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

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Volte
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 Message 25 of 49
23 August 2011 at 11:22pm | IP Logged 
Jinx wrote:
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.


I think your analysis makes sense given Zwlth's responses, but not the content of what he was responding to.

Personally, I have no problem with the concept of "Great Books", though I may debate which books are and are not until I am blue in the face. I do essentially agree with your point 1. I consider the best of them to be rather good indeed, and the dregs of some common lists to be worse than a typical sci-fi novel, but I digress. While I do not put "Great Books" on a pedestal, I do value them. I also recognize the relatively arbitrary nature of lists of them: whether one particular work and not another by particularly prolific writers appeared is often quite open to discussion, for example.

I'm a bit puzzled as to why you think that reading "Great Books" has become a privilege of the few. Literacy levels are fairly high in much of the world, there are countries where quite a few years of education is nearly universal, libraries are quite accessible, and the internet has made even rare texts available with a few clicks. I can think of no time in history where they have been anywhere near as accessible. They are not universally accessible (neither is reading in general, sadly), but the general trend is in the right direction. It is not rare for teenagers in mandatory education to have to read "Great Books". Honestly, it strikes me as about as limited to a "privileged few" as rock climbing is: both have benefits, both can be done by a fairly large percentage of the population, both require effort, and both are practised by a fairly small percentage of the people who could do them well if they set their minds to it. There are many serious social questions related to this, but I fear I'd be far too far off-topic for this forum if I went into them; suffice to say that I agree with the concept that there are regrettable inequalities, and that these statistically have an effect on many things, but that I do not think that this is the main cause of the scarcity of people voluntarily and extensively reading classical literature. Such reading is certainly not a common hobby among modern academics, nor the rich.

What I have taken exception to in this thread is a number of other things. I admit to being frankly puzzled by what appears to be the assertion that one is only engaging in polyliteracy if one reads several books in parallel, within the course of a day, and that the measure of polyliteracy is the number of books and languages one can do this in at once. I admit to having laughed when it appeared that not agreeing with this rather unique conceptualization of "in praxis" was taken to mean that Iversen, Sprachprofi, and I had no idea what the term "in praxis" meant, despite it being cognate with German and English*, and Sprachprofi and Iversen both being quite competent Latinists. I know Sprachprofi can and does read "Great Books" in Latin. I did not appreciate the citations of the number of languages that Professor Argüelles admits to engaging in polyliteracy in being dismissed with everything else int the first couple of pages as an "irrelevant side issue", despite being a clear counterexample to any number under a dozen - especially as there have been repeated appeals made to Professor Argüelles' ideas and definitions.

* The meanings do not entirely overlap, but the differences do not seem highly relevant to the content of the discussion.


The rant about "quality" and so forth had me laughing for half an hour. Suffice to say that I am very egalitarian, no stranger to being called an elitist, and have rather strong views about quality. If I have ever been called "plebeian" before in my life, I do not recall it, though I found it greatly amusing. The rant also seemed a wee bit misguided; aside from Sprachprofi's erudition, Iversen also explicitly mentioned having read quite a lot of "Great Books", and my history is not entirely barren in that regard either. To hear, therefore, that "you have made it clear that the notion of weighted worth of reading matter is a taboo theme that you will not allow here" was rather surrealistic.

I value the concept, and practice, of reading enriching literature (and I hold that that has some overlap with "Great Books" lists). I do not value a number of other aspects of this thread. For a while, the quality declined far below what I was willing to engage with.

