This week we are introducing the annotation tool. It will be demonstrated in class. Your job is to make your comments on this selection from Preface to Plato
by making annotations to the text at the place where you think your annotation is relevant.
Like this- Tuck
An annotation is any kind of interpretive comment or interrogration about and of the passages cited. You are also required to read each others annotations by clicking on the annotation symbols on the text. You are also encouraged (chance to become a teachers pet) to comment on each others annotations by writing in the same annotation field of the note you are responding to:
"It is therefore to be concluded that the recital of the tribal encyclopedia, because of the technology of the recital, was also a tribal recreation.
This first line is interesting because the definition of “tribal recreation” could be applied to many contemporary “tribal” micro-societies that use a “tribal” technology in order to educate and recreate. A good example can be found in Tuscany, from the Dante’s days people in the country still memorize the Divine Comedy and the purpose of this memorization is both educational and recreational. Valerio
The oral culture determined ancient Greeks’ inheritance, ways of thinking, and ways to communicate with each other, and thus weaved a solidified society. The knowledge of the society can be called collective memory, or a compilation of inherited lore, as only one monopoly resource: listening to poets’ (re-citers’) lines, contributed to the living collective memory. This living memory was reinforced by social pressures and re-telling process from one generation to another. The learners, the younger generations were listeners but not readers—they listened and repeated and went on repeating. They learned from listening, being installed with memories and moral taboos which sustain the stability of the social structure. by Ting-Fang(Annie),Cheng
We certainly still have a strong belief that this type of passive indoctrination through the arts is a primary force in shaping our cultural beliefs - particularly in shaping the belifs of our "tribe's" children - which is just one factor that makes government/school support of the arts and control of the airwaves such ideological battlegrounds. - Joanne
In more familiar terms, the Muse, the voice of instruction, was also the voice of pleasure. But the recreation was of a rather special type. The audience found enjoyment and relaxation as they were themselves partly hypnotized by their response to a series of rhythmic patterns, verbal, vocal, instrumental, and physical, all set in motion together and all consonant in their effect. These motor mechanisms were activated in as many ways concurrently as was possible. Yet these mechanisms were not all set working in a man at equal strength at all times.
It's interesting here that the following two lines seem to exemplify what Havelock noted as oral culture's unique attention to procedural knowledge. When he talks about the poetic form of Homer's Iliad, the passing of procedural knowledge through dramatic storytelling is compared to maintaining social memory of cult rituals. Can we escape this kind of storytelling even outside of the oral culture? Or has procedural storytelling, although not expert but rather more general, persisted in even book culture? For example, the inclusion of background or observation of ritual within modern books similarly illustrate culture or a stage for the plot to take place in. Is this inclusion of information not inherited and maintained as from oral culture? Or is this different? A.H.
In similar vein the previous note, I can't help but relate Havelock's assessment of Plato here to a larger human pattern, not one particular to the Greeks at all. -Tucker
I think that concept of “mimes” from Homer through Aristotle have deeply influenced all western society. Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose is all about this topic. In the novel Father Jorge was trying to hidden the book that Aristotle dedicated to the Comedy. Father Jorge, the symbol of the dogmatic knowledge of the church in the X sec. ac, was scared by Aristotle’s book where the Greek philosopher described the power of the comedy as a tool to educate people trough the LAUGH. Valerio
If he listened silently, only the ears were fully engaged; but he ears transmitted messages to the nervous system as a whole, and thus limbs, lips, and throat might perform slightly, and the nervous system in general would be sympathetically engaged with what he was hearing. When he in turn repeated what had been sung, the vocal chords and perhaps the limbs were fully activated to go through and perform in identical sequence what they had already sympathetically performed for themselves, as it were, when he has listened.
