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Fugitive texts

25 June 2015

Fugitive Texts: Replication, Attribution, and Bibliography in the Digitized Archive

Presenter: Ryan Cordell, NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks at Northeastern University

part of the Literary Studies Seminar series, ANU

Cover Photo

Dr Cordell works on the Viral Texts project, which uses “robust data mining tools to discover reprinted content across large-scale archives of nineteenth-century newspapers and magazines“. He was in Australia for the DH2015 conference and before this talk had just met with the Trove team.

Relevance to the study

The tracing of a fugitive poem across the recycling network of nineteenth century newspaper editors all across the USA was presented in a helpful format that could be useful for indicating the spread and history of the ‘me fecit’ term.

Battles and books

12 June 2015

Interrogating the In-between: Humanities & Languages Postgraduate Research Conference 2015, University of New South Wales

This one-day conference provided the opportunity for students from a number of universities to present to and provide feedback on their individual research topics.

[More detailed account of the presentation: Battles and books]

battleThe title of my presentation was Battles and books, and I attempted, for the largely non-linguist audience, to examine:

  • Are there patterns in the history of linguistics?
  • Do your ideas about language affect what you do with it?

Initially, I situated my interest as a worker in higher education, and indicated that in later research I would seek to link a history of personification to an examination of how abstract terms are used within the management and structure of a university.


Battles and books, slide 12

For this presentation, I looked at one strand of this question: the contest between ideas of what language is and how language should be studied at university.

I discussed examples from points in intellectual history where abstractions of linguistic concepts were depicted as being in battle, looking in more detail at d’Andely’s Battle of the seven liberal arts (c. 1250). To bring this history into a local and more immediate context, I extended the discussion to the ‘reading wars’, their genesis in 1980s California, and the ‘phonics’/’whole word’ debate still sporadically conducted via Australian newspapers.

I concluded by commenting on the practical and policy importance of ideas about language held by non-specialist employees of a contemporary university, given the topical political pressures on evaluating English language proficiency.

Relevance to the study

The benefits of developing this presentation to my research were:

  1. the opportunity to present the possible argument of my PhD proposal to a general audience
  2. the opportunity for feedback. The student audience followed the historical outline, but it was the staff who were attending the conference and mentoring us who expressed interest in the proposed research into the ideas about language found in university management and institutional advertising.

Nervous aesthetics

4 June 2015

Literary criticism, cognitive science, and sensory perception in works by Woolf, Kerouac and Nabokov

Presenter: Michael Bartlett, PhD candidate

Venue: Milgate Room, ANU

part of the SLLL Literary Studies seminar

Cover Photo

In his pre-submission seminar, Michael Bartlett used three literary case studies to examine the value or otherwise of cognitive poetics and neuroaesthetics as two approaches in the critical toolkit. These case studies were:

  • Kerouac, On the road + music
  • Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway + Impressionism
  • Nabokov, Lolita + crossmodality

From these studies he identified mechanisms where brain functions are definitely implicated in critical responses.

  • Nabokov’s synaesthesia provides an extreme case of the working of cross-modality as the base for metaphors like ‘sharp’ cheese. Bartlett noted V. S. Ramanchandran’s work on ‘hypernormativity’ (superstimulus) and synaesthesia.
  • Woolf’s method of representing moments in time, of converting story to novel (Banfield, 2003), is “more Pisarro than Monet”, and can be aligned with the tools used by Harvard neurobiologist Margaret Livingstone to research how artworks are perceived by highly interconnected modules in the brain’s anatomy.
  • Kerouac’s enjambement was clearly related to prosodic features in language and to the tension set up in jazz, where the audience anticipates and waits for the violations and resolutions in the music.

[Banfield, A. (2003). Time Passes: Virginia Woolf, Post-Impressionism, and Cambridge Time. Poetics Today 24(3), 471-516. Duke University Press.

Ramachandran, V. S. & Hubbard, E. M. (2005) Synesthesia: What does it tell us about the emergence of qualia, metaphor, abstract thought, and language? In 23 Problems in Systems Neuroscience, edited by T. S. Sejnowski & L. Van Hemmen. Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press, pp. 432-473.]

Additional reading

The foundation work on how literary effects can be translated by linguistics or cognitive science was from proponents Peter Stockwell (dealing with linguistics and conceptual metaphor) and (initially) Reuven Tsur (chiefly concerned with poetry).