Here are my views, in brief:
a) Reading material does vary in quality (and is correlated, very approximately, with the better "Great Books" lists)
b) Polyliteracy is a term defined by Professor Argüelles, and it relates to the reading of "Great Books" in the original, in a variety of languages (and, like any other coinage which is not ignored, some people will protest it or want to use it differently)
c) Polyliteracy does not require reading the books in parallel. In my opinion, if a person can comfortably sit down spontaneously with a "Great Book" in a language and read it, that language is one that that person is currently a practitioner of (poly)literacy in. There's nothing magical about being between chapters or pages rather than between books.
d) As part of acquiring or maintaining polyliteracy, reading sources other than "Great Books" can be helpful. From graded readers and extensive reading of simpler works to gain vocabulary and comfort reading a language, through contributing to language maintenance via frequent small contact with it (such as reading web pages or articles in it, or related texts and commentary in several complimentary languages), I'm yet to encounter a polyglot who thinks that only "Great Books" are helpful. This is not a side issue, even for the most serious of readers.
e) Substantive reading of "Great Books", or any substantive focus on a language, comes at the expense of being able to devote as much time to a strict division of time between languages. Neither precludes the other entirely.
f) We don't know the upper bound for the number of languages that someone can be polyliterate in, and due to the nature of related languages/dialects, the question will always be rather blurry, but it appears to be at least some dozens.
g) Professor Argüelles is quite skilled at discussing serious topics in ways which invite substantive discussion and respectful dissent; those of us who share at least some of his aims would also do well to cultivate this quality.
h) Controversy over naming aside, polyliteracy is a wonderful field.


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Jinx
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 Message 26 of 49
24 August 2011 at 10:16pm | IP Logged 
Fantastic post, Volte, I agree with pretty much everything you say. I should have explained in more detail what I meant by saying a "privilege of the few" – my conviction, unsupported at the moment by links to statistics, is that if you took all the people on Earth and asked them if they had read, for example, "Great Expectations" or "The Prince" or "Don Quixote", the percentage that would say yes is tremendously small. Firstly, as you point out, literacy is unfortunately not yet universal; secondly, many great classics have not been translated into many languages and are therefore inaccessible to those who do not speak the original language of the book; thirdly, many people on this planet are extremely poor and have to spend so much of their lives working that they have very little time to "indulge" in reading classics; fourthly, many social groups even in "advanced" countries such as my own have developed a sad (to me) scorn of and distaste for this type of reading, and in some cases, for ALL types of reading. It's constantly astounding to me how many literate, educated people I know who are still unwilling and/or unable (the two often overlap, I believe) to engage with this level of literature.

So, basically I meant to say, indeed this type of reading is not restricted to academics or the very wealthy, but in many cases it might as well be, for the type of attention it gets. I hope I've made my standpoint here a little clearer – please excuse my previous cavalier mention of "privilege" without an attached explanation. I know this word is a loaded one.

Edited by Jinx on 24 August 2011 at 10:16pm

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Zwlth
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 Message 27 of 49
25 August 2011 at 6:11am | IP Logged 
Volte wrote:
To hear, therefore, that "you have made it clear that the notion of weighted worth of reading matter is a taboo theme that you will not allow here" was rather surrealistic.


Oh really? Please point me towards all the threads discussing Great Books as I seem to have missed them. And is the word "polyliteracy" to be found in the titles of threads other than the two started recently by yours truly? What's going on over in the Books, Literature, & Reading Room? Not much non-fiction at all, and while there is an occasional stab at high-brow belles-lettres, there's not even as much middle- and low-brow stuff as there is a constant quest for children's literature, versions of the Little Prince or Harry Potter, to read as a didactic tool. No, sorry, there is no recognition around here of one of the fundamental principles of polyliteracy, namely that language and literature are fundamentally linked. Tons of talk on the technical side, tepid zilch on the literary side - you all maintain the same false dichotomy that is upheld in contemporary formal academia.

Volte wrote:
I admit to having laughed when it appeared that not agreeing with this rather unique conceptualization of "in praxis" was taken to mean that Iversen, Sprachprofi, and I had no idea what the term "in praxis" meant, despite it being cognate with German and English, and Sprachprofi and Iversen both being quite competent Latinists. I know Sprachprofi can and does read "Great Books" in Latin.