It amazes me that the ancient Greeks developed this system almost intuitively and that modern cognitive scientists have spent the better part of the last century trying to figure out how memory works and do all kinds of not very interesting memory "games" to see what works best. Not that I want to return to the stone age - but it sometimes seems that as societies like our western one "progress"- the more, on a cultural level, we lose and someone else then has to reinvent or rediscover what was lost. I've told this story before of an American friend of mine who lived in Barcelona for a year. One night all the international students went out drinking. They were all getting quite sloshed when it was decided each nationality would sing their country's favorite drinking song. So, the Danish all sang the Danish drinking song; the Germans the German song; the Japanese the Japanese song - and on and on. Then it was the Americans' turn. My friend said he and his fellow Yanks became very aware of the fact that they had no such type of "unifying" song! So, they elected the only song they all knew a few lines and the chorus of: "New York, New York." I say this because I feel it ties into the paragraph below - that, at least for the transmission of their culture, the Greeks had their Iliad and they literally lived through it - just as most cultures are proud and retain ancient customs through the retention of costumes, songs, stories and food - they don't want to forget where they came from and what distinguishes them from others. M. Duignan
Surely it was one in which you learned by doing. But the doing, so far as it concerns the preservation of important language, was of a special kind. What you ‘did’ were the thousand acts and thoughts, battles, speeches, journeys, lives, and deaths that you were reciting in rhythmic verse, or hearing, or repeating. The poetic performance if it were to mobilize all these psychic resources of memorization had itself to be a continual re-enactment of the tribal folkways, laws and procedures, and the listener had to become engaged in this re-enactment to the point of total emotional involvement.
Since that, the reason why Plato wanted to send poets away in Book III, Republic is very clear. The poetry Plato attacked was not the poetry with creative power today but the possessed poetry powerful to make his audience identify almost pathologically and certainly sympathetically with the content of what it conveyed. The role of poets in Plato’s time was poets as a prophet or as a seer, who was at the one hand a storyteller to tell the religious/moral ideas, and at the other hand a tribal encyclopedist to dominate people’s learning contents. The poets were not creators but the mouthpieces of god, and the assassins of the revolutionary possibilities. Moreover, philosophers treasure the universality, the originality, and learning from self-reasoning, while the idea of poetry and the old learning ways in the oral culture is Mimesis: the re-enactment, reinforcement of living memories, and identification, the chief obstacle to scientific rationalism. by Ting-Fang(Annie),Cheng
Does this mean that a person couldn't think before he acted? Is there any evidence in Homer for this condition of the thoughtless reenactment of the culture? Does the evidence support this idea? Are people just robots driven by the pevailing mores? FM **I don't think that Havelock is implying that the Greek people didn't think before they acted. A society passes on its most important beliefs through whatever technological medium they have at their disposal. Up to Plato's time, although writing was in use, the prevailing technology of cultural transmission was oral and the "oral technology" of the time was found in poetry. The only way to perpetuate this oral technology is by constant reiteration and repetition of the poetry in performance. Plato is, with his definition of "mimesis" - which I don't fully understand yet - but to which I think you're referring when you talk of "robots", sees this form of oral transmission as not leaving much way for progressive ideological thought and change. Havelock in this passage is establishing the basis to his theory that because Plato thought as such - things needed to change and he was going to get that change happening.-MDuignan
On the importance of "total emotional involvement" and the idea of needing your audience to relate to the content of your story in a very personal way-- isn't that the base idea of all stories? Isn't that the source of our interest and attention towards all stories? Havelock may as well be speaking of my childhood addiction to comic books and the heros therein. More below. -Tucker
Just to build on what others have said here and below, there's definitely a lot of power in storytelling as a teaching tool...and many argue that humans are hard-wired to respond to messages embedded within stories. But does that necessarily mean that we are swayed by the emotional content of a story to the point of passive acceptance of the underlying doctine? - Joanne
In short, the artist identified with his story and the audience identified with the artist. This was the imperative demand made upon both of them if the process was to work.
You did not learn your ethics and politics, skills and directives, by having them presented to you as a corpus for silent study, reflection and absorption. You were not asked to grasp their principles through rational analysis. You were not invited to so much as think of them. Instead you submitted to the paideutic spell. You allowed yourself to become ‘musical’ in the functional sense of that Greek term.
