books, whole page

There is something wonderful about this image embedded as it is on this page. The detail photo given here (in section 1.08) of the comic strip-like illustration at first obscures the text embedded in commentary to which you refer earlier in this section. (The detail image of the “comic” shows the verso only; you must click on this to reveal the whole spread including the recto with the text and commentary.) This immediately calls to mind (for this reader) the meta-critical nature of the text you as author have created: that is a text that opens itself up for comment and critique. While your 21st century text is a dynamic, digitally morphing (not to say living and breathing) thing, the text you refer to is also an example of an earlier interactive project, evidencing a history of interpretation that required thoughtful planning and design to make sense of the polyphony of voices both authorial and critical/interpretive.

So much has changed and yet so much stays the same. This brings into sharper focus the messy business of “print culture.” We see the text embedded in commentary (e.g. the recto page of the photo illustration), we can think of the convention of the scholarly footnote, and then we can see CommentPress providing a newer digital model at work here in your text. (The “comic strip” provided in this same illustration, sets up another very different but parallel example.) This reminds me once again that “print culture” is never fully coherent, it can only point us towards the profound role technology plays in the process of interpreting old texts by adapting old or inventing new strategies for creating new texts. This process is never as neat and as linear as it may at first seem. And certainly not every innovation offers an improvement.

At this moment of profound change in scholarly publishing and experiences of reading, it is particularly useful to be jolted a bit out of the conventions of the book, so that we just might be better able (or at least differently able) to reflect upon the book in its various and sometimes wonderfully deviant forms. I know I’ve read someone else expressing this same sentiment (I think it was Roger Chartier):

Perhaps the computer can provide a site for scholars to better and more clearly examine the nature of the book…

go to thread »
Posted September 5, 2009  11:56 pm
7.07 Title Page Emblems, paragraph 3

Ah, here you utilize the language of machines (“encoding,” “unlocking,” “decoding”) making the “machine” metaphor from 7.03 more explicit. However, it seems like the comparison to a puzzle is more sustained throughout than the comparison to a machine.

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Posted March 28, 2009  10:14 pm
1.11 Can You Sell Philology?, whole page, replying to dianarobin

My experience of reading this work is very hypertextual. I find myself bouncing from section to section, revisiting and comparing sections, or even doing searches within the text on phrases I recall or subjects about which I’d like to find more information. Sometimes questions that are raised at one point in the text seem to be answered later. I wonder if some additional intertextual footnotes could be added, creating bridges across the text. While I too was unclear about the use of the term philology here (or was it that I just read the comment and this informed my reading?), this intersection of serious philological concerns and the component parts of basic grammars becomes crystal with the example given in the Erasmus section (2.18, I believe).

I don't see that these textbooks -- Latin grammars for school boys -- can be classified as philology, the advanced study of all aspects of a language or languages. What you are talking about selling is something much more mechanical and elementary.

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Posted March 28, 2009  10:05 pm
2.18 Erasmus Picking Fights, whole page

This section is excellent. Superb writing – informative and compelling. (Erasmus is better than fiction.) This also makes explicit the connection between philology and the content of school books.

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Posted March 28, 2009  9:45 pm
7.06 Reading Emblems Every Day, paragraph 3

Your discussion of emblems is fascinating. You introduce, elucidate, and contextualize the genre (and its evolution) wonderfully; I’ve never read anything like it before.

I have been fascinated by the evolution of the title page, especially those that take the form of imaginary architectural spaces or cabinets of wonders that graphically attempting to represent or summarize a book’s contents. I find what you have here immensely helpful. I’m thinking of Hobbes’s Leviathan (http://www.library.usyd.edu.au/libraries/rare/modernity/images/hobbes2-1.jpg) or of Tycho Brahe’s Mural Quadrant (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mauerquadrant.jpg).

It seems increasingly clear to me, that these two works referenced above from the 17th and late 16th centuries represent a further evolution of the same sort of verbal / visual interplay you describe here, whereas the designers attempt to render the whole of the text into the title page’s picture plane.

