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In praxis "law-of-7"/2 for polyliteracy?

 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
49 messages over 7 pages: 1 24 5 6 7  Next >>
Zwlth
Super Polyglot
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United States
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 Message 17 of 49
21 August 2011 at 9:22pm | IP Logged 
So let's summarize:

This is Professor Arguelles' room.

Polyliteracy is Professor Arguelles' brainchild.

I start a thread to ask a direct in praxis question of other practitioners of polyliteracy in this sense.

I get no direct responses, just theory, side issues, and flak from non-practitioners.

And now Iversen is back with more ratiocination for co-opting and vulgarizing the term.


Professor Arguelles would be saddened if he knew of this situation.
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Jinx
Triglot
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 Message 18 of 49
22 August 2011 at 2:49am | IP Logged 
Zwlth wrote:
So let's summarize:

This is Professor Arguelles' room.

Polyliteracy is Professor Arguelles' brainchild.

I start a thread to ask a direct in praxis question of other practitioners of polyliteracy in this sense.

I get no direct responses, just theory, side issues, and flak from non-practitioners.

And now Iversen is back with more ratiocination for co-opting and vulgarizing the term.


Professor Arguelles would be saddened if he knew of this situation.



You can never control how others may respond to you. All you can control is your own temper.

It's surprising how much negativity can be avoided if you err on the side of thinking the best of people. I've posted here before about the issue of "tone" on the Internet, and how difficult it is to communicate your "vibe" to others through writing alone. If you post something (especially in a forum with a disproportionately large percentage of intelligent, mature, well-spoken members) and receive what you call "flak" in response, the logical reaction would be to examine your own tone and try to understand what may have provoked this reaction in the first place.

I regularly read books in multiple languages, but since that does not seem to fulfill your idea of "polyliteracy", I will refrain from commenting on the original thread topic.
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Budz
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 Message 19 of 49
22 August 2011 at 3:13am | IP Logged 
No, reading books in various languages could qualify you... but first you need to submit the list to some higher authority to make sure they are deep enough to qualify.

I've met some pretty intelligent people in my time... but thank goodness they're all down-to-earth.
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Zwlth
Super Polyglot
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 Message 20 of 49
22 August 2011 at 8:41pm | IP Logged 
Thank you, Jinx, for your kind words of wise perspective, but I've already admitted that there may have been something inadvertently offensive in my tone and apologized for that, and I hardly think that tone alone would have produced this reaction had I not tread upon a raw nerve. No, what I sense in the tone of most of these reactions goes beyond what I've said to what it fundamentally represents. What I hear is a roar of plebian rage against a patrician assertion of privilege. Yours are the cries of egalitarians aghast at an elitist notion that there could be such a thing as quality: "What?!?! He has the gall to draw a distinction between high-brow and the rest?!?!   How dare he!!! There is no middle-brow, no low-brow, everything is of equal worth! Surfing the internet is just as good as reading 'the classics,' what makes him think he has the right to assert that some books are 'Great'?!" That’s what I hear you all saying, and in repeatedly ignoring the intention of this thread and utterly trashing it, you have made it clear that the notion of weighted worth of reading matter is a taboo theme that you will not allow here.
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obsculta
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 Message 21 of 49
22 August 2011 at 11:40pm | IP Logged 
I don’t intentionally practice polyliteracy in any systematic way, but I do try to read literature in its original language of composition. If I’m not systematic, it’s for precisely the reasons mentioned by Volte—I prefer to let my interest and intuition guide my reading. Reading is not my primary way of maintaining my languages.

Still, I do read literature in several languages, so I’ll try to answer Zwlth’s original question.

I have some knowledge of 9 languages, though I only read 6 regularly. I tend to read only one or two novels at a time, which means I can go long stretches without engaging the literature of a language. I tend to use literary/religious/cultural radio shows daily to keep languages sharp (e.g., WDR’s Das philosophische Radio, Theo.Logik, El Hilo del Tiempo de Ernesto de la Peña, RFI’s Religions du Monde et Littérature sans frontieres, the Latinum podcast, the Poetry Magazine podcast in English).