The birth of the readers renders the appearing of subjectivity. Instead of imitating the words re-citer said, living in the world which knowledge constructed by installed memorizations, readers are the self agents to read and to interpret themselves. Now we learn things not only by sounds that read to us but also the words read by us—it is very important that the readers/ modern people can come up their own connotations of the texts. People initiatively have their own ideas rather than being told what they should obey. It is the impact of alphabets that people could begin to write down things to carry on and thus created the chances for people to reflect on the words written down. by Ting-Fang(Annie),Cheng
I found these last few sentences interesting. I feel that the current way in which people read and study things are extremely passive. While reading, most students that I have worked with are not fully engaged in the text, analyzing what is occuring and digesting the material to make decisions about their understanding of the topic. Instead, they are simply going over the words, and reading for the sake of reading. I feel that when some type of involvment, even when it is simply reciting and rehearsing, the ideas that the students are reading become more engaging, and they become more mentally involved in the text that they are interacting with. However, I also see similarities in reading for the sake of reading and reciting for the sake of reciting. Perhaps when engagement with the text is missing in either action, understanding and analysis becomes lacking. Akio
Preface To Plato - Marion Duignan
In "Poetry as Preserved Communication", Havelock starts out by listing six questions he feels will help us come to an understanding of the society and way of thinking that existed during Plato's time and in turn explain why Plato made the attack against poetry that he did in his Republic. Havelock believes that during this time, the end of the 5th to the beginning of the 4th century BC, Greek society was still basically an oral one. Although the use of the alphabet had been around since the 7th century BC, like most technology throughout the ages, there existed a time lag between invention and then widespread adoption and implementation. To back up his thesis here he brings up (and fills out in his footnotes) the academic dispute as to the establishment of universal literacy among the Greeks/Athenians which includes arguments for how and when reading and writing became an integral part of the Greek educational system and popular literacy came about. Most scholars believe that this didn't occur until the middle to the end of the 4th century. It is Havelock's belief that because Plato lived during this period of transition from an oral to a literate society that makes all the difference for the importance and impact for change he had in the history of the Greeks as well as Western thought in general.
Plato, living in what was still essentially an oral society, found himself confronted or challenged by an "oral state of mind" that was pervasive among the general populace. This state of mind was embodied in the public performance of poetry that continued to be the main source of the society's education and cultural transmission as well as recreation. Havelock then clarifies for the modern reader the proper definition of poetry if it is to be understood why Plato was so against it. Poetry was the "didactic instrument" for the transmission of tradition from Homer down to Plato's time. It was the oral technology of the day worked out in "verbal and metrical patterns" (which Havelock addresses at the end of Chapter 4, The Homeric Encyclopedia) - not the lofty or low literary "art" and past time it came to be known by us down the centuries. As such, the only way this poetry can be passed on through the generations by an illiterate society is by constant reiteration and rememorization. For this to be successful the society at large has to agree to its perpetuation and fall in with the process. This is where Plato's use (or misuse) of the term mimesis in regard to the poet's role in continuing the legacy of public poetry and that of an actor's in performing it is introduced (technology and psychology working together). This psychological aspect Havelock explicates in Chapter 9, The Psychology of the Poetic Performance. The only way an illiterate audience can really enter into, remember, and return the information given out by a poet/performer is by the dramatic impact of the performance itself. The listener is to be so riveted and taken in that he virtually lives through the performance. After a citizen has experienced virtually a lifetime of performances - it most definitely enters into his psyche and becomes the better part of his identity and he knows (or feels he knows) his place in relationship to the rest of his society and his place in the larger world. If he's good at this, the poet holds tremendous power in his society. So between the constant rote of reiteration and memorization and almost hypnotic witness to the performance of poetry, no room for analysis and understanding is left. It is these two aspects of the old order in the form of poetry and it's performance that irked Plato no end and has him use with no little vehemence the term "mimesis." Plato believes that by use of the poetic process people are not really thinking about what they are saying/repeating - it is just that - mindless repetition. Plato wished to introduce by didactic argument in the Republic, the subjective analysis and evaluation of information - a total about-face in education and the transmission of history and culture that had existed up to his time.
In Chapter 4, The Homeric Encyclopedia, Havelock wants to further back up his claim on the importance of epic poetry as didactic instrument and transmitter of Greek culture and traditions by introducing Hesiod's Hymn to the Muses (It's the first 103 lines - you can go here to read it: http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/hesiod/theogony.htm). How does this relate to Homer and epic poetry even though Hesiod came after Homer? In this opening section to Hesiod's Theogeny, the poet is telling the audience about the history of the gods and the special role of Muses in his profession as poet and thus gives us a definition of what oral history and being a poet is all about. Havelock takes particular note of the use of the words nomoi and ethea which are used to distinguish the "custom-laws" from the "folk-ways" of the immortals and then to establish that at that time the ways of the gods and the ways of man were seen as interchangeable. One ('nomoi or ethea) is not more powerful than the other, but both are needed for the stability and continuation of society. Havelock admits that over time the meaning of words does change with usage - but basically nomoi represent laws (guiding public behavior) and the ethea to represent ethos (guiding personal behavior or mores). In Homer's Iliad is laid out the lives of the gods, their relationships, their actions and decisions. All these are then the archetype of life for Greek society to follow.