It's a Greek word. It did come into neo-Latin a few centuries before it entered mainsteam modern languages, but your Latinist friend wouldn't have seen it in classical tomes. At any rate, I'm sure you all know what it means in the sense of being able to define it. But, you manifestly do not understand what it means, as is witnessed by your continued verbose hijacking of this thread. I didn't wander in here with a vague question, "hey, what do you all think polyliteracy means?" No, I walked in with a very specific and pointed question, asked as a practitioner of other practitioners. I've said repeatedly that I am not looking for a debate, but for the experience of others who may happen to be doing the same thing. I was starting to get them from the likes of Obsculta and Juan, but now you've buried that direction again with your speculative theoretical musings.

So, I walk into this big gym and I say "does anyone else here do Tabata intervals on the VersaClimber? I've noticed that that I can stay on it going steady for a full 60 minutes, but that with Tabata I'm done-in in 15, so exactly in 25% of the time. Any of you guys notice anything similar?" Then, instead of saying "yes," "no," or "we don't do that," this whole pack of athletes rushed on top of me jeering "that's not a valid question, that's not a valid question, that's not a valid question" and saying that I didn't need to do Tabata, that the tread mill was better, and yoga was best of all, etc., etc. I tried a couple of times to say "but I want to know about doing Tabata on the VersaClimber," but they couldn't hear me because they were all cheering and egging each other on.

Does that sound like a pleasant experience?

At any rate, I've pretty much gotten my answer by default now: there don't seem to be any other practitioners of polyliteracy around here.
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Iversen
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 Message 28 of 49
25 August 2011 at 10:24am | IP Logged 
Your occupation with great books from past centuries has clearly made you lose contact with the modern world. This is a forum (in the modern digital sense of the word), and you cannot just walk in here and expressly forbid that anybody discuss the ideas behind your questions. A forum is a place where things are debated, that's the whole idea of the thing, and you can't stop that by taking any alternative suggestions as a personal affront and hijacking of your thread, and even less by characterizing those who have just slightly diverging interests as plebs.

You have systematically overlooked any hint that persons who don't subscribe totally to your interpretation of polyliteracy could possess any degree of culture, including my own humble reference to having read a substantial part of the books on professor Arguelles list (see below) AND the countless times I have written here at HTLAL about items which could have been on a great books list, but which just aren't on this one. Maybe we aren't in the league of professor Arguelles and you, but we are not braindead couch potatoes either.

I don't have to tell you what I read or have read, but for your information and for the sake of completeness I'll just take the first 6 items on the list in each language and tell you whether I have read them. However before doing so I would reiterate that the reading of original OLD works in the original is a noble pursuit, but it is NOT the only field worthy of study.

For your information (and the reward will probably be one more condescending march order from these hallowed halls):

Books read in the original language:

Danish:
Kierkegaard, Søren Aabye (1813-1855): Either/Or, Fear and Trembling, Philosophical Fragments - I'm Danish and I have read them - but not his complete works, which take´up several meters of shelf space)

PS: where is H.C. Andersen on the list?

English:
Chaucer, Geoffrey (c.1340-1400): Troilus and Criseyde, The Canterbury Tales
I have read them (and yes, in the original versions, not in modernized versions)
Spenser, Edmund (c.1552-1599): Prothalamion, The Faerie Queene The Faerie queen, but in a modern version, and not Prothalamion
Hobbes, Thomas (1588-1679): Leviathan -- some of it (plus some background texts)
Locke, John (1632-1704): Letter Concerning Toleration, Of Civil Government, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Thoughts Concerning Education -- some of it, certainly "Of civil government"
Milton, John (1608-1674): Paradise Lost - The first third or so - reading more would be masochism
Shakespeare, William (1564-1616): Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, Anthony and Cleopatra, The Tempest, As You Like It, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear, Sonnets I have a complete collection of his plays and I have read them - latest Henry V as background for my listening to Walton's music (which you may not be interested in)

