To Be a Man in Language

(Updated, now twice, due to post being poorly written.) The curious thing about plunging into Homeric Greek is getting used to the strange syntax - I have temporarily left the secure bay of Pharr and plunged into random verse and passage on my own, to seek the raft of that which can be intuited in a language. It is more exciting, and allows the language to fall in place place in a new way. There is something to be said for renewing one's interest in study by playing in that same field.
For activities not required by me professionally, I work very slowly, imitating my preference for long distance sport. Because I work in academia, I only see my shortcomings: that is how I understand the responsibility even of the underling. I often broadcast these failings here, which is something I must change now. Today, I was directed to an old post of mine because so many people read it and I realised how it might be misinterpreted without the context of my other posts - I forget that some readers are here to make very quick judgments. 
One of the difficulties of taking on even more work in academia (i.e. to try to get at least a broad idea of related fields) is that hard to find a professor to take one on. The fact that the system today allows one to, say, write about Victorian literature without at least knowing how to transcribe Greek, if for no other reason than to translate epigrams in the incipit of books, is absurd. The level of specialisation can hurt the range of certain questions one might want to pose. This only bolsters those who are self-satisfied within their narrow field, uninterested in larger questions of meaning, and opposed to those who love the horizon.
It is a rhetorical tactic to not argue outside of the bounds of one's familiarity, but to lead the argument to the territory one knows. This tactic isn't always fair: once one knows to watch out for it, it is astounding how many 'unbeatable' arguments suddenly diminish in imposing stature. One must know what one is good at, or at least have an idea of one's path that might lead to ever greater clarity. I've heard this embarrassingly simplistically phrased as, "following one's gift: what one enjoys." I think, though I may be wrong, that I am good at seeing connections between ideas.
So I am swimming in Homeric Greek when I am not (still) reading Gadamer's Truth and Method. And since I am not on holiday somewhere, but in my flat, I reach the sea through Homer's Greek, with Tuft's Perseus as a buoy. In the Iliad book μαχη επι ταις ναυσιν, battle for the ships, Poseidon steps in to help the Greeks. The passage in English by no way stresses the element of gold that is apparent in the Greek, due to syntax:
ὠκυπέτα χρυσέῃσιν ἐθείρῃσιν κομόωντε, 25
χρυσὸν δ᾽ αὐτὸς ἔδυνε περὶ χροΐ, γέντο δ᾽ ἱμάσθλην
χρυσείην εὔτυκτον, ἑοῦ δ᾽ ἐπεβήσετο δίφρου,
In this image, I get the picture of the almost blinding effect of the wide open sea when the sun shines down and is reflected even brighter in the sea which turns into a plate or even shield of blinding gold.





So I may be learning Homeric Greek all wrong when I do this, but this is an image that I discovered for myself, that I will remember because I did the work to see it. This might not be scholarly, but it keeps my attention on days when I doubt my intelligence. There are days one plays - when one promises to check one's playing (as per a classicist's advice to check translations with those extant), when one does not take one's playing as a final product but a work in progress. 
Also, one is aware that someone has chartered these waters before, when one benevolently deigns to let oneself on an 'adventure' within that which is already known.
My point here is that sometimes, by 'playing' one might notice something valuable, so why is it so terrible to experiment in one's learning techniques - not as method, but as a way to encourage one to keep learning through the excitement of the immediacy of that experience. The post I rediscovered on this blog that I have now deleted for causing misunderstanding was about how once we have learned something, we are then required to make that language our own - this is how we learn to 'make sense' of what we learn, and not just parrot it. I shall now say at the risk of possibly deleting this later, that where I am standing, those educators who require this step in learning, e.g. asking for a summary of a text in one's own words, are in the minority.
So even where valid methodologies exist, there ought to be room for one's own adventure. In this way, the humanities never get old and one may continuously enjoy them.
To be a man is to (admit when he is wrong, and stand corrected,) be brave, be willing to fight -  i.e. protect both oneself and others from themselves. Who wants to identify with base actions. To be a man in language is to stand behind one's words and carve out a place for oneself in the Bakhtinian battleground of language. Isiah Berlin, for example, was unhappy with trends in philosophy, so became a historian of thought. He figured out how to allow his mind to grow without getting tied down by the rhetoric of apology. The beauty of academia is discourse, therefore we must sometimes fight against trends if this means attempting to keep the breadth of approach (also historically) alive: because of discourse, this must be true even if one disagrees!
While there may have been a time when the lady thinker identified literally with the clothes of the man - one of my favourite books was a French, Victorian volume, Les Femmes Aventureuses, about women taking the guise of the man to reach desired ends, there is now a trend for menswear boutiques to cater to women (viz. 'Maison Scotch'). I don't think I'm aware enough of how influenced I am by the romantic, but if there is such a thing as the heart singing its own intuitive song, the heart has also to man up if it is to have (a chance at) its day, the great golden mirror of day when new strength is gained and life brims with possibility. This, after all, is in line with Gadamer's vision that the truth is both logical and mythical.



No comments:

Post a Comment

Creative Commons License