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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  March 2000

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION March 2000

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Subject:

Re: Fwd: Howlett's text

From:

"Charles Skallerud" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Mon, 20 Mar 2000 06:50:32 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (172 lines)

I thought that I had missed the critical response.  Instead I see that there
has not been much response.  This surprises and puzzles me.  I intend to
return to the text with renewed vigor.  Of course he is right that the
special formatting is a stage in the reading process.   Maybe I never pushed
myself beyond the stage of irritation.  I, and perhaps others, must do some
more attentive, more open-minded reading.  It could be that we've missed the
boat on this one and need to do some old-fashioned homework.  One small
observation.  Publishing this sort of thing on the net might eliminate the
prohibitive cost of elaborate formatting.  Colored fonts and the digital
equivalent of transparencies might be a negligible cost-factor in that
context.

Charles Skallerud


----- Original Message -----
From: "Bill East" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, March 20, 2000 5:03 AM
Subject: Re: Fwd: Howlett's text


> A listmember made a query about the reception of Howlett's text.  I
> forwarded the query to Howlett, who has responded as follows:
>
> --- David Howlett <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > Dear Bill,
> >    There is a review of four of my books forthcoming from Allan Hood
> > in
> > Early Medieval Europe, in which he refers to the lack of critical re-
> > sponse to the entire list. Jane Stevenson in a review of the Patrick
> > book, also in EME, mentioned the intrusive fussiness of the layout as
> > something initially irritating, though persuasive once one worked
> > through
> > it. Irritating it undoubtedly is, and unattractive to look at. If
> > anyone
> > can suggest a better format I will adopt it. One needs to remember,
> > how-
> > ever, that a commercial publisher who takes on such a book, fully
> > aware
> > of other publishers' earlier rejections, and takes it on as a
> > commercial
> > risk without a subsidy, cannot reasonably be asked to print in
> > colours
> > or in overlaid transparencies.
> >    The short answers to your questioner are that I have looked for
> > and
> > found the style only sporadically in non-Insular texts, everywhere
> > for
> > centuries in Insular texts, then in Continental texts influenced by
> > In-
> > sular traditions. And that looking for a critical consensus in this
> > matter is a waste of time. There are two and only two classes of
> > respon-
> > dents -- those who work their ways through the paradigms and discover
> > that
> > the texts are composed as I suggest they were, thus and not
> > otherwise, and
> > those who don't or won't.
> >    There may come a time in which the critics hit a critical mass,
> > and
> > those who affirm now that my work is worthless affirm then that it is
> > orthodox. If they arrive at their view by repeating what the chief
> > critic
> > says, as distinct from having worked their own way toward
> > understanding,
> > their approval then will be as worthless as their criticism is now.
> >    As I think a few moments more about the objectionable fussiness of
> > the
> > apparatus, it has a value, even in its irritating ugliness. The point
> > is
> > to get beyond it, as beyond the use of colour in a computerized text,
> > to
> > the putative mental state of author, reader, and hearer (exactly like
> > one
> > who knows the Psalter, the Missal, and the Hymnal by heart), so that
> > these
> > structures can be apprehended and understood fully without the visual
> > aids
> > we spend so much time tweaking for attractive web-sites.
> >    Remember that no ancient Biblical text separates words by space,
> > not in
> > Hebrew, not in Greek, not in Latin. No manuscript lays Aldhelm's
> > densely
> > wrought prose per cola et commata. Not one of 30,000 lines of Old
> > English
> > verse is laid out in verse lines in a manuscript. One single
> > manuscript of
> > polyphony arranges the voices vertically (Cormac's colophon). All the
> > others exhibit triplum, duplum, and tenor in three separate blocks.
> > And
> > no one, ever, says, 'Notice now, I'm marking epitrite ratio with the
> > word
> > epitritus and sesquioctave with the word epogdous', though smart guys
> > do
> > exactly that.
> >    This mode of thought and the tradition of composition that issued
> > from
> > it cannot be put on like clothes from the rack at Gap. There are no
> > easy
> > introductory manuals. It must be communicated from master to pupil,
> > caught
> > exactly the way a disease or religion is caught, from someone who has
> > it.
> > That is why Jerome wrote De Viris Illustribus, why Gennadius updated
> > the
> > work, why the Irish classified their saints into ordines Sanctorum,
> > why
> > the idea of the apostolic succession was once more than a bit of
> > legalist
> > claptrap. Once the link is broken, recovery must proceed by fits and
> > starts, with inefficient backtracking and revision, and produce, at
> > best,
> > only fragments of something once integrated, powerful, and almost
> > unimag-
> > inably beautiful, expanding the minds and enriching the lives of
> > everyone
> > touched by it.
> >    THAT is part of the explanation of the response by our
> > contemporaries.
> > The work was kept out of print for fully twenty years. After a
> > publisher
> > finally took it, bringing out one book each year since 1994, the
> > response
> > among reviewers (with three notable exceptions) was to take the book
> > (I
> > know exactly how many copies have gone out and to which journals,
> > often
> > to which reviewer) but not to supply a review, sometimes because it
> > looks
> > like hard work, sometimes because one fears to say that the system
> > works
> > (in case another reviewer discovers a fatal flaw), sometimes because
> > one
> > fears to say that it is trash (in case a big name pronounces it
> > revolu-
> > tionary and good), usually to hope that the whole claim will fall
> > quietly
> > if ignored for long enough.
> >    Responses that reach me by other routes are exactly opposite. One
> > is
> > that to a post-romantic sensibility the whole thing seems so
> > cripplingly
> > difficult as to have been impossible at any time. The other is that I
> > have
> > suggested so many ratios (notwithstanding that they are exactly those
> > of
> > the accounts of Creation among both Hebrews and Greeks) that it is
> > ridicu-
> > lously easy to find 'hits', which are random occurrences, not
> > evidence of
> > deliberate authorial strategies.
> >    That someone should be interested enough to post a network query
> > is
> > gratifying. As I do not belong to that list I cannot reply, though
> > you
> > are at liberty to forward this to him or anyone else.
> >    More later.
> > Salve. David
> >
> >
>
> ____________________________________________________________
> Do You Yahoo!?
> Get your free @yahoo.co.uk address at http://mail.yahoo.co.uk
> or your free @yahoo.ie address at http://mail.yahoo.ie
>



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