French:
Anonymous: Song of Roland -- Of course -and I have written about it AND here on HTLAL
Montaigne, Michel de (1533-1592): Essays -- Of course
Rabelais, François (c.1495-1553): Gargantua and Pantagruel Essays -- Of course
Descartes, Rene (1596-1650): Rules for the Direction of the Mind, Discourse on the Method, Geometry, Meditations on First Philosophy only the Discourse - but a fair amount of background materials
de La Fontaine, Jean (1621-1695): Fables   Essays -- Of course
de La Rochefoucauld, François, Duc (1613-1690): Maximes Essays -- Only in fragments - I find them slightly patronizing

PS: where are the great French poets from the 19. and early 20. century, like Nerval, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine, Mallarmé and Valéry on the list? And Jules Verne, for that matter?

German:
Anonymous: Nibelungenlied (or Volsunga Saga as Scandinavian version) -- I have read both, although I had to use a bilingual version for the Nibelungenlied - as a compensation I have commented on it here at HTLAL. Besides the Völsunga Saga is a work in its own right, not a translation or version of the German text - the great professor has erred here
Luther, Martin (1483-1546): Table Talk, Three Treatises -- I have read substantial parts of hisBible translation, but religious literature is not my cup of tea
Kant, Immanuel (1724-1804): Critique of Pure Reason, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals, Critique of Practical Reason, The Science of Right, Critique of Judgment, Perpetual Peace -- AT least the Critique of Pure Reason, but also parts of several other works
Clausewitz, Karl von (1780-1831): On War -- Certainly not!
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von (1749-1832): Faust, Poetry and Truth Faust - but also the Young Werther and the Colour thing, which aren't on the list
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (1770-1831): Phenomenology of Spirit, Philosophy of Right, Lectures on the Philosophy of History only fragments - and it was more than enough

Ancient Greek:
Homer (9th c. B.C.): Iliad and Odyssey
Sophocles (c.495-406 B.C.): Oedipus, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone, Philoctetes
Aeschylus (c.525-456 B.C.): Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, Eumenides, Prometheus Bound, Oresteia
Euripides (c.485-406 B.C.): Bacchae, Imphigeneia at Aulis, Medea, Hippolytus
Herodotus (c.484-425 B.C.): History
Thucydides (c.460-400 B.C.): History of the Peloponnesian War

everything on the list (although Thucydides only in parts) - but not in Ancient Greek (I have chosen to learn Modern Greek first)

Italian:
Alighieri, Dante (1265-1321): The New Life, On Monarchy, The Divine Comedy -- Only the Inferno
Boccaccio, Giovanni (1313-1375): Decameron All of it
Machiavelli, Niccolo (1469-1527): The Prince, Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy Only the Prince
Vinci, Leonardo da (1452-1519): Notebooks Nope

Latin:
Cicero (106-43 B.C.): Orations and Letters a few letters, but also the Catilinarian speeches
Horace (65-8 B.C.): Poetic Works -- Only short fragments
Lucretius (c.95-55 B.C.): On the Nature of Things Nope
Virgil (70-19 B.C.): Aeneid   In fragments
Livy (59 B.C.--A.D. 17): History of Rome Some of it in Latin (but also some parts in translation, which of course doesn't count in this thread)
Ovid (43 B.C.--A.D. 17): Metamorphosis Some of the legends, but also the Tristia which isn't on the list

Norse:
Anonymous: Saga of Burnt Njal
Of course, and I have even listened to a CD version of it. But where are Havamál, Völuspá, the two Eddas and other works of similar importance?

