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Textualization of Experience

Studies on Ancient Greek Literature

by Paweł Majewski (Author)
Monographs 238 Pages

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 The rhetors and the rhapsodes: notes on two modes of remembering
  • Chapter 2 Beginnings and development of technical writing: Fachliteratur
  • Chapter 3 Xenophon, Ischomachus, Kikkuli: the transparency of the message
  • Chapter 4 The putative empiricism of Aristotle
  • Chapter 5 Theophrastus: the world in the text
  • Chapter 6 The dried body of Philitas
  • Chapter 7 Archimedes and his Sandreckoner
  • Appendix. Two medieval traces of experience in the text
  • 1) The structure of Isidore’s of Seville Etymologies; or, about the discontinuity of the European cultural remembrance
  • 2) The copyist’s suffering and the calligrapher’s joy: on the psychodynamics of writing in medieval Europe
  • Bibliography of cited works
  • Series index

cover

Bibliographic Information published by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek
The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche
Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data is available in the internet at
http://dnb.d-nb.de.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
A CIP catalog record for this book has been applied for at the
Library of Congress.

About the editors

The Author
Paweł Majewski, professor at the University of Warsaw. His books concern the influence of means of communication on the formation of cultural systems (Writing, Text, Literature, Warsaw 2013; The Speaking Lion, Warsaw 2018; The Feast of the Language, Warsaw 2019) and the works of Stanisław Lem (Between an Animal and a Machine. Technological Utopia of Stanisław Lem, Peter Lang 2018).

About the book

Paweł Majewski

Textualization of Experience

The book is an analysis of Greek Hellenistic literature with the help of conceptual tools of cultural studies and media theory. Its main aim is to describe the cultural process during which Greek authors in the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C. made the “textualization of experience”, that is, transferred phenomenalistically understood qualities of human sensory experience to the categories characteristic for textual description – as far as possible for them. This process is shown by examples from the works of Xenophon, Aristotle, Theophrastus, Philitas of Kos and Archimedes. The author also tries to show some of the consequences that the phenomenon of the Hellenistic textualization of experience had for the later epochs of European culture.

This eBook can be cited

This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.

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Introduction

In the second book of his treatise On the Nature of the Gods, Cicero criticizes the views of the Greek atomists from the school of Epicurus:

At this point must I not marvel that there should be anyone who can persuade himself that there are certain solid and indivisible particles of matter borne along by the force of gravity, and that the fortuitous collision of those particles produces this elaborate and beautiful world? I cannot understand why he who considers it possible for this to have occurred should not also think that, if a countless number of copies of the one-and-twenty letters of the alphabet, made of gold or what you will, were thrown together into some receptacle and then shaken out on to the ground, it would be possible that they should produce the Annals of Ennius, all ready for the reader. I doubt whether chance could possibly succeed in producing even a single verse! (De natura deorum II, 37, 93)1

Citing this passage of Cicero in a study on the ancient ideas concerning the notion of “element” (stoicheion), Hermann Diels emphasizes its similitude to the shape of fonts in the printing press invented by Johann Gutenberg, and points to the Democritean analogy between the atoms and the letters of the alphabet, enumerating other passages from ancient Greek and Latin texts, whose authors are using this representation too. But for Democritus or Lucretius, the comparison of the elements of matter to the letters of alphabet was nothing more than a visual illustration of their ontological and sometimes ethical views – and for Cicero such a comparison would be intolerable, since it is tantamount to a refutation of meaningfulness and purposefulness of the human world. It is very significant that Cicero mentions The Annals of Ennius – the most significant Roman historical epic before Virgil, of which he was also personally and intellectually fond – as an example of improbable coincidence which would be a random composition of scattered letters into just that poem. The vision of the world as a space of stochastic natural actions was utterly unacceptable for Cicero. In his terms, for the human mind desiring an order of things the world structured by ←9 | 10→chance from atoms and at the same time equipped with internal meaning is unbearable – equally as a text structured from aleatory letters and nevertheless equipped with internal meaning – because isolated atoms and isolated letters are equally nonsensical and meaningless. Through many centuries, in every culture of alphabetic writing, the users of this writing will look for sense and meaning in their world and in their texts, taking for granted – more or less consciously – that on some level of organization of the world and, respectively, of the text, the fundamental configuration of their components somehow obtains its internal cohesion, and that the discovery that cohesion is a crucial task of the human intellect. And when Marshall McLuhan in the middle of the twentieth century will stubbornly repeat that the alphabetic writing creates the modern man in a particular way because it consists of meaningless signs representing meaningless sounds – and at the same time, in its innumerable combinations, creates a canon of cultural texts defining the identity and self-consciousness of its users (who are also the users of culture) – he will also involuntarily repeat the idea of Cicero, though in an approbative context, like Lucretius in Roman antiquity.

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Biographical notes

Paweł Majewski (Author)

Paweł Majewski, professor at the University of Warsaw. His books concern the influence of means of communication on the formation of cultural systems (Writing, Text, Literature, Warsaw 2013; The Speaking Lion, Warsaw 2018; The Feast of the Language, Warsaw 2019) and the works of Stanisław Lem (Between an Animal and a Machine. Technological Utopia of Stanisław Lem, Peter Lang 2018).

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Title: Textualization of Experience