Relevance to the study

The prepress paper by Lisa Zunshine on Honglou meng (Story of the Stone) from a cognitive viewpoint impressed me greatly, and I needed to find out more of her tradition of the critical reader as a mediator between author and effect, criticism and cognitive science.
[Zunshine, L. (2015). From the Social to the Literary: Approaching Cao Xueqin’s The Story of the Stone (Honglou meng 紅樓夢 ) from a Cognitive Perspective. In The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Literary Studies (pp. 1–33).]

Holocaust as a global language

2 June 2015

Holocaust memory as a global language: the case of Indigenous Australian suffering

Researcher: Dr Nina Fischer, University of Konstanz

visitor at Humanities Research Centre, ANU

Cover Photo

Fischer first presented evidence of the importance of the Jewish holocaust in Australia, for example the Melbourne Jewish Holocaust Museum; Sydney’s memorial to Gay and Lesbian victims of the Holocaust; the Australian Curriculum’s inclusion of an examination of the Holocaust.

The holocaust has taken on a cosmopolitan turn, a trope of ‘moral certainty’ that unites Europe and other parts of the world. Levi and Sznaider cite it as helping to ‘facilitate the formation of transnational memory culture’, perhaps providing the basis for discussions in global multidirectional human rights. (Dr Fischer says she is not so optimistic about the humanities’ role in improving civic life.)

Her question during her stay in Australia was how does holocaust memory provide language and imagery (such as the metonymic horror of the Auschwitz gate) for talking about indigenous suffering in Australia? And does the importance of this imagery encourage its use as a language in other contexts?

Dr Fischer traced the first reference to Indigenous history as a holocaust to 1976 (where whites take on the position of Hitler youth). In a more recent (2007) example, Anthony Mundine called for the Apology with these words: “John Howard has got to admit he is wrong – just as the Germans did after Hitler”. The opposition also employs the reference, as in the contra-example Get over historical indigenous wrongs. Holocaust is also a notable part of Justice Michael Kirby’s (2012) Lowitja O’Donoghue Oration.

[Fischer’s forthcoming publication: Memory work: the second generation ]

Does knowing about other suffering cause us to remember and care more?

Relevance to the study

In a peripheral way, the potential for the term ‘holocaust’ to move from power to platitude – Tony Abbott’s comment that Labor had proposed a ‘holocaust of Defence jobs’ – is comparable to the weakening that I can trace in maker’s marks (‘X made me’ evolving into a highly compressed abbreviation).

Learning canvas (for #learnxAPI)

29 May 2015

In the #learnxAPI MOOC we are trying to link learning to the business goals of our organisation. Saltbox’s Learning Model Canvas is a tool to gather a strategic overview of learning as it support business goals.

I know our small unit needs to get help (= data) from across the organisation, but I’m not sure how our priorities mesh with theirs.

Here’s a shot of the Canvas so far.

elements of learning model

Peeling the PEEL

29 May 2015

Presenter: Dr Sally Humphrey

Linguistics Research Seminar series, University of Sydney

Prior to her departure to present on the  model in New York (and Aachen?), Sally discussed how different disciplines can make use of PEEL, a strategy for explaining paragraph construction where P: Point, E: Evidence, E: Elaboration, L: Link to the main argument

Her work with teachers from different secondary subjects has confirmed the productiveness of the analysis. She pointed in particular to its usefulness in making explicit the grammar of ‘explaining’ sentences to (firstly) staff teaching industrial design, where the curriculum demands a leap from early years’ description of the process to a critical evaluation of the product in senior years.

Additional reading

Humphrey, S., & Economou, D. (2015). Peeling the onion – A textual model of critical analysis. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 37-50.

Relevance to the study

No direct relevance to the study, this seminar provided an update and expansion on work of long-standing interest.

‘Translate’ and ‘interpret’ in the European languages

22 April 2015

Presenter: Professor Peter Hill

The expressions for ‘translate’ and ‘interpret’ in the European languages (work in progress)

Humanities Research Centre, ANU

part of the Language Change seminar series

Professor Hill has been examining the claim that Slavonic and Germanic languages make calques of the Latin words for ‘translation’ – transferre, translatum, which is at root ‘carry across’ or ‘lead across’. He noted how the German ubersetzen has become over time morphologically differentiated from ‘carry across’ as a material process. The distinction of interpreting as a spoken form and translating as a written form was traced through many Slavonic languages.

Relevance to the study

Paths of cultural influence may be responsible for the journey of phraseological and semantic calques across Europe. This relates to the possible transmission paths of the expression and the concept of “me pinxit” or “me fecit” across Western Europe.