Norwegian:
Ibsen, Henrik (1828-1906): The Wild Duck, Hedda Gabler, The Master Builder Yes, but I find such literature boring

Russian:
Dostoevsky, Fyodor (1821-1881): Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, Notes from the Underground -- nope - only the beginning of White Nights
Lobachevsky, Nikolai Ivanovich (1792-1856): Theory of Parallels -- not the original source, but I might be tempted to do it - it is a scientific milestone
Chekhov, Anton (1860-1904): Short Stories, The Cherry Orchard -- Nope
Lenin, Nikolai (1870-1924): The State and Revolution   -- Nope
Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr Isayevich. (1918-2008): The First Circle, The Cancer Ward   -- Nope
Tolstoy, Leo (1828-1910): War and Peace, Anna Karenina   -- Nope

general comment: I have only read one Russian novel (Master and Margherita) - my study of Russian started after I got tired of literature (been there, done that .. time to move on)

Spanish
De Las Casas, Bartolomé (1484-1566): Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies
only short fragments (for instance on the walls of Latinamerican museums), but this one definitely looks like an upcoming project
Cervantes, Miguel de (1547-1616): Don Quixote -- I once bought a 7 tome complete edition, of which I read the first one - besides I have read the normal abbreviated version in its entirety

.. but this is really not a fair representation of Spanish literature - where are for instance Lope de Vega and Calderón?


And now I just wait for your scornful dismissal


Edited by Iversen on 25 August 2011 at 11:09am

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Volte
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 Message 29 of 49
25 August 2011 at 11:47am | IP Logged 
Zwlth wrote:
Volte wrote:
To hear, therefore, that "you have made it clear that the notion of weighted worth of reading matter is a taboo theme that you will not allow here" was rather surrealistic.


Oh really? Please point me towards all the threads discussing Great Books as I seem to have missed them. And is the word "polyliteracy" to be found in the titles of threads other than the two started recently by yours truly? What's going on over in the Books, Literature, & Reading Room? Not much non-fiction at all, and while there is an occasional stab at high-brow belles-lettres, there's not even as much middle- and low-brow stuff as there is a constant quest for children's literature, versions of the Little Prince or Harry Potter, to read as a didactic tool. No, sorry, there is no recognition around here of one of the fundamental principles of polyliteracy, namely that language and literature are fundamentally linked. Tons of talk on the technical side, tepid zilch on the literary side - you all maintain the same false dichotomy that is upheld in contemporary formal academia.


Approaching great books
The living voice of Latin and Greek
Learning languages to read great books

Here are some that I could find within about 30 seconds of searching.

This is a language learning forum; more people here are interested in discussing and learning about what they can read early on in their studies of a language. I've started languages with "The Little Prince", and I've started languages with (parallel) Great Books, but most people prefer to start with the former. Also, most people on this forum have no interest in polyliteracy: the forum pre-dates it, and many language learners, like many members of the general population, are not interested in the extensive reading of Great Books. Also, people are interested in discussing beginner resources; when one is at the level to read Great Books, one is perfectly capable of making ones' own literature selections, and publicly available lists of books, such as those of Professor Argüelles, are more helpful than a forum discussion.I doubt the members of this forum all agree on anything, much less particular false dichotomies.

I do agree with you that there is a sad dearth of discussion about literature here, outside of individual works in learning logs. Very few people post about literature they are reading or have read, in languages where the relevant level of reading is not new to them. Unfortunately, I think the forum rules and culture regarding discussion which is not strictly tied to language learning preclude this from changing. I have been reading some Zola recently (I am quite grateful that you made me aware of Pomme's audiobooks; thank you), but that fact is not in and of itself interesting, and a discussion of the politics, economics, or religious views therein - basically, much of anything about the content - is against forum rules. Discussing its style verges on the off topic, and is rather missing the point to boot.

On the other hand, discussions of the "technical" side of polyliteracy are on-topic. People like Sprachprofi, Iversen, and Professor Argüelles have freely shared quite a lot of information about how they fit quite a lot of languages, including extensive reading, into the time they have available. The title of this thread also seems to be rather aimed at the "technical" side of polyliteracy. I would also say that the discussion of the practice of polyliteracy is a "technical" topic.