I'm not a classicist but I liked the logic of Havelock's theories. After reading these chapters I looked up a short biography of Havelock in the wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Havelock). It is interesting to note that Havelock's original work and revolutionary reevaluation of the formation of Greek thought had little or no influence among his peers in classical studies(!), but helped further a host of other fields of study including literary criticism, psychology, anthropology, literacy, and cultural studies.
What draws my interest here is not Havelock's interpretation of Plato's inspiration for hating poetry, and not Plato's points in the larger sense, either. Rather it's the fact that Plato was able to see outside of the patterns of his culture, despite residing within it, and thereby take a larger view of man's intellectual abilities. He concludes that mankind has a responsibility to think, to be analytical and form conclusions for his self--to step into the light--rather than conform to the culture of "sleepers" as Heraclitus had it. Were Plato alive today, he'd no doubt have a "Kill Your TV" bumber-sticker on his... Volkswagan Bug.
I recognize that Havelock's work here is very targeted at Plato and the oral culture of Greek antiquity. But it would have been nice to see that he acknowledges this is not unique to the Greeks of his portrayal. His description of the weakness of the poets as they wrote for audience approval only, and of the masses as they flocked to these oral performances where they subscribed so easily to the moral lessons of the period, invokes in me an image of people sitting there, open-mouthed in "trance", dropping themselves into the story, nodding in uniform agreement
Plato was so quick to criticize the poets and the masses for this seemingly thoughtless method of passing on information. However, I think that is super hypocritical as my main thought while reading Book VII was how completely obsequious and accepting Glaucon was to any opinion offered up by Socrates. The whole "discussion" between the two men really could have just as easily been a monologue by Socrates as Glaucon easily accepts all statements made by his tutor. To me, Glaucon is no better than any member of Homer's audience. While Glaucon speaks, he never really challenges Socrates or offers up any new ideas, so he could just as easily be seen as an "open-mouthed droolie." - Rachel
at the righteousness of the good guys, and shaking their heads in disapproval at the failings of characters whenever they neglect their accepted duties-- which is what you will largely see in the movie theaters or living rooms of today.
"In more familiar terms, the Muse, the voice of instruction, was also the voice of pleasure. But the recreation was of a rather special type. The audience found enjoyment and relaxation as they were themselves partly hypnotized by their response to a series of rhythmic patterns, verbal, vocal, instrumental, and physical, all set in motion together and all consonant in their effect." But, Havelock, this is how the entertainment industry works.
Hollywood thrives by telling the same story again and again, and it would be hard to argue against the power it has over culture in contemporary America (and the world, to a degree), and how it can shape our beliefs and our own acceptance of right versus wrong. There are many exceptions to this, of course, just as there was Heraclitus back in the day, yet... the most popular TV show in the world was the great philosophical classic Boobwatch, er, Baywatch. The average American reads less than one book per year and watches a movie every week (and four-to-six hours of TV per day). Mindless entertainment prevails over most people, and populations seem powerless to act independently of it even today. We dress how our favorite actors dress and we even act (or try to act) like the "heros" we are shown. When I was taking the the "Personality Assessment" portion of the Military Flight Aptitude Battery Exam for the Marine Corps, the Officer Selection Officer advised me to answer the questions as if I were a combination of John Wayne and Maverick from that 80's culturally-defining masterpiece "Top Gun".
While preserving certain distinctive cultural traits, the Muse of ancient Greece was merely seeking to please his audience, and this involved telling stories that people wanted to hear. The impact that this had on their culture was strong: the beliefs they held in their identity and their cultural values didn't change much during the period of the oral tradition, and this is the case for people in just about any place regardless of their available forms of entertainment. Plato's start at thinking outside of our traditions and his encouragement to challenge the shadows so often accepted as reality would fall on a similar crowd of droolies were his "Republic" to enter today's top 10. I haven't yet figured out what this means in the scheme of things. More reading. Much, much more reading.