I find the idea of ‘polyliteracy’ attractive, but I feel it dissipates my focus in a way I don’t like. What is it that Seneca says about a library being like your group of friends? I’m paraphrasing—that it’s better to have a few good friends than to try to meet the whole world in a casual way. I’d rather spend more time with Rilke or St. Augustine rather than move on to Camus or Plato.

This is perhaps outside of the scope of ‘polyliteracy’, but I devotionally read the bible and patristic documents daily in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin (I’m not proselytizing; just mentioning what and how I read). I think reading in several languages simultaneously is endemic to religious traditions that focus on an inspired text. It seems natural, and not distracting, to read simultaneously, for example, Isaiah in Hebrew with an Aramaic gloss, a Greek &/or Latin patristic commentary on Isaiah (John Chrysostom or Jerome?), and a modern German lexicon of Hebrew usage. Maybe this is because there’s one central text upon which the others are based. There’s a Buddhist thread floating around that would lead me to believe that Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan & Classical Chinese might function similarly. But for whatever reason, it feels much less natural to divide one’s attention between Proust, Woolf, Mann and Borges.

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Juаn
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 Message 22 of 49
23 August 2011 at 1:17am | IP Logged 
Budz wrote:
No, reading books in various languages could qualify you...


Qualify one for what though? Zwlth is asking about a specific pursuit termed "polyliteracy" by professor Argüelles and described in detail by him here. Certainly, one who reads mainly newspapers, celebrity biographies, cookbooks or self-help bestsellers would and should not "qualify" for this.

In my case, I would not classify myself as a practitioner either. While I have been reading great books (notice, no uppercase) since my teens -I used to skip school so that I could stay at home and read Hegel, Freud, Cervantes, Goethe and Marx, along with books on economics and development, history, physics and other subjects-, my approach is that of an intellectual, one who seeks knowledge and understanding in a critical fashion conducive to and nurturing of original thought. My sense is that the Professor's way tilts more towards appreciation and contemplation, but of course these and my own approach are not mutually exclusive but rather complement each other.

From an intellectual's point of view, not only the classics constitute great literature. Understanding being our goal and delight, an exceptional calculus textbook is a "great book" too. So are good science and popular science books. Perhaps even more than the classics themselves but certainly not to their exclusion, a core library of great books to me would look something like this.

Thus I share some of the Professor's motivation, if not his specific programme.

Bringing to memory from so many years ago how I came upon learning English, I think for those engrossed in books and ideas language should not be a problem for this very simple reason - that I cannot recall how it is that I did learn English. True, I had a bilingual education from an early age, but I despised school and performed abysmally. And I distinctly remember watching cartoons in English or attempting to read a videogame instructions booklet and not understanding an iota. Then no more than a couple of years later I find myself reading all this great literature with relative competency.

It is my impression, to finally answer Zwlth, that as long as you keep a dictionary by your side and barring egregious neglect, once you have made it to the end of a good book in your target language, that tongue will leave you no more.
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Zwlth
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 Message 23 of 49
23 August 2011 at 8:32am | IP Logged 
Obsculta and Juan, thank goodness you two have arrived! Finally, people who are willing to discuss the proposed topic rather than trying to sidetrack it and attack its premises! I am so glad that you have proven me wrong in what I just wrote in my last post.

Obsculta, I find your "spiritual" take on polyliteracy particularly interesting, and I imagine that you are quite right and that there must be a veritable tradition among priestly castes the world over of reading the scriptures of a given faith in their various originals, all on a daily basis. I also appreciate what you are saying about polyliteracy potentially dissipating your focus if, as in getting through the reading list of a Great Books course in college, you read just one book by an author before moving on. But, it doesn't have to be that way if you are doing it on your own. If you look at the Professor's list, you can see he tends to put most if not all of the works of every major author on it. So, there is no reason why you cannot spend more time with Augustine before moving on to Plato or someone else. Of course, that would keep you in one language for quite a long time. And, it sounds already as if your case does not support "7"/2 because you tend to read in just 2 of your 9 at a time (other than devotions, I take it?), keeping the rest active by listening. That's great to know.