Zwlth wrote:

Volte wrote:
I admit to having laughed when it appeared that not agreeing with this rather unique conceptualization of "in praxis" was taken to mean that Iversen, Sprachprofi, and I had no idea what the term "in praxis" meant, despite it being cognate with German and English, and Sprachprofi and Iversen both being quite competent Latinists. I know Sprachprofi can and does read "Great Books" in Latin.


It's a Greek word. It did come into neo-Latin a few centuries before it entered mainsteam modern languages, but your Latinist friend wouldn't have seen it in classical tomes. At any rate, I'm sure you all know what it means in the sense of being able to define it. But, you manifestly do not understand what it means, as is witnessed by your continued verbose hijacking of this thread. I didn't wander in here with a vague question, "hey, what do you all think polyliteracy means?" No, I walked in with a very specific and pointed question, asked as a practitioner of other practitioners. I've said repeatedly that I am not looking for a debate, but for the experience of others who may happen to be doing the same thing. I was starting to get them from the likes of Obsculta and Juan, but now you've buried that direction again with your speculative theoretical musings.


If you want experiences of polyliteracy, ask for them. If you ask "Might there be an in praxis "law-of-7"/2 for polyliteracy?" and then meet most responses with derision, calling replies to a question that you actually asked "technical" and "off topic", while being rather abrasive, a rather different discussion results.

I don't believe either Sprachprofi or Iversen stick exclusively to classical Latin. I admit, sadly, to being almost entirely ignorant of Greek, and my knowledge of the etymology of the word only went as far back as the Medieval Latin. Nonetheless, the definitions "practical application or exercise of a branch of learning" and "habitual or established practice; custom", or the more colloquial "in practice" match my understanding of the term; is there some other meaning that you attribute to it that I am missing?


Zwlth wrote:

So, I walk into this big gym and I say "does anyone else here do Tabata intervals on the VersaClimber? I've noticed that that I can stay on it going steady for a full 60 minutes, but that with Tabata I'm done-in in 15, so exactly in 25% of the time. Any of you guys notice anything similar?" Then, instead of saying "yes," "no," or "we don't do that," this whole pack of athletes rushed on top of me jeering "that's not a valid question, that's not a valid question, that's not a valid question" and saying that I didn't need to do Tabata, that the tread mill was better, and yoga was best of all, etc., etc. I tried a couple of times to say "but I want to know about doing Tabata on the VersaClimber," but they couldn't hear me because they were all cheering and egging each other on.

Does that sound like a pleasant experience?


It's a pity that this thread has not been a pleasant experience for you. Shall we start a new one, discussing polyliteracy in practice, without theoretical musings or personal insinuations?

Zwlth wrote:
At any rate, I've pretty much gotten my answer by default now: there don't seem to be any other practitioners of polyliteracy around here.


This is exactly the kind of response that you have been making throughout the thread that has made it what it is.



Edited by Volte on 25 August 2011 at 12:04pm

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Sprachprofi
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 Message 30 of 49
25 August 2011 at 1:34pm | IP Logged 
From Arguelles' list I read, in the original language:

English: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sir Thomas More's Utopia, several works of
Shakespeare, Robinson Crusoe, David Hume on Human Understanding, Gulliver's Travels,
some works of Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness", started
on and hated "Ulysses", 1984, some short pieces by Hemingway

French: Chanson de Roland, some Chansons de Geste, Essays by Montaigne, Gargantua et
Pantagruel, Le Cid, Fables de La Fontaine, Molière's Femmes savants, Montesquieu's
Lettres Persanes, Rousseau's Emile, Les Fleurs du Mal, Le Père Goriot, Le Comte de
Monte Christo, 5 novels by Jules Verne, 3 fictional works by Albert Camus and >700
pages of letters and essays, Huis Clos
>50 pages each of Pierre de Ronsard, Racine, Voltaire, Stendhal

