Thursday, 16 February 2012

Tell me what is happening inside my mind because I forgot

I read Eric A. Havelock's 'The Muse Learns to Write', about the transformation of ancient Greece from an oral to a literate society. At points I must have gotten very excited by what I read because I highlighted parts of the text.

I now no longer fully understand why I underlined these things. Take a look and see if you can work out what I was thinking. If you can, let me know.

I underlined the word 'dance' in this paragraph.
'It's rhythms are biologically pleasurable, especially when reinforced by musical chants, by melody, and by the body motions of dance. When performed as a chorus the dance also has the advantage of involving whole groups in shared recitations and so shared memorisation, a practice which continued to inform and guide the mores of Athens down to the age of Pericles. A high proportion of the youth of the Athenian governing classes received it's secondary education in this way, as it was recruited for the choruses of tragedy and comedy.'

Next to the above paragraph I wrote 'government by dance?' which seems odd, but accurate. If performance is how you encode memory and dance is how you perform, then dance is the information-technology of a non-literate society and those that cannot dance, or that dance badly, will suffer.

For some reason I bracketed this translation of the names of the muses, perhaps simply because I thought they were beautiful.
'These combined conditions are symbolically memorialised in the names that the nine are given: Cleio (Celebrator), Euterpe (Delighter), Thaleia (Luxuriator), Melpomene (Song-Player), Terpsichore (Dance-Delighter), Erato (Enrapturer), Polyhymnia (Hymnal Player), Urania (Heaven Dweller, Caliope (Fair Speaker).

I bracketed this.
'Athenian prisoners of war in Sicily, according to Plutarch's anecdote, gained their freedom from their captors by their ability to recite the choruses of Euripides – not the dialogue or the speeches.'

I bracketed this, underlined parts and left a large black exclamation mark in the right margin. Underlined parts are in italics.
'Greek drama offers no propositions, beliefs, or programmed doctrines in the style of a Dante (still more of a Milton) but an expressive dynamism whether in word or thought. It is difficult to find an instance of a conceptual subject attached to a conceptual predicate by the copula “is” anywhere in the plays. ….'

Then another bracket with another exclamation mark. The last sentence seems like it comes the closest to being 'useful', according to the distant original purpose of this blog.

'The absence of any linguistic framework for the statement of abstract principle confers on the high classic tongue a curious and enviable directness. The particularism of orally remembered speech has the continual effect of calling a spade a spade rather than an implement designed for excavation. The speech will praise or blame but not in terms of moral approval or moral disapproval based on abstract and manufactured principles. A character in Greek drama does not theorize himself out of an unpleasant situation. He walks into it with motives that are specific and, if he has to, later accepts it when he recognizes what has actually happened.'

The following has brackets with three(!) exclamation points in the margin. It describes Plato's attitude to poetry.
'When he turns against poetry it is precisely its dynamism, it's fluidity, it's concreteness, it's particularity, that he deplores. He could not have reached the point of deploring it if he had not become literate himself.'

In the following sentence I underlined the words 'ceaseless flow'.
'The Muse, as she learned to write, had to turn away from the living panorama of experience and it's ceaseless flow, but as long as she remained Greek, she could not entirely forget it.'

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