Juan, I take your points as well, and I concur that one ought not only read the classics. As you put it, staying abreast of contemporary scientific issues, for instance, by reading outstanding textbooks in various tongues, is important, as is developing an awareness for the current intellectual climate of a culture by reading its best recent high-brow works. I quite like the link you provided to the 100 most influential books since the War, and in fact, to the best of my recollection, it is similar to one that the Professor had on his site for a 20th century list, though his link doesn’t work now so I can't confirm that.

Please, keep responses like these two coming!
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Jinx
Triglot
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Germany
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 Message 24 of 49
23 August 2011 at 8:07pm | IP Logged 
Zwlth wrote:
Thank you, Jinx, for your kind words of wise perspective, but I've already admitted that there may have been something inadvertently offensive in my tone and apologized for that, and I hardly think that tone alone would have produced this reaction had I not tread upon a raw nerve. No, what I sense in the tone of most of these reactions goes beyond what I've said to what it fundamentally represents. What I hear is a roar of plebian rage against a patrician assertion of privilege. Yours are the cries of egalitarians aghast at an elitist notion that there could be such a thing as quality: "What?!?! He has the gall to draw a distinction between high-brow and the rest?!?!   How dare he!!! There is no middle-brow, no low-brow, everything is of equal worth! Surfing the internet is just as good as reading 'the classics,' what makes him think he has the right to assert that some books are 'Great'?!" That’s what I hear you all saying, and in repeatedly ignoring the intention of this thread and utterly trashing it, you have made it clear that the notion of weighted worth of reading matter is a taboo theme that you will not allow here.


I appreciate your relatively level-headed response to my post, Zwlth. Let me excuse this post in advance for being only peripherally related to your original question in this thread; still I hope it might be helpful to you and to other readers of this topic.

This is an idea I just had while reading the most recent responses to this thread. It may seem absurdly simplistic to you, but bear with me: I think people are perhaps getting confused because they see your original question as confounding two separate things, the practice of reading literature in multiple languages and the practice of reading classic/great/high-brow literature.

As I see it, what is problematic about mixing these two practices is the following: I would venture to assume that most people on this forum are of one mind as regards reading (anything) in a target language. We all agree that it's beneficial, in one way or another.

However, the practice of reading "Great Books" is a more difficult topic to generalize about, for two simple reasons:

1) Despite hundreds of years of higher education in literature, shared syllabi, published articles on "What Books to Read", salons where influential ideas are discussed, etc., it is still very difficult to pin down what exactly constitutes a "Great Book". There are many which most people agree on, and many others which lie on the border of this category and are often hotly discussed by equally qualified apologists and attackers. In the end, no matter how much some people may wish to standardize the concept of a "Great Book", it always comes down to personal opinion against personal opinion. And, in my humble opinion, you can't argue with opinion. ;)

2) Even if there were an absolute consensus as to what a "Great Book" may be, an even thornier argument awaits us at the end of that tunnel: the potential use and benefit of reading "Great Books" as opposed to other literature and even non-literature.

Personally, I am a staunch adherent of the value of classic literature, as it has taught me a great deal and provided me many happy hours. However, I strongly believe in equal respect for all people, and as the ability and opportunity to enjoy "Great Books" has unfortunately become a privilege of the few, I refuse to make potentially divisive statements regarding the intellectual benefit of reading certain books by certain groups of people (DWEMs, anyone?), to the exclusion of other types of reading.

I'm not suggesting that you ARE attempting to turn this into a social/class issue; I'm just mentioning this because I think some other readers of this topic may have responded in a combative manner due to subconsciously sensing the difficulties I have mentioned above. I hope this warning will be taken in the spirit intended, as a friendly observation and not an intended firestarter.

In summary, this is a more delicate topic than it may at first appear, and making absolute quality-statements about something as deceptively nebulous as "great literature" may arouse negativity where none was intended.

Apologies for the length of this, I hope I haven't needlessly sidetracked this very interesting conversation.


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