German: Rolandslied, Nibelungenlied, Tristan & Isolde, Das Narrenschiff, Till
Eulenspiegel, Kant's Kritik der reinen Vernunft (does this count as a foreign
language?), several works by Goethe, several works by Kafka, Mann's "Mario und der
Zauberer", two fictional works by Brecht, Hesse's Siddharta, Dürrenmatt,
>50 pages each of Walther von der Vogelweide, Lessing, Münchhausen, Schiller,
Feuerbach, Hegel, Heine, Hölderlein, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Marx, Rilke, Huge von
Hofmannsthal, Freud, Jung, Böll

Latin: Catullus, Cicero, Horace's Satires, the Aeneid, Juvenal, Livy, Martial, Ovid,
Tacitus
>50 pages each of Plautus, Lucretius, Pliny the Elder, Seneca the Younger, Vulgate
Bible, Gesta Romanorum

Spanish: started on some Pablo Neruda, looking forward to more once the 6 Week
Challenge is over.
Ditto for Cavafy (Modern Greek) - can't believe he didn't make it on the list; he
writes amazingly.
For Italian I'm missing Eco on the list.

Does this make me a beginning practitioner of polyliteracy? Will you stop dismissing my
posts out of hand?

People interpreted your posts to be about three different questions:

1) In how many languages is it possible to acquire a high enough level so that
understanding Great Books in these languages becomes doable? (no matter if you lose
said high level after you've read all you wanted to read)
- - The answer here is clearly >30 as proven by Professor Arguelles himself, possibly
even >50 considering he still has plenty of time to learn more / level up in the other
languages he started on, and part of why people responded so aggressively at the
beginning is because they thought you were seriously claiming that that is not
possible.

2) In how many languages is it possible to maintain a high enough level so that
throughout your career as a practitioner of polyliteracy you could pick up a Great Book
at a moment's notice and understand it?
- - This number is probably a bit lower, but definitely >7 as several forum members
have shown. This forum has seen several threads on how many languages you can maintain
at a high level, independent of whether you'll use that level for reading Great Books
or something else.

3) In how many languages is it possible to simultaneously read different Great Books?
- - It seems that this is what you intended, but this interpretation is not one I would
ever have imagined: imho the number doesn't depend at all on the number of languages
involved. Plus it is certainly possible to start to read 20 Great Books in 20
languages and then read a few pages in each every day, but people don't generally
like to do that. In fact, it is counter-intuitive to start on a Great Book and
NOT read it to the end before you pick up another, another reason why people were
reluctant to interpret your question this way.

Anyway, you received some answers now; maybe it's time to open a new thread.

Iversen wrote:
where are the great French poets from the 19. and early 20. century,
like Nerval, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine, Mallarmé and Valéry on the list? And Jules
Verne, for that matter?

They are on a separate "waiting list". I'll update when I find the link again.

EDIT: found it.
20th
Century Waiting List

To qualify for Arguelles' waiting list, the author has to be dead. Authors who have
been dead for >100 years can be included in the cannon lists. I personally think this
approach leaves much to be desired; notably, you'll never come across a book that
explains the culture as it is now this way.

Also, these might interest someone:

Cannon of
Middle Eastern and Central Asian books


Cannon for East
Asian books





Edited by Sprachprofi on 25 August 2011 at 4:21pm

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Sennin
Senior Member
Bulgaria
Joined 5881 days ago

1457 posts - 1759 votes 
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 Message 31 of 49
25 August 2011 at 1:43pm | IP Logged 
Volte wrote:
c) Polyliteracy does not require reading the books in parallel. In my opinion, if a person can comfortably sit down spontaneously with a "Great Book" in a language and read it, that language is one that that person is currently a practitioner of (poly)literacy in. There's nothing magical about being between chapters or pages rather than between books.


