memorial day 2005

I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood
running from the wounded. I have seen men coughing out their gassed
lungs. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen two hundred limping exhausted men come out of line-the
survivors of a regiment of one thousand that went forward forty-eight
hours before. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of
mothers and wives. I hate war.

I have passed unnumbered hours, I shall pass unnumbered hours, thinking and planning how war may be kept from this Nation.

I wish I could keep war from all Nations; but that is beyond my power. I can at least make certain that no act of the United States helps to
produce or to promote war. I can at least make clear that the conscience of America revolts against war and that any Nation which provokes war forfeits the sympathy of the people of the United States.

-Franklin Delano Roosevelt

My maternal grandfather served in the U.S. Navy. My paternal grandfather served in the U.S. Army and fought in World War II. My father and uncle both served in Vietnam at the height of hostilities, and both were wounded, my uncle severely. Unlike the wealthy men who currently send our troops into harm’s way, but who chose the safest route when their turn came to serve, my family knows the pain and ugliness of war.

From 1979 to 1989, my father worked as an advisor to NATO, keeping the peace in the last years of the cold war. Jingoism and masculine posturing leave me cold. Tanks and guns are the tools of those too dense or too arrogant to find a way to resolve conflict without violence. The most dangerous bullies in the world wear suits, not uniforms. Soldiers and sailors don’t make foreign policy: they follow orders. Today I remember not only those who have died, but also the men and women who have passed and who continue to pass unnumbered hours thinking and planning how war may be avoided so that fewer young men and women need to die.

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tanselle takes stock

If you don’t know anything about the field of textual criticism, the Tanselle essay linked below is not a bad place to start. It’s accessible (in that no subscription is required to read this particular journal), and it’s also accessible (in that no great degree of specialized knowledge is needed to understand it).

Tanselle, G. Thomas. “Textual Criticism at the Millennium.” Studies in Bibliography 54 (2001): 2-81.

During the last part of the twentieth century…a focus on texts as social products came to characterize the bulk of the discussion of textual theory, if not editions themselves. For the first time, the majority of writings on textual matters expressed a lack of interest in, and often active disapproval of, approaching texts as the products of individual creators; and it promoted instead the forms of texts that emerged from the social process leading to public distribution, forms that were therefore accessible to readers.

This dramatic shift has produced some benefits, but it has not been an unmixed blessing. Both the turn away from the author and the emphasis on textual instability reflect trends in literary and cultural criticism and thus are evidence of the growing interconnections between fields that for too long had little influence on each other….These welcome developments, however, came at a price. One is that the prose of many textual critics has been infiltrated with the fashionable buzz-words of literary theory and with a style of writing that often substitutes complexity of expression for careful thought. Another is the notion that recognizing the importance of socially produced texts involves rejecting the study of authorial intentions…Still another problem is that the emphasis on documentary texts has led to a considerable amount of unfounded criticism of the activity of critical editing and the “mediation” practiced by scholarly editors…

Three of the recurring themes during [the second half of the 1990s] were

  • the application of textual criticism to nonverbal works,
  • the editorial traditions of non-English-speaking countries,
  • and the role of the computer in editing.

I shall take up each of these before turning to some of the more general studies of textual issues…

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social networking

Jill writes

Most people remain ensconced in their own little clusters of people who are more or less like them and who basically have almost all the same information as each other. Thatís why bridges to other social clusters are vital: if you find people who connect to people who are different from yourself and your buddies, youíre going to get a whole lot of new information and new ideas. Thatís important.

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where is hamlet?

James McLaverty [link]
“The Mode of Existence of Literary Works of Art: The Case of the Dunciad Variorum” [link]
Studies in Bibliography [link], Volume 37 (1984)

In a section of his Essays in Critical Dissent entitled “The Philistinism of ‘Research,'” the late F. W. Bateson laid down a challenge to bibliographers which, so far as I know, has never been taken up directly. The question he poses is roughly this: if the Mona Lisa is in the Louvre, where are Hamlet and Lycidas? what is the essential physical basis of a literary work of art? Bateson’s answer…is that the physical basis is “human articulations”; “the literary original exists physically in a substratum of articulated sound.” A book, he claims, has the same sort of imperfect relationship to the original work as a photograph has to the man photographed… It follows from this, Bateson argues, that the bibliographer is guilty of mistaking the secondary for the primary: he busies himself preserving the author’s “accidentals,” when the author’s responsibility stops with the sounds; the bibliographer confuses the function of the author with that of his copyist.

To much of this the bibliographer will have a ready answer, but the importance of these criticisms lies in their level of generality; they call for a justification of certain bibliographical attitudes in terms of aesthetic theory and they raise, in vivid if eccentric fashion, several of the crucial issues in aesthetics today. Without presuming to speak for bibliography, I want to challenge Bateson’s conclusions on these issues and to suggest that the physical appearance of books sometimes has even greater importance than textual bibliographers are willing to allow it. I believe that leading writers on aesthetics — writers quite independent and even ignorant of the world of bibliography — are able to give solutions to Bateson’s problems which, far from diminishing the role of the written or printed word, emphasise the importance of notation.

McLaverty is the author of Pope, Print, and Meaning (Oxford UP, 2001).

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