This leads me back to an earlier thought about this section on emblems. Initially, I wasn’t convinced that your earlier description of “Emblem as Machine” (7.03) analogy made sense or, more likely, I felt I was missing something. As I got to thinking about the title page of Hobbes, I recollected that Hobbes begins his Leviathan with a series of interrelated metaphors linking together God and nature; man, machines (“engines”/”automata” in his words) and the higher form, (as he sees it) art. This leading to the visual metaphor depicted on his title page, whereas the Monarch is the brain (or reason) operating the cyborg “this artificial man” (part man / part machine in Hobbes’s complex metaphor) whose body is composed of the Monarch’s subjects but described with mechanical language (rather than biological, for example).

Hobbes’s nested and mixed metaphors are followed by a discussion of reading books vs. reading men vs. “reading thyself”. He then returns to his earlier cyborg Monarch metaphor. When the Monarch is reading himself, he reads all of mankind.

Hobbes creates a riddle-like metaphor-laden passage, which seems like an attempt to summarize the entirety of his book, very much like the model you describe here of emblems with their accompanying poem. With all of his mixed and/or nested metaphors it seems possible that his use of mechanical language also makes a connection between the play between emblem and text. Or, stated more simply, he seems to suggest that the text animates the emblem (this being the age of print, this animation plays out in our minds). The accompanying text provides the necessary code for how the emblem is to function (a code that wouldn’t make sense on its own, or would at least remain incomplete, without the presence of the emblem itself).

You discuss the role of medieval mnemonics as providing a model for the visual spaces of printed texts. Even in the Hobbes’s (or Brahe’s) texts we can see the spatial or room metaphor of the classic medieval mnemonics continue (whereas related information is stored spatially in particular rooms). The emblem seems to take this mnemonic out of the imagination onto the page, where it evolves overtime, still serving its mnemonic function but put to ever expanding uses.

I apologize for this overlong (rambling) comment, but I am still left wondering about your use of the term “machine.” By my count (and electronic texts make this easy!) you only use the phrase machine twice, once in the section “Emblem as Machine” (7.03) (and only in the very beginning of this section) and then again once more in section 7.15.

In what sense are emblems machines? Perhaps this could use some more explaining. I think you are onto something but your use of the phrase still isn’t clear too me. I think part of the difficulty maybe that it is a means of explaining the almost entirely unexplainable functioning across images and texts in a dynamic way. (This seems to be the reason Hobbes utilizes the language of machines.)

These two OED definitions seem to be approaching what you mean:
“A material structure designed for a specific purpose, and related uses” (def. II, first used in late 16th century) and “An apparatus constructed to perform a task or for some other purpose” (def. IV, first used in mid-17th century).

I get why Hobbes, in his time, would look to the machine as a metaphor for animating his image via his text. This is of his time. Your discussing works predating Hobbes, and I’m not sure if this “animating” concept I described above is what you are getting at. It is a metaphor, but I still feel like I’m missing something with how it is used here. (And this could just be me, because I haven’t had time to deeply read what you have here–which is one of the clearest and best discussions of emblems I’ve seen.)

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Posted March 28, 2009  5:37 pm
0.01 Humanism in Crisis, paragraph 1, replying to dianarobin

Perhaps this has been changed since Diana Robin’s comment, but there is a “Next” link at the bottom of each section. Scrolling to the bottom of the page leads to “Next: 0.02 Regionalism” allowing for the sort of linear continuity Diana seems to be seeking. Perhaps this is slightly less intuitive since it appears after the footnotes (if one skips the footnotes this feature may be missed).

Along a similar line, I think it would be useful to link the footnotes in the text to the footnotes on the bottom of the page. The hyperlinking of footnotes from citation to entry seems to be a fairly accepted convention at this point in electronic scholarly publishing. This works best when one can return to the original place in the text by hitting the browser’s back button (i.e. rather than having this return to the top of the page and having to work your way down again). A pop-up window for footnotes is another potential solution. In this scenario the reader can simply exit out of the pop-up and continue reading.

I find the breaking up of the chapters into small bubbles serves to fragment the concepts. I find myself constantly stopping to scroll back up to begin the next section when I want simply to read on, to move from section to section.In this way I lose the flow and continuity of the chapter. Why all these short sections? These would be perfect for museum wall texts moving us nicely from exhibit to exhibit. But for the continuous narrative or exposition of a book the sections interrupt and irk, I find.

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Posted March 28, 2009  12:21 pm