I can't understand what's the advantage of reading several books in parallel when I can take my time reading them in sequence. The amount of absorbed text / per hour is the same, only the possibility of distraction increases. I think we need a new word for that particular skill, e.g. "simultaneous polyliteracy", versus "sequential polyliteracy" ;-).

[edit] p.s. I am not necessarily saying it's a bad thing, just that for me personally the advantage is unclear. Some people enjoy doing many things at the same time and are good at it, I guess it can be fun.

Iversen wrote:
Maybe we aren't in the league of professor Arguelles and you, but we are not braindead couch potatoes either.


I can confirm that Iversen is not a potato ;) Furthermore, I must protest there is no science fiction on any of the "Great Books" lists I've seen so far. I bet in the distant future snobbish people will have 19 and 20 century science fiction masters on their reading lists (Arthur Clarke, Dan Simmons, H.G. Wells, Stanisław Lem, Аркадий и Борис Стругацки, Иван Ефремов, Bernard Werber, Élisabeth Vonarburg). These authors have real vision, and a message to share, unlike some of the "classics" that are just idle entrainment (like Madame Bovary or Анна Каренина ;-з).


Edited by Sennin on 25 August 2011 at 3:03pm

3 persons have voted this message useful



Volte
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Switzerland
Joined 6286 days ago

4474 posts - 6726 votes 
Speaks: English*, Esperanto, German, Italian
Studies: French, Finnish, Mandarin, Japanese

 
 Message 32 of 49
25 August 2011 at 4:22pm | IP Logged 
Sennin wrote:
Volte wrote:
c) Polyliteracy does not require reading the books in parallel. In my opinion, if a person can comfortably sit down spontaneously with a "Great Book" in a language and read it, that language is one that that person is currently a practitioner of (poly)literacy in. There's nothing magical about being between chapters or pages rather than between books.


I can't understand what's the advantage of reading several books in parallel when I can take my time reading them in sequence. The amount of absorbed text / per hour is the same, only the possibility of distraction increases. I think we need a new word for that particular skill, e.g. "simultaneous polyliteracy", versus "sequential polyliteracy" ;-).

[edit] p.s. I am not necessarily saying it's a bad thing, just that for me personally the advantage is unclear. Some people enjoy doing many things at the same time and are good at it, I guess it can be fun.


I like your terms.

The advantage of simultaneous polyliteracy is that it allows one to read in all of ones' languages over fairly short periods of time. The disadvantage is a loss of focus; for me, while reading Great Books, this is too heavy a price. I read them for the content, and anything which detracts from this is not to be trifled with lightly.

Different people have rather different tastes in how to approach the same literature. My approach is "read it in as few sittings, with as much focus as possible, over the least amount of time possible, to maximize understanding and retention". Other people may well best absorb and process the content differently.

Sennin wrote:

Iversen wrote:
Maybe we aren't in the league of professor Arguelles and you, but we are not braindead couch potatoes either.


I can confirm that Iversen is not a potato ;) Furthermore, I must protest there is no science fiction on any of the "Great Books" lists I've seen so far. I bet in the distant future snobbish people will have 19 and 20 century science fiction masters on their reading lists (Arthur Clarke, Dan Simmons, H.G. Wells, Stanisław Lem, Аркадий и Борис Стругацки, Иван Ефремов, Bernard Werber, Élisabeth Vonarburg). These authors have real vision, and a message to share, unlike some of the "classics" that are just idle entrainment (like Madame Bovary or Анна Каренина ;-з).


Actually, Jules Verne is on Professor Argüelles' "The Combined Standard Canon of Great Books of the Western World". Science fiction is under-represented, but it is not entirely absent, and it is a fairly new genre.

What I've read by Аркадий и Борис Стругацки didn't strike me as that visionary, but perhaps I just picked the wrong book. That said, I fully agree with your general point. I'd add the 20th/21st century author "Greg Egan" to that list too.




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